The Zookeeper’s Wife Summary | FREE PDF |

The Zookeeper’s Wife PDFOur “The Zookeeper’s Wife PDF Summary” takes you back to a time when humans were animals and animals – humans; but, it’s not a prehistoric age: it’s the Warsaw Zoo between 1939 and 1945.

A War Story

The better angels of our nature sometimes work as zookeepers. And they risk their lives on a daily basis.

Join us in reading “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” Diane Ackerman’s fascinating account of a wedded Polish couple who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust in Warsaw.

Who Should Read “The Zookeeper’s Wife”? And Why?

If you like to read uplifting stories about the Holocaust, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” may just become one of your all-time favorites. The same holds true if you are merely interested in finding out more about that gruesome event from a never-before thought-of perspective.

And if you like to read nonfiction books which sound more made-up than novels – this book’s for you as well.

About Diane Ackerman

Diane AckermanDiana Ackerman is an American poet and essayist, most famous for her love of nature and her interest to explore it in a poetic manner.

She has earned both an MFA and a Ph.D. in English from Cornell University. She is famous both as a poet and as a non-fiction writer.

Published in 1990, “A Natural History of the Senses” inspired a five-part PBS documentary in 1995. “The Zookeeper’s Wife” won the Orion Award in 2007 and was adapted into a Jessica Chastain movie a decade later.

“The Zookeeper’s Wife PDF Summary”

Have you ever watched “Schindler’s List”?

If so, we guess that it’s a film you’ve remembered quite vividly and would never forget.

We know we won’t!

The fact that the things happening on the movie screen have happened in real-life too gives us goosebumps every time we think about Spielberg’s masterwork. When we decide to actually see it – well, let’s just say that you don’t need tissues to take care of your goosebumps!

How is “The Zookeeper’s Wife” related to “Schindler’s List”?

Well, let’s see!

They both happen during the Second World War, somewhere in the bloodlands. Both are concerned with the fate of the Polish Jews. And both are inspiring stories about the self-sacrificing acts of few people who decided to risk their own lives in order to save those of the innocent people around them.

Unsurprisingly, both were adapted into successful Hollywood blockbusters!

“Schindler’s List” needs no introduction. So, without further ado, here’s Jessica Chastain presenting the trailer to “The Zookeeper’s Wife”:

A little warning, though: the movie – being a movie – does make few minor adjustments to the original story. So, if your teacher assigned you to write a report on “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” don’t just rely on watching the movie. They may catch you!

We don’t want to spoil anything for you, but, let’s just say that movies always tend to add a love story or two; or blow one out of proportions.

Anyway, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” recounts the story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński, the former a zoologist and director of the Warsaw Zoo, the latter an animal whisperer (we’re not kidding!) and author of few children’s books written from the perspective of – you’ve guessed it! – animals. Diane Ackerman’s book is based on Antonina’s unpublished diaries.

And it starts pretty much when the Second World War starts as well: 1939. Suddenly, Jan and Antonina’s idyllic lives as zookeepers and animal lovers come to an abrupt end.

We bet you never thought of this before, but environmentalists and ecologists sure have: during wars, animals die too! Millions and millions of them, in fact! Many are euthanized due to food shortages; others die the same way humans die: air attacks, bombings, stray bullets…

There were very few animals left in the Warsaw Zoo after September 1, 1939. At this point, the Warsaw Zoo is visited by Lutz Heck, a Nazi scientist who dreamt of breeding back some extinct animals and created two new species in the process.

He probably has “a sweet spot” for Antonina and offers the Żabińskis to take some of the surviving animals to the Berlin Zoo – for which he is responsible. You know, since, unlike Warsaw, Berlin isn’t bombed or anything!

They agree – and he takes. But, of course, mainly those animals which he needs for his experiments. Then, he invites some members of the SS and organizes them a private hunting party within the Warsaw Zoo.

We are not making this up – everything is there in Antonina’s diaries. Hiding in the room of her child, Ryszard “Ryś” Żabiński, with the blinds drawn, Antonina couldn’t stop pondering over “the sheer gratuitous slaughter.” In her diary, she posted a terrifying question: “How many humans will die like this in the coming months?”

So, she and her husband decide to do something about it.

Since Jan is an employee of the Warsaw municipality, he’s allowed to enter the Warsaw Ghetto. And, soon enough, on the pretense that or gathering garbage to feed the hogs (the Żabińskis transform the Zoo in a pig farm to keep it up and running), he starts smuggling Jews out of there.

Another thing that helps: a German officer’s obsession with bugs. Named Ziegler, he wants Jan to help him get some bugs from Dr. Szymon Tenenbaum, a bug collector in the Warsaw Ghetto. The strange thing is that Ziegler may even know that Jan sneaks people out of the ghetto.

Nevertheless, he’s willing to let it go. For the love of the bugs.

Once again: we’re not making this up!

Now, where do the Żabińskis hide these people?

the zookeeper's wife summary

The cages in the Warsaw Zoo and their villa. There, Antonina takes care of them and, when there’s a danger of them being discovered, she plays an Offenbach tune on her piano as a hiding signal.

Over 300 guests filter through the Zoo during the following years. Magdalena Gross, an artist, is one of them. She becomes a close friend with Antonina, and an even more intimate with Maurycy Pawel Fraenkel, a tortured soul who befriends a hamster named Piotr and who eventually marries Magdalena.

There’s another colorful guy, aptly called the Fox Man, because, well, he is tasked with building a fox farm on the grounds of the Zoo. Why? Well, it seems that the Nazis loved their fur.

They also loved to kill people, so it’s no surprise that as the war draws to its end, German soldiers eventually come into the Żabiński’s house and threaten Antonina. By this time, Jan has already become a prisoner of war, since he takes participation in the Warsaw Polish Uprising of the summer of 1944.

How did those soldiers end up not killing Antonina?

Well, according to her, because she controlled their actions with her mind. She believed she had the power to telepathically speak with animals. And, at this point, she thought that she went a step further.

Or backward. Because if “The Zookeeper’s Wife” teaches us anything it’s undoubtedly that sometimes humans can be as terrifying as beasts. And beasts as gentle as caring humans.

All’s well that ends well, by the way.

Antonina survives, Jan returns from the camp, and they rebuild the Zoo. And on September 21, 1965, Yad Vashem recognized Jan and Antonina as Righteous Among the Nations.

Key Lessons from “The Zookeeper’s Wife”

1.      Wars Blur the Difference Between Animals and Humans
2.      Music, the Great Communicator
3.      Some Things Are More Important

Wars Blur the Difference Between Animals and Humans

At one point in the book, the Fox Man – whose real name, by the way, is Witold Wróblewski – expresses his amazement at the fact that in the Warsaw Zoo, they “use animal names for people and people’s names for animals!”

However, during a war, it seems quite the right thing to do! Animals didn’t kill six million Jews and cause millions of other casualties worldwide; humans did. “Why was it,” Antonina ask herself, thinking about the domesticated Zoo animals, “that animals can sometimes subdue their predatory ways in only a few months, while humans, despite centuries of refinement, can quickly grow more savage than any beast?”

We have no answer to that question. Or maybe we do – but we don’t want to think about it too much.

Music, the Great Communicator

Yes, that’s a verse from a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. And it’s a neat description of how music is capable of transcending barriers and borders. We all speak different languages. But Beethoven is Beethoven both in Germany and in Poland.

And the Żabińskis found an ingenious way to use this power. Antonina was a fine piano player, so she used music to communicate important messages to her guests. For example, whenever the guests needed to go into hiding, she would play Offenbach’s “Go to Crete!” And she used another song to note that everything’s clear.

Some Things Are More Important

It’s fascinating how wars change priorities. And even more – how sometimes even they don’t.

Case in point: the Jews are forbidden to eat pork. However, when Jan brought them such meat in the Ghetto, they had no choice but to accept it. Otherwise, they would have died.

Ziegler’s story is even more interesting. Even though all Germans were taught that the victory in the war and the extermination of the Jews is their main priority, he cared more about his bugs. How is it that the propaganda and violence raging all around him didn’t make him think differently – is beyond us!

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” Quotes

I watched her face switch among the radio stations of memory. Click To Tweet I don't understand all the fuss. If any creature is in danger, you save it, human or animal. Click To Tweet God may promise not to destroy creation, but it is not a promise humankind made - to our peril. Click To Tweet Germany's crime is the greatest crime the world has ever known, because it is not on the scale of History: it is on the scale of Evolution. Click To Tweet More broadly, the Nazis were ardent animal lovers and environmentalists who promoted calisthenics and healthy living, regular trips into the countryside, and far-reaching animal rights policies as they rose to power. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is both a heart-wrenching and a heartwarming story. And as Jared Diamond wrote – its story is so funny, moving and terrifying, so gripping and thriller-like, that it would have made a great novel.

The only problem is – that this one’s true. And you won’t regret reading it.

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Unbroken Summary

Unbroken SummaryOur “Unbroken Summary” recaps the life of an athlete, who later became a survivor. The legend of Louis Zamperini will continue to echo through time; a story about a man who despite all the odds managed to conquer the hearts of many throughout the world.

A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

How much do you think a man can take? How much pain and suffering, how much torture and anguish? And how capable do you think is one of forgiving his tormentor?

Find out in Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Louis Zamperini. Titled “Unbroken,” it is one of the most uplifting stories about resilience and redemption you’ll ever read.

Who Should Read “Unbroken”? And Why?

“Do not judge me by my success,” said Nelson Mandela once. “Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Well, few people have fallen down more times – and harder – than Louis Zamperini. First, it was quite literally: his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean.

Then, he had to survive for a month and a half drifting at sea. And when he thought he finally made it – he was captured by the Japanese and brutally tortured in a prisoner-of-war camp for almost nine hundred days.

Zamperini didn’t just get back up again. He got back up a stronger and a better person. He even forgave his tormentors.

Heartbreaking and inspiring, “Unbroken” is one of those stories so profoundly emotional it will undoubtedly stay with you for a while.

No matter who you are or where you are – it cannot leave you indifferent. In fact, we nominate this book as one of the ultimate human-testers: if it doesn’t move you, then you’re probably a robot.

Things are moving fast out there, so we may just need this kind of things.

About Laura Hillenbrand

Laura HillenbrandLaura Hillenbrand is a bestselling American author.

After falling ill at 19 – with the controversial and still not well understood chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) – she had to drop out of college. Confined to her home, she dedicated herself to writing.

In 2001, she published “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” a biography of a racehorse which was turned into an extremely popular movie two years later.

“Unbroken” was published in 2010 to widespread acclaim and rave reviews. In 2014, Angelina Jolie directed its movie adaptation, which was also a success, grossing over $163 million at the box office.

Find out more at http://laurahillenbrandbooks.com/.

“Unbroken Summary”

Raised in a strict Catholic household, the young Louis “Louie” Zamperini is often picked on by other kids in his neighborhood in Torrance, California, for being an Italian-American unable to speak English well. Soon enough, his father teaches him how to box in self-defense.

And, before you know it, Zamperini fights back and turns from a troubled boy into a troublemaker.

Unhappy, he often dreams of running away for good. But, for the time being, he has to run away from the police first, since he often steals cigarettes, food, and beer.

Fortunately for Louie, his beloved older brother Pete – already a star in the school track team – is capable of translating this capability into something useful.

Pete takes Louis to the training runs with him, and soon, at his advice, Louis quits smoking and drinking and starts dedicating his time to exercising and running.

He is undefeated during the last three years of his high school, breaking all of his brother’s records, and setting a world interscholastic one for the mile in 1934.

Two years later, at 19 years of age, he tries out for the Olympics. He doesn’t get into the team for his discipline – the 1,500 meters – but he does for the 5,000 meters.

To this day, no U.S. athlete younger than him has ever qualified for the Olympics for the 5000-meter run.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Zamperini finished eighth. However, his final lap was so fast that Adolf Hitler himself asked a personal meeting. “Ah, you’re the boy with the fast finish,” said the Fuhrer after shaking Zamperini’s hand.

Nicknamed the “Torrance Tornado,” most probably Louis Zamperini would have had a chance of winning an Olympic medal already at the next Games. However, his running career was cut short when the Pacific War broke out.

Zamperini enlisted in the army and became a bombardier. He flew a B-24 called the “Super Man.” However, in April 1943, during a bombing mission over Nauru, Zamperini and his crew – including pilot Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips – found themselves in the middle of an apocalyptic air battle. Thanks to Phil’s piloting skills and Louie’s cleverness, “Super Man” was landed – but bullet-riddled and incapacitated.

Here is Zamperini himself checking the bullet holes on the “Super Man” in 1943:

unbroken pdf

So, the crew is given a new plane, the “Green Hornet,” a notoriously defective lemon. Unsurprisingly, the plane crashes just a month later, killing all but three members of its crew: Louis, Phil, and Francis “Mac” McNamara.

Now, come the ordeals.

The three survivors had little food and basically no water. So, the only way for them to survive was to capture rainwater and use it sparingly, while eating small fish and birds landing on their raft.

To make matters worse, Mac goes a bit mad and eats all their available chocolate.

And did we mention that they are in the middle of the ocean?

Of course, there are sharks!

And they have to fight them using nothing but their bare hands and the oars. Surprisingly, they manage to fend off few shark attacks, with Louie even eating the liver of one. Yes, that really happened!

And as if it wasn’t enough, they also had to survive through a storm which all but capsized their raft. On the 27th day, destiny had another surprise for them: a Japanese bomber strafed them, damaging their raft! Six days later, Mac died.

Sounds too movie-like? That doesn’t make it untrue. But it does make it worthy of an adaptation. Even the trailer will give you goosebumps:

If you watched the trailer carefully, you’ve noticed that we’re far from finished.

Louie and Phil survive for 46 days. However, when on the 47th day, they reach land in the Marshall Islands, they are immediately captured by the Japanese Navy.

First, they are put in the Ōfuna POW camp, but afterward transferred a couple of times. Louie would eventually end up in the Naoetsu POW camp in northern Japan.

(If you like to have a better perspective, here you can see an interactive map of Zamperini’s journey).

All the while, he is tormented by Mutsuhiro Watanabe, nicknamed “The Bird,” No. 23 on General Douglas MacArthur’s list of 40 most wanted Japanese war criminals.

For the purposes of this summary, we don’t need to describe too much the 200 times Zamperini is punched in the face or the fact that he was forced to clean a pigsty with his bare hands.

Suffice to say that there’s a reason why the Bird is ranked that high.

Miraculously, Zamperini survives. Back at home, he marries Cynthia Applewhite. They have a daughter, but Louie is incapable of being happy. He is tormented by his memories and becomes an alcoholic in an attempt to forget.

Once, Cynthia catches Louie uncontrollably shaking their baby. So, she files for divorce.

Fortunately for the newlyweds, Billy Graham comes to town. In one final attempt to help her husband, Cynthia convinces Louie to attend one of Graham’s preaching sessions.

The experience transforms him: Louie finds faith, quits drinking, and becomes a motivational speaker.

But the story isn’t over yet.

With faith comes forgiveness, and Louie does precisely that: he forgives his tormentors from the war.

And he wants to do one better: upon hearing that Watanabe is still alive, he wants to go and forgive him in person. The Bird refuses, so Louie sends him a letter.

The same year, Louie is one of the Olympic torch-carriers for the 1998 Nagano Olympics. As such, he runs past Naoetsu, the POW camp where he was once imprisoned.

As he leaves the sight of the camp behind him, it seems as if symbolically he leaves the past behind him as well.

Key Lessons from “Unbroken”

1.      Humans Are Capable of Enduring So Much Suffering
2.      No Matter What Happens, You Can Always Get Out
3.      Forgiveness Is the Best Way to Free Yourself from Your Past

Humans Are Capable of Enduring So Much Suffering

Louie Zamperini’s story is a story of perseverance.

Its moral? Well, we guess: humans are made of sterner stuff.

Zamperini went through hell, from air fights to having his plane crashed, from surviving a month and a half in a raft to fending off sharks, from being tortured as a war prisoner to beating alcoholism.

And, as Maya Angelou said once, during all this period, he allowed to be changed but never reduced.

He was the Great Zamperini all throughout.

No Matter What Happens, You Can Always Get Out

In a way, Zamperini’s life was a long list of prison escapes.

First, thanks to the help of his brother and his passion for running, he escaped the prison of juvenile delinquency. Then, he escaped death in an air fight. Afterward, he escaped being lost at sea. Then, he was put in a literal prison – he escaped from there too when the Americans liberated it.

Back to spiritual imprisonment, he has to find a way to escape the prison of the past experiences right after the war. To top that, alcoholism sneaks at the back door – and he has to escape from it too.

Finally, with the help of his wife and faith, he does. Because, no matter what happens, you can always get out. Sometimes, you may need willpower; other times, a helping hand.

Forgiveness Is the Best Way to Free Yourself from Your Past

There’s a painful aftermath of being a victim of any kind of violence. Because, even after the ordeal is over, you can’t let it go.

How can you?

Your whole body will probably be protesting against it. “The paradox of vengefulness,” writes Hillenbrand, “is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.”

Zamperini chose a better way: he forgave them.

And that made him a free man once again.

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“Unbroken” Quotes

Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live. Click To Tweet Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered… Click To Tweet A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain. Click To Tweet What God asks of men, said Billy Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith. To know who sees him, God makes himself unseen. Click To Tweet At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Unbroken” is a testament to human’s willpower and – as William Ernest Henley would eloquently write – his “unconquerable soul.”

Really. It doesn’t get much more uplifting or heartwarming than this.

Trust us.

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Killing the Rising Sun Summary | FREE PDF |

Killing the Rising Sun PDF

OUr “Killing the Rising Sun Summary” includes a short recapitulation of the Pacific War and a long justification of why the U.S. had no choice but to use the atomic bomb to win it.

How America Vanquished World War II Japan

The Second World War was the most global war in history and the deadliest conflict since the dawn of humankind. And it ended barely seven decades ago!

Yet – Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard claim – we’ve forgotten most of it. Especially Americans – when it comes to the Pacific War. Even though “the issues of that war are still being processed throughout the world today.”

Their book, “Killing the Rising Sun,” should serve as a thriller-like novelistic reminder to everyone of what actually happened after Pearl Harbor.

Who Should Read “Killing the Rising Sun”? And Why?

“Killing the Rising Sun” is the sixth book in Bill O’Reilly’s and Martin Dugard’s “Killing” series.

The series started to relatively warm reviews with “Killing Lincoln” which was turned into a successful TV movie just two years after being published. The same happened with “Killing Kennedy” and “Killing Jesus;” both of which were subsequently nominated for few awards.

Due to their controversial nature, the fourth and fifth book in the series, “Killing Patton” and “Killing Reagan,” were not as well-received by the critics, but were bestsellers nevertheless, with the latter one adapted as a movie once again.

Even though in “Killing the Rising Sun,” O’Reilly and Dugard move from “killing” historical figures to “killing” a whole nation, if you’ve ever read either of these five books or watched any of the four films – you already know what to expect from this one.

You won’t be disappointed. However, people interested in fact-based historiography may as well be; mainly, due to the fact that (just like the previous books in the series), “Killing the Rising Sun” is once again somewhat subjective.

Those who like to read historical novel may have a ball reading “Killing the Rising Sun” – since the book is a suspenseful pot boiling page-turner. Even though, unlike most of the historical novels you’ve read, this one’s not allowed by genre to steer away from actual historical data.

About Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

Bill O’ReillyBill O'Reilly is an American journalist and television host.

He came to prominence during the early 1990s and became a national celebrity after joining the “Fox News Channel” as the host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” the highest-rated cable news show for over a decade and a half.

In April 2017, however, “Fox News” had to terminate O’Reilly’s contract, in view of a “New York Times” article, revealing that Bill O’Reilly had paid six women nearly $50 million to settle as many sexual harassment lawsuits.

Martin DugardMartin Dugard is an American author, primarily focused on writing narrative non-fiction. He has co-authored – with O’Reilly – all six (about to become seven) books in the “Killing” series.

In addition, he has written the critically well regarded “The Last Voyage of Columbus,” “Into Africa,” “Farther Than Any Man,“ a few sports-related books, and a screenplay for a movie, “A Warrior’s Heart.”

“Killing the Rising Sun PDF Summary”

Five days after 9/11, Barack Obama’s longtime pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., commented on the event in a church sermon which included “a stunning anti-American diatribe.”

Among other things, as the U.S. public found out about seven years later when the media uncovered the speech, Wright said the following:

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon… America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

In other words, Wright was saying that there may have been a reason why 9/11 happened. And that one needn’t go further than the Second World War to unearth it. As you sow, so shall you reap. What goes around comes around.

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard decided to write “Killing the Rising Sun” upon hearing this and realizing that nowadays it goes largely unchallenged.

Have we forgotten – they ask – what led to the U.S. dropping the A-bombs over Japan? And what could have happened if America didn’t do that?

“Killing the Rising Sun” tries to answer these questions, jumping back and forth from the Pentagon to the Philippines, from Los Alamos (where the mysterious J. Robert Oppenheimer was working on the atomic bomb) to Tokyo (where the Japanese adored their Emperor Hirohito as if a deity). But, the real beginning of the book may go way back to 17th century Japan and the samurai code of bushido.

Initially a hazy ­concept analogous to the medieval chivalric model of behavior, bushido became the central part of the Japanese war propaganda during the years preceding the Second World War. It was indoctrinated to the point of presenting war as purifying, and death as duty.

Its result?

No-surrender soldiers.

Unsurprisingly, though outmatched both in numbers and technology, the Japanese won battle after battle against America and the allies, culminating in General Douglas MacArthur’s escape from the Philippine island of Corregidor. Up to that moment a symbol of Allied resistance, MacArthur had to back out of further fighting. President Roosevelt feared that the Japanese might capture or even murder him.

When MacArthur got to Australia on 21 March 1942, he made a famous speech, declaring: “I came through and I shall return.”

“Almost one thousand days after fleeing the Philippines,” write O’Reilly and Dugard, General Douglas McArthur would do exactly that. The liberation of the Philippines began on October 20, 1944.

It would not end, however, until August 15, 1945.

Six days before that, “Bockscar,” a Boeing B-29 Superfortress piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, would drop the “Fat Man” over Nagasaki. And three days before this happened, “Enola Gay,” the same type of plane, became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb, code-named “Little Boy.” The pilot was Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.; the city: Hiroshima.

killing the rising sun summary

Now, we all know what happened to the citizens. Some of them – like, say, Mrs. Aoyama – were literally “vaporized” on the sport. Others died in terrible torment. And some say that there are related health issues even today, more than seventy years later.

O’Reilly and Dugard don’t try to blur this in no manner whatsoever. However, even though they portrait Franklin Roosevelt as a severe human rights offender – according to them, responsible for incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans after the Pearl Harbor Attack and for allowing the Soviet Union post-war control of Eastern Europe – they have no problem with Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bombs.

Even more, they think that it was more than justified.

Because, as we said above, the Japanese wouldn’t surrender at no cost. And to make matters worse, after winning the war against Hitler, Stalin’s Soviet Union started an offensive against Japan from the North. So, there were two ways to end the war: either by using an A-bomb or by launching a land invasion.

The latter would have resulted in a joint intervention with the Soviets, which would have meant a substantial communist presence in Japan as well (in addition to Germany). Even more seriously, it would have probably claimed almost a million American lives.

Being a leader of the U.S., imply Dugard and O’Reilly, means making tough decisions. Dropping the A-bombs was one such decision.

But, nevertheless, it was the right one.

Key Lessons from “Killing the Rising Sun”

1.      Americans Have Forgotten Their Own History
2.      The Japanese Fight to the Death
3.      The A-Bombs Prevent Millions of Deaths and a Communist Japan

Americans Have Forgotten Their Own History

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard wrote, “Killing the Rising Sun” as an attempt to counter the not-true-enough claims of many who believe that the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a severe offense against human rights.

According to them, Americans need to relearn their history – because forgetting it makes them susceptible to manipulation and alternate facts.

The Japanese Fight to the Death

Remember General Patton’s most famous quip?

“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

Well, the problem of the Pacific War stemmed from the Japanese thinking otherwise. According to their bushido code, dying in a war was honorific. And surviving it as a loser – was much worse than death.

Consequently, there was no way to win against Japan other than total annihilation.

The A-Bombs Prevent Millions of Deaths and a Communist Japan

Speaking of which – on August 6 and August 9, 1945, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects – everybody knows – were devastating.

According to Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard – not nearly as the ones which we would have seen had it been otherwise. Because, if the United States hadn’t nuked Japan, they would have had to start a joint Soviet-American invasion. This would have resulted in a strong communist presence in Japan after the war.

And, even more frighteningly – it would have claimed up to a million American lives.

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“Killing the Rising Sun” Quotes

When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true. Click To Tweet ’It was kill or be killed,’ Marine Corps private Dan Lawler will later remember. ‘The Japs didn’t take prisoners, so we didn’t take prisoners either. Click To Tweet Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been built in remarkable fashion, with almost all buildings possessing the same concrete-and-steel constitution as those structures that survived the initial blasts. Click To Tweet Douglas McArthur knows the value of good publicity and he has carefully choreographed his landing so that the images of this great moment will soon be splashed across front pages around the world. Click To Tweet I think Harry Truman did the right thing. Thousands of Americans would have died invading Japan. Maybe even me. (A letter from George Bush to Bill O’Reilly, dated January 5, 2016) Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

In the introduction to “Killing the Rising Sun,” Bill O’Reilly claims that what he and Martin Dugard are about to share with the world is “true and stark” and “vital to understanding.” While the latter is inevitably correct, the former is, unfortunately, not.

And this is not because Bill O’Reilly has merely a BA in history and is primarily a journalist, and it is also not because Martin Dugard has no background in the area whatsoever.

But it is for the straightforward reason that “Killing the Rising Sun” is written by someone with an agenda; and, ever since Herodotus, real historiography is usually thought of in terms of impartiality and objectiveness.

If you like Bill O’Reilly’s views, you’ll certainly love this book. It will instill within you a patriotic feeling of the sort which makes your back tingle and your hair stand straight up.

If you don’t like him, however, then – you will find much less. The book is indeed not the best on the subject and is way too biased. Because, as a “USA Today” review stated at the time, O’Reilly “views history as another lens through which he can view himself.”

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The Idea Factory Summary

The Idea Factory SummaryBell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

The Great Age keeps moving full-steam ahead, striking every corner of the world.

Neglecting the modern equipment and technology leads to disastrous results.

This preview will give you a couple of inside information about Bell Labs, and their intentions.

Who Should Read “The Idea Factory”? And Why?

What’s your idea? – Do you have any plans for the future or ingenuity doesn’t play a part in your life?

The Idea Factory,” tells an unforgettable story that changed the lives of billions of people. As such, we recommended to all individuals who want to explore more and understand better.

About Jon Gertner

Jon GertnerJon Gertner obtained his B.A from the Cornell University.

He is an author, and a researcher encouraged by Bell Labs’ incredible success over the course of history.

“The Idea Factory Summary”

One can never be too certain when it comes to the age we live in. Such claims are based on the availability of advanced technology, with lots of room for improvement.

The smartphones, tablets, personal computer, and the internet are creating a whole new generation.

In truth, there are plenty of mind-blowing innovations in recent history, which triggered the new era, and any list cannot go without Google, Amazon, Apple, and other giants.

The cutting-edge technology gives credit to tools invented by their predecessors, which were only upgraded.

We bet that you have at least heard of a man called Alexander Graham Bell? – The inventor of the first telephone back in 1876, looked for a way to cash in on his passion, and driven by such incentive, he invented the Bell Telephone Company, which later was reconfigured into the “American Telephone and Telegraph Company” – AT&T.

The labs were in charge to make the phone service not only reliable but accurate on long-distances with very little error. At the time, busy ringing tones were still non-existent, and the caller needed persistence (often in the form of shouting) in order for the person on the other end of the signal to pick up the phone.

While the Great Depression was raging throughout Europe and North America, Bell Labs had little choice but to reduce the number of employees or working hours.

However, many young scientists enrolled in various studies to compensate for the non-working periods.

The war, of course, had a massive role in the Bell Labs development. They altered their methods and way of production by focusing more on creating and designing assets for military use.

In 1940, the US Congress demanded that all spheres of the American Society, including the scientists, should contribute to the war efforts against Japan and Nazi Germany.

As a response, Bell Labs gladly accepted this honor and dropped the regular production.

Radars became an indispensable asset on the battlefield, used for both defensive and attacking military strategies.

Efficient radars could detect planes, submarines, bombers, and other enemy units even in dense fog, or a storm.

This strategy proved to be decisive, and Bell Labs continued during the post-war period to supply the American Army with the latest technology that will later be used in the Cold War.

In the 40s, the Lab Scientists invented a transistor, and officially entered the field of influence on a global scale.

Yet, even top-notch technology has its weaknesses. As a practical and highly efficient device, the transistor was known for its unpredictable behavior, which periodically produced inaccurate reports.

Fellow Labs scientist known by the name of William Shockley discovered a way to improve the device and fix the issues.

When the public was introduced to the transistor, it didn’t have the effect everyone was expecting. Its relevance and impact didn’t rise to the surface with the first wave, yet Claude Shannon was among the very few who anticipated such reaction.

Right before the end of WW2, Bell Labs’ highly skilled innovators and technicians began their experiments, for the purpose of enhancing the transmitting capabilities.

One of the main methods, which will remain deeply embedded into the history of telephony is known as the pulse code modulation or PCM.

It may seem odd to some people. But Shannon’s ideas marked the beginning of what’s known today as the age of modern technology and digital communication.

The range of their activities cannot be defined since Bell Labs covered almost anything associated with their area of expertise.

A decade later after WW2, it wasn’t merely a dream to use telephony for overseas communication.

A new invention named satellite technology enabled this happening and stimulated the production of the first-ever, communications satellites.

Bell Labs’ renowned scientists Cal Fuller and Gerald Pearson took into account the properties of silicon, and despite the odds managed to build and maintain a silicon solar battery.

This device will become the first functional solar power tool in history, and the representative of the top-notch solar technology.

It’s needless to say that Bell Labs transformed the world. The transistor, overseas communication, satellites all originate from a group of highly experienced technicians and innovators. Still, this was just the beginning.

In the 1960s, Bell Labs embarked on a new adventure and began their research concerning the mobile telephony. Before taking any concrete steps, it was vital to solve the two main issues:

First: The availability of wireless frequencies, which indicates that only a dozen of calls could be set in motion simultaneously.

Second: The scientists had little clue about – How can a caller move around and speak without experiencing a call disconnection?  

It wasn’t until the 70s that AT&T’s monopoly was challenged. The corporation was forced to “surrender” its local company holdings, which later became independent companies.

Bell Labs continued in the same manner, with intentions to impress the world with its know-how and expertise.  

Unlike Google, Amazon, Yahoo and other Marketing Brands, AT&T placed its fate on innovation, which was not the case with other companies.

Such orientation spontaneously triggered growth, expansion and worldly domination in the realm of communications.

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“The Idea Factory” Quotes

You get paid for the seven and a half hours a day you put in here,- Kelly often told new Bell Labs employees in his speech to them on their first day, but you get your raises and promotions on what you do in the other sixteen and a half… Click To Tweet The men preferred to think they worked not in a laboratory but in what Kelly once called “an institute of creative technology. Click To Tweet One study group in particular, informally led by William Shockley at the West Street labs, and often joined by Brattain, Fisk, Townes, and Woolridge, among others, met on Thursday afternoons. The men were interested in a particular branch… Click To Tweet My first stop on any time-travel expedition would be Bell Labs in December 1947. Click To Tweet I tried to get other people to do things. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

In our opinion, this book deserves all the merits for being right on the spot with its accuracy, and simplicity.

We cannot be more pleased, for being a part of such amazing journey, which hopefully will continue with a new set of innovations.

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The House Of Rothschild Summary

The House Of Rothschild SummaryMoney’s Prophets 1798–1848

We all strive for money, and ways to survive.

Rothschilds realized that people will always be in need of financing and increasing their wealth.

Therefore, their banking business continues to support various causes, for certain compensation.

Who Should Read “The House Of Rothschild”? And Why?

The bottom line is that banks and corporations are on the top of the world. Their agenda spreads like wildfire, and the Rothschilds knew this fact – two centuries ago.

The House of Rothschild” is an amazing book suited for various profiles of people who want to understand the banking business and its impact on the world economy.

About Niall Ferguson

Niall FergusonNiall Ferguson can be labeled as an author, tutor at Jesus College – Oxford University, and a political commentator who uses his knowledge and expertise to dig deep and discover unvarnished stories and truths.

“The House Of Rothschild Summary”

If you haven’t heard of The Rothschild family, you probably need some schooling. Not only that Rothschild was (and still is) one of the wealthiest families in the history of the world, but it was also highly influential in politics and other spheres.  

The real question is – How can we explain that expansion and success? It all started with Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812). As a father and a Jew living in Germany, he didn’t have a flying start, but a step-by-step growth and vision.

Anti-Semitism was ever-present in those days, and Jews not only in Frankfurt but throughout Europe faced constant discrimination in matters of arts, economics, law, politics by anti-Jewish individuals.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Rothschild was literally one of the wealthiest members of that community – owing his success to banking.

According to some testimonies, Rothschild at the height of his success often had a large pile of money lying around on his desk, or on the floor.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild established a large base of influential clients, among them were William IX, Hereditary Prince, Landgrave and many others.

By the time Napoleon launched a massive campaign on Tsar’s Russia, he already planned to annihilate Hesse-Kassel’s army and influence. William was left with two options – to fight or to flee, he chose the second one.

What does that have anything to do with Rothschild? The first branch of Rothschild’s banks was responsible for financing wars and managing the investments of few privileged individuals – which was also the case with William.

These contacts and investments laid the foundations for successful business endeavors in all parts of Europe, starting with London, England. Nathan Rothschild seized the moment and expanded the banking business abroad, which will later turn out to be the beginning of Rothschild’s imperialistic reign.

By the time Nathan, launched the business on British soil – located in London, Mayer Amschel passed away, and his five sons succeeded him after his death.

Three days after becoming ill, Mayer Amschel Rothschild passed away, leaving a financial legacy to his sons, which continued the business. In his testament, Mayer Amschel declared that his sons must continue expanding as one – in a union.

By the 1830s, the Rothschilds had already positioned themselves above the Baring Brothers & Co, with an astonishing £4 million in wealth.

Ever since, many European governments, in need of capital demanded financing from the Rothschild banks, to cover their expenses. The mass loan campaign began under the baton of the Rothschilds.

Rothschilds were no strangers to war, and after the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) France, alongside the “Holy Alliance” and Confederate army formed by Austria, Russia had to rebuild and reestablish the economy, which was severely damaged during the clash.

So, how did the Rothschild’s banks gain profit from the situation? – The first thing was to demand payment up to eight percent, via commissions and the other one – rarely used, was to exploit the rapid fluctuations of not just the economy but the exchange rates.

The 19th century brought new more sophisticated methods for the bankers and numerous ways of making money. It was just a matter of time when all politicians would require a certain favor in terms of information or a hint such as “when a loan is required.”

The Rothschilds felt no hesitation to join the political circle, and in doing so, they became close allies with important figures from all European countries and unions. The political elite was aware of Rothschilds’ wealth and influence, and in order to gain their favor, they granted them many privileges.

The Rothschild brothers tried to persuade their friends in politics, to give the Jews equal civil rights and elevate their status.

Salomon Rothschild signed a petition in order to inform Metternich and the Prussian chancellor Hardenberg about the Jewish Cause; driven by an urge to improve the Jewish rights in all European countries.

The survival of the 1848 crash gave the Rothschilds a new motivation and passion for facing obstacles and maintaining stability even when the odds are against them.

Key Lessons from “The House Of Rothschild

1.      Arts – a source of superiority
2.      It’s not just about making money but enjoying the process
3.      New times, new measures

Arts – a source of superiority

The Rothschilds surely realized the value of entertainment and the availability of sources that can always provide prestige and admiration.

In such regards, they began focusing on arts and collecting masterpieces for personal interest.

It’s not just about making money but enjoying the process

Due to their political strength and financial independence, they supported many composers, not just financially but morally as well.

According to their beliefs and understanding, good music is an absolute victory during hardship and war.

New times, new measures

Their business took a sudden turn when Nathan as the head of the Rothschild family decided to enter a new kind of “financial entertainment.”

Industrialism and the railway construction marked the beginning of a new era, vital for the family and its influence.

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“The House Of Rothschild” Quotes

They sought, from their earliest days, to use their financial leverage over individual states to improve the legal and political position of the Jews living there. Click To Tweet A project such as this depends heavily on the expertise and toil of archivists and librarians. Click To Tweet August Belmont was widely attacked in the North during the American Civil War because he favored a negotiated peace with the South and supported General George McClellan’s nomination as Democrat candidate in 1864. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

The House of Rothschild continues its reign to this very day.

We encourage to give this book a try and to discover more about their way of reaching the top.

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At Home Summary | FREE PDF |

At Home PDFA Short History of Private Life

We have already grown accustomed to reading short histories of the world told through different prisms, ranging from glasses to globalization. In fact, Britain’s most beloved foreigner Bill Bryson has authored one of those himself – our favorite, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”.

“At Home” is even homelier. Maybe because it’s about your home. A short history of it – and each of its rooms!

Who Should Read “At Home”? And Why?

Bill Bryson writes so appealingly beautiful and hilariously funny that even if he writes about boring things, you’ll enjoy reading him! And, on the face of it, “At Home” is a book about specialists interested in sociology and anthropology, general history and the history of domestic life.

However, it can also be the book best for a good night reading. Or, an early morning one, for that matter!

About Bill Bryson

Bill BrysonBill Bryson is an American-born author of travel and popular science books – but you would hardly notice the former by reading his biography. With the exception of the first twenty years of his life, Bryson has spent almost all of it in the United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, since 2015, he holds a dual citizenship.

He became a British darling after publishing his 1995 travelogue, “Notes from a Small Island,” which was voted in 2003 by BBC listeners as the book which best represents Britain. His 1998 hit, “A Walk in the Woods,” was turned into a successful movie in 2015, and “A Short History of Nearly Everything” is often hailed as one of the most accessible scientific books for the general population.

Unsurprisingly, we included it among our top 15 history books ever written!

“At Home PDF Summary”

You think you know your house like the back of your palm?

You may be right – after all, you certainly don’t know that bats’ wings are not much different from your fingers!

We’ve already warned you once before that almost everything has evolved. Then, why should your home be any different?

And Bill Bryson’s “At Home” is an in-depth look at the evolution of every room your home has – or, at least, had at some point in history. And the only problem we have with it is that it features so many interesting stories that we have no choice but to select merely few!

So, let’s skip the great hall you don’t have – and spend some time in the kitchen you visit at least seventeen times a day; you know, to grab a snack or numerous. In other words: it’s safe to say that you’ll find your way through the kitchen even if sleepwalking!

Now, you wouldn’t even suppose that up to very recently, putting anything in your mouth while not looking carefully may have cost your life!

Really!

They call it food adulteration, and, putting it mildly, it meant consuming gypsum and sand with your sugar, chalk with your milk, and – yes! – even sulphuric acid with your vinegar. Fortunately, governments control this nowadays much better; but, unfortunately, the list of food contamination incidents is way to long to be ignored still!

Any case, it’s gotten better. A lot better!

For example, when you see a “best before” date on a certain jar, you don’t doubt its exactitude! In fact, you may even eat its contents sometime after it’s passed. Well, until a century ago, nobody in the world would dare eating anything out of a jar or a can – unless he put it there himself few days ago!

The man who first tried to change this was a French guy, Nicolas Appert. Called the “father of canning,” he was the first to introduce glass jars. That made things better in terms of conservation, but only because of the lack of alternatives. Air and bacteria still got through – and food was ultimately spoilt.

Then, an Englishman by the name of Bryan Donkin had it enough! So, he experimented a while with tin canning, and finally managed to manufacture tin iron containers which preserved food better than anything ever before.

The problem?

The food was protected not only from bacteria, but from humans too. Namely, it was almost impossible to open these containers! So much so, that some of them came with a hammer and a chisel! And, until John Landis Mason invented the metal screw-on lid, many had to be opened up by soldiers.

Yes – with guns and bayonets!

Sticking with food – let’s have a brief look at the history of your dining room! Or, better yet, at the history of one of its constant features: the salt and pepper shakers!

Now, you certainly know that without salt you’ll probably die. Intuitively, everyone knew this ever since the dawn of history. So, countries and cultures went to great lengths to secure salt. The Aztecs, for example, dried urine to make edible salt!

Pepper, however, isn’t necessary at all! However, the Romans liked it so much, that they drove its price and status so high, that nobody ever since has bothered to question its importance.

On the contrary, in fact!

In 1468, the Duke Karl of Bourgogne ordered about 400 pounds of pepper as a wedding decoration! Just to show off his wealth!

Key Lessons from “At Home”

1.      Everything You Have at Home Has a Long History
2.      Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite
3.      Dirty Much? Just Say That You Want to Be Closer to God

Everything You Have at Home Has a Long History

We are constantly aware that some of the big things we’ve inherited came by way of an ardently long evolution. However, rarely do we wonder if the same holds true about the jars in our cupboard, or the salt and pepper shakers on our dining table.

Bill Bryson has wondered in our stead. And in “At Home” he manages to tell the fascinating histories of some very small objects at our home. Just as he did when he retold us the whole history of everything big in our universe.

Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

How many times have you heard that, right?

Sure, it sounds gentle and beautiful now – but just ask your great-great-great-great-grandparents! Because, to them, this wasn’t merely a phrase: it was a serious warning!

Because, first of all, their bed was stuffed with everything – dead or alive! And, because, secondly, bedbugs were the least of their problems! Many people, in fact, went to sleep with their shoes beside them – so that they can use them as a weapon against the little monsters in the bed.

Yes, there were rats too!

Dirty Much? Just Say That You Want to Be Closer to God

Now, for long periods of history, bed hygiene wasn’t really a priority! And that’s because – the opposite was: keeping yourself dirty.

For example, Saint Thomas Beckett and Saint Godric became saints because, well, they didn’t bathe! Dirt, the Christians believed, made them closer to nature, and with it – to its Creator, God.

Even if it’s so – we think we’ll pass.

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“At Home” Quotes

I refer of course to the soaring wonder of the age known as the Eiffel Tower. Never in history has a structure been more technologically advanced, materially obsolescent, and gloriously pointless all at the same time. Click To Tweet Even though sugar was very expensive, people consumed it till their teeth turned black, and if their teeth didn't turn black naturally, they blackened them artificially to show how wealthy and marvelously self-indulgent they were. Click To Tweet It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before. Click To Tweet And it occurred to me, with the forcefulness of a thought experienced in 360 degrees, that that's really what history mostly is: masses of people doing ordinary things. Click To Tweet If a potato can produce vitamin C, why can't we? Within the animal kingdom only humans and guinea pigs are unable to synthesize vitamin C in their own bodies. Why us and guinea pigs? No point asking. Nobody knows. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

As its bibliography reveals, “At Home” is one of the many books covering the history of domestic life. However, the fact that Bill Bryson is so good with witty anecdotes and arcane facts makes this “quirky history” a joy to read. Or, as a Telegraph reviewer wrote soon after its publication, “a treasure.”

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The Power of Myth Summary

The Power of Myth SummaryFrom Ancient Myths to Han Solo

“The Power of Myth” takes you back to the beginning of myths and explains their meaning.

About Joseph Campbell

Joseph CampbellJoseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American author, mythologist, and lecturer, best known for his studies of comparative religion and mythology.

“The Power of Myth Summary”

We have all grown up listening to bedtime stories.

Most of the stories parents tell children are rooted in myths and as such play a significant role in the collective identity.

Myths appeared in ancient times when people needed to make sense of the events that were happening in their surroundings.

However, even though today we have science and technology, we still need myths.

Why is that so?

Well, myths help us understand significant points of our lifetimes such as birth or death.

They make the transition from one stage to another more smooth and less scary.

Also, myths still form the identity of a group and explain the differences that exist among groups as well.

The stories in myths are specific for the places they originate from.

And, as circumstances on those places change, so do myths.

However, although myths change as time goes by, their core message stays the same.

Different cultures share common ideas in the form of archetypes. Archetypes are ideas that transcend culture.

All of us, no matter where we come from, understand these archetypes and what their meaning is.

This is so because we all share the same perennial hopes and fears.

That is why myths will never disappear.

Sometimes, myths are abstract. However, they have their concrete counterpart: ritual.

Rituals are sets of steps that people need to follow to achieve a specific goal.

In contemporary times, myths and rituals do not exist in such a distinct form as before, but we still use them to make sense of our roles in the society.

As we already mentioned, myths also help understand stages of life. Especially death.

They depict death as a fundamental part of life, as the other side of the coin. As a result, they decrease the fear of death that people have.

People also have a problem with depicting abstract concepts, such as god, time and space, et cetera.

When people cannot assign physical or concrete meaning to transcendent concepts, myths also help.

Key Lessons from “The Power of Myth”

1.      Blind to the Similarities
2.      How Myths Make Death Bearable
3.      Why Have Myths Been Pushed to the Margins?

Blind to the Similarities

Many concepts in mythology transcend cultures. However, people still want to seek differences instead of looking for the similarities among myths.

People just want to prove that their notions are true, and on the way to proving that, they remain blind to all the common ideas they share.

How Myths Make Death Bearable

Myths help us make death bearable.

In ancient times, fear of death was nonexistent, since death was considered a part of life, and not as an end of it.

Why Have Myths Been Pushed to the Margins?

First, schools do not teach them anymore and second; societies shift the perspective from the group to the individual.

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“The Power of Myth” Quotes

Sit in a room and read--and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time. Click To Tweet We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about. Click To Tweet I don't have to have faith, I have experience. Click To Tweet Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy. Click To Tweet The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply. Click To Tweet

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Want to Know More About Your Present: Learn from These History Books

Learn From These History Books

They say that history is the mother of all sciences.

Some people misunderstand this to mean that all other sciences have stemmed from the science of history.

But, that’s beside the point.

The real point is that, no matter which science you’re currently interested in, you can’t make any progress if you haven’t researched the progress those before you have already made.

So, if you want to understand your present better, reading history books is always a great start. Otherwise, you’ll end up repeating history.

In fact, that’s exactly how we introduced our previous top history books list. Consider this one both a reminder and a refresher!

In other words: if you want to learn –

Learn from These History Books

#1. “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes” by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time SummaryWe sometimes tend to forget that history didn’t begin with the human race.

Oh no!

As we shall see with our second entry on this list, in cosmic time, humans came on this planet just yesterday! And is there a better place to start your journey throughout history than its very beginning? Much before the humans came, much before our planet was created.

Yes – the very beginning. When there was absolutely nothing.

About 15 billion years ago.

Believe it or not, that’s exactly where “A Brief History of Time” begins. And there’s no one better than Stephen Hawking to tell you what happened next and how history unraveled up to this present day.

Take this book and start reading about the origins of our universe. Learn what the Big Bang was, and how is it that time and space are a continuum. See how much things such as quarks and gravity were important and why Einstein was wrong when it came to quantum theory.

And how quantum theory may be our best attempt to explaining away everything – absolutely everything there’s to know.

Ah yes – the Grand Unified Theory.

#2. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens SummaryAs you will learn from Hawking, the Earth was created some 4.5 billion years ago. And men started inhabiting it about 300,000 years ago.

Now, when we say men – we don’t mean you and me. We’re talking about six different species of men! Just like there’s a polar bear and a grizzly bear, once upon a time, there was a Neanderthal and a Sapiens.

The latter one – now we’re talking about you and me – somehow prevailed. About 70,000 years ago. And from then on, this species went on to develop in such a manner that it currently governs almost everything on this planet (and, maybe, soon enough, in the entire universe).

In “Sapiens,” Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian, tries to understand how that happened. Because, once you think about it, it’s miraculous!

And Harari follows the miracle through the Agricultural Revolution of early humans, to the Unification of Humankind and the history of the Scientific Revolution.

And he doesn’t stop there: in the next book, Harari attempted to write a history of tomorrow. According to him, that’s a history of a new species: “Homo Deus.”

#3. “A History of the World in 6 Glasses: How Your Favorite Drinks Changed the World” by Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 Glasses SummaryWe’re moving – inch by inch, step by step. Hawking gave us the macro-history of the entire universe; Harari the macro-history of humanity; Tom Standage gives us the macro-history of humanity’s favorite drinks.

Wait, what?

You’ve read it correctly!

A History of the World in 6 Glasses” isn’t, as Harari’s, a history of 70,000 years. But it is of some 6,000 or so. And it’s retold in 12 chapters, two chapters for each of humanity’s six favorite drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola.

And reading this book is as interesting as you’d expect!

For example, where else would you find out that beer is, in fact, one of the main contributors to the creation of civilization? In fact, that’s exactly how it was described in “Gilgamesh” – “the drink of the civilized man.”

The culture of the Greeks spread so fast because of their wines – and you can find evidence for this in the myth of Dionysius!

The Age of Exploration might not have happened if people weren’t so thirsty for sugary spirits. And – who would have thought? – the French Revolution actually started because there were suddenly many coffeehouses in Paris!

The Boston tea party started another revolution you are certainly aware of. And “Coca-Cola” is basically how you say “globalization” in a drink!

#4. “From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives” by Jeffrey E. Garten

From Silk to Silicon SummarySpeaking about globalization – now, how would you want to hear its history retold in ten extraordinary lives?

You’re in luck if you do!

That’s exactly what Jeffrey E. Garten, in the aptly titled “From Silk to Silicon,” sets out to do! And he does – exceptionally well!

For Garten, globalization started about a millennium ago – with a tyrant and a globalized trading network. The former is Genghis Khan; the latter – the Silk Road. Then came Prince Henry the Navigator who introduced slavery to Europe.

Mostly on the shoulders of slaves, the third person on Garten’s list, Robert Clive, built the first global brand: the East India Company. Afterward, Mayer Rothschild changed modern banking altogether. Cyrus West Field – global communication: he was the man who laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic!

You already know John D. Rockefeller – at one point, he was all but richer than the US government. Jean Monnet envisioned the European Union – which wasn’t exactly what Margaret Thatcher believed in. To her, free market was the be-all and end-all.

Deng Xiaoping wasn’t as radical – but he introduced free markets within China’s communist society. And, finally, Andrew Grove used its philosophy to create the Silicon Valley.

#5. “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals SummaryCheck any list you like (and Wikipedia has all of them): Abraham Lincoln is the most revered and loved US President in history. Both by scholars – and by the general public.

He strived to end slavery – and he managed to unite America. And he did it all during the most tumultuous period of American history.

Unsurprisingly, “Team of Rivals” by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin is exactly about that period. Mainly about the political genius of Abraham Lincoln – but also about few other men who served in his cabinet between 1861 and 1865.

And get this: three of those people ran against him in the 1860 election!

Well, that’s exactly what Goodwin terms as Lincoln’s genius. Creating a cabinet which mixed both opponents and supporters alike was a masterstroke decision. And possibly the only one which guaranteed Lincoln authority to tackle problems as serious as slavery and Civil War.

And, as Jonathan Haidt advises, it may be the only decision which can stop the polarization of the American nation today.

#6. “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin” by Timothy Snyder

Bloodlands SummaryA revered Yale historian, Timothy D. Snyder is one of the leading authorities on the Holocaust and Central and Eastern European history.

Published in 2010, his sixth book, “Bloodlands” won the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought and was described by “The Economist” as “revisionist history of the best kind.” And, really, reading it will make you wonder if you remember history correctly!

Neal Pease described it best when he wrote: “Many books are useful; a handful can be called important. ‘Bloodlands’ does no less than change the way we think of 20th century history, and of the deadly human cost of the totalitarian utopianism that was among its most distinctive characteristics.”

Totalitarian utopianism has more than one name: Nazi Germany and Soviet Union. True, their leaders, Hitler and Stalin, were vicious enemies – World War II was basically a war fought between them – but they shared one similar disinterest when it came to the people living in the area between them.

And that area – Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states – is what Snyder refers to as “the bloodlands.” Because there, 14 million innocent non-combatants were killed. And to them – it didn’t matter whether the perpetrator was a Nazi or a Socialist and whether he won or lost the World War…

#7. “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich von Hayek

The Road to Serfdom SummaryTimothy D. Snyder has the luxury of hindsight. In fact, today everybody knows that both utopian visions of Europe (Hitler’s and Stalin’s) ended up being more dystopian than Orwell’s visions.

When he was writing “The Road to Serfdom,” Friedrich Hayek – a Nobel Prize and an FBA award winner – could have only known that Hitler is on the wrong side of history. But in this book, he argued that Stalin is as well. And that most of Europe might end up there if it isn’t careful.

What frightened Hayek back in 1944 was something everybody believed was fairly good at the time. Namely, the control governments had over their countries’ economies. But, Keynes was deemed the savior of capitalism after his measures successfully alleviated the Great Depression.

So, why was Hayek, a staunch defender of classical liberalism, so bothered and afraid?

Well, because he thought that the only way a country can guarantee the freedom of the individual is by allowing the free market to work its magic. And that Nazi Germany was made possible exactly because people believed the other way around.

And on many accounts, Hayek was right. Even though the whole world criticized him at the time. Though, he may have made a mistake or two as well.

Read our summary to find out why and where.

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Final Notes

There are many ways to understand your present. Anything from perusing the newspapers on a daily basis, to reading current books on physics. However, there’s probably no better way to get to the root of the current problems than knowing their history. So, if you want to learn everything about your present – learn from these history books!

 

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Benjamin Franklin Summary

Benjamin Franklin SummaryAn American Life

If, as Carlyle says, “the history of the world is but the biography of great men,” Walter Isaacson is surely one of the greatest modern historians. And the second man he chose to write about – possibly the greatest figure in American history.

A match made in heaven. And a warm recommendation for every American to read “Benjamin Franklin.”

Who Should Read “Benjamin Franklin”? And Why?

At the end of his biography, Walter Isaacson says that Franklin is “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.”

So, if you are an American, “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” should be your compulsory read for this month. However, “the First American” is only one of the things Benjamin Franklin was. Or, to restate this, Isaacson’s biography should prove exciting to historians and political theorists, to scientists and inventors alike.

Finally, this book would be more than an interesting read for anyone keen on learning how exceptional individuals manage to change the world.

About Walter Isaacson

Walter IsaacsonWalter Isaacson is an American journalist and author. He has been the CEO of CNN and Managing Editor of the “Time” magazine, which, in 2012, voted him one of the 100 most influential people of the world.

Isaacson is a Professor of History at Tulane University and a major modern biographer. In addition to “Benjamin Franklin,” he has also written biographies about “Einstein,” “Kissinger,” “Leonardo da Vinci” and “Steve Jobs”. We featured the last one on our list of the best 15 biographies in history.

Isaacson has also written “The Innovators” and “The Wise Men,” which, loosely speaking, fall in the genre of “group biographies”.

“Benjamin Franklin Summary”

Benjamin Franklin was… actually, there are two ways to end this sentence. And even Wikipedia couldn’t make the decision – so why should we?

In fact, let’s quote it:

Option #1: “Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.”

We’ve used that word – polymath – four or five times so far in our summaries, so you already know what it means: a person with a very wide range of expertise. Or, as we would like to say, “a show-off”, or “everything we’ll never be.”

So, what was Benjamin Franklin more specifically?

Option #2: “Benjamin Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.”

But, wait!

It gets even more fascinating:

Benjamin Franklin spent just two years learning at a local school, between the age of 8 and 10. Because, well, that’s how much money his father Josiah had! After all, he had 10 children with Benjamin’s mother! (In addition to the 7 from his previous marriage!)

So, at a very early age, Ben started working as an apprentice under his older brother James, who was a printer. And he was still a teenager when he started to think about owning a business himself.

However, what interested him even more was writing.

While working as a printer’s apprentice, he grew enamored with books such as “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and “An Essay Upon Projects”. And he even tested his skills in his brother’s newspaper, publishing under a female pseudonym, Mrs. Silence Dogood!

At the age of 21, Franklin established the “Leather Apron Club,” probably known to you as “Junto”. It was a group of “like minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community.”

And no one liked improving himself better than Franklin. He had a curious mind, and he liked to try to understand everything around him.

For example, in his time, many people believed that lighting is something supernatural. However, after witnessing some electricity tricks in Boston in 1743, Franklin did the math and realized that it’s nothing more than an electric discharge.

Scientists adored his brilliant solution via a simple experiment; religious people thought him nothing short of the devil. Hey – even Immanuel Kant blamed him for playing some sort of a god! In fact, he called him “the modern Prometheus.” Fun trivia: that’s exactly how Mary Shelley called Victor Frankenstein!

Just about the same time that he was discovering electricity – and naming “the battery” and “the conductor” – Franklin was shaping the United States. In 1747, he established a private voluntary militia and got an interesting political idea: federalism.

Namely, what if the American colonies had their own local governing laws, but were still subjects to the British Empire’s general law on more important matters (defense, expansion, etc.)?

Too democratic – thought the British about Franklin’s Albany Plan. Well, maybe the British shouldn’t have their say at all in American matters – started thinking Benjamin Franklin.

But, what finally did it was the Stamp Act of 1765.

Franklin wasn’t against it at the beginning, but it seems that the majority of the colonies were. And he found out this the hard way: while he was in England, a mob attacked his house, and his wife, armed with a rifle, barely survived!

So, when Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1775, he had his mind already set: independent and united states of America.

However, his initial plan needed some tweaking. And it got just the right momentum the very next year, 1776, when Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” sold over 100,000 copies. Now it seemed that there was no more space for backing out.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence. And Benjamin Franklin corrected the first draft of Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” inserting “self-evident” where “sacred and undeniable” stood before.

You know the place.

Just like the rest of the story:

America wouldn’t have won against the British if Franklin hadn’t managed to secure an alliance with the French. And he did – in addition to later skirting the initial agreement with them to get as much as he could from Britain. (Read: independence; and, maybe, Canada.)

Without irking the French! Talking about diplomatic skills!

At an old age, Franklin would embark on one more mission: ending slavery. He would write three essays in 1789 and 1790, and back a petition. However, he’d ultimately fail.

And just some time after that, he would die on April 17, 1790, at the age of 84.

His legacy lives on.

Key Lessons from “Benjamin Franklin”

1.      The Important Thing Is to Never Stop Questioning Things
2.      Organize Your Life and Arrive at Moral Perfection
3.      Half of the Proverbs You Know – Are Ben Franklin’s

The Important Thing Is to Never Stop Questioning Things

Forget all about what it did to the cat: curiosity is a virtue. Benjamin Franklin wouldn’t have been what he had become if he hadn’t been so curious. And the same is true about Einstein and Stephen Hawking. The latter one said it best: “I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.”

Organize Your Life and Arrive at Moral Perfection

Begun in 1771, but publish after his death, Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography has been described as “the most remarkable of all the remarkable histories of… self-made men.” And the most interesting thing you get out of it: that Ben Franklin was the original life-organizer!

And everything he achieved in his life, he achieved through holding onto a simple routine and believing in 13 virtues penned when he was 20.

You can have a look at his schedule here: 8 hours of work a day, 6 hours of sleep, and the rest dedicated to examination. The morning question: “what good shall I do this day?” The evening question: what good have I done today?”

As for the 13 virtues – read them here. And adhere to them as well.

Half of the Proverbs You Know – Are Ben Franklin’s

Benjamin Franklin was a great prosaist. And he wrote for almost three decades for the yearly “Poor Richard’s Almanac” under a pseudonym. Finally, he collected the writings in a book called “The Way to Wealth.” And that’s where you can first find some of the phrases you use on a daily basis today.

Here’s just a small selection: “no pains, no gains,” “have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today,” and “early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

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“Benjamin Franklin” Quotes

When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him. Click To Tweet Franklin kept a horn book always in his pocket in which he minuted all his invitations to dinner, and Mr. Lee said it was the only thing in which he was punctual. Click To Tweet History is a tale, Franklin came to believe, not of immutable forces but of human endeavors. Click To Tweet Whoever accustoms himself to pass over in silence the faults of his neighbors shall meet with much better quarter from the world when he happens to fall into a mistake himself. Click To Tweet Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

As we’ve already come to expect from Walter Isaacson, “Benjamin Franklin” is a triumph in historical research and engaging novelistic writing. It’s authoritative and yet easy to read, it’s gigantic (about 600 pages) and yet it’ll feel like you’ve finished in a heartbeat.

But, after all, Benjamin Franklin is such a colossal and colorful figure that he deserves nothing less.

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Escape from Camp 14 Summary

Escape from Camp 14 Summary

One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

“Escape from Camp 14” is the story of Shin who, until now, remains the only person who was born in a labor camp in North Korea, and has escaped.

About Blaine Harden

Blaine Harden

Blaine Harden is a foreign correspondent and an author.

“Escape from Camp 14 Summary”

We have all heard of North Korea and its brutal dictatorship.

It has never developed hydroelectric capabilities, has no oil and uses excrement and ashes as fertilizers. It strives to become a nuclear power and is close to becoming one.

The public has no insight into what happens in North Korea. All stories the public knows are either those fed by the North Korean news, which is questionable, or the stories told by defectors.

For example, North Korea denies the existence of its prison camps. However, the fenced zones are visible on Google Earth, and defectors witness their existence.

These camps house around 200 000 people.

One of these people was shin, who was born in the early 80s in Camp 14, which is one of the most brutal prisons for dissidents, as well as their families.

He reckons that his home had no water, no privacy, no mattress or any other kind of furniture. He did not have anything to eat as well.

The only light he had, was the light bulb in the kitchen that several families shared, which was on a few hours after sunset and an hour after dawn.

Camp 14 discouraged sexual encounters, and when guards raped women, they usually killed the victims. If a woman gave birth with no permission, she was executed. And so was the child.

When he was 10, Shin witnessed his mother being raped.

His mother got married to his father as a reward for his hard work. That is how marriages got earned – they were a privilege for the hard workers.

His father was not home most of the time, and Shin lived with his older brother and mother, who beat him mercilessly.

Shin has no memories of his younger age which are not filled with beatings, betrayal, physical deprivation, and starvation.

During that time he learned to mistrust everyone, even his family

Key Lessons from “Escape from Camp 14”

  1. Lies and Betrayal
  2. The Idea of Escape
  3. Freedom

Lies and Betrayal

During his life in Camp 14, Shin did not have any time to think of the hard conditions since the work was overconsuming.

That was until he met Park Yong Chul, an older man who had traveled overseas, and on whom he was supposed to snitch.

However, as he hears the stories of life outside of North Korea, where you can do and eat whatever you want and go wherever you want, he decided not to tell on him and started believing that there is hope to escape from Camp 14.

The Idea of Escape

The idea to escape was Shin’s, but Park also joined.

They both tried to escape, but Park was killed by the voltage of the electric fence.

Shin escaped, and he reached China with a bribe.

Freedom

Once he was free, he felt the shadow of the past over him. He had nightmares and was admitted to a psychiatric ward.

Then, his friends made him write his memoir.

Until now, Shin is the only person who was born in a labor camp in North Korea and has escaped.

In 2011 he returned to South Korea.

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“Escape from Camp 14” Quotes

It is the toughest of them all because of its particularly brutal working conditions. Click To Tweet Before he had eaten his first hot meal in China, Shin had a job and a place to sleep. He had been a prisoner, a snitch, a fugitive and a thief, but never an employee. Click To Tweet Intoxicated by what he heard from the prisoner he was supposed to betray, Shin made the first free decision of his life. He chose not to snitch. Click To Tweet Camp 14 holds an estimated 15,000 prisoners. About 30 miles long and 15 miles wide, it has farms, mines and factories threaded through steep mountain valleys. Click To Tweet A crowd had gathered at the empty wheat field where Shin had witnessed two or three executions a year. Click To Tweet

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