The best books (with photos) about the incredible struggles of a family over three generations, WWII and beyond

Why am I passionate about this?

I felt compelled to write this story, not just because the eventful lives of myself and members of my family, but mostly because of its historical content. Until this day the West knows very little of what actually happened in the early 1940s and after 1945 to countries and people who, after the war, finished up behind the Iron Curtain. From Fascism to Communism, they had fallen “Out of the frying pan into the fire.” People in those European countries, who had lived through and experienced those events, are now very thin on the ground.

I wrote...


By Tom Tottis,

Book cover of Retrospect

What is my book about?

In the aftermath of the First World War, Julia, a young woman in Budapest, is working hard to contribute to the family’s income. Julia marries Sándor and despite being told by her doctor that she must not have children, she has a son, Tommy. The turbulent years of WWII reduce the family to just mother and son and Julia and Tommy are forced to draw upon their determination, courage, wit, and self-preservation to survive. In the wake of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, crushed by Soviet tanks, Tommy risks his life and escapes from behind the Iron Curtain and from the Communism that has risen from the ashes of Fascism.

From Budapest in the ‘twenties to London in the ‘nineties, this is a family saga of three generations, ravaged by wars and adverse circumstances.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes

Tom Tottis Why did I love this book?

A superior teller of yarns, his stories are beautifully written and the plots, details, along with conclusions, are fascinating. Reading his stories, e.g. The Hounds of Baskerville, The Firm of Girdlestone, or any of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, I find myself in another time, in another world. At times I needed that badly.

By Arthur Conan Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes contains Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's final twelve stories about his great fictional detective. Featuring crypts at midnight, strange bones in a furnace and a blood-sucking vampire, these tales explore the darker side of human nature and involve betrayal, violence and the terrible consequences of infidelity.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition features an afterword by David Stuart Davies - a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund…

Book cover of The Stars Look Down

Tom Tottis Why did I love this book?

The book describes various injustices in a coal mining community and gives an excellent description of working-class life of the time in the North of England.

The story portrays the different careers or paths of individuals against the odds: a miner's son who tries to defend his people from political pressure, a miner who turns into a businessman, and the mine owner's son in a clash with his overbearing father. Having had similar experiences in my own life, the story had jogged my memory.

By A.J. Cronin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Stars Look Down was A.J. Cronin's fourth novel, published in 1935, and this tale of a North country mining family was a great favourite with his readers.

Robert Fenwick is a miner, and so are his three sons. His wife is proud that all her four men go down the mines. But David, the youngest, is determined that somehow he will educate himself and work to ameliorate the lives of his comrades who ruin their health to dig the nation's coal. It is, perhaps, a typical tale of the era in which it was written - there were many…

Book cover of David Copperfield

Tom Tottis Why did I love this book?

The book is about David Copperfield’s life from childhood to adulthood. 

The story paints a bleak picture of childhood in Victorian England, and of young Copperfield slowly improving his chances and circumstances, continuing his studies while he is struggling to provide for his aunt. Once again, having had similar experiences in my own life, it had struck a chord.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked David Copperfield as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major film directed by Armando Iannucci, starring Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw

'The greatest achievement of the greatest of all novelists' Leo Tolstoy

In David Copperfield - the novel he described as his 'favourite child' - Dickens drew on his own experiences to create one of his most moving and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. It is the story of a young man's adventures on his journey from an unhappy childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of…

Book cover of The Odessa File

Tom Tottis Why did I love this book?

Searching for a story, a young German crime reporter stumbles on a case of suicide by a Holocaust survivor.

Having read the dead man’s diary, he starts investigating the allegations it contained. What he comes across shocks him and propels him into the dangerous territory of covert Nazi activities. From then on he finds not only his own, but also his girlfriend’s life being threatened. 

Fascism and the Nazis played a great part in my formative years and I had not only witnessed, but actually suffered their ruthlessness. 

By Frederick Forsyth,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Odessa File as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The  suicide of an elderly German Jew explodes into  revelation after revelation: of a Mafia-like  organization called Odessa ...of a real-life fugitive known as the  "Butcher of Riga"..of a young German journalist  tumed obsessed avenger.......and, ultimately, of brilliant, ruthless plot  to reestablish the worldwide power of SS mass  murderers and to carry out Hitler's chilling  "Final Solution."

Book cover of The Notebook

Tom Tottis Why did I love this book?

It is a novel about an elderly man reading a romantic story to a woman in a nursing home. 

Actually, the man is reading to his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and does no longer know who he is. He is also seriously ill, battling cancer, suffering from heart disease and kidney failure. He knows he is dying, but his wife, not even recognising him, is unaware of it. Yet he carries on reading the book to entertain her.

A heartbreaking story of true love.

Although in my case it was totally different from Alzheimer’s, I had experienced the never-ending, painful difficulties, with a disturbed loved one.

By Nicholas Sparks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrating 25 years of The Notebook - the classic novel which became the heart-wrenching film.


Once again, just as I do every day, I begin to read the notebook aloud...

Noah Calhoun has returned from war and, in an attempt to escape the ghosts of battle, he sets his mind and his body to restoring an old plantation home to its former beauty.

But he is haunted by memories of the beautiful girl he met there years before. A girl who stole his heart at the funfair, whose parents didn't approve, a girl he wrote to every day for…

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The Forest Knights

By J. K. Swift,

Book cover of The Forest Knights

J. K. Swift Author Of Acre

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I love a good fight scene! It doesn’t need to be long and gruesome, but it must be visceral and make me nervous for those involved. Don’t get me wrong, I also love a good first-kiss scene but unfortunately, my past has made me more adept at recognizing and writing one over the other. I started training in martial arts at the age of nine and continued for thirty years. I don’t train much these days but I took up bowmaking a few years back and now spend a lot of time carving English longbows and First Nations’ bows. I recently also took up Chinese archery.

J. K.'s book list on with realistic fight scenes

What is my book about?

The greatest underdog story of the medieval age.

A wild land too mountainous to be tamed by plows. A duke of the empire, his cunning overshadowed only by his ambitions. A young priestess of the Old Religion, together with a charismatic outlaw, sparking a rebellion from deep within the forests. And an ex-Hospitaller caught between them all.

The Forest Knights

By J. K. Swift,

What is this book about?

A druid priestess enlists the help of an ex-Hospitaller warrior and a charismatic outlaw to fight Austrian tyranny in medieval Switzerland. A subtle blend of fantasy and history, ALTDORF (Book 1) tells the events leading up to one of the greatest underdog stories of the medieval age, the Battle of MORGARTEN (Book 2).

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Interested in investigative journalism, romantic love, and coal mining?

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