Some folks seek adventure climbing mountains; others go on safaris. The authors chose a slightly different path: travel to as many Costco warehouses around the world as they could manage, which amounted to more than 200 of the company’s some 850 current outlets. (Between 20 and 25 new warehouses open every year, so do not be surprised if there is a sequel!)
How a couple who live in a 450-square-foot apartment came to love the Costco experience is only the starting point of this book, which is an exuberant and witty history and guide to a retail experience like no other. (Take that, Sam’s Club!) Did you know that Bumble Bee is the actual producer of the canned albacore tuna that the store sells under its Kirkland Signature brand? Or that you can get free hearing tests at Costco? Or that no rotisserie chicken stays on sale after two hours from the spit? Or that it can pay to visit one of Costo’s 24 Business Centers in the United States, which cater to small businesses but are open to all members, and where you can pick up a five-gallon bucket of pickles as opposed to the measly 64-ounce jars in a regular Costco? And who knew that the Costcos in Canada sell Montreal-style bagels—smaller, with larger holes, and baked in a wood-fired oven?
You do not need to be a Costco cardholder (and there are over 124 million) to buy and enjoy this handsome book. True, it does not come with free samples—a staple of Costco stores—but, on the other hand, no lines!
Telling the history of Rome over nearly 2,000 years through the deeds (and misdeeds) of the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church is more than just a beautiful conceit. Jessica Wärnberg has written a deeply informative book that never fails to entertain, unearthing facts that make The Da Vinci Code read like children’s lit.
Rome would not be the international city it is today without its Holy Fathers, since it is their presence that drew so many non-Italians there, especially if the Pope came from outside Italy and attracted his countrymen to join him. Even Benito Mussolini, who early in his career suggested the Pope pack his bags and depart Rome, bent to the holy will and gave the Pontiff sovereignty over Vatican City as an independent state.
Those of us of a certain age remember exactly where we were when the Berlin Wall fell, on November 9, 1989, as sure a signal as any that the Cold War had ended. Only a few diehards lamented the end of East Germany, and so much of what has been written since then is about the re-unification of Germany, a feat that reached an apex with the 2005 election of Angela Merkel, who had been raised in the German Democratic Republic, as East Germany was called.
What Katja Hoyer has done so eloquently and persuasively is to write the history of the G.D.R. in the time before the Wall fell. An East German native herself, Hoyer explores what life was like in the “other Germany,” with its own political, social, and cultural history, which played out under oppression and daily cruelties. She astutely observes that any nostalgia today for the G.D.R. is largely based on a myth with no basis in fact, but that the process of incorporating those decades into a unified Germany is ongoing.