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  • Ross Johnson 8:00 pm on 2018/10/01 Permalink
    Tags: , bnstorefront-history,   

    October’s Best Biographies and Memoirs 

    The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created, by Jane Leavy
    Everyone knows his name, but the specifics of the life and legacy of the 20th century’s biggest baseball star have begun to fade. This new biography comes just in time: Ruth almost singlehandedly invented celebrity culture, particularly with regard to athletes, and it’s impossible to understand much of our modern world without considering Ruth, and the very large life he lead. As a means of capturing the excitement and appeal that surrounded the complex figure, Leavy centers her book around the three-week barnstorming victory tour that Ruth undertook with Lou Gehrig in 1927.

    The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: American Icon, by Antonia Felix with Mimi Leder
    Our unlikeliest pop culture icon, Supreme Court Justice RBG’s face adorns T-shirts, coffee mugs, and even action figures. In celebration of her quarter-century on the Court, as well as of a forthcoming biopic, this pictorial overview covers the entirety of her life and career, from her youth, to her education, to her continuing judicial legacy. In addition to the pictures and illustrations, the book includes quotes, excerpts of speeches and opinions, and commentary.

    This Will Only Hurt a Little, by Busy Philipps
    Actress and Instagram star Phillips shares the deeply candid story of her life and career in a book that’s both deeply funny and straight-talking in its assessment of the challenges of making it in a sexist system (she recounts instances of on-set bullying and body shaming). As she does in her acting and in her social media, Phillips holds back nothing on the page, neither triumphs or stumbles.

    All the Way: Football, Fame, and Redemption, by Joe Namath with Don Yaeger
    Fifty years after Namath lead the New York Jets to a Super Bowl victory against the Baltimore Colts, the icon tells the story of his journey from small-town Pennsylvania kid to sports legend. Across half a century, Namath spent time at the height of celebrity, but also dealt with debilitating injuries that saw him addicted to painkillers and alcohol. Here, he reveals that the charmed life he appeared to lead masked real challenges.

    Reagan: An American Journey, by Bob Spitz
    One of the most fascinating people to have ever sat in the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan has remained an elusive figure, notoriously challenging biographers who have struggled to separate the human from the actor. Bob Spitz promises a post-partisan look at the beloved but divisive president, covering the entire scope of his life with information gathered from hundreds of interviews as well as newly available documents. He covers not just the success in politics, but also the impoverished and bookish upbringing that somehow paved the way for a career in Hollywood and beyond. Fully reckoning with Reagan’s strengths and weaknesses, Spitz’s book represents our most complete picture to date of a complicated figure.

    Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography, by Eric Idle
    Next year marks a half-century since Monty Python first appeared on television, and this new autobiography from one of the leading lights of the surrealist comedy troupe seems a fitting way to kick off the celebration. In the ’60s, Eric Idle was at the forefront of Britain’s cultural revolution, rubbing shoulders with the Beatles and Bowie, before becoming a mainstream star through work on films like Life of Brian and, more recently, Broadway’s musical sensation Spamalot. It’s a fascinating and funny look behind the scenes of a fascinating life.

    Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon
    Essayist, novelist, and English professor Laymon describes his long road from a hard-headed, troubled youth in Mississippi, to world-class educator. It’s the story of his own life—and struggles with abuse, sexual violence, obesity, gambling, and anorexia—but it’s also about the nation writ large, and about the black experience in a country desperately determined to avoid reckoning with its past.

    Grant, by Ron Chernow
    Our view of Ulysses S. Grant is frequently framed around a well-meaning presidency marred by scandals that occurred on his watch but outside his view. He’s frequently characterized as either a failed businessman who chanced into the top job in the Union army, or as a brutal general. Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Chernow, one of our most important popular historians, paints a fuller picture of Grant’s life, with ups and downs that make for great drama. His efforts to destroy the KKK and advocate for equal justice are among the many elements that make his story important even today.

    Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
    Writing biographies of geniuses Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin was just a warm-up for Walter Isaacson, who here takes on one of history’s most towering intellectual figures: the polymath Leonardo, whose talents combined art and science in a way that’s never quite been replicated in the centuries since he lived. Isaacson’s biography looks not just at Leonardo’s life, but also attempts to unravel the unique combination of talent and ambition that drove him.

    Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, by Chris Matthews
    Following up on his JFK biography Jack Kennedy, MSNBC anchor Matthews turns his eye on younger brother Bobby, whose impact on the 1960s was almost as great. In Matthews’ extensively researched book, it becomes clear that Bobby had the potential to go even further than Jack; eschewing a career as a naval officer in favor of a joining on as a common sailor, Bobby developed skills that Matthews suggests led him to connect with voters from all walks of life. It’s a revealing portrait of a man who never really got a chance to show us all he was made of.

    Whose story inspires you?

    The post October’s Best Biographies and Memoirs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 7:51 pm on 2018/09/28 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, ,   

    October’s Best History Books 

    Presidents of War, by Michael Beschloss
    From the War of 1812—the first conflict conducted by an American president—to the Vietnam War, renowned historian Beschloss analyzes wartime presidents and offers insights on their performance, the results of the conflict, and their subsequent records on civil rights and more. Discussing everything from Polk’s performance during the Mexican-American War, through the Civil War, to all the presidents who oversaw the conflict in Vietnam, Beschloss points out that every war president has received extraordinary powers from Congress, but not all have used those powers well or wisely, and not all American wars have yielded benefits for the country.

    In the Hurricane’s Eye, by Nathaniel Philbrick
    It’s not crazy to say that in 1780, the cause of the American Revolution wasn’t looking so great. With an army in tatters and a government lacking resources or organization, the Americans seemed doomed to defeat. Yorktown changed everything, and Philbrick, an award-winning historian specializing in American stories, lays out the thrilling and unpredictable events that conspired to give American forces the one decisive win that made victory inevitable. Coordinating with a naval force not under his direct control and existing hundreds of miles away should never have worked, but somehow Washington and his allies managed it, birthing a new nation in one bold stroke.

    The White Darkness, by David Grann
    Grann (Lost City of Z and Killers of the Flower Moon) tells the fascinating story of Henry Worsley, a man obsessed with Ernest Shackleton’s missions to the Antarctic. Distantly related to one of Shackleton’s crew, Worsley collected Shackleton memorabilia and trivia until he finally set out in 2008 with a few companions to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps, and later returned again in 2015 to attempt, at age 55, something that Shackleton never could: walking solo across Antarctica. Grann tells this remarkable story with the aid of dozens of incredible photos from both Shackleton and Worsley, images that underscore the incredible strength and courage both expeditions required.

    American Dialogue, by Joseph J. Ellis
    Few are more qualified to write about the ways the beliefs and writings of our Founding Fathers can inform and comment on the many challenges facing America today than Ellis, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. Ellis focuses in on four of the men who helped form our nation: Thomas Jefferson, whose attitudes towards race reflect the division and incoherency still on display today; John Adams, whose cynicism towards the goals of economic equality has been borne out generation after generation; James Madison, whose work to transform a loose alliance of former colonies into a true nation still reverberates through every Supreme Court nomination; and George Washington, who regarded his fellow man’s best aspects with a tired realism any modern citizen will find surprisingly relatable.

    On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, The Korean War’s Greatest Battle, by Hampton Sides
    In September of 1950, General Douglas MacArthur ignored intelligence indicating major Chinese troop movements and the concerns of his president, Harry Truman, and ordered a landing at the port of Inchon. Very quickly, more than 30,000 U.N. soldiers found themselves surrounded and cut off, and proceeded to survive for three weeks, fighting off overwhelming numerical superiority. Sides smartly focuses on the incompetence and racism of men like MacArthur that allowed the debacle to happen, setting the stage for the general’s firing a few months later. He also stresses the individual heroism and courage displayed by many of the soldiers caught up in the incompetence, making the retreat from Chosin Reservoir one of the most compelling stories in military history.

    Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975, by Max Hastings
    British writer Hastings turns an objective outsider’s eye on America’s most divisive war, tracing the events of the conflict in Vietnam from its beginnings in the 1950s to its ignominious end in the 1970s. Along the way he explodes some persist myths about the war, including the idea that the United States was losing when it made the final decision to withdraw. He also offers clear-eyed assessments of the mistakes that allowed the war to drag on, and the men who made them, including president Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor (and future Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger. Where many studies of the War in Vietnam are narrow in scope, Hastings offers a wide view with plenty of context.

    When the Killer Man Comes, by Paul Martinez
    Trained by famous sniper Nicholas ‛The Reaper’ Irving, Paul Martinez became a champion shooter, and did six tours in Afghanistan. In this intimate and fascinating book, Martinez balances exposition aimed at for readers who have never served in the military with cinematic descriptions of missions that pitted him against the Taliban, Chechen terrorists, and Uzbek Militants. Martinez doesn’t glamorize his service or offer false resolutions to his missions, which often simply ended, as opposed to ending with the bang of a Hollywood film, and he doesn’t shy away from recording his doubts and misgivings about his service and his frustration with the apparent futility of much of his work. The result is a compelling memoir that gives readers insight into a truly harrowing aspect of warfare.

    Impeachment: An American History, by Jon Meacham, Timothy Baftali, Peter Baker, and Jeffrey A. Engel
    Contrary to popular misconception, impeachment alone does not remove a sitting president, it simply charges them with “high crimes and misdemeanors” sufficient to warrant removal from office. Designed to be an extreme solution, it’s only been invoked three times—and all three times, it’s failed to remove the president in question: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999 were acquitted by the senate, and Richard Nixon resigned from office in 1974 before his trial could begin. Meacham, Baftali, Baker, and Engel explore the motivations behind each impeachment proceeding—motivations typically more personal and political than legal—and offer up an objective view of the procedure, how it was meant to be used, and how it’s actually been used throughout history. There are few more timely books on the shelves right now.

    Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, by Liza Mundy
    Stories of World War II often focus on the heroic deeds of male soldiers, but newly declassified documents reveal a shadow army of women who also did their part—the codebreakers. Recruited from colleges and secretarial pools for their math skills, these women were set to the task of breaking enemy codes, but their efforts and achievements were top secret, and their stories largely unknown—until now. Battling the expected sexism and hostile attitudes of their male counterparts and supervisors, tens of thousands of women helped to end the war much more quickly than it would have otherwise, and Mundy rescues their stories from obscurity and gives them the credit they deserve. In fact, she makes a solid case that without these women, we might not have won World War II at all.

    Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
    Andrew Jackson remains a divisive figure nearly 200 years after the end of his presidency, making him an ideal candidate for a history investigating the man as much as the events that shaped his life. The focal point is the battle that made Jackson a national figure: the British targeted the port of New Orleans in the War of 1812 for obvious reasons—it was the main supply point for the nascent United States of America, and the fledgling country’s defenses were weak and disorganized. Jackson managed to pull together a coalition of defenders and organize a brilliant defense of the city, saving his country and catapulting him to fame. Kilmeade and Yaeger bring slick energy to their subject, making this a fun, informative read, newly available in paperback.

    The post October’s Best History Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 8:00 pm on 2018/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , bnstorefront-history, in pieces, maxwell king, sally field, the good neighbor,   

    September’s Best Biographies and Memoirs 

    In Pieces, by Sally Field
    For the first time, and with impressive literary style, Field reflects on a career that began with sitcoms in the ’60s and developed in movies like Sybil, Norma Rae, and Lincoln. She talks of the highs and lows of her impressive career, as well as about the troubled relationships and insecurities that have challenged her even as they helped to make her into the inspiring figure she has become.

    Every Day Is Extra, by John Kerry
    John Kerry appeared on the American stage more than 50 years ago, returning from Vietnam to testify before Congress about the state of affairs for soldiers on the ground. Since then, he’s been a prosecutor, a lieutenant governor, a senator, a presidential nominee, and secretary of state. Kerry’s memoir covers the entirety of his public life, offering reminiscences of some of the figures he’s worked with and his own feelings about our our modern way of politics.

    Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, by Sarah Smarsh
    Who better to tell the story of America’s working poor than a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer whose childhood during the 1980s didn’t see her family break a cycle of generations of poverty, but instead saw forces beyond their control lock them into their social class and economic status? Sarah Smarsh approaches the topic of poverty in America as both memoir and astute analysis, bringing her own experience to bear on an incisive cultural commentary.

    The Truth About Aaron: My Journey to Understand My Brother, by Jonathan Hernandez
    Just two seasons into what looked to be an incredibly promising football career, Aaron Hernandez was arrested for the murder of linebacker Odin Lloyd and subsequently sentenced to life in prison without parole. Just two years after that, he was found dead by his own hand in his prison cell. Aaron’s brother has penned this unvarnished memoir of his life with his infamous sibling, presenting Aaron as neither a victim nor a tragic figure, but as one who succumbed to rage and violence.

    The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee, by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
    Decades after her death, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis continues to fascinate, but the story of the Bouvier family as a whole is as interesting as that of the Kennedys, if less well known. Drawing on new interviews with Jackie’s still-living younger sister, Lee Radziwill, Kashner and Schoenberger chronicle the close, complicated, and sometimes rocky legacy of the glamorous socialite siblings.

    The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King
    Mr. Rogers is having a moment, and is it any wonder? His lessons about the virtues of curiosity, honesty, play, and simple compassion are evergreen, and we seem to need them now more than ever. Arriving in the wake of the blockbuster documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? King’s new work is the first full-length print biography of the icon, and it’s no shocking tell-all: by all accounts, the Mr. Rogers we saw on TV wasn’t that far removed from the real-life figure. What does come to light are the struggles of his own childhood, as well as the savvy behind-the-scenes decision making that made his show a beloved staple for generations of kids.

    Whose story inspires you?

    The post September’s Best Biographies and Memoirs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:30 pm on 2018/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, ,   

    September’s Best History Books 

    This month’s crop of history books includes a fascinating look into the nature of leadership from one of our greatest living historians, a thriller-like recounting of one of the most incredible feats of spycraft ever, a long-awaited memoir from Kenneth Starr, and several books that try to peek into the future by tracing patterns from the past and present.

    Leadership: In Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
    One of America’s most popular and accomplished historians, Pulitzer-winning Doris Kearns Goodwin examines one of the most important and least-understood of human attributes: leadership. Trying to figure out what leadership means and how it manifests, Goodwin returns to four presidents she has studied the most closely in her career: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson, seeking clues as to the nature of leadership and how it manifests in some but not others. Most importantly, she explores the question of whether leaders rise to the challenges they come across or if they shape the times around them instead. From someone as steeped in history as Goodwin, this is a thought-provoking work packed with almost casually-dropped insight and information that will help you better understand the people who have steered our country.

    The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, by Ben Macintyre
    Times of London writer Macintyre expertly tells the true story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent who became the single most important double-agent in MI6 history until his cover was blown by CIA double-agent Aldrich Ames. Paced like a thriller, this incredible story doesn’t rely on guns and derring-do to get a rich sense of suspense and page-turning energy, but rather the constant paranoia and stress of the spy’s life as Gordievsky passes information to his British handlers via spy-movie tricks like microfilm, worries about his wife turning him in, and deals with sudden assaults from suspicious KGB superiors. A masterclass in modern-day espionage techniques and stakes, this is as entertaining as history gets.

    21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari
    Harari, the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankindand Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, offers up a sprawling contemplation of the future we are rapidly hurtling towards, speculating on economies that don’t require people to buy or sell anything and the prospect of losing control of our minds and bodies to those who have a better understanding of how to manipulate the data we carry with us. Without preaching any particular solution, Harari provokes thought and offers his remarkable store of knowledge as context for his explorations of different challenges we are all either facing right now, or will be facing very quickly. Those who wish to be prepared for the coming world would be well advised to read this book.

    Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, by Ken Starr
    For all the ink that’s been used to study Bill Clinton’s presidency, his scandals, and his impeachment, the time has finally come for what may be the most important and conclusive perspective of all: that of Ken Starr, the special prosecutor who investigated the president. Starr was cast as a villain by much of the media during the investigation and impeachment proceedings that marred Clinton’s administration, but in this explosive new book he asserts that a goal that will no doubt resonate with people today: that he was simply trying to demonstrate that the president was not above the law. Starr includes many details and personal opinions he was careful to keep out of his official 1998 report, making this a must read for any history buff.

    These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore
    Perspective is a powerful aspect of history, and Lepore, a Harvard professor and writer for the The New Yorker, offers plenty in her assessment of how the guiding principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence have been battled over through the course of our history. Ranging from colonial times all the way to the modern day, Lepore examines how the United States has lived up to the lofty expectations of the “truths” of political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people—and how it has failed to live up to them. Anyone who imagines that the political life of past eras was somehow more settled and civil might be surprised to find that politics has always been rough, rude, and locked in battles to define what liberty means.

    Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
    O’Reilly and Dugard bring their twin talents of thriller-style pacing and studious historical research to bear on the Nazi Party in their latest in the best-selling Killing series. In the wake of Germany’s defeat in World War II, thousands of Nazi war criminals fled and found sanctuary around the world. A disparate group of people from around the world, including an American veteran of D-Day, a German lawyer who’d once signed a Nazi loyalty oath, and highly-skilled Israeli Mossad agents came together to track the movements of these war criminals and bring them to justice in a story given a breathless sense of tension and suspense by O’Reilly.

    How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization, by Mary Beard
    Beard looks at two connected aspects of visual art throughout history in this book conceived as companion pieces to the PBS TV shows “How Do We Look” and “The Eye of Faith.” In part one, she examines depictions of the human body over the course of centuries, from the sculpted male bodies of Greek statuary to the domestic scenes of women on pottery that advertise a traditional feminine lifestyle that wouldn’t be out of place in 1950s America. In part two, she examines the way the divine has been represented in art, tracing our relationship with our gods through the way we have drawn, sculpted, and painted them over the years. Along the way, Beard entertains, informs, and offers plenty of fascinating detail that will illuminate your concept of both history and human nature.

    Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, by Francis Fukuyama
    Fukuyama turns his perceptive powers on the subject of identity politics, which he argues are inspired by the fundamental psychological desire for “recognition of dignity.” Fukuyama sees the results of identity politics on both the left and right side of modern politics; where some seek dignity through being recognized as equals (resulting in the left’s obsession with marginalized people), others seek it through superiority (resulting in dictatorships and support for authoritarians). Tracing the development of these ideas throughout history and turning to some of the great philosophical minds to explain the human nature involved, Fukuyama ends with suggestions for how to redefine identity in order to bring the world closer together. An inspiring and thought-provoking read.

    The post September’s Best History Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2018/06/30 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, ,   

    July’s Best History Books 

    There’s no better time to contemplate how the past shapes the present (and the future) than the month we celebrate the birth of our nation. This month, we have a potent list of new history books that help you see the bigger picture, including an investigation into one of the biggest naval disasters ever, the inspiring story of a man held captive by Somali pirates, and the heroic story of Jews who escaped Hitler’s Germany only to volunteer to take up arms and go back to fight the Nazis.

    Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man, by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic
    In 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. Nearly 900 of the crew survived the sinking—but 600 of them died over the next four days as they floated helplessly in the water. Vladic and Vincent expose the Navy’s incompetence and the effort to cover up the disaster by blaming the ship’s captain, who was court-martialed in a suspiciously quick and secretive action—and who later killed himself. Captain Charles McVay III was eventually proved to be innocent of the charges, but the truth of the Navy’s mistakes and their horrific results have remained largely unknown, until now.

    The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast, by Michael Scott Moore
    Fascinated by the idea of pirates operating in the 21st century, Michael Scott Moore journeyed to Somalia to witness the phenomenon firsthand. He quickly got more than he bargained for when he was kidnapped by those very pirates, who demand a ridiculous $20 million ransom from his horrified mother—and later, from anyone who’d listen. Moore, knowing there’s no way he’d fetch the ransom, settled in for what turned out to be more than two years of captivity, during which he was treated both extremely poorly and with surprising kindness by desperate men never seemed to have any personal grudge against him—they just wanted their money. In this eye-opening look at the conditions that drive men to piracy, Moore’s sangfroid under stress is remarkable—and occasionally hilarious.

    Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, by Condoleezza Rice
    Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice examines democracy and asks the fundamental questions: how do countries become democracies, and what’s the state of democracy in the modern world? She traces the development of democratic institutions and outline the stages societies go through when becoming democratic, and offers cogent analysis of “failed experiments” like Russia, which at one time seemed headed for democracy and now seems doomed to autocracy. Most notably, Rice takes on the election of Donald Trump and analyzes the disruption caused, ultimately concluding that this too is part of democracy, while cautioning that democracy’s survival is never a given and must always be defended—beginning with a defense of its most basic institutions.

    Don’t Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip, by Richard Ratay
    Ratay’s combination memoir and history lesson examines the role of the classic road trip, using his own family traditions as a jumping-off point. He relates the joyous road trips of his youth, playing games in the back seat of the family car while his parents engaged in an epic battle of wills over when to pull over and get gas. He considers the influence of the road trip and America’s general love affair with automobiles (and the freedom they represented) that prompted constant safety upgrades and the development of the interstate road system, one of the most ambitious, successful infrastructure projects in history. Noting that the nature of the road trip is changing due to smartphones, cheap air travel, and other factors, Ratay’s book is a reminder that sometimes the way things were was better.

    Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler, by Bruce Henderson
    During World War II, nearly 2,000 young Jewish men escaped the Nazis and emigrated to the United States, only to join the armed forces and return to fight. Henderson focuses on eight of these men, “Ritchie Boys” who underwent intensive training in order to fight Germans and interrogate German POWs. Their flawless German and intimate knowledge of German culture were invaluable to the Allies, but their work was very dangerous due to their status as Jews, which often saw them killed when other non-Jewish soldiers were spared. This largely unknown aspect of the war underscores the horrors of the Nazi regime while spotlighting acts of heroism fighting against it.

    The Brink: President Reagan and the Nuclear War Scare of 1983, by Marc Ambinder
    Ambinder’s book reads like a political thriller and relates a truly terrifying moment in history—a moment that might have ended in horrific nuclear war. To mask vulnerabilities in the United States’ early warning systems, President Ronald Reagan ramped up the nuclear arsenal on the theory that it would intimidate the Russians. Later, during Able Archer ‛83, an annual event where the U.S. and NATO tested their procedures for handing over control of nuclear weapons, the Soviets misinterpreted several new procedures and concluded the U.S. might be using the event to cover up a surprise launch. The U.S.S.R. upped their readiness and paranoia reached a fever pitch before tensions were eased and apocalypse was averted. Even today, nations still possess the ability to destroy the world several times over, making this is a necessary reminder that the people we put in charge of making impossible decisions are often only as good as the information they possess.

    The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas, by Eric Rutkow
    If you’re not aware that a near-continuous network of roads leads from Alaska to Argentina, this book will amaze you. With the exception of a rainforest gap in Panama, the Pan American Highway is the longest drivable road in the world, the product of a century-and-a-half of work, investment, and diplomacy. With photos, maps, and documentation, Rutkow takes us through the fascinating history of the highway’s inception, the challenges it faced during construction, the lives lost along the way, and the effect on the countries the road passes through. Whether you’ve dreamed of driving around the world or simply love world records, this is a remarkable story of a grand achievement.

    The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics, by Dan Kaufman
    Wisconsin was once a thoroughly Blue state, a stronghold for democrats, unions, and even socialists. When the Democratic Party alienated many of its supporters with a rightward shift in policies, Scott Walker was elected governor in 2010, ushering in a raft of changes designed to undercut organized labor, eliminate a slate of long-term liberal policies, and cut taxes to the bone. Kaufman conducted exhaustive interviews and performed extensive research to trace the collapse of the progressives in Wisconsin and the impact of the Republican plan to turn the country Red one state at a time. Kaufman also highlights the efforts of organized, liberal citizens to take their state back and reverse its course—efforts that may yet bear fruit.

    The post July’s Best History Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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