A round up of the best books I have read in 2016.
A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss
Theoretical physicist Krauss writes on the beginnings of the Universe and the current state of Cosmology. Space Science is a huge interest for me, and I bought this book as I thought it would help me understand some of the science better. However I found it sometimes introducing concepts very difficult to understand, and found myself referencing Wikipedia to learn more. A good read though if you are interested in the subject, I would recommend.
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle
An amazing journey tracking the beginnings and career of the deadliest sniper in American military history and his tragic murder on home soil after multiple tours in Afghanistan. I read this before I saw the Clint Eastwood directed film adaption.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This tragic tale of terminally ill teenagers was something I had wanted to read for a while based on a recommendation from a friend. Although you suspect what’s coming, it still almost knocks you for six when it does. Haven’t seen the big screen adaptation, but loved the sound track. I had this book for about a year before I read it, and was sorry I didn’t pick it up the minute it arrived. Considering reading John Green’s follow up book, “Paper Towns”.
The Gestapo: The Myth and Reality of Hitler’s Secret Police by Frank McDonough
Excellent history of the Gestapo’s key figures, internal power struggles and conduct from their beginnings right up to the end of WW2. Interwoven with stories of real people and incidents from Gestapo case files. At times I thought McDonough was somewhat sympathetic towards the Gestapo, but overall he presents the material in a very matter-of-fact way, also dispelling many myths about Hitler’s secret police along the way. I recommend if you’re a fan of WW2 history.
Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox
I’ve followed the Amanda Knox case since the very first day I heard of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher on the news. This is an absolutely riveting read, presenting the story from the perception of Knox from her move to Italy, meeting with Kercher, and her ultimate incarceration for her murder. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of the court cases and her time in prison. Overall for me thought, some of the content raises even more questions.
All She Wanted by Aphrodite Jones
All She Wanted is the definitive history of the Teena Brandon case, a transman who was murdered on New Years Eve 1993 in Humboldt, Nebraska. I became interested in this case after seeing the big screen adaption, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (1999) for which Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her portrayal of Brandon. This is a great read that describes the main characters in fantastic detail, along with the ensuing murder cases. Both murderers still await execution on the Nebraska Death Row following their convictions in the mid 1990s.
Trouble in Paradise: Uncovering the Dark Secrets of Britain’s Most Remote Island by Kathy Marks
I’ve been fascinated with Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific since I saw the Marlon Brando version of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. Pitcairn is the island where the mutineers and their Tahitian partners settled to evade detection by the British Navy. Controversy erupted on the island on the mid 1990’s with claims of decades of sexual abuse, implicating almost every male on the island. Kathy Marks was one of only six journalists permitted to be on the island during the trials. This book captures the trials and the atmosphere around them brilliantly, as well as exploring how the absence of authorities on Pitcairn led to this situation, and the somewhat romantic view outsiders have of the island vs. the actual reality. I read this while on a short break to Düsseldorf, Germany in May, and found it hard to put down.
Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross
This is the definitive biography of Kurt Cobain, charting his early life to his rise to the most popular rock star in the world as front man of Nirvana. At times a harrowing read, especially when it talks of Cobain’s early homelessness, mental anguish, and prolific drug abuse. The book gives great insights into the meaning of lots of Nirvana songs (like the reasoning behind ‘Smells Like Tenn Spirit’), and what events in Cobain’s life they related to. I could not put this down, although it took me a few weeks to read due to lots of engagements, it’s a book that will remain in my mind for a long time. If you’re a Nirvana fanatic like myself, you will enjoy this.
Amongst Women by John McGahern
Something I’ve read a few times before, and only the second piece of fiction I’ve read this year, after ‘The Fault in Our Starts’. A favorite of mine, thoroughly recommended if you’ve never read it. I took this on holidays to Portugal in September this year and read it in a few hours in the sun.
The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell
The second book I brought on holidays to Portugal. I had bought this while in Germany in May in the famous ‘Mayersche Buchhandlung’ book store in Düsseldorf. This is a fascinating read even if you have never heard of the Voyager program. Unfortunately for me, I left this on the airplane on the way home from Portugal, still with the final chapter to read.
The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans
This is the final part of Richard J. Evan’s excellent Nazi Germany trilogy (preceded by ‘The Coming of the Third Reich’ and ‘The Third Reich in Power’). It’s a lengthy read (700+ pages), but well worth it for the level of detail that Evan’s goes into. Some sections of this, especially the chapters relating to the ‘Final Solution’ are distressing to read. This is the best history of Nazi Germany I have ever read.
Hitler’s Last Day: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie
As I had read in many reviews of this book, this is not actually just confined to Hitler’s last day. It covers April 29th, April 30th and the aftermath. Along the way it introduces a host of characters from Allied soldiers as they race through Italy, British secret service agents and many political heavyweights such as Churchill and Truman. Hitler’s death is not covered in any great detail, so that doesn’t make this book stand out from countless others covering the topic. But, it’s the ongoing introduction of new characters and how this period effected them that makes this a good read.
The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler: Leading Millions Into the Abyss by Laurence Rees
This covers Hitler’s rise from disgruntled WW1 veteran to Fuhrer of Nazi Germany. Along the way the author seeks to answer the question as to why so many people followed this man unquestionably, and how he led a nation to ruin.
Auschwitz: The Nazis & The ‘Final Solution’ by Laurence Rees
Impressed with the previous book in this list also authored by Rees, I decided to read this. A terrifying account of Auschwitz from it’s journey from work camp to site of the deaths of over 1 million people. Impeccably researched and detailed, this is a book that can be read in a few hours but you will remember for quite some time afterwards.