Memorial Day Weekend Reads
Memorial Day Weekend marks the end of the school year and the start of the summer. Want to start a conversation about Memorial Day and how it got started? Get caught reading (or watching) a book or documentary that shows the hard work and sacrifices Americans have made to secure our freedoms. From the Revolutionary War to contemporary Afghanistan, these titles are as educational as they are entertaining.
“1776” by David McCullough
An eminently readable account of a pivotal year in the Revolutionary War, “1776” tells the story of the founding of the United States. McCullough paints portraits of both King George and George Washington, showing how each struggled to apply the lessons they learned in this conflict. By focusing on a single year, the stories of lesser known Americans like Nathanael Greene get a chance to shine. This book humanizes a crucial period in US history and reads like a great novel.
“Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson
Simultaneously fast-paced and hefty, this book covers the entire swath of the Civil War. McPherson explicates perspectives from both the North and South while covering the social, political, and military events before, during, and after the Civil War. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this book ties numerous threads of history together into one sweeping narrative.
“Band of Brothers”
It probably needs no introduction. This live-action mini-series adaptation of Stephen Ambrose’s book follows a single company from the Battle of Normandy to the liberation of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Both large and small in scope, this series will introduce you to the backstories of E company while taking you through the major battles in Europe. You’ll binge all ten episodes on the edge of your seat.
“With the Old Breed” by Eugene Sledge
The Pacific theater of WWII was no less grueling and brutal than the European theater. Sledge gives a visceral first-hand account of the fierce fighting on Peleliu and Okinawa he experienced as a US Marine. Without the perspective of a general or a historian, Sledge spends as much time focusing on the small indignities of serving (rotting boots and clothing, bad food) as he does detailing the incredible confusion and noise of war. He’s such a great storyteller that even small anecdotes like his vivid description of trying to climb a net ladder post- combat will stick with you.
“Where Men Win Glory” by Jon Krakauer
Pat Tillman turned down a million dollar NFL contract to serve in the military after 9/11, fulfilling his call of duty to help protect his country. Two years later, Pat was killed in Afghanistan. Through letters and interviews with his friends and family, this book gives a keen depiction of an outspoken man who acted on his own deeply held principles.
Ridgeway Burns is the Youth and Young Adult Services Manager at Hinsdale Public Library