book report: December 1941 by Shirley (2011)

Some people turn to fiction for a light literary snack, but my weakness is war history. and this book was just right for my sweet tooth. But this book is distinct from most of the other histories I read. Author Craig Shirley gives his readers the milieu of an historical event, in this book, the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th. For me anyway, it was fascinating to learn that the newspapers were still printing Hollywood gossip in addition to reporting on the battles raging around the world.

The book is organized simply, by each day of the month of December. Shirley brilliantly weaves the trivial and mundane with the politics and the sacrifices of soldiers and citizens alike. He provides sufficient background to the events on each day. The book ends before the war resolves, yet sets up all the obstacles and fear inducing losses in the Pacific. If one is unfamiliar with the 2nd World War, this book's focus on one month is a great foundation for understanding the Pacific Theater, and leaves one wondering how were the Allies able to turn back the unstoppable Japanese and Germans. It's one victory after another for the Axis in December 1941. Even for someone familiar with the history, like myself, it made me want to revisit the history, so I got two more books out of the library, one on D-Day and one on the battle of the Atlantic against the German U-boats.

Many thanks to Booksneeze for this complimentary review copy.

an addendum: I found the examples of FDR's very socialist policies enlightening to today's debates. Shirley did not criticize these policies, but simply presented them, their background, and the ends they served. Shirley later claims that WW2 created the American middle class, a topic very much in today's discussions.
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John said…
Good review, John. I, too, liked the book. While I initially thought he was very anti-FDR I eventually felt that he had treated him very fairly. He wasn't very complimentary about the New Deal (and its socialist leanings) but it gave me a better perspective about why FDR remained so popular after the war. But I enjoyed your review.
John Umland said…
Like yourself, I'm a sucker for WW2 books. Unlike yourself, I'm not so much into the American Revolution, but more into the Civil War. Your review on this book had some of the same complaints I thought, but didn't write: not enough pictures and deficient editing.
God is good
John said…
Yes, the photos seemed like an after-thought and the editing was pretty bad. I've read uncorrected proofs that were better.

As for the Civil War: it just seemed like a dark time - kind of 'us vs. us' with a not-so-happy victory. But I've read a few Civil War books and have more on my TBR list - most recently Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (which was "okay") and Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz (about John Brown) - I think my reviews were posted in October. I guess I like the 'happier' endings of the Revolution and WWII. And that's one thing I really liked about this book - his summary at the end of how it changed things was quite insightful and well-done. It kind of redeemed it from the repetitiveness and errors, in my opinion (which will hopefully be corrected in any future printings).

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