As you may remember, I declared 2020 my Year of Historical Reading. Check out this blog entry and my appearance on the Sarah’s Bookshelves Live podcast to learn more about this project. Each month, I will post an update on how I am progressing! As a reminder, I hope to make 85% of my reading historical fiction and nonfiction.
March was a weird reading month, with so many distractions from the COVID-19 health crisis. My kids’ last day of school was March 12 and since then, I have been supervising school work and cooking 3 meals a day! I did find time to finish 8 books, mostly historical fiction from World War II. I think reading about how other people made it through hard times has really helped keep my spirits up during this crisis. Plus I love reading about strong women surviving against the odds, particularly during Women’s History Month!
Here are my books for March, and I have indicated if they were pulled from my unread shelves, purchased, or borrowed from the library.
Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini (own)
This is one of my favorite historical fiction writers (see my discussion of her books in my appearance on Sarah’s Bookshelves Live podcast). I found the protagonist of this book, Kate Chase Sprague, fascinating and loved learning more about a hidden woman from history. The book wasn’t quite what I was expecting (the rivalry between Kate and Mrs. Lincoln is not the focus of the book) but I still really enjoyed it! It packs a lot of history into its storyline and gives you a personal view of women during the Civil War era. I paired it with my slow and steady read, Team of Rivals but I haven’t gotten a chance to finish that one!
Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini (own)
My second book by the same author was enthralling, and even though it is quite long (almost 600 pages!), I read it in just two days. The story sheds light on a little known part of World War II, the resistance inside Nazi Germany, and I was amazed to learn that most of the characters were real people. The palpable fear of the Nazi regime is ever-present, and the author does a great job at weaving the story of several characters together. I highly recommend it for any WWII history enthusiast who wants a different perspective on the war.
The Vanishing Sky by L. Annette Binder (NetGalley)
This book’s release date is in July but I was given an advance egalley by the publisher, Bloomsbury. This book also takes place in Nazi Germany during WWII, but unlike the previous book, it focuses on an ordinary German family, a mother and father growing further apart while one son serves as a German soldier and another son studies at a Hitler Youth school. The author based her story on her grandfather’s actual experience, and it is a hard story, full of heartbreaking loss and terrible circumstances. There are some uplifting moments but it can be a hard read. It was interesting to pair this book with Resistance Women, to get a more complete picture of what happened in Germany during the war, from those who fought the Nazis to those who fought with them.
A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner (own)
Another outstanding book by one of my favorite historical authors! I picked this out of my bookshelves when I needed a comforting read and was not disappointed. I wasn’t sure if I would like this book as much as her other books since there was a ghostly storyline but I have learned that I can suspend disbelief about things like ghosts and time travel if I am learning about history. I loved the different storylines of the women, from WWII-era France and Germany to modern day California. I have been to the Queen Mary in Long Beach and could picture the women on the boat, gazing towards a new future. I highly recommend it!
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (own)
I really enjoyed one of the author’s other historical fiction books, The Huntress, but I liked this one even more! Taking place in both WWI and post-WWII France, this dual-timeline book keeps you on the edge of your seat and provides heart-stopping action. The women are brave and smart and you root for them through all of the intrigue and deception.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (own)
This was a reread for me and a buddy read with my 9th grader. I had forgotten a lot of the storyline so it was good to refresh my memories of it. I can see why it has remained a must-read classic for decades, and I fell in love with Scout, Atticus, and Jem all over again. It definitely is a book of its time so some of the language used is hard for a modern reader to hear but the overall story and the moral lessons it teaches are worth it. Reading it as an adult, I was most impressed by Atticus’ parenting skills and the way he cared for his children as people, not talking down to them as some adults do. That is a great lesson to learn! While not technically historical fiction, I am counting it as such for my Year of Historical Reading tally!
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff (Audible)
After hearing an interview with the author on Sarah’s Bookshelves Live, I knew I had to listen to this book. It was the perfect book to serve as my first audio book, as it uses over 40 different voices to read the first-hand accounts of that terrible day. It even uses some of the real voices from that day, including President Bush and a flight attendant from one of the planes. It was a very hard book but is one that all Americans should read. On 9/11, I was working on Capitol Hill for a Member of Congress, and I have clear and distinct memories of that day, from the bagel that I was eating when the second plane hit (and that was still on my desk when I returned the next day) to the panic as we all ran into the unknown, away from the Capitol. This book brought back those memories but also put them in context with others who went through even more traumatic horrors. While not technically a historical nonfiction, I am counting it as one. A must read!
The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss (own)
I started this book 2 years ago when I met the author at the Junior League of Richmond’s Book and Author event. I picked it back up to finish during Women’s History Month in this important centennial celebration year for the ratification of the 19th amendment. This narrative nonfiction book describes all of the political and personal intrigue that led to Tennessee being the final state to ratify the amendment so that women all over the country could vote. I am looking forward to reading the young reader version of this book, which comes out in June.
One last book that I read in February as an egalley but got as a hard copy in March – Anne Bogel’s Don’t Overthink It. Read my review in my February blog post but I just had to post the picture. Isn’t it lovely?
Stats for March:
100% historical fiction and nonfiction – with a little fudging on the categories for 2 of the books
6 of 134 unread books (3 books were added to the unread shelves!)
If you enjoy following along on my Year of Historical Reading, be sure to friend The History Mom on Good Reads and to follow me on Instagram, where I post the books I am reading in real time.