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Best Books of 2020 – Chapter 3

I had previously read an excellent book about the race to build an atomic bomb by the Germans and Allies so when this 2016 title by Damien Lewis popped up on my daily BookBub list, I didn’t think twice about hitting the purchase button.

Having read Jim Baggott’s book, The First War of Physics, I was familiar with the story of trying to sabotage Hitler’s efforts to develop an atomic weapon.  But as I recall, it seemed that book left a little in doubt as to whether or not Hitler’s scientists could have actually achieved this goal.  This book by Lewis left no doubt that were it not for the heroic efforts of the small band of saboteurs, Hitler would have succeeded obviously changing the course of the war in Europe.

At times, accounts of their raids read to me like a classic spy novel with visions of James Bond skiing over a frozen Norwegian landscape armed to the hilt.  I often had to force myself to put the book down and go to bed.  The focus of the special forces destructive efforts was the heavy water (deuterium instead of hydrogen in H2O) plant in a remote part of Norway.  The book chronicles three separate missions (plus a related one) by just small groups of specially trained personnel to rob the Nazis of this critical ingredient for making an atomic bomb.

When I finished reading this intriguing story, it filled in the blanks of the previous book such that I was convinced our world would not be the same today were it not for what transpired.  If you find yourself interested enough in this story to read Lewis’ book, I am confident you too will have enjoyed it and have a much clearer understanding of what transpired and how close Hitler actually came.

It was not long after my very first visit to Disney World in 2014 with my brother that I read my first book about Walt Disney, Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas.

I first became interested in reading about Walt Disney after watching the movie Saving Mr. Banks but after that first visit with my brother, I knew I wanted to learn more and actually found this book at Disney World.  Since then, I returned to Disney World in 2019 with my siblings…

…and so was already keen on the park when I ran across this recently released book by Richard Snow, Disney’s Land:  Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World.  I love reading books about things being built and this one did not disappoint.

After a brief history of Disney, which I was familiar with having read the previous book, the story launches into the inspirations for the creation of Disneyland.  Bit by bit, pieces coalesce as the remarkable story unfolds of how the park came into being.  Even more satisfying to me was the level of detail included on how some of the more famous rides were invented and developed.  The climax of the story is probably the two live broadcasts, one from the opening in 1955 and then its improvement in 1959, told from a reporter on the scene viewpoint.

If you have enjoyed experiencing one of the Disney parks and are interested in how the original came about, this book is for you.

If you are an avid fan of David Baldacci then you were happy to see published his latest book in his “Memory Man” series, Walk the Wire.  But if you have like me, read basically everything he has written, then you are in for a double treat in this installment.  Set in North Dakota in a town overwhelmed with fracking companies, multiple murders lead to a complex story that takes a number of twists and turns.  Anything else I might say would be a spoiler so trust me and read this book.  You will enjoy it!

I am a big fan of Erik Larson and his unique talent to write non-fiction that reads like a novel.  I have read almost all of his books so, when his latest book was released, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, I snapped it up.  I was not disappointed.  There is a wealth of information published about Churchill and what Larson focused on in his book was Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister.

Most Americans, I included, when they think about World War II, first think of the infamous attacks on Pearl Harbor, but this book gave me a whole new appreciation for the time when America had not entered the war.

Churchill’s first year as PM mostly coincided with the devastating aerial attacks on England—the Blitz—and in particular London.  It is amazing to read of the Brits strength to fight on alone after France fell and their resolve to withstand the constant attacks.  It was no doubt, Churchill who ensured this through his actions and his words.  Throughout this year, Churchill tried to get more help from America but there were a number of reasons that did not happen, at least not to the extent Churchill would have preferred.

Once I finished this book, I felt I had an important history lesson, and a most enjoyable one as usual spun by Larson, that read like a novel rather than a dry historical account.  I suspect you too will enjoy this latest from him.

A number of years ago, I wrote a blog post about my fascination with the possibility of time travel and the enjoyment I had had reading three excellent novels about time travel.   So, when I ran across this new release by Lisa Grunwald, Time After Time, I was intrigued.  Reading the brief synopsis of the book described as a time travel love story set in the Grand Central Terminal in the 1930s and 1940s, I knew I had to purchase it for what could be more romantic.

I absolutely loved this book making it now four books I have thoroughly enjoyed about time travel. What starts out as tragedy turns into a romance that beautifully evolves over the years.  You will quickly find yourself rooting for Joe and Nora to figure out a way to make it all work given the unique limitations Nora has.

One aspect of a time travel book that I especially like is a degree of plausibility.  A significant factor in this plot is an actual astronomical phenomenon that occurs in New York city and after finishing the book, if you are like me, you will probably Google it and realize, wow it really could have happened that way.  If you have read and enjoyed any of the three time-travel books I wrote about previously, trust me, you’ll love this one too!

To Be Continued…

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