I am sure I’ve mentioned it before but I absolutely love to read. My goodreads challenge is to read 46 books, one more than last year. I am currently up to 31  or 67% finished. Goodreads tells me I am 10 books ahead of schedule. I have really tried to give myself time to read this year. I would like to try to review a few of those I’ve read, either this year or even in the past.

I want to start with “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson.

larson - beasts

Photo from Amazon

This was the second book I read by Larson and I quite enjoyed both books. Larson tends to give a lot of detail, so much so that you feel like you are there. Larson uses a lot of personal letters and diaries so you feel like you know these people.

Both books I read by Larson are non-fiction, which I get is not for everyone. If you are interested in history I would recommend looking into Larson’s work.

In the Garden of Beasts takes place in pre-WWII Germany, specifically 1933. I have read several books on this period but this book contained a lot of information and insight I don’t recall reading before. It really showed how Hitler and Nazi Germany came to be and how many were blind, or chose not to see, what was really going on.

The book focuses on the family of William Dodd, the new American ambassador who has been sent only to collect the debt Germany owes. Dodd was a professor and is a tad out-of-place in the embassy. He is an outsider and never really fits in.

Early on few see what Hitler is really capable of. Dodd even thinks he can talk to Hitler and show him the error of his way. Dodd stumbles through his duties and social norms of being an ambassador. He is smart but in over his head. Eventually he comes to see what Hitler really is but no one wants to hear it.

A parallel story throughout is that of Dodd’s daughter. She is a wild child, the party girl of her day. Before Germany she married and divorced in secret. She loved the German nationalism, at first. She dated Nazis and Russian communists. She was young and naive. She was having a ball and in love with life. Eventually she see the horrors up close and becomes appalled.

Overall this is an excellent book. I would recommend it to anyone but especially those interested in the WWII era. You see the horror unfold and wonder how it happened under the world’s nose. No one wanted to see it. No one wanted to believe this evil was happening because no one wanted another world war.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. I don’t often give out 5’s so this is a pretty big honor in my world. I know this is not a long, in-depth review but I am not a professional and just wanted to get a few thoughts out.

As an amazon associate, if you buy through the In the Garden of Beasts link I will receive a small commission.

Categories: Books


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.