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Memories of a Malevolent Era

In the first of a new series, St. Edward’s School Head Mike Mersky discusses two books that kept him reading from cover to cover.

One of Mike Mersky’s recommendations is In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, a terrifying picture of Berlin during the rise of Adolf Hitler.

One of Mike Mersky’s recommendations is In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, a terrifying picture of Berlin during the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Mike Mersky, Head of Saint Edward’s School, favors nonfiction, “because for me, reality is more exciting than fiction.” Specifically, he is an avid reader of history and biographies. Recently he read two books back-to-back, set in the era of World War II, which he believes would appeal to readers of nonfiction and fiction alike. These literary works captivated him with their compelling stories of seemingly ordinary individuals thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Their telling, he points out, provides important insights into their character and the momentous and often violent events of the time.

The books are Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, and In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson.

Unbroken is a biography of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian runner, Army Air Corps bombardier and, most remarkably, a survivor. “One of the things that fascinated me as an educator for over 35 years was to read about Louie Zamperini as a child,” Mersky says. “The book begins with his childhood antics when he was a real pistol. He literally learned to run by running away from the police!”

Read the entire article in the November 2011 issue