There are two major centenaries this year: the United States entered World War I and the Russian Revolution. If you like to acknowledge anniversaries with a great read, then you have many books to choose from and these two are not a bad place to start:

Helen Rappaport’s latest, Caught in the Revolution, tells the story of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd from the perspective of people who found themselves in absolutely the wrong place at absolutely the wrong time—foreigners. Embassy officials, journalists, tourists, businessmen, servants, and ex-pats from Great Britain, France, and the United States lend their memoirs, letters, diaries, and newspaper articles to tell their story as Tsarist Russia fell into what seems like complete chaos. National City Bank of New York employees watched as the Petrograd branch was put under Bolshevik control. Patrons of the Hotel Astoria were lucky if they only had their belongings ransacked. Journalists found themselves in crowds targeted by police machine guns. Caught in the Revolution makes for a pretty intense read as the situation becomes more unpredictable to those living through it. However, it is also clear that although they were living through the events, they were not of the events. Many of the reporters, embassy officials, bankers, and socialites seem to not understand what they are experiencing and why. And they got to leave.

dougboys Published a few years ago, Richard Rubin’s The Last of the Doughboys is the product of interviews Rubin conducted in 2003 with remaining World War I veterans. At the time of the interviews, the participants were over 100 years old, but many of them enlisted as teenagers. From what the trenches were like to witnessing aerial combat to being away from home for the first time, Rubin’s interviews provide a fresh and human perspective on the Great War. Rubin also provides context to the events, battles, battalions, as well as the culture giving the interviews larger meaning. This book is all the more important now that this generation is lost to the ages.

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The Russian Revolution

World War I

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