World History

THE PRINCESS SPY: THE TRUE STORY OF ALINE GRIFFITH, COUNTESS OF ROMANONES by Larry Loftis

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Though Aline Griffith’s contributions to the war effort in 1940s Europe were entirely clandestine, her life after leaving the OSS was anything but. She married into Spanish nobility, attended parties with stars like Audrey Hepburn, and published a series of sensational memoirs about her time as a spy.

But how much of Aline’s memoirs was sensationalism, and how much (if any) was truth? Larry Loftis set out to answer these questions and in THE PRINCESS SPY, brings the real Aline Griffith to light. Though there were fewer murders and death-defying feats than her memoirs suggest, Aline’s impressive fieldwork, her involvement in a lesser-known theater of the war, and her courtship with various bullfighters and noblemen make her a fascinating figure by any measure.

Though Aline’s story anchors the narrative, Loftis includes deep-dives into the overall work of the OSS in Spain, especially where it involves her recruiter, Frank T. Ryan, and colleague Edmundo Lassalle. For this reason, I would recommend THE PRINCESS SPY not only to biography readers but also to any WWII or military history enthusiast who enjoys narrative non-fiction.

THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND by William Kamkwamba

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Although his culture placed great importance on magic, William Kamkwamba always knew the importance of science and education.  He was determined to succeed in primary school and make it to one of the top secondary schools in Malawi.  But drought and famine destroyed his dreams, plunging his farming family into poverty and forcing him to drop out of school.  Once the famine subsided and survival was no longer the only thought in his mind, William decided to educate himself. At his village’s library, he stumbled upon the text book Explaining Physics and began to experiment with the concepts and technology described in the book.  His house filled up with the trash he collected from the junkyard for his experiments.  People in the village began to mock him, thinking him mad.  But when he created a windmill that produced electricity for his home (and eventually a reliable water pump to stave off famine) he became a hero to his village and to scientists around the world.

In this autobiography, Kamkwamba tells the story of his childhood and his eventual success as an inventor and scientist.  The story is a blend of cultural history and detailed scientific narrative, all told with Kamkwamba’s great sense of humor.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is truly inspirational and will be particularly engaging for readers with an interest in both world cultures and science.