Tag Archives: historical books

16 Books You Can Read in 2 Hours or Less

Let’s face it, we’re all busy people.  Some of us, though we would LOVE to, just don’t have the time to dive into huge novels like A Game of Thrones or the Harry Potter series…but that doesn’t mean you have to shy away from reading entirely!

Even the busiest people have a little time here and there to spare…and in those moments, if you want to get lost in a book, there are stories you can read that will take little to no time to finish…and I’m not just talking about children’s books.

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These are books with substance…books with a plot and moving storylines.  They may be short, but their messages pack a punch; and honestly, having read them all, a good chunk of these are on my list of books that have changed my life.

It’s a new year, people…you CAN make an effort to read more and you CAN make time in your schedule to get lost in literature…starting with this list of short and powerful quick-read books.

*Quick disclaimer…I know everyone reads at different speeds, so some may finish a book on this list quicker than someone else.  Personally, as someone with an average reading speed, I was able to finish all of these books in one sitting, so let’s say 2 to 4 hours, depending on how dedicated you are! 😉

16 Books You Can Read in 2 Hours or Less

The Little Prince
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The story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behavior and emotions along the way.

A Monster Calls
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A monster teaches a little boy about love, acceptance, and the things we can’t control or change.  This is a tear-jerker for sure.  Do yourself a favor and read the book before seeing the movie that just hit theaters.

Letters to a Young Poet
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A young poet writes to Rainer Maria Rilke asking his advice on some poems.  The ten letters that make up this collection are brilliantly crafted and contain some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a long time.

Night
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A candid and horrific account of his survival in the Nazi concentration camps, Elie Wiesel’s Night is a masterpiece in Holocaust literature.

The Old Man and the Sea
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A story of an old Cuban fisherman and his struggle with the giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.  A powerful book about personal triumph and courage.

Of Mice and Men
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A story about friendship, jealousy, and understanding, Of Mice and Men is a compelling story of two outsider striving to find their place in an unforgiving and cruel world.

Big Fish
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Big Fish is the story of a man’s life, told as a series of legends and myths.  Through these hilarious and tender tales, we begin to understand the great feats and failings of a man facing his own death.

Nine Stories
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This book is exactly what it says, nine short stories written by J.D. Salinger.  These stories will stick with you and remind you what an amazing writer Salinger was in his day.

The Phantom Tollbooth
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When a mysterious tollbooth shows up in Milo’s room, he embarks on a series of adventures that teach him just how exciting and amazing life really is.

Lady into Fox
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When newlywed Sylvia Tebrick suddenly turns into a fox, it’s up to her human husband Richard to protect her from the dangers of the outside world.  This is a little gem of a book with a sweet message about love and acceptance.

Love Letters of Great Men
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Inspired by Sex in the City, Love Letters of Great Men contains just that.  Read some of history’s most romantic letters from Beethoven, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin and much more.

Half-Minute Horrors
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This little gem of a book holds more than 70 30-second ghost stories written by some of the biggest names in literature today, including Lemony Snicket, Margaret Atwood, Michael Connelly, Gregory Maguire, Joyce Carol Oates, James Patterson, R.L. Stine, and many more.

Bill Bryson’s African Diary
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Fans of Bill Bryson are sure to enjoy this little easy read.  This diary recounts Bryson’s trip to Africa at the invitation of CARE International.  In his own wry style, he comments on some of Africa’s greatest attractions and the struggles plaguing the country to this day.

The Prophet
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A collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and inspirational, this book covers such topics as love, marriage, children, work, friendship, beauty, religion, death and much more.  Though it’s technically a short read, you might want to take your time with this one…there’s a lot to take in.

The Last Lecture
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This is an account of Professor Randy Pausch’s last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University before leaving to take care of his health.  A brilliant education on achieving your childhood dreams, The Last Lecture is both inspiring and brilliantly sad.

The Alchemist
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This is a love story for the ages!  Evocative and deeply humane, The Alchemist is a testament to the power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Columbine Book Review

41r2b1sidfylColumbine High was buzzing with post-prom excitement.  Mere days away from graduating, the seniors of CHS were enjoying their last days of high school glory.  Some were getting ready for college, others were planning summer road trips or family adventures…and hidden among those graduating seniors were two boys harboring a dark secret that would completely change the lives of everyone in the small town of Littleton, Colorado.

Toting jackets and bags stuffed with bombs, guns, and knives, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High on April 20, 1999 with one goal in mind…destruction.  They made a pact to take out as many students and faculty as they could before blowing up their high school for good.  Though most of their plan actually failed, there’s no denying that the Columbine tragedy has gone down in American history as one of the worst domestic attacks of our generation.  It left 13 students and faculty dead and several more wounded, both physically and emotionally.  It was a horror story that left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, turning one high school, thought to be a safe haven for students, into a bloody hunting ground.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Columbine tragedy is the insurmountable amounts of unanswered questions…the most prevalent being why.  Armed with 10 years of reporting on the Columbine disaster, as well as a keen investigative eye as to the make-up of Eric and Dylan, journalist Dave Cullen attempts to answer that question.  Filled with amazing stories about the victims, the survivors, the killers and the facts of what actually happened that day in April, Columbine aims to shed light on this horrible tragedy and perhaps offer some sense of closure for those who were affected by this terrible act of aggression.

I was 15 years old when Eric and Dylan attacked Columbine.  I remember kids talking about it in the hallways and parents discussing it at PTA meetings.  Councilors were available near 24/7 for any student who wanted to talk about it and security was at an all-time high for my little high school which still sits on the boarder of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Before Columbine, the thought of a school shooting never even entered my mind.  I couldn’t comprehend how someone could do that to their friends and teachers.  School was supposed to be a safe place, somewhere I could go where the biggest thing I had to worry about was what to have for lunch.  I never felt in danger there, never looked at anyone twice or thought anyone at my high school would have the balls to do what Eric and Dylan did.  And really, most people at Columbine felt the same.

From beginning to end, I was completely mystified, engrossed, and disgusted with Columbine.  It is a brilliant, honest, and intricate account into the lives of Eric and Dylan and a true and unsettling retelling of the events that unfolded on April 20, 1999, as well as the days leading up to it.

Interspersed with the story, Cullen also offers a look into the lives of those who were taken on April 20th, including Rachel Scott, Cassie Bernall, and the beloved coach, Dave Sanders.  After several hundred interviews with family members, witnesses, police officers, and others who were on the scene that day, Cullen attempts to rebuild this broken story in the hopes of offering some type of understanding as to WHY Eric and Dylan did what they did.

There are no excuses…no reasons…no explanations to completely satisfy this burning question, but Columbine does shed light on the lives of two troubled teens who felt so lost, so unaccepted and unloved that they were eventually driven to horrible deeds.  A story told with amazing respect and fairness, Columbine does not point fingers, it does not cast unfair blame or generalize in any way; rather, it offers what everyone has been searching for these last 10 years…the truth.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Voyagers of the Titanic Book Review

Near, far, wherever you are, I think it’s safe to say that most people are familiar with, or at least know about, the Titanic disaster. Late in the evening of April 14, 1912, the mighty Titanic, a passenger liner traveling from England to New York, struck an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Four days after it began its maiden voyage, it found its final resting place 12,500 feet below the surface.

In the two and a half hours it took for the Titanic to sink, more than half of the passengers on board succumbed to the freezing Atlantic waters. Of the 2,240 passengers, crew, and staff on board the ship that night, only 723 made it out alive.

John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest man on board the Titanic. He died the morning after the sinking.

The Titanic disaster sent the world into a tizzy. New York, Paris, London and other major cities in Europe and the US experienced an outpouring of grief. Family members and friends of those on board flocked to nearby magazine stands to inquire about the fates of those still not identified or found, while others waited to hear word about the famous people aboard Titanic that night.

While many books, films, and accounts of the Titanic disaster focus on figuring out why the ship sank, Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From follows the men, women, and children whose lives intersected on the vessel’s fateful last day, from the men whose blood, sweat, and tears built the mighty Titanic to the plutocrats and captains of industry who perished on her maiden journey.

The last meal for first class passengers.

Like the mighty ship herself, Voyagers of the Titanic is broken up by class, covering the full spectrum of first, second, and third classes, as well as the men who designed, built, and financed Titanic. Learn what it was like to sit in a first-class dining room, what the meals were like in each section of the ship, what the third class cabins were like, and what it felt like that night when the ship met her demise…all from the people who experienced it first-hand.

Author Richard Davenport-Hines does a poetic justice to those who were on board Titanic that night, giving as much time and dedication to the stories of the cobblers, clergymen, teachers, and tailors on board as he does to those whose names helped build and define the early 20th century.

The memory of the Titanic disaster remains a part of the American psyche, even for those who have no familial or emotional connection to the event. The mystery that haunts that night in April 1912 has sparked a whirlwind of theories and ideas as to why the ship sank, but often disregards the stories of the people who were witness to that horrible night. In Voyagers of the Titanic, readers get an inside look into the lives of those individuals who were on board the ship on April 14, 1912, and what it was like to experience the destruction of one of man’s greatest creations.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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The Real Mad Men Book Review

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Have you ever wondered if life at Sterling Cooper (or the more recent Sterling Cooper Draper Price) is the real deal, or just an ad for what we imagine the advertising industry to be? Have you ever wondered what real ad executives think about AMC’s Mad Men? Did ad men really just sit around drinking and smoking, going in and out of the office as they please, and wining and dining women until all hours of the night?

Real Mad Men reveals the true players of Madison Ave. in the era of the advertising boom. Filled with 150 full-color illustrations, interviews with real “Mad Men”, and looks into some of the most successful campaigns in American history–including the iconic VW bug campaign, Alka Seltzer, Volvo, and Braniff Airways–Real Mad Men gives readers a rare look into the in’s and out’s of the ad agencies that populated New York’s famed Madison Avenue.

This book also contains interviews with ad executives who were the Don Drapers of their day…and asks them what they think of AMC’s portrayal of their work and personal lives. It shows readers how campaigns were headed, executed, created, and obliterated, and gives fans of Mad Men a look into what the industry was really like in this era of advertisements, slogans, jingles, and logos.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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The Nazi Officer’s Wife Book Review

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As a student of Judaism, and a lover of history, I’ve read my fair share of Holocaust memoirs.  The classroom staples, the hot-button novels, the poetry of the children…but never have I ever read anything like this.  A story so controversial that it had to wait several years to be told…a tale of utter bravery, heroism, foolishness, and shear dumb luck.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is the true story of Edith Hahn, a woman who outsmarted a whole nation of Germans by marrying into the very regime that was destroying her people.  By taking on the identity of a good friend, Edith tried to make a new life for herself, smack dab in the middle of Nazi Germany.

In her quest to adopt the new persona of “Grete Denner”, Edith ends up meeting and falling for Werner Vetter…who just so happens to be one of the higher ups in Hitler’s army.  Even after discovering that she’s not who she says she is, and is Jewish on top of it, Werner stands by her side…convinced his feelings are still real.

This memoir was so different from every other Holocaust book I’ve ever read.  It wasn’t blasphemous…it wasn’t emotionally distressing or disturbing…if anything, The Nazi Officer’s Wife was a story of inspiration and utter heroism.  The people in Edith’s life were in her life for a reason…to ensure her survival.  Edith survived to tell this story…to share this powerful tale of faith, determination, and ultimate triumph.

NEXT WEEK:  Sometimes we spend a lifetime looking for something that’s been there all along…just maybe not in the form we were expecting.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare Book Review

He’s one of the most famous authors and playwrights of all time.  There are entire classes and semesters devoted to him in colleges all over the world.  His words are as recognizable as his face, and his characters have become iconic in the canon of Renaissance literature.  He’s been the topic of hundreds of thousands of books, essays, and articles—all trying to discover the man (or men) behind the curtain.  And yet for all he’s given us, near nothing is known about the mysterious William Shakespeare.

In an effort to discover all he can about The Bard, best-selling author (and one of my personal favorites!) Bill Bryson dives into Shakespeare’s world…exploring the rumors behind the plays, the muses behind the sonnets, and whether the famous painting of Shakespeare we all know and recognize is really even The Man Himself.

In Shakespeare:  The World As a Stage, Bryson tries to unravel exactly who William Shakespeare was by painting a portrait of the world in witch The Bard lived and prospered.  Through discussing such topics as the history of English theatre and the other famous writers who may have known Shakespeare (and may have collaborated with him), Bryson makes great points for and against the existence of this man of words.  Could one man really compose all that Shakespeare is credited for in such a short lifetime?  Does he really deserve all the credit he receives?  After reading this book, I must say that I am skeptical…

Fans of Shakespeare and Bryson will enjoy this little gem of a book.  Bryson’s honest humor is generously sprinkled throughout it as he argues what is history and what is the truth about this “literary equivalent of an electron”, as he puts it.  “Forever there and not there.”

NEXT WEEK:  The father of comedy talks about his thoughts on everything from reality TV to politics…never failing to criticize the disaster that is “the American way of life.”

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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In the Heart of the Sea Book Review

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…

What if you were stranded on a boat for 90 days with no food or water?  Would you succumb to your fate and join Davy Jones…or would you stop at nothing to ensure your survival…even if that meant resorting to cannibalism?

In 1820, in the middle of the unforgiving Pacific Ocean, the 20 sailors of the whale ship Essex found themselves in such a situation.

When the Essex took off from Nantucket, the crew of the little whaling ship was ready, willing, and able to take on any whale that got in their way.  While their journey started off rough, they soon gathered hundreds of dollars worth of precious whale oil, meat, and blubber.  However, the whales weren’t going to go down easy.

As is true in many situations, the Universe is quick to even the score when things start going your way.  For the crew of the Essex, the Universe acted by proxy…in the form of one 80-foot sperm whale that was out for a little blood of its own.

In the Heart of the Sea is a chilling and epic tale of survival.  Nathaniel Philbrick recounts this horror story that motivated Herman Melville’s much less interesting book, Moby Dick, and doesn’t skimp on any details.  With nearly 50 pages of footnotes alone, Philbrick proves his knowledge of this tragic story, yet doesn’t bore you or bog you down with useless information.

What becomes of this 20-man crew?  What becomes of the whale that fiercely destroyed their boat?  How does a small island recover from such a major tragedy?  All these questions and more are answered in the final pages of In the Heart of the Sea.  This is a great accompaniment to Moby Dick (or replacement, for that matter).  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing, crying, and cringing along with these brave men who took on the biggest battle of them all…survival.

NEXT WEEK:  Gather around for story time!  But these aren’t your grandma’s stories…they’re not even your great-grandma’s stories…these are the stories that started them all…

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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