The best books about commitment, courage, and perseverance against overwhelming odds

Harriet Segal Author Of The Expatriate
By Harriet Segal

Who am I?

I am mom to three daughters, grammy to seven grandchildren. I am a storyteller and a voracious reader. There’s nothing better than to immerse myself in books about history, espionage, and family sagas. Growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, I never suspected that I would travel the world one day, although I always dreamed of writing novels. Living in India for a time, I developed a passion for international affairs. I try to make the settings and culture of my novels as authentic as possible. To research the background for The Expatriate, I traveled to England, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and the Eastern Republics of the former Soviet Union. 

I wrote...

The Expatriate

By Harriet Segal,

Book cover of The Expatriate

What is my book about?

The saga of Alexa Summerfield, an American woman who studies abroad in the 1930s, falls in love with an idealistic Austrian surgeon, and is caught in the maelstrom of World War II.

The Expatriate is a tale of international intrigue and danger, espionage and heroism, and undying love. Set in war-torn Europe, its main characters are involved in the OSS and the Austrian Resistance. There was an active anti-Nazi organization in Austria after the German occupation in 1938. It was especially strong among army doctors. The promise of Allied support for the nascent democratic movement became a sacrifice to realpolitik. At the war’s end, over 150,000 Austrian soldiers remained prisoners of war in Russia. Many of them would never see home again.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour

Why did I love this book?

Did you know John Gilbert Winant was an American ambassador to Great Britain during World War II? I didn’t, until I read this engaging chronicle about three Americans’ tireless efforts to gain U.S. support for England during the bleak years preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. Edward R. Murrow, urbane international radio correspondent, was better known; as was W. Averell Harriman, suave, wealthy head of Lend-Lease. Steadfast in their commitment to the brave island nation and her sturdy people, they championed England’s cause when America Firsters held FDR at bay. My favorite was idealistic Gil Winant, endearing himself to the Brits as he walked the streets of London after an air raid. In this very human story, Lynne Olson recounts the various intrigues, love affairs, and personal struggles of each man. For all their foibles, they kept faith with England.

By Lynne Olson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Citizens of London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Engaging and original, rich in anecdote and analysis, this is a terrific work of history.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion

The acclaimed author of Troublesome Young Men reveals the behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, the handsome, chain-smoking head of CBS News in Europe; Averell Harriman, the hard-driving millionaire who ran FDR’s Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain. Each man formed close ties with Winston Churchill—so much so…

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why did I love this book?

This was a book that I couldn’t put down. Amor Towles proves once again to be that rarity, a writer of beautifully crafted fiction that is compulsively readable. The gentleman in question, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, is an aristocrat who is sentenced in 1922 by a Bolshevik court to indefinite house arrest in the attic of the Metropol Hotel, an elegant establishment near the Kremlin. Never having worked for a living or been denied anything, Rostov finds himself deprived of the bare necessities. I laughed out loud at scene after captivating scene, and shed a tear at some of the more poignant episodes. Count Alexander manages to fashion an expansive world within the confines of his prison. You can’t help but admire this endearing gentleman’s perseverance in his struggle to create a meaningful life.

By Amor Towles,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked A Gentleman in Moscow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers, soon to be a major television series

From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility, a beautifully transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and…

Book cover of The Memory of an Elephant

Why did I love this book?

I fell in love with Ishi, the ageing bull elephant, who is the narrator of this saga. If ever you doubted that elephants were sentient creatures, this book will change your mind. After fifty years as a captive, shipped overseas, mistreated in a circus, and landing in a zoo, by miraculous serendipity, Ishi finds himself back in Africa, hundreds of miles from the animal sanctuary where he was raised. Making a final desperate journey to reach the human family that rescued him as a baby, when his mother and entire herd were killed by ivory poachers, our hero encounters one peril after another. A highly emotional tale, it speaks of good and evil. Ishi’s story will have you contributing to every campaign to save these noble beasts.

By Alex Lasker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Memory of an Elephant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The Memory of an Elephant" is an epic saga told by an aging African elephant as he makes a last, perilous journey to find the humans who rescued him as an orphan some fifty years ago. Interwoven with his narrative are the tumultuous lives of the family who raised and then lost him. This timeless story is alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking, spanning east Africa, Great Britain and New York from 1962 to 2015.

Book cover of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations

Why did I love this book?

Who believes men alone have redrawn the maps of the world? Gertrude Bell, beautiful adventurer, mountaineer, archaeologist, writer, linguist, and self-taught photographer, championed Arab self-rule, advising the British military in creating the nation of Iraq after World War I. Thwarted in love, this Victorian debutante set forth on a life as colorful as Lawrence of Arabia, with whom she became a close friend. I marveled at her courage, traveling alone in the vast desert of Arabia with a few native guides, dining with Bedouin chiefs who had never deigned to receive a woman before. It’s impossible to describe her life in a few sentences, but it was a revelation to me that a woman of the Victorian era could accomplish what few men had, while remaining a correct English lady.

By Georgina Howell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Gertrude Bell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A marvelous tale of an adventurous life of great historical import

She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born in 1868 into a world of privilege, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author (of Persian Pictures, The Desert and the Sown, and many other collections),…

The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943

By Inge Scholl, Arthur R. Schultz (translator),

Book cover of The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943

Why did I love this book?

I read this book for research for my own book. The White Rose is the tragic story of Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends, German students who defied Hitler, forming the underground movement known as The White Rose. I was thrilled at the terror of the brother and sister taking chances, distributing anti-Nazi leaflets right under the eyes of the Gestapo. Handsome Hans, heartthrob of his female medical classmates, was the leader of the group, while serious, pious Sophie was his loyal lieutenant. Written by their sister, this account shows there were good people who opposed Hitler, risking everything. I had chills, imagining the terrible price the two siblings paid for their bravery. And my heart ached for their mother, who lost two children to Himmler’s archaic method of punishment—the guillotine.

By Inge Scholl, Arthur R. Schultz (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The White Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The White Rose tells the story of Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl, who in 1942 led a small underground organization of German students and professors to oppose the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazi Party. They named their group the White Rose, and they distributed leaflets denouncing the Nazi regime. Sophie, Hans, and a third student were caught and executed.

Written by Inge Scholl (Han's and Sophie's sister), The White Rose features letters, diary excerpts, photographs of Hans and Sophie, transcriptions of the leaflets, and accounts of the trial and execution. This is a gripping account of courage and…

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