In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

You may remember Erik Larson’s fascinating and disturbing book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Vintage, 2004). His latest book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (Crown, $26), is even more astonishing. A naïve and unassuming history professor, William E. Dodd, is appointed by President Roosevelt as America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s government. He moves to Berlin with his wife and two grown children and comes to see that Hitler and his henchmen are quickly remaking Germany to reflect their own monstrous ambitions. But no one else seems to care (he’s advised to “give Hitler everything he wants”) while bloodshed builds and his daughter dallies with Nazi lovers. Powerful and engaging!

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I knew my Devo. I had the Beach Boys down. And, as much as I hate to admit, those Britney Spears tunes I can’t stand? That was covered, too. And they all brought me this close to 10,000 smackaroos. For years I’ve joked that if the game show Name That Tune was still on television, I’d kick so much ass. Thanks to a live stage version that premiered at the Imperial Palace in August, I finally got my chance to tap my mental encyclopedia of song snippets.

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