1913 by Florian Illies

1913 book cover1913 is a nonfiction history book…and it was spectacular! Classical music concerts inciting pandemonium and near-riots. Mervyn O’Gorman’s incredible autochrome photographs (no photos in the book, just enticing descriptions which made me look them up – take a look and remember, these were taken in 1913!?!). There was even a little bit of mystery, as we wonder from month to month, where is the Mona Lisa?

I loved Florian Illies’s slightly mischievous sense of humor and gift of storytelling, which reminded me of the late Paul Harvey’s style of sharing the news.

“We can’t forget Kafka, or his bride! So how did Felice Bauer react to the most preposterous marriage proposal of all time?”

“So: worries about worries in Augsburg. Was anyone in a good mood in May 1913? Plainly not.”

I also found that some ideas and actions aren’t quite as modern as I might consider them to be: men walking around with their trousers hanging low (painter Oskar Kokoschka), worries that technology will destroy nature, and more seriously, school shootings.

1913 does put a heavy focus on figures and events in European nations, especially France and Germany. But the abundant cast and their fascinating stories kept me clicking over to Google to research more. That made for a slightly slower read, but I was enthralled from beginning to end. This is exactly the kind of non-fiction read that keeps readers engaged and brings history to life! Loved it.


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