Book Review. Eight Days in May: The Final Collapse of the Third Reich

Volker Ullrich’s Eight Days in May describes the period from April 30, 1945, the day of Hitler’s suicide, to May 8, the day of signing the German capitulation, with significant jumps backwards in time and some hops in the future. We’re covering only eight days, and the dictator dies on day one. What essential events might ever have happened in such a short period? Well, many pivotal ones, as this well-researched work shows us. »

Book Review: Power to the Words

Vera Gheno’s “Potere alle Parole” (Power to the Words) is an essay on the importance of appropriate use of the (Italian) language, not just in written works but also and predominately in everyday life. What would we think of a person who, having a vast wardrobe of beautiful clothes, always wore the same suit out of laziness? These situations appear unlikely; yet, they are examples of the attitude that many have towards their language: they have access to an immense, incalculable patrimony, which out of indolence, or fear, or inexperience, they use partially. »

Book Review: Alpi Ribelli: Storie di montagna, resistenza e utopia

The idea behind this book is fascinating. As the subtitle suggests, the book collects stories of rebel mountaineers of all kinds. Some chose to disobey orders; others built refuges of resistance, outposts of autonomy and laboratories of social innovation. The collection is rich and varied. We go from the heretics who went with Fra Dolcino to the partisans who stopped the Nazi fascists in the mountains of Cuneo and Belluno, up to the contemporary movements against the high-speed train in the Susa Valley. »

Book Review: The Voice of the Sirens. The Greeks and the art of persuasion

According to a famous and fortunate Homeric expression, words are winged, not so much like birds but rather like arrows, which cut the air quickly to go straight to the target and break through the listener’s heart. The Greeks have always known that the word is used to convince and show truth and correctness. But they also know that it has a magical force in it: it can turn into a spell, capable of dominating and dragging the listener’s soul; to bewitch like music and to heal like medicine; but, above all, to deceive and mislead. »

Book Review: One Man Caravan

Robert Edison Fulton was the first solo round-the-world motorcycle tourer. He made his worldwide trip on a two-cylinder Douglas motorcycle between July 1932 and December 1933, more or less 90 years ago. On his way from London to the colonial Middle East, Fulton crossed Nazi Germany. Some of the countries and places he passed do not exist anymore. Most have changed dramatically; others, not so much. I suspect, for example, that his adventures in Syria, Afghanistan, or at the Indian-Pakistani borders might have been written today. »

Book Review: The Silence, A Novel

It is Super Bowl Sunday in the year 2022. Five people, dinner, an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. The retired physics professor and her husband and her former student waiting for the couple who will join them from what becomes a dramatic flight from Paris. The conversation ranges from a survey telescope in North-central Chile to a favorite brand of bourbon to Einstein’s 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity. »

Book Review: In the Heart of the Sea, The Tragedy of the Waleship Essex

While reading Erebus, The Story of a Ship, my attention was caught by a brief mention of the Whaleship Essex. Being the sucker that I am for exploration and dramatic adventure stories from the early days, I researched it, only to surface with Nathaniel Philbricks’ In The Heart of the Sea in my hands. In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex - an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. »

Book Review: Materada

I am very ignorant about the Istrian Peninsula’s history, a gap I always wanted to fill. After some research, Fulvio Tomizza’s book, Materada, surfaced as a good fit to fill this gap. It’s a semi-biographic historical novel set in the Istria of the author’s youth. Fulvio Tomizza was born in Giurizzani di Materada, Istria, in 1935. He had to go through all the torments caused in that disputed area by Fascism first (forced Italianization, cultural suppression), and then by the Second World War and the terrible events that followed: the Foibe massacres and the Istrian-Dalmatian exodus. »

Book Review: The Library at Night

As any other bookworm worth its salt, I digested a generous amount of books on books and the history of libraries. Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night was last, and that is a pity. It probably arrived just a little too late on my shelves. I wish I found it at the beginning of my reading journey when my enthusiasm for libraries and their contents was pristine. Manguel’s writing is mesmerizing and capable. »

Book Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I came back to reading Shirley Jackson almost by coincidence. I had just finished watching The Haunting of Hill House, and, as I always do with stuff that tickles my curiosity, I was doing a little research on it. That’s how I learned that the TV Series is loosely based on a novel by the same name written by… Shirley Jackson. Still imbued by the TV Series’s atmospheres, now knowing about its connection with Jackson, I was ready for another dive into her literature of psychological suspense and terror. »

Book Review: The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer is the debut novel for Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author and journalist best known for his nonfiction works. Set in a slave plantation located in pre-civil war Virginia, this is a bold and ambitious story about slavery. From the editor website: Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. »

Book Review: Erebus, The Story of a Ship

I finished reading Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin, an excellent book on the dramatic adventures of the HMS Erebus with her sister ship, the HMS Terror, first in James Clark Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839-43, and then during Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. I knew Michael Palin as a member of the Monty Python comedy group. As it turns out, since 1980, he has also made many travel documentaries and books. »