What I Read in September

Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

what i read in1

While the reading was good in August, I struggled to find a good book in September. Why is it hard to find something to sink your teeth into, even when you have a physical bookshelf and a digital bookshelf full of things you’ve been wanting to read?!

My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man by Frank Cascio
I’m going to be upfront here, this was by far the best thing I read this month. The author, whose family were long-time friends of Michael Jackson, wrote all about his relationship with the King of Pop. In addition to being his friend, he worked with/for Michael for several years. It’s a pretty rare, intimate look at Michael’s life and a must-read for any MJ fan.

Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky
I was really excited to see this in a BookBub email one day! If you’ve been reading The Winston Hours for a while, you know that I am interested in true crime. Part of that interest lies in the psychology behind killers so this book sounded right up my alley. My excitement faded pretty quickly, though. There are so many statistics, one right after the other. I know that might sound like a silly complaint but I cannot handle having numbers thrown at me rapid-fire and, unfortunately, that’s what this book felt like. It didn’t seem like there was much of a narrative, just stats. I might give it another go but right now it’s sitting on page 30 on my e-reader.

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What I read last month

My Favorite History Books for Kids

For most of the last year and a half, I worked in elementary schools. First as a substitute teacher and then as a teacher’s assistant/aide/paraprofessional. In that time, as you would expect, I read a lot of children’s books. Here are some of my favorite history books for kids! (Full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links!)

the case for loving

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial  Marriage by Selina Alko
This wonderful book is about the Lovings, an interracial couple whose marriage caused them to be arrested in their home state of Virginia. They took their case all the way to the Supreme Court (the case of Loving v. Virginia) and won. The illustrations are beautiful and it’s a great way to talk about the Civil Rights Movement beyond MLK and Rosa Parks.

When Pigcasso Met Mootisse by Nina Landen
As you probably guessed from the title, this is about Picasso and Matisse. Except Picasso is a pig named Pigcasso and Matisse is a bull named Mootisse. They’re rival artists who feud and make a mess that turns into a masterpiece. It’s one of my favorite kids’ books because it is an intro to Picasso and Matisse but it also teaches kids how to problem solve. It’s a really fun, really cute book.

Katie and the SunflowersKatie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew
Another art history book! This one is about Katie, who visits the art museum with her grandma. When grandma falls asleep in the museum (yikes), Katie steps into paintings by Van Gogh, Gaugin, and Cezanne. Adventure ensues and kids get an introductory lesson in the post-impressionist masters. If you like this one, there are quite a few other stories about Katie and famous works of art!

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
This was actually the first ebook I ever purchased and read! It is about Leon Leyson, who was ten years old when WWII began. He and his family survived the Holocaust because they were fortunate enough to work in Oskar Schindler’s factory. In fact, Leon was one of the youngest people on Schindler’s List. It’s great for older elementary aged children and middle schoolers who want to learn more about the Holocaust.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker BradleyThe War that Saved my Life
I actually have not read this book but a class that I worked with did a unit on it and it was very popular! It is about a little girl who has never been let outside because her mother is embarrassed by the girl’s disability. When WWII breaks out, however, the girl’s brother is sent out of London and the girl sneaks out to go with him. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it and watched 4th graders choose to read ahead during free time. I’ll repeat that: 4th graders chose to read ahead!

Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust by Allan Zullo
This is another one that I have not personally read but was very popular in classroom libraries. If it got put on the shelf, it wasn’t there long. It is a collection of nine stories of child survivors of the Holocaust. Another great option for older elementary schoolers or middle schoolers who want to learn more about children during the Holocaust.

The ‘I Survived’ Series
This is a historical fiction series that takes kids into war and disaster and if you have kids, you’re probably already familiar with this series! From the Revolutionary War to the 9/11 attacks, there are a lot of books in this series. Normally I’d steer clear of a series of so many books but the kids I worked with loved them. A teacher even recommended that I use them when I was leading a reading group for 2nd graders who were advanced readers.

The ‘Who Was’ series and the ‘What Was’ series
Like the ‘I Survived’ series, there are tons of books in both of these series. The ‘Who Was’ series covers everyone from Andy Warhol to Gandhi, and everyone in between. The ‘What Was’ series is the same premise, but with events and sites. They’re pretty short books but still very informative. If you’re looking to introduce your child to a certain person, place, or thing, these are a great place to start!

Getting to Know Georgia O'KeefeThe ‘Getting to Know’ Series
This series is all about artists. No matter which artist your kiddo is into or which artist you’d like to teach them about, chances are good that there is a book about them in this series. These books are relatively short and can be read in one sitting but they’re pretty detailed and have really fun illustrations.



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Best History Books for Kids

US History Books You Probably Haven’t Read Yet (But Should)

I think it’s no secret that I favor modern history…that’s the whole premise of this blog! If you’re into the 20th century, check out these books! This post contains affiliate links but I wholeheartedly recommend the books in this post.

Best US History Books

 Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age by Martin Torgoff
I came across this book years ago (actually, probably about a decade ago!) via a documentary series VH1 and The Sundance Channel produced called “The Drug Years.” It chronicled drug use in American history and its impact on our history. Martin Torgoff was a frequent commentator on the series and it was so fascinating to me, I ordered a copy of his book. It did not disappoint. If you’re at all interested in the ways that drugs have impacted our society, this book is for you.

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
It turns out that the summer of 1927 was kind of a big one for America. Lucky Lindy made his historic flight across the Atlantic, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, Babe Ruth beat his own home run record, and President Coolidge tried to busy himself during the Roaring 20s. It’s a lot but it’s all very interesting and Bill Bryson is such a good writer that he had me, emphatically not a baseball fan, excitedly reading about the Yankees’ 1927 season.

1969: The Year Everything Changed by Rob Kirkpatrick
Like One Summer: America, this book takes a look at 1969 as a whole. It’s the year we reached the moon and the year the counterculture reached its zenith with Woodstock and died with the Manson murders. 1969 also saw the Chappaquiddick incident, Richard Nixon becoming president, and the truth about the My Lai massacre coming to light. There is a lot to unpack but it’s all fascinating and important.

An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine by Howard Markel
This is not strictly US history, as you probably guessed by Freud’s name in the title. But William Halsted was one of the founders of Johns Hopkins and instrumental in bringing sanitary surgical procedures to the US. If you’ve ever had surgery and not died of infection, you should thank Halsted. Like Freud, he experimented with cocaine’s medical usage, specifically its use as an anesthetic. Unfortunately, this led to a serious addiction. An Anatomy of Addiction chronicles the theories and experiments both men put forth and conducted, as well as their careers as a whole. It’s a fascinating and, at times, horrifying, look at 19th-century medical practice.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins
Ok, maybe you have read this since it was in my “What I Read in August” post. If not, what are you waiting for? As I said in my previous post, it’s eye-opening and should make every woman thankful for the strides that have been made. (I must have eye-rolled a hundred times while reading this book, though. Women have heard every excuse in the book while being denied equal rights.)

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What I Read in August

I read some good stuff in August so I thought I’d start sharing what I read at the end of every month! Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

stack of books

Columbine by Dave Cullen
I’m going to date myself here and say that I was 11 when Columbine happened. There is so much about it that I didn’t understand at the time and so much misinformation has been spread that nearly two decades later, there was a lot that I was still unclear about. Columbine clears it all up in a way that makes it hard to put the book down. On Twitter and Instagram, I said this is one of the best books I’ve ever read and it definitely is. It’s easily in my top five and I would recommend it to anyone, especially Americans as I believe this massacre changed our country.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy Carter
After finding out that one of my coworkers is a big Hamilton fan and we geeked out a bit, she asked if I had this book. I said I didn’t so she let me borrow hers. I ordered my own copy the very same day. It’s the coolest book ever. The pictures are just gorgeous and the breakdown of the lyrics is amazing since Lin snuck so many little touches into the soundtrack. If you like Hamilton and you don’t have this, what are you doing?

Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, And Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckley
I had been meaning to read this for a while and finally read it for my upcoming posts about Elizabeth Keckley. It’s a really unique book not only because of her incredible life but because, like I cover in the post, literate slaves were extremely rare. To have something that a former slave wrote makes for a fascinating primary source. FYI: the Kindle version is only .99!

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke
The Dick Van Dyke Show is my favorite classic TV show and probably one of my favorite shows, period. So when this came up in a BookBub email a few weeks ago, I had to snag it. Dick Van Dyke is very upfront about the fact that there is no dirt in this book (I get the feeling that there is no dirt to put in a book.) It’s just a charming look at his life and career. If you need a palate cleanser for whatever reason, I recommend this one.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins
I picked this up on a whim in a used bookstore. I’m so glad I did. I haven’t finished it yet but it is eye-opening. To know that my grandmothers were restricted in ways that I can’t begin to imagine (and that, as white women, they didn’t even experience the worst of it) is humbling and makes me very grateful for the strides we’ve made.

And in a completely different realm, I’ve been reading this magazine I picked up at an antique shop near Asheville…

life magazine LSD

Look at that cover!

Go ahead and click to enlarge those. If you want to see more, you can probably find a copy on eBay or in an antique shop near you. I actually found one here in Raleigh the other day! This article inspired a post that will go up sometime in September (it’s up!)

On that note, what did you read in August?

Must-Read Books About the Holocaust

Like many, I was taught about the Holocaust via Anne Frank. It was in fourth grade, Mrs. Stephens’ class. I remember wanting to learn everything I could about the Holocaust because my 9-year-old mind couldn’t comprehend humans murdering other humans simply for being different.

Adult me still doesn’t understand.

I scoured the library for books (this was pre-internet!) and looked at pictures that I probably shouldn’t have at such a young age. But that instilled in me an interest in and passion for Holocaust education. And since I’ve always been an avid reader, I’ve read a lot of books by and about survivors. In light of recent events, I wanted to share these as a reminder of what unchallenged hatred can do. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. For more book recommendations, go here.

Must-read books about the Holocaust

Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. Any funds generated by the sale of books via these links will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
If you’ve read my other must-read lists, you know I’m a fan of Erik Larson. I think this might be my favorite from him. It tells the story of William Dodd, the US ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937. FDR appointed him shortly after becoming president, which happened shortly after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Dodd wrote to Roosevelt about the true state of affairs in Germany, which many were hesitant to believe because the Nazi propaganda machine was running in full force. I think it’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read and, unfortunately, feels relevant today.

Night by Elie Wiesel
This is probably the most famous book about the Holocaust and for good reason. Wiesel survived both Auschwitz and Buchenwald and wrote Night to bear witness. It’s short but powerful, raw, and horrific. If you are going to read one book about the Holocaust, make it this one.

Hiding for Our Lives by Esther Gutman Lederman and Ezjel LedermanHiding for Our Lives by Esther Gutman Lederman and Ezjel Lederman
A few years ago, I did a short volunteering stint with the Holocaust Speakers Bureau of Chapel Hill. During my time there, I was tasked with interviewing a few survivors about their journey to North Carolina and their lives here. One of those survivors was Esther. I will probably never forget the afternoon I spent with her. She told me her story over lunch (she had a kosher hot dog, I had a BLT) and I feverishly wrote down notes between bites. Like my own grandmother would, she told me to order dessert because I didn’t eat enough. She complained that her kids begged her to stop playing tennis a few years ago because of her age. She stopped but insisted that at age 90, she could still play just fine! Before we parted, she gave me a copy of her book, which I cherish. In it, she and her husband tell their story of hiding from the Nazis in a potato cellar, losing family members, and coming to the US after the war. It’s incredible and I will never forget what she told me about writing the book and speaking about her experience: “I still speak about it because I want this generation to be able to stand up to deniers. I want them to be able to say, ‘I’ve met someone who lived through it. I heard her story. It happened.'”

In My Hands: Memoirs of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke
Irene was a teenager when the Nazis invaded her native Poland. In this book, she tells about life in occupied Poland, working in a hotel frequented by German officers, and saving the Jewish workers she supervised at the hotel. She ended up hiding some of those workers in the home of the Nazi officer she worked for. It’s actually classified as a young adult book so if you are looking for something for preteens or younger teenagers, this is a great pick.

Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening by Primo Levi
I think Survival in Auschwitz is one of the most well-known Holocaust memoirs and The Reawakening is a continuation of Levi’s story. Levi was arrested as part of the anti-fascist resistance in Italy and sent to Auschwitz. The Reawakening picks up with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviets and chronicles Levi’s journey back to Italy. It also explores his feelings as he grapples with his experiences and life after liberation, which I found fascinating.

Our Crime Was Being Jewish by Michael S. Pitch
This is another book I was fortunate enough to snag for a few dollars via Book Bub. It is a collection of stories by Holocaust survivors, over 500 stories by over 350 survivors. They tell about their lives before the war, imprisonment, and liberation. It is incredible to have so many stories and perspectives in one book.

The Collaborator by Alice KaplanThe Collaborator by Alice Kaplan
This last one is not quite a Holocaust story but still a very important one. What constitutes a collaborator? Does publishing an anti-Semitic newspaper mean that you are guilty of collaboration? Robert Brasillach, a Frenchman, was a vehement anti-Semite and editor of the fascist newspaper Je Suis Partout. While he didn’t directly murder anyone, his beliefs were in line with Nazi ideology and no doubt emboldened French Nazi sympathizers. But did he deserve to be executed for it? Kaplan discusses Brasillach’s life, career, and what qualifies as collaboration in a way that makes it hard to put this one down.

Do you have another recommendation? A book everyone should read? Please share!

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Must-read books about the Holocaust