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Billiken Bookmarks: Books to Begin the New Year

Kieran O'Conor, Ph.D.
Kieran O'Conor, Ph.D.

As the semester winds down and days grow colder, Saint Louis University's published authors have recommendations for great books to begin your New Year. In this occasional mini-series, SLU authors share their favorite reads for a winter's day with their fellow staff, faculty and student colleagues.

In this edition, Newslink reached out to visiting archaeologist, Kieran O'Conor, Ph.D., recommends revisiting a key moment in World War II in his selected winter read, an event with a very personal connection.




Dunkirk by Joshua Levine (London: HarperCollins)

About the book

The book is about the fighting retreat of the British Army to Dunkirk and its subsequent evacuation by the Royal Navy to southern England. At one level, it is an extraordinary tale of the heroism of individual soldiers, sailors and airman and their units fighting against what was a very well organized and mechanized foe - the Wehrmacht. At another level, one thanks God for the organizational skill of the Royal Navy in evacuating these soldiers so that they lived to fight another day against Fascism and pure evil.

The evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940 was a very important event as it saved the Regular British Army from destruction. The successful return of over 300,000 troops to Britain provided the nucleus around which a combined Allied force went on to defeat Hitler and fascism in 1944/45. 

Reasons to read

Effectively, democracy and the freedoms that we now enjoy in the Western World are at least partly due to this event, which took place over a nine-day period. At a personal level, I enjoyed reading the book as my father, as a young infantry officer, and various of his cousins, fought in the retreat to Dunkirk.

The book is extremely well written, structured and researched but is also easy to read. These are things that I would like to achieve in my own writing. As one reads through Dunkirk, one gradually realizes that the writer, Joshua Levine, is of the Jewish faith. As a result, in particular, Levine fully understands the evils of Nazism and what terrible things it did to European society during the Second World War and thus he really comprehends the importance of what happened at Dunkirk even for people and society today. 

The SLU Connection

Many Americans , including SLU students, have never heard of Dunkirk and so do not realize its importance for the continuation of democracy.

SLU Author Bio
Kieran O'Conor lectures in medieval archaeology at the National University of Ireland Galway and is currently the Archaeological Institute of America's Kress Lecturer. His base, whilst in America, is at Saint Louis University. He has published widely on the subjects of castles, medieval rural settlement and the medieval landscape.  O'Conor has written or edited about eight books/ booklets and about 60 articles.

'Billiken Bookmarks' is a mini-feature series that will appear with new reading recommendations from Saint Louis University authors and bibliophiles in the lead-up to the University's winter break. Recommendations for "Books to Begin the New Year" can be sent to Newslink until Dec. 20.