This year's Texas City Reads book is Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts.
Although In the Garden of Beasts is nonfiction, it reads like fiction: suspense, scandalous love affairs, political intrigue and heartbreak.
It depicts the story of the American ambassador and his family who were stationed in Berlin in the years just before WWII, just as Hitler was gaining his power in Germany.
The ambassador, William E. Dodd, was a fairly tame personality, but he had one of the hardest jobs around trying to represent American interests in Germany as Hitler gained political ground.
Dodd's daughter Mary, however, made up in spades for her father's conventionality. She was an inveterate flirt and a very opinionated young woman; later in life she became an author and then ended up fleeing the United States after being accused of spying for the Russians.
Larson does not try to hide the Dodds’ shortcomings or prejudices — for example, they didn't seem to be too bothered by the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Germany when they first arrived — but he also portrays their strengths, such as Dodd's admirable refusal to kowtow to the future Fuhrer.
You may recognize Larson's name; he wrote Isaac's Storm, about the 1900 hurricane that struck Galveston — the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States. In the Garden of Beasts has received excellent reviews and appeared on many best books lists of 2011.
Intrigued yet? Here are a few reviews of the book:
New York Times
Brevity magazine, an online journal
We Heart Reading book blog
The library will have multiple copies available for check-out at the Circulation Desk. We have In the Garden of Beasts in book, large print and audiobook form. We will host discussions of the book in the Holland Meeting Room of the library in September. All are welcome at the discussions.