The Librarian of Aushwitz

Author: Antonio Iturbe

Genre: Historical Fiction, Drama

Date Read: May 2022

Quote: "Books are extremely dangerous; they make people think."

Summary: The Librarian of Auschwitz is a historical fiction piece based on the true story of a thirteen-year old girl named Dita, who is tasked with keeping the books in a forbidden children's school in Auschwtiz hidden from the Nazi guards. Her story takes place in one of the only family camps of the Polish Auschwitz-Biknenau extermination camps. This book has its heart-warming and hopeful moments by focusing in on key, diverse characters within the camp, and it also portrays the horrors of the camps through subtle storytelling.

8.9/10, a must read!

Themes to consider: What defines quality of life? Is knowledge/imagination/wonder worth risking death? What is our role in educating others/the youth? How do you determine when someone can be trusted with responsibility? Examine the different coping mechanisms/responses to the horrors of the extermination camps.

Further reading (note, I have not read these): A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz; The Children's Block: A Novel Based on the True Story of an Auschwitz Survivor; The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Death on the Nile

Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Drama

Date Read: May 2022

Quote: "Love can be a very frightening thing. that is why most great love stories are tragedies."

Summary: One of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot murder mysteries, Poirot finds himself aboard a Nile cruise with several murders and suspects on his hands. While the framework of this Christie murder mystery is very similar to her other novels, the characters are captivating and it is fun to dissect the concept of love and morality in the book. Christie appeals to the romantic in this one! Plus, it is always fun to follow along and see if you can figure out the mystery! I read this book in a day or two; it was so engaging.

Rating: 8/10

Themes to Consider: Does love make one blind or more self-conscious and conscientious? What is the difference between infatuation and love?

Further reading (I have read, and can recommend!): And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie; The Mystery of the Blue Train, Agatha Christie; Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie.

Till We Have Faces

Author: C.S. Lewis

Genre: Christian, Fiction, Mythology

Date Read: June 2022

Quote: "It was when I was happiest that i longed most; the sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from."

(there are honestly SO many good quotes from this book; I may be writing an article on it. Stay tuned!)

Summary: On a literal level, this book is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, a mortal girl who captured the heart of the Greek god of love. However, the story is told through the eyes of her sister, Orual, who never understands her sister's obsession with returning to Cupid. The book follows Orual's life and the development of her psyche as she copes with the guilt of feeling as if every evil in her life has come about due to her own failings. The book is a fascinating combination of storytelling, stream of consciousness, self-awareness, and Christian morality.

Rating: 10/10, favorite book this year.

Themes to Consider: The famous idea of "till we have faces" comes from a quote in the book where Lewis points out that we cannot bare our souls, we cannot see God, until we have faces. In other words, until we come to understand ourselves. There are many different ways to interpret this book, and part of the fun of discussing it with others is hearing the themes that each person pulls out for themselves. Consider, Psyche as the persecuted Christian, how Orual's experiences affect her storytelling, what is objective beauty.

Further reading/listening: God is Beauty,podcast on Pints with Aquinas with Christopher West; Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis; The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis

The Mystery of the Blue Train

Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Drama

Date Read: June 2022

Quote: "A man when he is making up to anybody can be cordial and gallant and full of little attentions and altogether charming. But when a man is really in love he can't help looking like a sheep" OR...

"Trains are relentless things, aren't they, Monsieur Poirot? People are murdered and die, but they go on just the same. I am talking nonsense, but you know what I mean" (I thought this was ironic considering Agatha's apparent affinity toward train murders).

Summary: Aboard the luxurious Blue Train running from London to the Riviera, pampered millionaire's daughter Ruth Kettering is murdered, her expensive jewels stolen. But Poirot is at hand to solve the case.

Rating: 6/10, somewhat predictable. Christie has other better ones!

Themes to Consider: On the logical/mystery writing side, what is the convenience of a murder occurring in a place such as a train? Or a boat? How does Christie construct a controlled environment where she can develop set characters and their motives in a a manageable and interesting way?