Corrie ten Boom lived with her father and sister in Holland during the German occupation of World War II.
The ten Boom family took their Christian faith seriously. They believed the Jews were God’s chosen people and risked their lives to protect them.
They continued to trust God in spite of horrific circumstances and they saw His hand at work.
The account of Corrie ten Boom and her family hiding Jews in their home inspires us to be courageous and faithful.
When we look for more books like The Hiding Place there’s several elements that are compelling.
There’s the drama of World War II on the world stage, there’s the heroic decisions that the ten Booms made and there’s the inspiration we draw from the way Corrie and her family chose to live their lives.
My top six picks include:
- We Were the Lucky Ones
- Man’s Search for Meaning
- Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
- This Beautiful Truth
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Ordinary Heroes of WWII
The advent of World War II and the fight against evil globally gave rise to heroes that still inspire us. As the generation that faced those horrors have almost completely left the planet, their courage, ingenuity and perseverance remain to inspire us to face the giants in our place in history.
Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A Jewish teenager hides with her family and family friends during the German occupation of the Netherlands. She starts journaling as a record of her life and thoughts during the two years of their self-imposed captivity.
She has an incredible ability to articulate her inner life as well as tell the story of the unusual circumstances they are living. Clinging to hope, fighting off boredom and despair, the usual conflicts and alliances that exist between family and friends.
Another fascinating look at how people react to adverse circumstances. Not just an academic study, though, because Anne is such a human relatable heroine.
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
“Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive—and to reunite—We Were the Lucky Ones is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds.” —Amazon
The Kurcs were from Radom, Poland, but in the course of the war, three generations are spread throughout Europe and beyond, fleeing the German regime.
I am in awe of this story. It is a light in a dark time and highlights the triumph of love, family and the will to survive.
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy
Thousands of women worked on breaking codes during WWII. The government began by recruiting and training at women’s colleges, sending secret letters to students in the fall of their senior year.
Then they started recruiting teachers.
The work took special skills, and they didn’t always know what they were.
Intercepting and understanding enemy communication proved to be the critical strategy for the allies to win the war.
Thousands of American women working secretly to break enemy codes turned the tide.
This is the untold story of those women.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Germany. As a psychiartrist, he analyzed the fellow prisoners, the ones who had given up hope and died and the ones who had the will to live.
He concluded that everyone needs to find their own reason for being on the planet: their life’s work.
Focusing his thoughts on finishing his book and seeing his wife again sustained him during the horrific experience of the concentration camp.
True Survival Stories
What does it take to be a survivor? Courage? Faith? A strong sense of purpose? Fate, destiny, Providence?
Certainly, the puzzle pieces of sovereignty come into play. But, an even more curious study is the decisions we make, the attitudes we adopt and the beliefs we cling to while facing adversity.
Through the miracle of story we can borrow the courage of survivors and spend it in the midst of our own adversities.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner and World War II soldier.
Louis Zamperini was a fast runner, but running was only the beginning.
The perseverance and resilience Zamperini displayed in the face the multiple titanic challenges is an inspiration.
Knowing his background and family intensifies the story.
The final resolution is satisfying and heart warming.
Aside from the story, the writing is a work of art.
Endurance by Alfred Lansing
Earnest Shackleton was the captain of a ship headed for an exploratory trip to the South Pole. The mission didn’t go as planned and the ship was trapped in ice.
Shackleton had some tough decisions to make as a leader of his crew. Lives were at stake. Survival became the new mission.
I loved this real life study of leadership and teamwork as was fascinated to watch it play out.
In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
Tracing the journey of the the captain and crew of the the whaling ship, Essex, the author employs extensive research of the mostly Quaker community on Nantucket, to whaling in the 1700s and background on the 20 men aboard the Essex.
Interesting from a leadership and psychological standpoint, it chronicles the different choices man makes in his most desperate hours
The journey was supposed to take 2 to 3 years, so the community wasn’t alarmed but they didn’t know the turn of events that faced the captain during his first command and a partially green crew.
The writing style moved the story along even while providing informative comparisons to others in similar situations. Another interesting tie in was the influence this journey had on Herman Melville as an inspiration to write Moby Dick.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
In 1996, eight mountain climbers lost their lives while attempting to summit Everest. Jon Krakauer is a journalist and climber who survived and wrote about it.
To me, one of the most interesting dynamics is the role of leadership and teamwork in summiting as well as personal, individual responsibility.
One of the critical factors in the deaths of those on the mountain in 1996 was the enforcement of the turn around time.
Hall, the team leader, had been so strict about that for other teams, but with this one, he wasn’t. He didn’t communicate clearly whether the turn around time was one o clock or two clock. On the actual summit day, people were summiting at 4 and 5 o clock.
No one seemed to know that there was a storm blowing in.
There’s a lot of competing forces at play: people who spent a lot of money to summit, the commercialization of summiting, magazines that would pay a lot for the story, advertisers looking for heroes.
There’s also different teams that were summiting and the different philosophies of the team leaders.
Should a leader be making decisions that are unquestioned? Does that actually put his team at greater risk because they don’t follow their own wisdom? Actually, the genius of Hall’s leadership was to make the decisions ahead of time, not in the heat of the moment. And the actual breakdown came in not following through with those wise decisions.
The safety net wasn’t there when it needed to be.
The bottom line is, it impossible to erase all the risk. That’s one factor that makes the challenge so attractive: there is an element of risk involved. Defying death is part of the victory.
Inspiring Life Stories
I read that a mark of a great work is a likable and reliable narrator. When you write your own story, you are the narrator as well as the main character.
It’s rare and valuable to examine your own life with objectivity. Few people see themselves clearly.
A truly authentic and transparent accounting of a life story demonstrates incredible bravery.
Although the circumstances of their lives might be unusual, the ability to articulate them with honesty is the true rarity.
This Beautiful Truth Sarah Clarkson
I was first drawn to This Beautiful Truth by curiosity to read an insider’s look at OCD. I knew Sarah would write beautifully and articulately and she did. Not only with beauty, but with transparency and insight.
I did come to a better understanding of OCD. I’m still curious about root causes. Maybe that’s a mystery we’ll never solve.
The most poignant reflection was her thoughts that she was too broken to ever be a wife and mother. I think everyone can relate to that.
We understand ourselves better by getting to know people who know themselves well. Sarah opens the door.
Educated by Tara Westover
I found myself thinking about this book long after I finished it.
“Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.”– from Amazon
How do you earn a doctorate if you haven’t attended school before age 17?
This question drives the book, but there’s so much more: mental illness, brainwashing, belief systems accepted and rejected, family dynamics, isolationism and, mostly, confronting your history honestly without bitterness.
There’s a few heroes I love in this narrative, in addition to Tara herself who confronts her own story with transparency and courage. She dares to travel the road not taken.
Since I’ve read it, it continues to intrigue, fascinate and haunt me (in a good way).
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Blue Like Jazz is reminiscent of an Anne Lamott memoir. They’re both off the charts in honesty, transparency and authenticity. We identify with those inner insecurities that we can’t even admit to ourselves, much less to others, committing them to black and white and hurling them to the world.
I’ve read Donald Miller’s memoir several times. I have also read Scary Close, which is somewhat of a sequel, but it doesn’t have the same punch as Blue Like Jazz. Growing up fatherless is an underlying theme of Blue Like Jazz. By the time Scary Close was written, Miller has resolved many of his emotional issues and experienced a lot of healing. So, it’s not driven by the same pain.
I believe writing in itself is therapeutic. As is sharing your story. I heard Miller recently talk about the desire people have to be heard and seen and known. He’s been there, done that and now has no more need to be seen and heard and known. He’s heading a successful company now called StoryBrand that helps businesses tell their story.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
In 2017 I wrote 55 book reviews for my blog. The best book I read that year was Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. I heard him speak at my daughter’s graduation from Biola University in December of 2016. At that time he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, which took his life in September of 2017.
If you don’t know much about him, here’s an overview of Nabeel’s life and impact.
I loved the account of the raw, treacherous journey that Nabeel Qureshi took to find faith in Jesus. The sacrifices he made, the intellectual, emotional and relational barriers that kept him from finding faith in Jesus and the story of overcoming those barriers.
Statistics are one thing. One person’s story is something else altogether. What difference can one person’s story make?
Why do we need to know Nabeel’s story? There are millions of devout Muslims on the planet. If we understand Nabeel’s story, we come closer to understanding the Muslim mindset.
Understanding opens the door to greater compassion. We share the same humanity. Our desires and dreams are common to the human experience.
If you’re interested in more compelling biographies or Christian apologetics, read my post Books Like Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.