Want a little horror to end your summer? Try Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 and its 750,000 dead. At least you know it’s going to be brutal before you even start. The book tells the story in a remarkably lively manner (lively is a bad word here, can’t think of another), relying on private diaries and correspondence to illuminate the sufferings of the besieged inhabitants, starved by their own government’s incompetent as much as the Nazi’s implacable war strategy.
Perhaps because of the positions of the individuals who kept diaries and whose diaries survived, there are as many stories about saving artwork and architecture as there are about saving people, which seems a little uncaring, but the author manages to tell many personal stories of struggle and, occasionally, amazing altruism in the midst of chaos.