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I took a mini break from book reviews, and now I’m back! This month I finished two nonfiction books (though I read bits and pieces of some others.) The only thing these two books have in common is their overarching genre. I bet that you’d enjoy at least one of them, just because they are opposites. So, do you like comfort and blissful surroundings, or murder and mayhem? I’ve got both.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

James L. Swanson’s Manhunt is a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you’ve never read it before.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer taught me a lot. I had no idea that several other assassinations were planned that night, and that John W. Booth had assembled a small band of conspirators to join him. There were lots more surprises in this book for me, but to be fair, I hadn’t ever really educated myself on the subject. If you’re interested in what happened leading up to and especially following Lincoln’s assassination, this is the book for you. I still can’t believe the way Booth managed to escape capture for so long!

Here’s a quote about Lincoln’s appearance at the theater that night and the crowd’s response to seeing him.

At the supreme moment of victory they cheered their Father Abraham, the man who, after a shaky start in office, learned how to command armies, grew in vision and eloquence, brought down slavery, and who, just six weeks ago, had given the most graceful and emotionally stunning inaugural address in the history of the American presidency. And as he promised he would, he had saved the Union. Lincoln stood in the box and bowed to the audience.

Manhunt was well written and very well researched. It reads like a narrative, and I loved that. On the negative side, there were a few small typos in the book, like an unfinished sentence and a missing period. If you’re a fan of things like…grammar and editing, that might throw you off. I think it could have been edited just a bit better. Overall, this one gets a solid three stars from me, but I’m picky. Most people are rating it with five stars on Amazon. It was fascinating and it’s a great read!

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living

Embrace Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and become happier with this definitive guide to the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being.

Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge. Loosely translated, Hygge—pronounced Hoo-ga—is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience,” Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.”

This is the perfect introduction to the concept of Hygge. After reading The Little Book of Hygge, I really feel I have a firm grasp on the topic, especially how it’s is so much more it than coffee, candles, and woolen socks. (By the way, that list basically sums up my favorite things.) I’ve decided that I’m kind of the embodiment of Hygge.

“Hygge is about giving your responsible, stressed-out achiever adult a break. Relax. Just for a little while. It is about experiencing happiness in simple pleasures and knowing that everything is going to be okay.”

I was especially intrigued by how meaningful Hygge is in Danish culture. I kept reading some of the statistics and information out loud to my husband over breakfast.

“What might also be unique for Denmark when it comes to hygge is how much we talk about it, focus on it, and consider it as a defining feature of our cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA. In other words, what freedom is to Americans, thoroughness to Germans, and the stiff upper lip to the British, hygge is to Danes.”

I think The Little Book of Hygge provides the perfect foundation to understanding the Hygge movement, and I enjoyed it a lot. However, I think if I ever read another book about Hygge, it will probably be one that feels more personal and engaging. (Specifically, I have my eye on Stephanie’s The Simple Guide to Living Hygge.)

That wraps it up for me! What did you read in January? What should I read next?


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