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In the Garden of Beasts

June 12, 2012

I finally found the time to read a book for the first time this year.  Between school and working out, I just am not able (motivated?) to set aside time to read a book.  But now that summer is here, I get a chance to read.  So I thought I would write about the book I just read.

In the Garden of Beasts is written by Erik Larson.  I have read three of Larson’s books and loved them all. The books I read all followed a similar model.  They were  all non-fiction.  They told two parallel stories – one story line involves a significant event and the other involves a personal story of an individual or two.  They way he tells both stories – bouncing between the two – is very interesting.  And then the way he brings the two stories together is really awesome.  So I went into this book with high expectations.  In addition this was a New York Times best seller (and still is).

This book is the story of the new American ambassador to Germany who is appointed as Hitler is coming to power.  It tells his family’s story as they experience Germany in the mid-1930’s.  What was interesting is to get a first-hand account of what Germany and the World was like at that time.  Looking back now we can all say that the world should have stopped Hitler.  But there was a lot going on at that time (including the fact that Germany owed the USA billions of dollars that we were hoping to collect) that affected people’s decisions.  And with the Depression in full swing and many families having suffered losses in World War I, few people were concerned about the goings on in Germany.

To be honest, I was disappointed in the book.  Unless you are a history buff you probably will not enjoy this book.  It really got into a lot of detail about what was going on in Germany with various individuals.  In addition, it did not follow the style I had expected to see.

If you want to read a good book by Larson I would recommend either Devil in the White City – a story about the building of the Chicago World’s Fair with a parallel story of a mass murderer or Thunderstruck – the story of the development of wireless telegraph along with a murder that occurs in parallel.  Both stories are interesting and the way he weaves the two stories together is really good.

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