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  • Ross Johnson 8:30 pm on 2018/01/03 Permalink
    Tags: , bnstorefront-history,   

    The Best Biographies & Memoirs of January 2018 

    All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderer’s Row, by James Patterson and Alex Abramovich with Mike Harvkey
    One of the most shocking and sad sports stories of the past five years, the murder conviction and subsequent suicide of NFL superstar Aaron Hernandez left sports fans reeling. A young man who seemed to have it all was implicated in multiple killings, and thriller writer Patterson and company promise a thorough and unvarnished true-crime look at the real Hernandez, with accounts from those who knew him, a look at his hometown, and an account of his final days.

    When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
    Advocate, artist, and queer activist Patrisse Cullors was one of the principal founders of the Black Lives Matter movement following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. It’s hard to overstate the influence that movement has had on our culture in the years since, both as inspiration and flashpoint. She’s joined by author and fellow activist asha bandele to tell her personal story of BLM and to talk about the culture that necessitated it.

    Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, by Kelly Corrigan
    Corrigan structures a series of essays around some of the seemingly simple words and phrases that serve as gateways and barriers to communication. In her human and self-deprecating style, she examine the power of saying “no,” or “I don’t know,” or even “I was wrong.” If there’s ever been a need to think thoughtfully and compassionately about the ways in which we communicate, it’s now.

    The Monk of Mokha, by Dave Eggers
    McSweeney’s founder Eggers tells the true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a San Franciscan child of Yemeni immigrants who became fascinated with Yemen’s rich history of coffee production. Traveling to his parent’s homeland, he became a student of coffee, visiting farms all of the country to collect samples and discover new means of cultivation with a goal of restoring a proud tradition and global market for Yemeni coffee. It was going well until 2015, when the Yemeni civil war broke out overnight, forcing Alkhanshali to attempt a daring escape. Those are just a few of the many layers to a fascinating true story.

    BRAVE, by Rose McGowan
    McGowan was born to members of the notorious Children of God cult before running away as a teenager and finding her way to Hollywood, where she quickly discovered that the sexism and exploitation of celebrity culture was a cult of its own. She’s been inspiration and provocateur ever since, unapologetically and controversially speaking her mind about Hollywood and her life as a female star. In the wake of her recent revelations about her abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein comes this frank memoir, which pulls no punches, and then some.

    Single State of Mind, by Andi Dorfman
    Bachelorette star Dorfman is back with a new memoir of life as a single celebrity in New York, pulling back the curtain on living as a reality star as well going behind the scenes on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Described as a real-life Sex and the City, Dorfman’s book has everything that her legions of fans crave.

    Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill, by J. Randy Taraborrelli
    There are plenty of biographies about Jackie Kennedy Onassis, mostly centered around her marriages to JFK and Aristotle Onassis and her extraordinary and tragic term as First Lady. Taraborelli’s book shifts the focus to the family, particularly the mother who taught Jackie and her sister Lee to walk in the most rarified circles. A socialite, a First Lady, and a princess, these three women walked the corridors of power in the 20th century.

    Whose story intrigues you most?

    The post The Best Biographies & Memoirs of January 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2018/01/01 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, ,   

    The Best History Books of January 20187 

    New year, blank slate—the perfect opportunity to bone up on your history. If you’re looking for history books that will show you the hidden facets, events, and figures who have shaped our world, look no further than the best history books coming in January.

    The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, by Max Boot
    Edward Lansdale, CIA agent extraordinaire, is representative of the road not taken in the Vietnam war. Lansdale was already an old hand at espionage when the CIA was chartered, and his success countering an attempted communist uprising in the Philippines made him the obvious choice to get involved with the earliest U.S. interventions in Vietnam. As that war mushroomed into the quagmire history remembers, Lansdale argued fiercely that a better strategy would be counterinsurgency—winning the so-called “hearts and minds” of the people instead of fighting an unwinnable ground war. That argument is just as important today as it was in the 1960s, making this a must-read for anyone concerned about America’s role in the world.

    The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook, by Niall Ferguson
    Ferguson argues history is really the story of various networks—and the technologies that disrupted them—he points out that the printing press was the disruptive technology that allowed the Protestant revolution to take shape, and his examination of other networks throughout history are equally fascinating. From the Illuminati to the Rothschilds to Wikileaks, Ferguson sees this pattern of established networks smashing against the rocks of progress over and over again, offering up some “Freakonomics”-style alternative interpretations of history along the way.

    Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, by Ronen Bergman
    Israel’s Mossad is widely considered to be one of—if not the—most effective intelligence organizations in the world, and the Israel Defense Force, one of the most effective armed forces. But what has set Israel apart from other nations is its unrepentant embrace of targeted, state-sponsored assassination in the service of national survival. Bergman leverages access to some of the most important players in Israel’s government, intelligence services, and military to craft a definitive history of a nation that much of the world wishes to destroy, and the extraordinary means undertaken in its defense. His inclusion of extremely detailed descriptions of operations gives this book a bit of a thriller edge, while never losing sight of the ethical quandary these policies inevitably spark.

    The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD, by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis
    In just about every detail, Timothy Leary’s life reads like a novel: a Harvard professor who embraced the drugs and free love of the 1960s (with a particular love and endorsement of LSD), Leary was seen as a class traitor by much of the establishment. When he was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana, he received a harsh sentence so he could be an example—but he leveraged his powerful network to make his escape, fleeing to South America where he and his wife lived under the protection of the Black Panthers as President Nixon raged and used all the power of the U.S. government to track him down. Leary—a symbol of the peace and love hippie movement—found himself smack in the midst of the violent, sour end of the ’60s ethos, surrounded by gun-toting revolutionaries—but this was just the first stop of a nearly-unbelievable adventure you have to read to believe.

    Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson’s White House, by Joshua Zeitz
    Anyone watching the current lack of movement in Washington, DC might be forgiven for thinking this is just the way it is. But it wasn’t always this way, as this detailed account of the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson proves. Once the most powerful and skilled majority leader the senate had ever seen, Johnson became a president of contradictions, who nonetheless used his political skill, imposing personality, and power of his office to craft and guide some of the most meaningful legislation ever drafted. From the Civil Right Act to the establishment of Medicare, Johnson achieved incredible things in his six years in office, while at the same time becoming terminally associated with Vietnam, which ultimately destroyed him. Zeitz goes behind the scenes to examine the many strong personalities that surrounded Johnson in his administration.

    An Unlikely Trust: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Improbable Partnership That Remade American Business, by Gerard Helferich
    In this age of the Hot Take, it’s important to keep in mind that learning the real story often takes decades, if not centuries. In the earliest days of the 20th century, J.P. Morgan and Theodore Roosevelt were both men who transformed aspects of American life—Morgan reinvented the concept of the corporation, crafting the modern concept of the sprawling business with a mind (and political rights) of its own, while Roosevelt expanded the power and authority of the presidency to unprecedented levels. Helferich makes his case that, far from the natural enemies they should have been, Morgan and Roosevelt shared enough common ground that they worked together as partners very effectively—and avoided disaster many times due solely to their willingness to do so.

    The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica, by Laurie Gwen Shapiro
    Every now and then, history presents us with a life that seems almost impossible to believe. Such is the case with Billy Gawronski, who attempted to stow away on Richard Byrd’s famous 1928 expedition to the Antarctic. Discovered and expelled three times, Gawronski finally convinced Byrd to let him join the crew—thus capturing the public’s imagination. Gawronski was seen to represent the can-do, no-fear American spirit, and he continued to do so throughout the rest of his life, which including distinguished service commanding a warship in World War II. Shapiro offers a detailed look at Gawronski’s crewmates on the Byrd expedition—perhaps the last time an earthbound explorer was able to so dominate the public’s interest.

    Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires, by Shomari Wills
    For some uncurious minds, the story of black America starts with slavery and jumps to the present day, with only a vague stopover in the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Wills takes a look at a little-known facet of the black experience in America by examining the lives of six black Americans who were each among the richest in the country before, during, and after the Civil War. Their stories might be surprising to modern audiences—Robert Reed Church, who was once the largest landowner in Tennessee; Annie Turnbo-Malone, who invented the first nationally-marketed brand of hair care products using her self-taught chemistry skills; and her employee C.J. Walker, known as “America’s first female black millionaire.”

    The post The Best History Books of January 20187 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 8:00 pm on 2017/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , bnstorefront-history,   

    The Best Bios & Memoirs of November 2017 

    Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden
    The former vice president’s new memoir, his first since before entering the White House, covers an extraordinary and difficult year in the life of Biden’s family: the twelve months surrounding the decline and death of his son, Beau, from a malignant brain tumor in 2015. The book promises a portrait of life in and out of the White House during a year of political challenges and world travel, all while facing the loss of a son and navigating family responsibilities.

    Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, by Chris Matthews
    Following up his JFK biography, MSNBC anchor Matthews turns his eye on Bobby, whose impact on the 1960s was almost as great as his brother’s. In Matthews’ extensively researched book, it becomes clear that Bobby had the potential to go even further than Jack, having eschewed becoming a naval officer in favor of a joining on as a common sailor. Through that experience, he developed the skills that Matthews suggests lead him to connect with voters from all walks of life.

    Bannon: Always the Rebel, by Keith Koffler
    In 2017, there’s probably no more impactful political operative than former White House Chief Strategist Bannon. Not only did he help engineer Donald Trump’s upset victory, he was one of the key voices guiding the administration over much of its first year. Whether you feel that’s very good or very bad thing, there’s no question the man has had a stunning impact on American life. Bannon gave pundit Keith Koffler hours of exclusive insider access with which he’s crafted a portrait of the controversial and consequential figure’s life and ideas.

    Avedon: Something Personal, by Norma Stevens and Steven M. L. Aronson
    Over the course of a 60-year career, Richard Avedon became the worlds most famous fashion and portrait photographer. In all that time, he cultivated a carefully controlled image and an impenetrable mystique. This new biography, co-written by his longtime business partner and friend, provides an intimate portrait of the man and his studio. The book also includes interviews and reminiscences from many of the famous faces who Avedon photographed.

    Growing Up Fisher: Musings, Memories, and Misadventures, by Joely Fisher
    The multi-talented actor/singer/director Joely Fisher has an incredible Hollywood pedigree: daughter of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens,  next-door neighbor to Debbie Reynolds and her half-siblings, Carrie and Todd, she’s also managed an impressive career and a 20-plus-year marriage in a town where such things just don’t happen. In her new memoir, she reflects on her unconventional upbringing, her wide-ranging career, and the loss of her friend, sister, and mentor Carrie.

    President McKinley: Architect of the American Century, by Robert W. Merry
    Often overshadowed by the president who succeeded him, Theodore Roosevelt, there’s very little that’s conventionally sexy about the career of the 25th U.S. president. Robert W. Merry makes the strong case that there’s much more to the life story of this two-term executive than debates over the gold standard and a dramatic and prolonged assassination. The last president to have served in the Civil War, McKinley’s reconfiguration of American’s global relationships lead us away from colonialism into a more modern form of power, setting the stage for the entire 20th century.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life, by Robert Dallek
    Dallek’s career bona fides, dating back over 50 years, make him one of our indispensable presidential historians. Here he turns his eye on the second President Roosevelt, a figure whose legacy remains as relevant as ever. Dallek focuses on the things that make him so consequential: his ability to build consensus, and his willingness to put the presidency at the center of America’s political life. As an incredibly wealthy man who became a champion of the poor, Roosevelt was a study in contrasts with lessons that Dallek explores in this biography.

    Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror, by Victor Sebestyen
    The history of the early 20th century feels very present a century on, and it’s impossible to understand modern Russia with a grasp of the people and events surrounding the fall of the Empire and the rise of the Soviet Union. Central to that story is Lenin, whose life story is told here in the first major English-language biography in decades, drawing on new documents and papers only recently made available.

    A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures, by Ben Bradlee
    During Bradlee’s tenure as executive editor at The Washington Post, the newspaper won eighteen Pulitzer prizes, evolving under his leadership into an essential source of news and investigative journalism. His classic memoir, reissued with a new foreword by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, covers the scope of his career, including the Watergate stories and the battles over the Pentagon Papers.

    Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs, by Douglas Smith
    The life and death of Russian mystic, healer, and political consigliere Grigori Rasputin is shrouded in mystery and legend, and the true story has been incredibly hard to suss out. Douglas Smith gives it a go in this new biography, combining thorough new scholarship with documents that have long been forgotten or ignored. It’s not only the fascinating story of a pivotal and unique figure, but of the final days of imperial Russia.

    Whose story most intrigues you?

    The post The Best Bios & Memoirs of November 2017 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2017/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, ,   

    The Best History Books of November 2017 

    Obama: An Intimate Portrait, by Pete Souza
    You’ll never get a more intimate glimpse of the Obama White House. In more than 300 photos taken by Chief Official White House Photographer Souza, we see our 44th President in moments of relaxed intimacy as well as stressful emergency. Each photo is accompanied by explanatory captions that give just enough background to make them meaningful—and often powerful. You don’t have to be a fan of Obama’s policies or politics to find this deep dive into life in the White House completely absorbing. Obama’s administration was historic simply by its existence, and this beautifully-designed collection of stunning photos offers a powerful record of an era.

    What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, by Dan Rather
    These days, Dan Rather is remembered as a steady and intelligent force in journalism at a time when “steady” and “intelligent” seem like too much to hope for. In this collection of essays, Rather brings gravitas to the subject of patriotism, a term and concept he argues is frequently, often willfully misunderstood, or even twisted into something perverse. Rather takes a quiet approach, exploring the importance of arts, the press, and service to your country in essays that are deeply felt and smartly written. The end result is a book thatwill prompt conversations about what it means to be a patriot in modern-day America.

    Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics, by Lawrence O’Donnell
    MSNBC’s O’Donnell makes a persuasive argument that our modern-day political morass of our politics can be traced firmly back to 1968, the year Nixon was elected to his first term. O’Donnell examines all the dominoes, beginning with Eugene McCarthy’s decision to run against Lyndon Johnson, which he argues spurred Johnson to make the unusual decision not to seek a second term, setting in motion a series of events that ended with Nixon triumphant and the liberal wing of the Republican Party extinguished. O’Donnell backs up his writing with in-depth research and detailed sources, making this the sort of history book that illuminates much more than just a single event.

    Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, by Donna Brazile
    Brazile is a divisive figure, but one thing is certain: when the Democratic National Committee was hacked during the 2016 presidential election and chaos threatened to swallow the party, she was in the room. Brazile now offers an insider’s account of that upheaval, and makes it clear that whatever you think happened, the reality was much worse. She paints a picture of a party in disarray, already boiling with in-fighting and scandal when the Russian-led efforts to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump hit. Brazile argues that covering up the events or pretending things are fine won’t help anyone, and sets out to do her part by offering an intriguing warts-and-all account of what happened as she understands it.

    Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World’s Deadliest Weapons, by Theo Emery
    World War I was a redefining conflict in many ways, not least of which was the demonstration of how scientific advancement and technological innovation could make the horrors of war that much more horrifying. Emery considers an obscure element of the first World War: the scramble the United States undertook to gear up its poison gas capabilities. The U.S. had a very small and ill-equipped military machine when war was declared in 1917, and the combination of patriotic fervor and can-do spirit that produced a humming poison gas infrastructure in a very short time is both haunting and terrifying—and new ground even for seasoned World War I buffs.

    The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, by Brian Dear
    If you think the internet and web culture started in the 1990s with Netscape and AOL, you’re missing a whole lot of history. Some of it is widely-known, but some of it remains more or less untold. That’s the case with the teaching platform PLATO, invented in the 1960s and used at the University of Illinois. Via phone lines and a central server, PLATO was more or less a small, self-contained internet of sorts, and had a huge role in the development of hacker culture, as students learned how to use and misuse the system for their own entertainment and education. A fascinating look at a moment in time that seems impossibly ahead of the curve, considering it took place decades before the internet arrived on home computers.

    Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom, by Russell Shorto
    Shorto takes a refreshingly personal approach to familiar history, examining six figures from Revolutionary times (some, like George Washington, quite famous; others, more obscure), weaving their personal stories together. The result is an intimate story that explains the worldview of people for whom the concept of equality and personal freedom was new and somewhat confusing. Shorto treats each of his chosen figures as fully-formed people, even bringing a new intimacy and some surprising revelations to Washington, a historical figure too often treated as nearly inhuman in his nobility and perfection of motive. It’s important to be reminded that the world of 1776 was much different than today, and many of the things we now take as self-evident had to be explained and sold to people of the times.

    All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor, by Donald Stratton with Ken Gire
    The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor occurred 75 years ago, and Donald Stratton was there, serving on the U.S.S. Arizona. This riveting firsthand account of the attack begins long before it, with Stratton’s childhood, offering a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of the men who joined the service before the war—and how it changed in the wake of the attack. With corroboration and additional research from Gire, Stratton offers an informative and gripping account of an event that shaped America, and continues to affect our nation’s military, politics, and social structures.

    Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission, by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney
    Just about everyone is familiar with Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he warned about the rising influence of the “military-industrial complex.” Baier and Whitney explore the final days of Eisenhower’s administration as he prepared to turn power over to the young John F. Kennedy, cognizant that Kennedy had, in part, leveraged the public’s fear of the Soviet Union in order to win the election. The time for a thorough reexamination of Eisenhower’s presidency in these telling final weeks is long overdue; any student of politics seeking insight into 2017’s transfer of power will benefit from reading this book.

    Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought England Back from the Brink, by Anthony McCarten
    McCarten, whose book is the basis of the new film about Winston Churchill starring Gary Oldman, traces the development of the iconic British Prime Minister over the course of his lengthy career. Before World War II Churchill was in the political wilderness, considered something of a bombastic failure, but the war brought him back in, and he rose to the occasion as have few other figures in history. McCarten offers up the eyebrow-raising theory that Churchill was seriously considering making a peace accord with Hitler before ultimately deciding peace was impossible, and his contrasting analysis of Churchill and Hitler’s rhetorical styles is fascinating.

    The post The Best History Books of November 2017 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 9:00 pm on 2017/09/29 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, ,   

    The Best New History Books of October 2017 

    Big History, by Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff
    If the sprawl of history seems daunting and impossibly huge, this is the book you’ve been looking for. Taking an infographics-heavy approach, Big History traces the interconnected threads of history starting from the Big Bang on, weaving together a balance of subjects and disciplines to paint the big picture. Divided into eight sections linked by several supplied timelines, this is an ideal primer for anyone uncertain how anything fits together with everything else. How many books can promise to offer a comprehensive and easily digested overview of, well, everything?

    Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
    Andrew Jackson remains a divisive figure nearly 200 years after his presidency, making him an ideal candidate for a book like this—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.

    I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street, by Matt Taibbi
    The death of Eric Garner remains a painful moment in our shared history, and a touchstone for the Black Lives Matter movement, which made his dying words—“I can’t breathe”—into a rallying cry. Taibbi takes a dual approach here, on the one hand humanizing Garner, painting a portrait of a complicated man who was neither a saint or a demon; and tracing the political, cultural, and procedural threads that culminated in a New York City police officer putting him in an illegal chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. The result is a big-picture approach that slowly coalesces into a portrait of modern America, and all of the contradictory forces shaping our collective trajectory.

    We Were Eight Years in Power, by An American Tragedy
    This collection of essays by Coates are drawn from his writing for The Atlantic during the years 2008 to 2016, roughly paralleling the Obama administration, and ending on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. These are the essays that made Coates a figure no serious person could ignore; they trace the evolution of his thought from the optimism of Obama’s first election to the somewhat darker mood of the later years. Coates adds a wealth of background material, including introductions in which he reflects on the essays, notes and background taken from his journals, and even personal stories that expand on and illuminate his themes. Coates is one of our best and most important living writers, and this collection is a must-read for any thoughtful American.

    Bounty Hunter 4/3: My Life in Combat from Marine Scout Sniper to MARSOC, by Jason Delgado
    Delgado’s story is unique in the category of soldier memoirs. Growing up in a rough neighborhood in the Bronx, Delgado escaped poverty, drugs, and crime by joining the Marines. There he found his calling and flourished, eventually joining the legendary Scout Snipers and shipping out to Iraq, where he was key to several victorious operations. Along the way he revolutionized the training and deployment of Marine snipers, and became the first Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) lead sniper instructor. Delgado details his struggle to deal with the violence and bloodshed he thought he’d left behind when he escaped his neighborhood, transforming this from a victory celebration into a deeply-felt personal reflection that sharply defines the struggle of many modern-day warriors to maintain their humanity in spite of the difficult experiences they must endure.

    The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World, by A.J. Baime
    Harry Truman should have been a footnote to history, a senator from Missouri chosen to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vice president when FDR ran for a fourth term in 1944. When FDR died in office, Truman became president, despite little experience with or access to FDR’s inner circle; his time in office remains one of the most debated presidencies ever. Whether you think Truman was a great or mediocre chief executive, however, one thing can’t be denied: he ascended to the office during one of the most fraught moments in U.S. history, and from Truman’s negotiations with Churchill through his decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan, Baime makes a convincing argument Truman’s first few months in office rank among the most decisive in history.

    Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill, by Deanne Stillman
    Any novelist would be lucky to develop characters be as confounding as those in real life, and Stillman finds three of the most interesting people to have ever lived in Sitting Bull, chief of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, Buffalo Bill, and Annie Oakley. The friendship that formed between Bill and Sitting Bull remains one of the most unlikely personal relationships in history, and Stillman uses their friendship—built solidly on mutual respect, if not always understanding—to illuminate some of the darkest moments in U.S. history of the U.S., from the military debacle of the Battle of Little Bighorn to the shameful betrayal of the Indian nations that continues to stain our country’s honor.

    Texas Blood: Seven generations Among the Outlaws, Ranchers, Indians, Missionaries, Soldiers, and Smugglers of the Borderlands, by Roger D. Hodge
    Hodge traces his personal roots from his childhood in the borderlands of Texas, his family’s arrival in that unforgiving territory after travels through Arizona and Oklahoma, and the history of Texas itself. The huge state has a complicated story all its own—bloody, violent, and inspiring to generations of Americans with their own ideas of how a state should be run. Hodge doesn’t shy away from the impact of the war on drugs, illegal immigration, and other pivotal aspects of southwest Texas’ people and culture, keeping his focus firmly on history as a story of human beings with flaws, courage, and ideas. By making history personal, Hodge gets as close as he can to discovering what makes this area of the country both special, and especially challenging.

    Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, by Gordon S. Wood
    It’s easy to forget the United States has been in a state of division and argument since its inception; the decades after the ratification of the constitution were fraught with violent political arguments over the form of the government, the meaning of the words in our founding document, and the policies we should pursue. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were arguably the two most gifted and intelligent of our Founding Fathers, but they saw the world and politics in very different ways. Still, a fragile friendship formed in the early days of revolution, which then suffered a long and painful dissolution as the two men again and again found themselves on opposite sides of the question. Wood paints a complex portrait of both men, asking why Jefferson is worshiped while Adams is largely overlooked by modern Americans (David McCullough’s Pulitzer-winning biography notwithstanding).

    Code Girls, 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.

    The post The Best New History Books of October 2017 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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