Egan, Shirer, and a Pair of Classics

Yes, I know that my previous reading lists have included a lot more than two books. But, like many people, I read at night before bed. It’s the only way I get to sleep. Sometimes it doesn’t take much before I start to nod off. This method gets me through roughly one average sized book per month. But if the book is one of those weighty, 1500-page doozies, all bets are off. The following books…took a while.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, by William Shirer: I have been planning to read this tome for a long, long time. After reading Andrew Nigorski’s Hitlerland about the American journalists inside Nazi Germany in the 1920s and ‘30s, I was stunned by how bellicose toward Hitler one journalist was: William Shirer.

The breadth, scope, detail, and research that Shirer pours into the book is absolutely second to none. Shirer was in Germany as Hitler took over. He stayed there and reported to the rest of the world until 1941 when America entered the war (and he was kicked out). Shirer came back for the Nuremburg Trials and combed through tons of captured Nazi and Wermacht documents and confiscated personal diaries of many of the top German military and Nazi Party brass.

How Shirer assimilated all of this material, and made it such a readable story is really beyond comprehension. But readable it is, and better than any recent novel I’ve read, as we all know that this dark and twisted story, is actually all true. HIGHLY recommended.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, by Timothy Egan: This National Book Award-winning book by local author Timothy Egan (Not his first National Book Award; Try The Worst Hard Time), is a page-turning look at treasured and celebrated Native American photographer and ethnographer Edward Curtis. If you are already a fan of Egan’s writing style, then you will know of his gripping and fluid prose.

We will all instantly recognize many of Curtis’ early and beautiful “Indian” photos, but this is the story of how hard Curtis worked to get these shots, and how head-over-heels in love Edward Curtis fell for the plight, wisdom, religion, language, and people of the many, many indigenous tribes scattered throughout the American West, Canada, and the Arctic. Curtis sacrificed his family and livelihood to pursue what he saw as a life’s work: to preserve and archive what was left of the quickly disappearing customs and people who were in North America first.

Another instant Egan classic.

 
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