A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

The inspiring true story of an indomitable librarian’s journey from Nazi Germany to Seattle to Vietnam—all for the love of books.Growing up under Fascist censorship in Nazi Germany, Ruth Rappaport absorbed a forbidden community of ideas in banned books. After fleeing her home in Leipzig at fifteen and losing both parents to the Holocaust, Ruth drifted between vocations, re...

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Title:A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport
Author:Kate Stewart
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport Reviews

  • Sarah

    This book was a freebie through the Amazon First Reads program; I picked it from among the month's selections because although I had not previously heard of Ruth Rappaport, she sounded from the description like the type of woman I've come to admire, and I wasn't far off. Rappaport had a truly unusual life, escaping Nazi Germany as a young girl and spending time in places as varied as Israel; Vietnam; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Through her entire life ran a common theme: books.

    At first, I was

    This book was a freebie through the Amazon First Reads program; I picked it from among the month's selections because although I had not previously heard of Ruth Rappaport, she sounded from the description like the type of woman I've come to admire, and I wasn't far off. Rappaport had a truly unusual life, escaping Nazi Germany as a young girl and spending time in places as varied as Israel; Vietnam; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Through her entire life ran a common theme: books.

    At first, I was a little put off by the author's insertions of her own life and experiences throughout the book, but I soon realized that in doing so, she was doing what many readers do when they read a good story: It was her way of making connections with the narrative. In examining the things she had in common with Rappaport and her reactions to what she had learned about her subject, she was doing what many educators do to make reading strategies explicit to younger readers -- making connections to one's life and experiences and to other books and to think about how what we are reading has context in the bigger world around us.

    Some might argue that a woman like Ruth Rappaport didn't do anything extraordinary to merit a biography being written about her. Though she did some unusual things and in many ways was a woman ahead of her time, her main contributions to the world were in the field of librarianship/library science and are largely unknown to those outside it. Still, there is value about learning about everyday people, particularly women, and this is an interesting glimpse into a fascinating woman. Stewart does not sugar-coat Rappaport in the telling of her life; a reader of this biography learns just as much about Rappaport's personal and professional failings as about her successes. She was a fascinating if flawed woman, and I am glad to have learned about her.

  • Kirk

    Perhaps a 3.5 star rating would be about where I land after reading. Stewart's book gave me much to chew on, and I am fascinated by Ruth Rappaport, a sociologist and librarian whose life intersected directly with Nazi Germany, the creation of the new state of Israel, the Red Scare, and the Vietnam War. Her Jewish, feminist, and Communist ties certainly added spice to an already intriguing narrative. I came away thinking it would have been fascinating to have a conversation with Miss Rappaport, k

    Perhaps a 3.5 star rating would be about where I land after reading. Stewart's book gave me much to chew on, and I am fascinated by Ruth Rappaport, a sociologist and librarian whose life intersected directly with Nazi Germany, the creation of the new state of Israel, the Red Scare, and the Vietnam War. Her Jewish, feminist, and Communist ties certainly added spice to an already intriguing narrative. I came away thinking it would have been fascinating to have a conversation with Miss Rappaport, knowing full well we would have disagreed on a wide range of topics.

    As for the author, she should receive praise for a well researched and meticulously cited book. Thank goodness a librarian tackled the life of Ruth Rappaport rather than a journalist. At times, Stewart's personal quest to follow Rappaport's life was emotionally touching, and I also appreciated her critiques and analysis of Rappaport's later memories. However, Stewart's habit of finishing chapters with her own stories of her journey through Ruth Rappaport's life was sometimes disruptive to the narrative, even if it was greatly touching at times. Rappaport's life was sometimes lost in a sea of context, particularly in the latter half of the book, and it seemed that the analysis was less thorough when covering Rappaport's Communist ties and connections to a CIA money laundering racket while in Vietnam. I wondered if maybe this was due to Stewart's clear emotional attachment to and admiration for this fascinating woman.

    When it was said and done, I'm thankful for Amazon Prime's first reads program that made this book available, otherwise, I may have completely overlooked it.

  • Nina

    Ruth Rappaport was not famous, but in Forest-Gumpish fashion she was around historical events. A Jew born in Germany, she was able to get to the US as a teenager, while her parents died in concentration camps. She lived in what became Israel during its formation. She didn't become a Librarian until her mid-thirties, but was a major force in expanding the military library system in Viet Nam during the war. Having spent eight years in 'Nam, she was there longer than most soldiers. Afterwards, she

    Ruth Rappaport was not famous, but in Forest-Gumpish fashion she was around historical events. A Jew born in Germany, she was able to get to the US as a teenager, while her parents died in concentration camps. She lived in what became Israel during its formation. She didn't become a Librarian until her mid-thirties, but was a major force in expanding the military library system in Viet Nam during the war. Having spent eight years in 'Nam, she was there longer than most soldiers. Afterwards, she got a job at the Library of Congress. Interesting as her personal story was, I didn't particularly like her. Seems people either loved her or disliked her. Her early years were only moderately interesting, perhaps because the book was a bit dry for that part of her life, but I really enjoyed the chapters where she was in Viet Nam. I had no idea the military employed so many librarians and administered such an extensive network. I was also interested in her experiences at the Library of Congress because it was incredibly discriminatory against minorities and women, which you just wouldn't expect from an institution that houses so many books on civil rights! The LC still has problems in that regard, according to the author, who works there. The writing was mediocre, but parts of it were quite illuminating.

  • Donna Hines

    There is much to be said about a Well Read Woman and Ruth certainly fulfilled that mode of thinking.

    Librarians are the backbone to the heart of any community. They provide services you simply couldn't duplicate anywhere else. They are the lifeline to many who without their services wouldn't be able to fulfill their dreams of a better life, a more educated, well rounded world.

    This is the story of Ruth Rappaport during some extremely difficult times in trying to keep the love of reading and books

    There is much to be said about a Well Read Woman and Ruth certainly fulfilled that mode of thinking.

    Librarians are the backbone to the heart of any community. They provide services you simply couldn't duplicate anywhere else. They are the lifeline to many who without their services wouldn't be able to fulfill their dreams of a better life, a more educated, well rounded world.

    This is the story of Ruth Rappaport during some extremely difficult times in trying to keep the love of reading and books alive.

    During her time in Nazi controlled Germany books were forbidden and only certain forms of propaganda were allowed to the citizens.

    Upon graduating from college she fulfilled her dream of working as a librarian becoming an activist for the Zionist movement.

    I've often noted having served others in my community over the past 20 yrs that 'work' is not just what brings home a paycheck (if you're lucky to get paid) work is a passion, a calling, a right to serve others in providing a lasting legacy well beyond her years.

    A nice read albeit a bit fluffy but with some trimming would be must smoother transitioning between the life of Ruth, the history of the times, the parallel universe of book lovers everywhere.

    Thank you to Kate, the publisher, NetGalley, and Amazon Kindle for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  • Moonkiszt

    A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

    This was a book by a person who poured every possible detail about the subject between the covers. I actually got rather weary, and mixed up at times, having to back track to make sure I was on the same train as the author was. From time to time I thought I was re-reading the same chapter, but no, it really was a completely different chapter, just using a lot of the same information.

    Ruth, herself, was interesting to read about – not

    A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

    This was a book by a person who poured every possible detail about the subject between the covers. I actually got rather weary, and mixed up at times, having to back track to make sure I was on the same train as the author was. From time to time I thought I was re-reading the same chapter, but no, it really was a completely different chapter, just using a lot of the same information.

    Ruth, herself, was interesting to read about – not sure I would have liked her in real life, or that she would have given me a moment of her time – we are well outside each other’s usual ranges of wanderage and experience. While she was enabled by family and friends to escape the Nazi catastrophe, her parents weren’t, and she hears about it in a foreign land – that broke my heart. Her many loves seemed random and last-minute, and then *boom* an entire career during the Vietnam war.

    Then done with that, and a slide into American retired librarian life. And Ms K Stewart writing this book. I wished Ruth had written a book – I think she had a lot of them in her and was just living the life she did to distract herself from the books she might have written.

    The end just kinda fizzled out for me.

    I’m glad I read it, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been very interested in me or my world. I do not know why she wasn’t more interested in hers. I may have just gotten lost in the tall weeds.

    3 stars.

  • Jamie

    I enjoyed reading this book because it was about a librarian and a women. I'd never heard of Ruth before and her career was fascinating to me. A lot of parts I skimmed over because I just wanted to read about her. Honestly, this is a book I'd like to own- as opposed to borrowing it from the library. I would like to think of myself as a Well-Read Woman also.

  • Jennifer Burla

    I loved the parts of this book that were actually about Ruth Rappaport. She was such an authentic person, who was honest about her weaknesses and mistakes, all the things that make us human. She wasn’t portrayed as a super-woman, so it was easy to relate to her amazing story. I had a really hard time getting through the material that seemed to have more to do with the history of libraries than the story of Ruth. Sometimes I just couldn’t make the conne

    I loved the parts of this book that were actually about Ruth Rappaport. She was such an authentic person, who was honest about her weaknesses and mistakes, all the things that make us human. She wasn’t portrayed as a super-woman, so it was easy to relate to her amazing story. I had a really hard time getting through the material that seemed to have more to do with the history of libraries than the story of Ruth. Sometimes I just couldn’t make the connections. I ended up doing a lot of skimming through that material and tried to focus on the parts that were more biographical.

  • Kathy Selvaggio

    oo many facts lined up, no heart.

  • Siria

    A mid-ranking staffer at the Library of Congress would not ordinarily be the subject of a biography, but Ruth Rappaport led an eventful life: as a teenager, Ruth fled Nazi Germany and eventually found asylum in the United States. She then worked as a newspaper editor in Seattle before an ill-fated stint as a photographer in a newly independent Israel, qualified as a librarian and spent several years organising the U.S. military's libraries in Vietnam, before returning to the States and working a

    A mid-ranking staffer at the Library of Congress would not ordinarily be the subject of a biography, but Ruth Rappaport led an eventful life: as a teenager, Ruth fled Nazi Germany and eventually found asylum in the United States. She then worked as a newspaper editor in Seattle before an ill-fated stint as a photographer in a newly independent Israel, qualified as a librarian and spent several years organising the U.S. military's libraries in Vietnam, before returning to the States and working as a librarian and cataloguer at the Library of Congress. While never famous, Rappaport was therefore an eye-witness to some fascinating historical events.

    Kate Stewart has all the ingredients here for a fascinating biography, but

    never quite takes off as a book. I think it's because Stewart falls prey to that flaw which so often afflicts researchers who've spent a long time immersed with the object of their study: why it's important seems so very obvious to

    that they forget to explain that importance to the reader. The result is a rather limp book lacking in a sense of tension or stakes. A pity, because one gets the distinct impression that Ruth Rappaport was not the kind of woman who ever wanted her worth to be overlooked.

  • Chris Wolak

    I completely judged this book by its title and cover. In a good way. Who could resist the title A Well-Read Woman and the picture of this sassy, knowing woman on the cover? Not me.

    Ruth Rappaport lived through and participated in many of the major events and movements of the twentieth century. She served as a librarian in a war zone and at the Library of Congress. I proposed this biography to my IRL book club, which is composed primarily of librarians, and can’t wait for our discussion later this

    I completely judged this book by its title and cover. In a good way. Who could resist the title A Well-Read Woman and the picture of this sassy, knowing woman on the cover? Not me.

    Ruth Rappaport lived through and participated in many of the major events and movements of the twentieth century. She served as a librarian in a war zone and at the Library of Congress. I proposed this biography to my IRL book club, which is composed primarily of librarians, and can’t wait for our discussion later this month.

    Author Kate Stewart is a third-generation librarian. This is her first book and I think she served her subject well by writing about Rappaport in a rather understated way. Stewart, for the most part, lets Rappaport’s actions and missions speak for themselves. Had I written this biography it would have been filled with the literary equivalents of OMGs!

    Continue reading my review on my blog --

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