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A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  84 reviews
The inspiring true story of an indomitable librarian’s journey from Nazi Germany to Seattle to Vietnam—all for the love of books.

Growing up under Fascist censorship in Nazi Germany, Ruth Rappaport absorbed a forbidden community of ideas in banned books. After fleeing her home in Leipzig at fifteen and losing both parents to the Holocaust, Ruth drifted between vocations, re
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published May 1st 2019 by Little A
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3.38  · 
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 ·  468 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

This was a book by a person who poured every possible detail about the subject between the covers. I actually got rather weary, and mixed up at times, having to back track to make sure I was on the same train as the author was. From time to time I thought I was re-reading the same chapter, but no, it really was a completely different chapter, just using a lot of the same information.

Ruth, herself, was interesting to read about – not
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
A mid-ranking staffer at the Library of Congress would not ordinarily be the subject of a biography, but Ruth Rappaport led an eventful life: as a teenager, Ruth fled Nazi Germany and eventually found asylum in the United States. She then worked as a newspaper editor in Seattle before an ill-fated stint as a photographer in a newly independent Israel, qualified as a librarian and spent several years organising the U.S. military's libraries in Vietnam, before returning to the States and working a ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Rappaport was not famous, but in Forest-Gumpish fashion she was around historical events. A Jew born in Germany, she was able to get to the US as a teenager, while her parents died in concentration camps. She lived in what became Israel during its formation. She didn't become a Librarian until her mid-thirties, but was a major force in expanding the military library system in Viet Nam during the war. Having spent eight years in 'Nam, she was there longer than most soldiers. Afterwards, she ...more
Jennifer Burla
Hard to wade through all the library history

I loved the parts of this book that were actually about Ruth Rappaport. She was such an authentic person, who was honest about her weaknesses and mistakes, all the things that make us human. She wasn’t portrayed as a super-woman, so it was easy to relate to her amazing story. I had a really hard time getting through the material that seemed to have more to do with the history of libraries than the story of Ruth. Sometimes I just couldn’t make the conne
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a freebie through the Amazon First Reads program; I picked it from among the month's selections because although I had not previously heard of Ruth Rappaport, she sounded from the description like the type of woman I've come to admire, and I wasn't far off. Rappaport had a truly unusual life, escaping Nazi Germany as a young girl and spending time in places as varied as Israel; Vietnam; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Through her entire life ran a common theme: books.

At first, I was
Kathy Selvaggio
oo many facts lined up, no heart.
Donna Hines
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, netgalley
There is much to be said about a Well Read Woman and Ruth certainly fulfilled that mode of thinking.
Librarians are the backbone to the heart of any community. They provide services you simply couldn't duplicate anywhere else. They are the lifeline to many who without their services wouldn't be able to fulfill their dreams of a better life, a more educated, well rounded world.
This is the story of Ruth Rappaport during some extremely difficult times in trying to keep the love of reading and books
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating biography of a woman with a colorful history and one with ambition.

Ruth Rappaport was a child in Nazi Germany. With Romanian origin parents and a passport which helped since it was not a German one, she was a Jew and faced great danger in Nazi Germany. She was fearless and even as a young child was daring and bold. Faced with an uncertain future, she like thousands of others was shipped to Seattle to join a family and to try to live a life without the luxury of parents or family
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps a 3.5 star rating would be about where I land after reading. Stewart's book gave me much to chew on, and I am fascinated by Ruth Rappaport, a sociologist and librarian whose life intersected directly with Nazi Germany, the creation of the new state of Israel, the Red Scare, and the Vietnam War. Her Jewish, feminist, and Communist ties certainly added spice to an already intriguing narrative. I came away thinking it would have been fascinating to have a conversation with Miss Rappaport, k ...more
Jan Lynch
A Jewish teen who engineered her own escape from Nazis as they rose to power, who navigated bureaucratic intricacies to emigrate to the United States and later become a citizen; a young woman who advocated for and sacrificed for causes she believed in--particularly Zionism; a woman unafraid to dodge bombs and bullets to establish an uncensored library system for soldiers in Vietnam; a woman who continued to live out her love of books through a long career with the Library of Congress; an older w ...more
Janette Fuller
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Rappaport was not famous but she lived an extremely courageous and distinguished life. Ms. Stewart used diary entries, letters, and archives to describe Ruth's "life, loves, and legacy." She visited many of the locations where Ruth lived to give the reader a clear understanding of the world as Ruth saw it.

I was especially interested in the years that Ruth spent in Vietnam setting up libraries for the soldiers and sending out packets of books/magazines to the front lines. She traveled in hel
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but did bog down when discussing the intricacies of library work.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting Concept

The title of this book began with "A Well-Read Woman..." yet there was very little discussion/description regarding any of the books Ruth read. This was a chronicled telling of her life, which I found confusing at times because the author would add tidbits about her own life, and it would take me a bit to realize we'd left Ruth's story.

I also felt that the book would have benefited with more "showing" and less "telling." As a reader I was never allowed to be drawn in by any pa
K Lowery
Apr 18, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No narrative. Nothing but facts jam packed into every paragraph.
Bill Meade
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well built history, a pleasure to read

Ruth Rappoport was an historical thread starting in Leipzig, running through a tapestry of horrors, distance, idealism, cynicism, culture, family, and opportunity. I've lately been reading WWII books around the edge of conventional war accounts. Histories of Sobibor, of German soldiers on the beaches at D-Day, of Allied tanks (each Sherman tank on average, consumed 5 crews). Ruth's voice added knowledge to my evolving understanding of World War II, Zionism,
Jill B
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting book! Ruth may not have become famous but she lead an interesting life despite some set backs. The Nazi's and the Swiss definitely had major impacts but she also got in her own way as well. She's a flawed person, as are we all, but she still made a difference to the people she knew and to how we all can find the books we need.

It's also a great look at libraries and the importance of librarians, written by a librarian.
T.B. Cooper
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt going into this read as though I had heard of Ruth Rappaport before… maybe I did? Maybe I didn’t? Either way, I am so glad I’d chosen this as one of my First Reads Picks, and here’s why…

(From her Amazon Author Profile) Kate Stewart is a third generation librarian whose work has included working at the Library of Congress (just like Ms. Rappaport did until she retired). After an invite to an estate sale (that of Ruth’s home after her death), Ms. Stewart finds a slightly obsessive need to k
Maria Wroblewski

The subject, Ruth Rappaport, was a very interesting and accomplished woman. She lived a very adventurous life on her own terms with little fear and regret. Then, how does the author make this book on her life a very tedious read? Kate Stewart, the author, does this by not delving into the situations that Ruth experienced and the family, lovers and friends that were very important to Ruth. Instead Kate gives the reader details that hinder the narrative, such items as who ran which of the many zio
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Ruth Rappaport was a Jewish teenager living in Germany when WWII started, although she and her older siblings managed to escape to different countries before her parents were sent to the camps.

She loved books, and while it took her years to graduate from college, she eventually moved on from being a typist to being a librarian. Along the way, she lived in the United States, Israel (before it officially was Israel,) France (for at least a few months,) and Vietnam during the war.

I really wanted t
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Emi Bevacqua
Librarian-centric biography of Ruth Rappaport, growing up Jewish with Ukrainian roots in Leipzig Germany, fleeing the Nazi reign of terror, and following her intrepid, international career path. Kate Stewart, author and librarian, writes well and researches tremendously; from the beginning I was struck by how contemporary-sounding teenaged Ruth's diary translations came across, for example "I think my dad was a little bit of a control freak." I think that was a gamble that really paid off in ill ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Received a Kindle copy as a GoodReads giveaway. As a former military librarian and cataloger living in the author's residence city of Tucson, I looked forward to reading this book. To me, though, it was overly detailed and a little too long. I most enjoyed the sections on Ruth's childhood and escape from Nazi Germany and on her time as a librarian in Vietnam. I kind of skimmed through the later section on her work with the Library of Congress. The discussions on cataloging were a bit much even f ...more
Marcy Heller
Ruth Rappaport, who for many years worked in the Library of Congress, lived quite an interesting life. She impacted the world of libraries and library science (her work setting up libraries for soldiers in Vietnam was especially profound). To her credit, the author Kate Stewart has assiduously researched Rappaport's life, but I just couldn't wait to finish the book. I disliked the Ms Rappaport so much I wanted to be done with her. I applaud smart, intelligent, demanding and opinionated women, bu ...more
Jun 06, 2019 added it
Shelves: non-fiction-read
An interesting memoir. I found Ruth's life to be interesting and fascinating in her own way. I appreciated how human the portrayal of her throughout the book, not shying away from her nature to glorify her achievements. I was hoping that there would be more discovery into how big of a role books played in her life and her coping with events or more about her thoughts around books considering that is the impression I gathered from the blurb, but the snippets of library history were intriguing in ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dense and detailed biography of Ruth Rappaport. I felt as though the details, based on research and documents, sometimes went off on possibly unrelated tangents, often a bit tedious due to the amount of detail, but the author usually does a pretty good job tying in the detail to the main narrative. Aside from those tangents, this is a dry and maybe tedious for some, account. No doubt accurate, and valuable for the research done, but not one that called me back to keep on reading when I put it ...more
A Well-Read Woman tells the story of Ruth Rappaport who was just 10 years old when the Nazi Party reigned power over Germany.

However, through everything, Ruth always had her books. “Books were the one constant in a life full of trauma and turmoil, and she always turned to them for reassurance, renewal, and solace when she had no one and nothing else.”

A Well-Read Woman not only pays tribute to Ruth Rappaport, but to librarians, readers, and writers everywhere. It acknowledges the significance of
Jun 24, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Ruth Rappaport grew up in Nazi Germany, was spared from concentration camps and ended up in America living with relatives. According to the synopsis, she settled on a career as a librarian after other vocations. That career resulted in her being a librarian in Vietnam and the Library of Congress. I have to depend on the synopsis to know this because 1/3rd of the way into the book, I still had not reached the point in her life where she became a librarian. Not only that, but the book is very dry ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: free-amazon
Ruth Rappaport became a Librarian after living an already interesting life - a Jew in "Nazi" Germany witnessing book burnings and escaping; cousin of Helena Rubenstein and other wealthy family members; living in Seattle and California etc. Going to Israel and joining the army. being investigated for communist ties by the FBI.....

Setting up libraries in war zones. Cataloging - this book explains what librarians to organize book subjects - very tedious and interesting.

I recommend this book - the a
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
I feel bad to rate this so low, because it wasn't a bad book - it just felt like an unnecessary one. Censorship is something I'm very passionate about, as a librarian, and reading this almost felt like I'd been drawn in by click bait. I expected a lot more about censorship and libraries. About history. Instead, most of this book drones on about Ruth's life. I hate to say her life was boring, especially since she isn't around to defend herself, but she really seems to have been quite selfish and ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this through Amazon first reads. I really enjoyed the story about Ruth's life and the things that she was able to accomplish in her life. For me, it is nice to read a story about a woman who lived life on her terms and did not settle for the traditional life that was expected by women.

I did skim a little when the author went into the technical parts of the library cataloging at the Library of Congress, but otherwise, it was an engaging read. Also, I would have liked to have read a little
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I’m proud to be a third-generation librarian, carrying on a family tradition of sharing books and connecting people to information. I was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and raised in Kansas City. I graduated from Vassar College with a BA in history and women’s studies and from the University of Iowa with master’s degrees in history and library science. For ten years I worked in Washington, D.C., as ...more
“Ruth, it is very difficult to live with anyone who has views diametrically opposite to yours on politics or any kind of issues which excite great emotional overtones and loyalties.” 0 likes
“when you do marry, don’t marry a man to change him, marry a man whom you think you can like as well as love, and one who shares your opinions on such basic matters as politics, religion (or the lack of it) and the place of women in society.16” 0 likes
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