Speaking Volumes
3:36 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Katie Bates recommends Anne Applebaum and Tom Vanderbilt

As a civil engineer, and as a reader of fiction, Katie Bates is interested in "why people act the way they do."

Katie Bates recommends books on Soviet history, transportation infrastructure and belles behaving badly.
Katie Bates recommends books on Soviet history, transportation infrastructure and belles behaving badly.
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

Anne Applebaum, The Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union, to its surprise and delight, found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In "Iron Curtain," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. She draws on newly opened East European archives, interviews and personal accounts translated for the first time to portray in devastating detail the dilemmas faced by millions of individuals trying to adjust to a way of life that challenged their every belief and took away everything they had accumulated. Today the Soviet Bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality and strange aesthetics Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of "Iron Curtain."
-Random House

 Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do In this brilliant, lively and eye-opening investigation, Tom Vanderbilt examines the perceptual limits and cognitive underpinnings that make us worse drivers than we think we are. He demonstrates why plans to protect pedestrians from cars often lead to more accidents. He uncovers who is more likely to honk at whom, and why. He explains why traffic jams form, outlines the unintended consequences of our quest for safety and even identifies the most common mistake drivers make in parking lots. Traffic is about more than driving: It's about human nature. It will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us, and it may even make us better drivers.-Random House Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as "Gone With the Wind" does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives. In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet. -Simon & Schuster