In some cases, reading or watching something that’s based on an historical event or recollection can be duller and more depressing than watching paint dry. But there are books out there that could change your life if you gave them a chance, and with a few of these being made into movies soon, you should make sure that you get the most out of the story before you see it on the big screen.
1) The Monuments Men by Robert M Edsel
Starting on the World War 2 themed stories, The Monuments Men is not your typical war story. Eight men, including a sculptor, an architect, a young museum curator, a gay New York cultural impresario, America’s top art conservator and an infantry private provide readers with an experience like no other. Building their own personal treasure maps from hints and scraps that they pick up, such as records from bombed cathedrals and museums, details from a diary and overheard conversations, the team discover where the greatest treasures of the Nazis have been stored. These treasures consist mainly of artwork that has been stolen from Jewish collectors and dealers throughout the Nazi Regime, and Hitler’s personal hoard of masterpieces. The group of men, each with their own interest in art, or first-hand experience as a victim of the Nazis, intend to retrieve these treasures before they are destroyed forever. You’ll find yourself engrossed as you read about one of the greatest treasure hunts in history. Exploring the typically overlooked fact that World War 2 was not just one of the most destructive conflicts in human history but also one of the greatest thefts of all time, with Nazis taking culture, heritage and property from those they fought against, The Monuments Men introduces us to the characters that tried to stop this theft, and regain justice. Although you should definitely read this book, I would recommend looking into the movie when it arrives in December this year. With George Clooney, Matt Daman and Cate Blanchett set to star in the adaptation, I’m expecting great things.
2) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Here is another great example of a World War 2 book that completely breaks the mould. Set in 1939, Nazi Germany, where humanity appears to be holding its breath, hoping for a miracle, we are introduced to a nine-year-old girl named Liesel, who lives with a foster family on Himmel Street after her communist parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. During the funeral for her brother – morbid I know – Liesel manages to get her hands on a particularly macabre book: a gravediggers’ instruction manual. Perhaps not ideal reading for a nine year old girl, but this turns out to be the first of many books that passes through Liesels’ hands as the Second World War begins to catastrophically claim the lives of thousands. In a way that most book lovers can understand, the books that Liesel and the inhabitants of Himmel Street come across begin to change their lives, providing a whole new world to the horrendous events happening around them. This book is an extraordinary example of literature, truly moving and written with overwhelming elegance. Although the narrator of the book is actually Death itself, who, busier than ever, regales us with tales of treachery, horror and theft, the Book Thief is actually an incredibly life affirming book that celebrates the ability of words to provide sustenance to a suffering soul. Determined never to overlook its primary purpose, the book offers an insight into the importance of words in a society that regards words as dangerous and although the book is set in the Nazi regime, it remains relevant in today’s society, where totalitarian censorship remains as keen as ever to suppress our freedom of thought and prevent us from encountering certain words and stories. This will be a particularly interesting novel to see adapted into film, considering the importance it places on the written word, but with Sophie Nelisse and Geoffrey Rush to usher it onto our screens in early 2014, we can only wait and see what happens.