Tuesday, 3 March 2009

48 Hours of Kristallnacht. Night of Destruction/ Dawn of the Holocaust - An Oral History (Mitchell G. Bard, Ph.D.)

I read this book on a short trip to Dublin last week. As I sat on the plane reading there was a Jewish family that came and sat in front of me. Momentarily I felt ashamed. I felt like I was sticking my nose in to something I could never understand having never had such heinous experiences occur to myself or my family. Quickly following this feeling of shame though, I felt a satisfaction, that I was interested because I understood that this event mattered and shaped the world as it is today and the people within it. If we can learn from the strength of the people who gave their time to speak with Mitchell G. Bard and understand a little of what happened at the start of the Holocaust then this book is worth more than gold.

As I began the book I was entranced by the image of a family, the universal image of protection and values being shattered by those believed to be friends. The first line of the introduction, “Imagine you are nine years old, sleeping soundly in your bed” evokes such memories, and places you in that position. As a reader you may not have experienced having your world shattered but you will have experienced being nine. A powerful beginning to a very moving book.

My journey through the book took me through a range of emotions, and has led to a very basic understanding of what occurred at this time. I accept that there is so much more to learn on this subject but this book serves as a very interesting start and I do feel that my knowledge of this matter has been driven forward. I must admit that my experience of World War Two has mainly been an Anglican view, concerned with the effect it had on our own country, especially living in Plymouth where the scars of bombs are still clear to see. I have always been interested in the Jewish persecution and how it could occur and this book is an excellent insight offering first hand experiences. I want to build on the foundations this book has given me, and am looking forward to reading more books in the same vein. I personally think that the aim of the book, to raise awareness of these experiences has been perfectly achieved. A voice has been given to survivors who have kept these memories locked for decades.

The layout of the book helped the compelling nature of the read. The one line headings for each statement aid in browsing (if that is what you chose to do) and the plays on words every now and then help humanise the situation and added a personal touch to the paragraphs, reminding the reader that these are peoples stories and lives and that each one has a rounded character. The chapter structure also draws you in structuring the events within the time frame used.

This book would be an excellent start up for anyone interested in the events of WW2 and indeed, the references and statistics would enable this to even be used as a reference book for essays. The marvelous use of primary sources means that this book stands out in a sea of history books and work well as a research text for possibly anything connected with this era.

overall I would be happy to recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this period, it is a difficult subject that has been sensitively approached and functionally presented . Two things that would be essential for this subject.

Friday, 30 January 2009

He's Just No Good for You - Beth Wilson with Mo. Therese Hannah Ph.D

He’s Just No Good For You – Beth Wilson with Mo. Therese Hannah Ph.D.

This book did not leave me feeling well rounded and content as I expected it to. I knew that I was not in a destructive relationship at the time of reading so was looking forward to having that confirmed however, this was not the case. Some of the examples used should come with an extra warning outlining they occur even in healthy relationships and that it is the way they are dealt with that carries the balance. We are all human and we all slip up.
The only question it raised was who in particular was the writers target audience? Even if I had been in a destructive relationship (as I was led to believe by the check list in chapter 2) this book would still have gone over my head, I failed to be a part of what they were discussing, like I was being talked at rather than involved.
I felt that this book spent too much time focussing on the types of destructive relationship and took too long to reach the solutions, which were well written and valuable. The person that buys this book will do so because they know they are in a destructive relationship and are looking for answers so keeping that first section more condensed would retain more interest.
My experience of the book did not leave me with any big insight into relationships, nothing that I was not aware of before. The message is simple. If you have low self-esteem you are more likely to attract people who will take advantage of you so the key is to focus on yourself.
I think the only things this has going for it is the fact that the random quotes in the pages make it easier to browse. While reading the text verbatim these quotes can be off-putting but when flicking through to find something relevant they work. This book also comes into its own when discussing the solutions and honestly this is the key factor of self-help books, how to fix the problem and move on. There was a small boost in being told that my attitudes were right about looking after myself but then, that may be the very reason I failed to engage with the book anyway, because I didn’t need helping and did not appreciate the suggestion in chapter 2 that I did.
I wouldn’t discount this book entirely if a friend was in a destructive relationship and asked for a recommendation but I may suggest she skim the first bits.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Michelle Obama, First Lady of Hope - Elizabeth Lightfoot

I have just finished reading this book and am a little non-plussed. I appreciate the fact that I have read it and am now more aware of one of the key figures in the make-up of tomorrows experience but it was not a book I could get excited about. Lightfoots collation of resources impressed me. As a social research and creative writing graduate, I was delighted to read such a strong and balanced depiction of Michelle Obama. Negative publicity thrown up during the campaign was explained sensitively and with understanding. The structure allowed a person to dip in and out of sections of the biography while still gaining a rounded picture. It is not a hard hitting, contrived and complicated book and as such, this book is an accessible read, a nice reiteration of the point that anyone can do anything if they set their minds to it. To answer my questions, I do now have far more understanding of the new residents of the White House. The general feel of the book left me hopeful for the new America because I am aware that what happens in the States will have a knock on effect over here in the United Kingdom. It has not thrown up a plethora of questions but merely one or two pertaining to whether this hopeful energy can carry on through to congress and will there finally be change? I am aware that these are not questions brought about by the reading of the book as such, but more as a result of the campaign however these are subjects referred to repeatedly throughout the text whilst leaving the reader with no doubt that they must be patient because only time will tell. I am grateful for the experience of reading “Michelle Obama, First Lady of Hope”, I was pro-Obama before reading the text and it has re-affirmed what I already knew. I do feel that this would be a wonderful text for those with any doubts about the motivations behind the new president and his family. It would also be beneficial to younger students as an example of ambition. The tone and the echoes of “hope” that permeate the text are truly infectious. Although the book does not contain any personal interviews between Lightfoot and Obama, it has been thoroughly researched. Through the use of personal comparisons, Lightfoot has managed to create an accessible and humanised portrayal of a very powerful woman and role model for future generations.

Diary of an Exercise Addict - Peach Friedman

Wow, I read this book in two days, around quite a busy schedule. It drew me in, made me laugh, made me cry and made me think.
Exercise Bulimia is a touchy subject, and in my opinion, is often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
Friedman provides a refreshingly honest explanation of her descent into the illness that consequently left me feeling lucky and strong. Her life experiences were nothing out of the ordinary for a young woman other than she had a mother who was so conscious of her body. However, I feel that this is a rising phenomena in todays society with image becoming increasingly important.
After reading “The Diary of an Exercise Addict” I knew that I had learned something valuable. Eating disorders are very secretive illnesses and to see them humanised makes the mindset more understandable whilst remaining undesirable. I found that by the end of the book most of my questions had been answered, such as, how she really felt when she realised her position? Did she feel responsible for the state of her family? Although I do wonder how a person without her resources would be able to cope and survive. However, this is a book about one persons experience, she cannot be held responsible for her history and has kindly laid it bare for us to peruse.
The book has made me consider my own attitudes towards exercise, I am aware that when I trained in the gym I had a tendency towards the fanatical, I used it to express my anger and frustrations and when you see the results it makes it feel worthwhile, a personal triumph but what “Diary of an Exercise Addict” made me realise is that there is a fine line between healthy change and obsession and it is essential to maintain that balance.
The way the book has been written made it easier to piece together the timeline which, when considering the enormity of the subject matter is essential for the inexperienced to understand. The structure and chapter divisions answer the question that is rarely asked in the honest way - How does this happen? Not the whys and wherefores about it and not the physicality of the illness (this is answered by the content) but how long it took. It is important to remember that each case is different but as an example, the structure explains it magnificently.
Finally I need to consider why I read it? And the answer is simple, I found it interesting. It was not gory, it did not romanticise the illness, it was a factual explanation of a personal journey and I was compelled to travel alongside.
I would recommend this book mainly to women, anyone who has looked in the mirror, felt disgusted and thought “now is the time for that diet”. But I also feel it would be appropriate for those who deny having ever felt like that, (If they really exist) because it would serve them well to understand how extreme insecurities can manifest.
Workaholics would also benefit from this book simply because the ultimate line is about maintaining that life balance. It may sound like an obscure group of people and they are most certainly the people who would not have time to read this blog let alone read a book for fun but, there is a value to this book one that reminds the reader that inner strength is paramount.

Reasons to Review

I (Lizzy Maden) have been asked by my good friends at GPP international if I would consider writing some book reviews for them. After some serious thought I decided that it sounded perfect. I suggested that rather than only writing an objective, distanced review that people are unable to engage with, I should write a blog, “my journey through reading”. I will be posting straightforward reviews on Amazon of the books but if you want to know more about my experience of reading the book then this is the place to be.
I plan to examine how my experience of this book has moved my knowledge of the subject forward and whether this in turn has created new and inspiring or just plain awkward questions?
How has the book fed into my life?
Am I different for having experienced the text?
Have I understood the aim and goals of the text and feel satisfied that the structure has upheld the content?
Who do I feel would get the most out of the book?
Why have I read it? This is not just because I have been asked to, as reading is a very personal thing, there are some books that I am simply unable to connect with and therefore cannot read, I suspect this may happen during my reviews but if it does, I will explain why, if it happens.
I know some of these questions sound a little subjective but I simply mean that I want to feel that the books I read make a difference and enhance my life, even a joke book can provide a change, enrich life and alter perceptions to a certain degree.