Good Minds Suggest: Elizabeth Letts's Favorite Books Celebrating the Human Spirit During WartimePosted by Goodreads on August 1, 2016
During the early years of World War II, purebred horses from across Europe were stolen by the Nazis for use in Hitler's efforts to engineer an equine master race. It wasn't until the last days of the war that American soldiers discovered the operation and planned a daring mission to kidnap and smuggle the priceless pedigrees to safety. Elizabeth Letts, whose bestseller The Eighty Dollar Champion was a finalist for the 2011 Goodreads Choice Best History and Biography Award, details the captivating story of the rescue in her new book, The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis. The riveting, meticulously researched account details not only the dramatic logistics of the rescue but the characters involved, including an Austrian colonel and several horse-loving Germans, and the courage and sacrifice of the rescuers. Letts, a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, shares five of her favorite books that celebrate the strength of the human spirit in wartime. "I've always found that books set during the horror of wartime shine a spotlight on what is best in human nature—as though humanity's finest qualities shine even brighter when seen through the prism of our hardest times," she tells Goodreads. "In this list I've gathered together stories that have moved me to understand the best that people are capable of—and because I'm an animal lover, several of these stories, not surprisingly, also feature animals."
Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Constantine Croke
"What would you do if you had developed a deep and humane relationship with the mighty elephant and then found that a man-made war was putting these animals in danger? Forester Bill Williams went to work in Burma in 1920 where he became fascinated with the majestic elephants used to harvest teak. Unhappy with the rough way in which these powerful beasts were treated, he studied the animals, learning humane ways to care for them, which he then taught to others, greatly improving the elephants' lot. When World War II broke out, both the humans and the elephants were in danger, and the climax of this story is a heart-stopping escape under harrowing wartime conditions. Croke's story of 'Elephant' Bill Williams and his beloved elephant, Bandoola, takes us into the heart of World War II in Burma and shows us how animals and humans working together can beat terrible odds."
Wartime Lies by Louis Begley
"The tales of soldiers and adults caught in wartime can make for painful reading, but the fate of small children caught up in the horrors of war seems to lay bare some of the harshest truths of man's inhumanity while at the same time astonishing us with the human heart's resilience. One such tale that has really stuck with me is a novel called Wartime Lies. Author Louis Begley tells the partly autobiographical story of Maciek, a Jew who is just a small boy when his native Poland is plunged into war. Forced to pretend to be a gentile in order to survive, the clear-eyed young narrator survives on his wits and indomitable spirit. This book plunges you into a world of unspeakable horror and shows how the fragile heart of a child can survive even when he is forced to make unthinkable choices."
The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
"We often think of the bravery of men during war, but the women left behind face challenges of their own. I adored this book, set on the rural Oregon home front during World War I. A petite young woman gets a chance to take on the job of breaking horses for the local ranchers only because the community's young men are off fighting in the war. Author Molly Gloss brings alive the austere life in rural Oregon during the early 20th century and how the main character's deep commitment to understanding the horses in her care gives her the strength and courage to come to the aid of her community in times of trouble."
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
"When Germany invaded Poland during World War II, Jan Zabinski and his wife, Antonina, were zookeepers at the Warsaw Zoo. The incredible true story of how they saved 300 Jews as well as a group of Polish resistors is a towering testament to how the love of animals often points people toward a deeper respect for humanity. With a naturalist's insight into the zoo animals' (often charming) behavior and a historian's attention to historical detail, Ackerman helps the reader comprehend the twisted philosophies that lay at the heart of the Nazi Party. This book is fascinating, and at times troubling, but ultimately deeply inspiring."
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
"I grew up near Louis Zamperini's hometown of Torrance, California, and so I had driven down Zamperini Way and past Zamperini Field, never knowing the extraordinary story behind the name. In Laura Hillenbrand's masterful retelling of Zamperini's life story, she brings alive the incredible trajectory of a man who went from Olympic athlete to castaway to prisoner of war, and finally to embody the spirit of human resilience. Anyone reading this book will turn the pages with a sense of disbelief. How could any one man have lived through so much? Brilliantly researched and thrillingly told, Hillenbrand's book brings us close to the lives of the soldiers, allowing us to see the world as it looked to them. Anyone who wants to understand the character of the men who fought and won World War II should read this book."
Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Nonfiction War Books