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Best Books: Autobiography/History – Primo Levi

Three of the books I read last year were by Primo Levi, and I found each one more engrossing than the next.

The first, Survival In Auschwitz, is his most famous. He provides some of the most moving, poetic perspectives of the Holocaust, written not as a chronology, but slices of life there. I’d probably have found it even more stirring had I not read Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning shortly before.

Next came The Reawakening, describing Levi’s long journey home to Italy after Auschwitz was liberated, focusing on the characters he met along the way. It’s an easier read since it’s a tale more of a journey than of raw survival.

Lastly, there’s The Periodic Table, the most inventive of his works, covers his life dating before and after the Holocaust, relating each chapter to a chemical element. Here, he not only draws on all his gifts as a journalist of his own life but also pushes the bounds of the autobiography genre.

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