In no particular order, here are ten works that testify to the importance of finding words when there supposedly are none—which is to say, when there are no simple ones, yet many things that need to be said.
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table
Only a few of the elements in The Periodic Table—one of the best creative nonfiction books of the twentieth century—relate to the Holocaust. Still, when I assigned it to my students in Japan and watched them struggle to situate the Lager, I realized that Levi’s descriptions of Auschwitz are perhaps most powerful when they are part of an evocation of the larger world in which we all live, love, and make meaning.
Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife
Sensuous and often joyful, The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the true story of the couple who hid Jews in the empty cages of their Warsaw zoo after the Nazis seized or shot the animals. Reading it makes you want to be a better caretaker of all the creatures around you. Continue reading