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  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2019/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, , ,   

    June’s Best History & Current Affairs 

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    If it’s June, half the year has come and gone—and what an eventful year it’s already been. Putting things into perspective is what reading is for, so we’ve once again picked out the month’s best history and current affairs books to help you do just that.

    Siege: Trump Under Fire, by Michael Wolff
    Presidential administrations always evolve over the course of a four-year term—people resign, policies shift, and poll numbers lurch in new directions. Wolff, who chronicled the chaotic and volatile early days of the Trump White House in Fire and Fury, returns to detail the next phase of the administration, beginning just as Trump’s sophomore year opens and ending just as the Mueller Report is delivered, concluding the Special Counsel’s investigations. Wolff paints a picture of a White House continuously under a siege mentality, beset by investigations, accusations, and external threats as its inner circle gets smaller and the president himself, per Wolff, grows increasingly unpredictable and erratic. Likely you already know if you’re the audience for this book. Certainly everyone will be talking about it.

    Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation, by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw
    Partnering with Country Music superstar Tim McGraw, Jon Meacham offers up an unexpected variant on his typical Pulitzer Prize-winning work in history work, delivering a book that studies the way America’s unique musical heritage serves to chronicle its past. Moving through the distinct eras that have defined our nation, Meacham and McGraw focus on specific songs (from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to “Born in the USA”), considering the lives of their creators and examining the role music played in the lives of some of the most famous historical figures in America’s larger story. Music is so omnipresent in our lives it’s easy to miss what it does to shape us as a culture; a serious look at the way music both reflects and inspires history seems long overdue.

    The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America, by Jim Acosta
    Jim Acosta is perhaps the best-positioned journalist to examine the Trump administration’s hostility towards the press. Acosta, who has frequently been the focal point of the president’s ire and who was briefly barred from White House press briefings, details the Trump’s evolving relationship with the press from the announcement of his candidacy to the present day, and discusses his own unique part in the story—being threatened by Trump supporters, dealing with the ire of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Hope Hicks, and witnessing from the from lines the effects of the president’s relentless criticism of his friends and colleagues and his profession as an institution.

    The Conservative Sensibility, by George F. Will
    Will, an articulate old-school conservative, makes an argument for a return to the political philosophy that once defined the conservative movement but which has been supplanted in recent years by a new brand of political rhetoric. Arguing for a back-to-basics approach that starts with the Declaration of Independence, Will discusses his ideal view of American government—one in which individuals are responsible for their own pursuits of happiness—and pinpoints where he thinks everything began to go wrong in the early 20th century, leading to what he considers to be an unsustainable system of entitlements and an overly aggressive foreign policy. Eloquent as always, Will argues against the current embrace of populism, and offers a lot of food for thought for people on both sides of the political divide.

    Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World’s Deadliest Special Operations Force, by Dan Schilling and Lori Longfritz
    Schilling and Longrfitz tell the incredible story of Longfritz’ brother, Medal of Honor winner John Chapman, who saved 23 lives at the battle on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan. Combining Chapman’s personal history with a broader look at the Special Forces organization, the book concludes with a detailed description of the day John Chapman sacrificed himself, a section that reads like a Hollywood thriller and doesn’t stint on criticism of the officers who planned the operation. Soldiers like Chapman deserve to have their stories told, and this moving and inspiring book does an excellent job of underscoring his heroism and celebrating the incredible efforts of America’s elite soldiers.

    Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, by Tom O’Neill with Dan Piepenbring
    For five decades, the story of Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969 have had a specific through-line: Manson, obviously insane, was obsessed with the idea of a coming race war and engineered the deranged crimes committed by his “family” to serve as the inciting incident of that conflict. O’Neil, who was first assigned to write about the 30th anniversary of the killings two decades ago, found himself journeying down a rabbit hole so deep he’s only just emerged—and with a whole new view, one that will captivate history buffs and true-crime aficionados alike. O’Neil details the inexplicable lack of enforcement by Manson’s parole officers prior to the murders, the possible connection to drug dealers who may have wanted vengeance on Tate and others, and Manson’s possible participation in the CIA’s notorious experiments with LSD and other drugs.

    In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown, by Nathaniel Philbrick
    It’s hardly unpatriotic 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 and organization, the Americans seemed doomed to defeat. The Battle of Yorktown changed everything, and Philbrick, an award-winning historian specializing in American stories, here lays out the thrilling and unpredictable events that conspired to give American forces the one decisive win that made their ultimate victory inevitable. Coordinating with a naval force not under his direct control—and positioned hundreds of miles away—should never have worked, but somehow George Washington and his allies managed it, birthing a new nation with one decisive battle.

    The post June’s Best History & Current Affairs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 6:00 pm on 2019/05/28 Permalink
    Tags: , bnstorefront-history, ,   

    June’s Best Biographies & Memoirs 

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    Naturally Tan, by Tan France
    While retaining the sense of fun, the more recent Queer Eye series has done the original one better, broadening the horizons of its makeover subjects and wresting more than a few tears from what might otherwise be a fun, but surface-level reality show. Tan France is a big part of the remake’s success, with a background that inspired his brand of radical compassion: the youngest in his family, he grew up in a South Asian Muslim family in a white community in South Yorkshire, England. At a distance from his neighbors because of his heritage and from his own family due to his sexuality, he eventually learned how to love himself, a skill he now passes along via the show. His new memoir takes us from his childhood to the present day, and goes behind the scenes of the show—and it even includes some of his trademark fashion tips.

    The Kennedy Heirs: John, Caroline, and the New Generation – A Legacy of Triumph and Tragedy, by J. Randy Taraborrelli
    Across years, journalist and celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli has visited the stories of the Kennedy family from a variety of angles. Until now, however, his books have largely focused on the generation led by JFK, Robert, and Ted. His newest looks at those that followed: the children of the three prominent siblings, who faced triumphs and tragedies in equal measures. Based on hundreds of interviews as well as first-hand research, The Kennedy Heirs explores the lives of John Kennedy, Jr., groomed as the heir to the family legacy before his tragic death; lawyer and politician Caroline; and the other younger Kennedys, all who grew up under the guidance of the family’s still-indomitable matriarch, Ethel. It’s a fascinating look into the world of American royalty.

    Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
    You can imagine Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ memoir as a portrait of her life as the daughter of the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. And yes, that’s a big part of it, but she is also careful to craft a story of her own identity and coming-of-age. As a child, Lisa’s father was a largely mythical figure who wanted nothing to do with her or her mother, loudly denying his paternity even after a DNA test made the facts clear. Brennan-Jobs grew up under the cloud of that public rejection until, years later, her father reentered her life. Suddenly, she was ushered into a world of mansions and private schools, and struggled with the sense of whiplash. It’s a fascinating and heartbreaking journey, told with tremendous compassion and love by a writer with real literary chops.

    Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon, by Ash Carter
    With a career in public policy spanning almost four decades, Ash Carter has as much insider knowledge as anyone about what goes on inside the Pentagon, the building in which he’s spent many of those years—including a stint as secretary of defense. His goal with this new memoir is to demystify the five-sided building that’s so integral to American government, and yet almost entirely a mystery to most of the American public. The building houses the world’s most complex information network, a massive research and development infrastructure, and a bureaucracy that implements policies with global consequences—it’s probably about time we learned more about what goes on behind those walls. This memoir promises to be a fascinating look inside.

    The Sixth Man: A Memoir, by Andre Iguodala
    Andre Iguodala is one of basketball’s most impressive players on one of its best teams: the Golden State Warriors, winners of three of the last four NBA championships. Over the course of his career, he’s earned respect for more than his athletics: successful tech investments and broad-ranging philanthropy have made him an icon off the court as well. In this book, Iguodala discusses all of that, and also returns to a topic that’s generated controversy for him in the past: the conflicts that come from having a professional league largely made up of African American male athletes who play on teams mostly coached and owned by white men. Taking us from his childhood in Illinois dreaming of being the next Jordan to the top off the game, Iguodala shares insights into the conflicts that have driven him on the court, in business, and in his personal life.

    Whose story inspires you?

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

  • Ross Johnson 4:00 pm on 2019/05/24 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-history, , d-day, , normandy landings, ,   

    5 Monumental Works to Honor the 75th Anniversary of D-Day 

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    Though the final Allied victory was almost a year away, the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 are often seen as the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe. The largest seaborne invasion in human history saw over 150,000 American, Canadian, and British troops, backed up by French resistance fighters, take the beaches by land or by sea, setting the stage for the liberation of Paris and then of Western Europe. 2019 marks 75 years since D-Day, and as the events of that longest day pass from living memory, it’s more important than ever that the stories of those who were there remain with us.

    There are some major new works out in time for the anniversary, each of which puts the lives and times of those who lived through the war in a unique perspective.

    The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (Liberation Trilogy, Volume 3), by Rick Atkinson
    In the final volume of Rick Atkinson’s sprawling trilogy documenting Allied efforts to liberate Europe from the Nazis, D-Day is just the beginning—though his account of the campaign is riveting. Having already covered the Allied push through North Africa and Italy in earlier volumes, the author here turns his attention to the battle for Western Europe. This final stage of the war saw the Normandy landings, the liberation of Paris, the disastrous Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and the final move into Germany itself—each of those representing powerful and traumatic moments in history. Atkinson utilizes extensive research and never-before-available source materials to tell the story of the final months World War II.

    Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy, Airman, Gangster, Kill or Die: How the Allies Won on D-Day, by Giles Milton
    There are those books that offer a wide-ranging, high-level view of World War II, and then there are those that zero in on a particular, often peculiar, aspect of the conflict. In this book, Giles Milton focuses his eye on one 24 hour period: June 6, 1944, one of the war’s most momentous days—the launch of the D-Day invasion that saw the beginning of the end of the war in Western Europe. What’s more, he allows the people who lived through the longest day to guide the telling of the events: a teenaged Allied conscript, a German gunner, a French resistance fighter, a Panzer Commander’s wife. For Milton, the ultimate significance of D-Day can be glimpsed in the raw and unvarnished stories of individuals who stared death in the face on that date.

    D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II, by Sarah Rose
    In much of our written history, accounts of the roles played by women during World War II emphasize “Rosie the Riveter” tales, limiting themselves to situations women face in life and work on the homefront. Those stories are valuable, but not nearly the whole truth. Some more recent works have brought back to light remarkable, hidden corners of the past, including this book about the women recruited as spies by Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive. With so many men on the front lines, the 39 women who signed up to become saboteurs in France were essential to the war effort. Sarah Rose focuses on three of them: streetwise Andrée Borrel, who served as a courier and blew up power lines in defiance of the Gestapo before her luck ran out; suburban housewife Odette Sansom, who became the war’s most decorated spy of any gender; and Lise de Baissac, a member of the upper crust who managed to stay just one step ahead of the Nazis while helping to reconnoiter D-Day landing sites. This is a fascinating history of spycraft, narrow escapes, and of a side of the war worth rediscovering.

    The Third Reich at War: 1939-1945, by Richard J. Evans
    The third and final volume of Richard J. Evans’ sweeping trilogy covering the history of Hitler’s Germany, Third Reich at War sees the regime at its most powerful, dangerous and, ultimately, doomed. While other books here take an Allied perspective, Evans history turns a mirror on Germany during the war, exploring great battles, military strategies, and political maneuvering of the German leadership, as well as the home lives of ordinary Germans. This was also the era during which the Holocaust became a central horror, and Evans doesn’t shy away from it. Together with the other volumes in the trilogy, Evans has produced a definitive account of rise and fall of the most infamous regime of the 20th century.

    D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, by Antony Beevor
    Though many brilliant works cover D-Day’s impact on the ulatimate outcome of WWII, the exhaustively researched work by military historian Antony Beevor represented, at the time of its publication in 2009, the first comprehensive look at the campaign, beginning to end, to be published in over twenty years. Relying on the archives of six countries as well as contemporaneous accounts and interviews conducted just following the action, Beevor describes the experiences of Allied and German soldiers, as well as of the French people caught in the fighting. It’s a monumental history of the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris.

    The post 5 Monumental Works to Honor the 75th Anniversary of D-Day appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 5:00 pm on 2019/05/03 Permalink
    Tags: andrew roberts, bnstorefront-history, , cruchill, , , frederick douglass, , how we got here, jared diamond, leadership, , , , upheaval,   

    Why History Matters, in 12 Essential Books 

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    The very best works of history writing are fascinating, and sometimes even fun, but more importantly, they are filled with stories that inform our lives. They recount the events that shaped the world in which we live, but they also provide lessons that are essential for navigating turbulent times. Just as importantly, they’re inspiring—consider the story of the disabled spy who hiked across the Pyrenees to thwart the Nazis, or of the escaped slave who molded himself into an American icon; each offers a model for the ways in which individuals can change the world, no matter their background or circumstances.

    Here are a a dozen recent books that demonstrate the many, many ways in which history matters, and always will.

    The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West (B&N Exclusive Edition), by David McCullough
    Wisely, Pulitzer Prize-winner David McCullough tells the broad story of American expansion by narrowing his focus, zeroing in on five key characters: a Massachusetts minister who, with his son, encouraged Revolutionary War veterans to settle west; the general who lead them; as well as an architect and a physician. These people and their families built a town in the wilderness, while facing unfamiliar environments and navigating an increasingly hostile relationship with the Indigenous Americans they were displacing. For decades, McCullough has been one of our most influential chroniclers of American history, and his latest is as revelatory and insightful as anything he’s written. A previously unpublished lecture by the author is exclusive to the Barnes & Noble edition.

    A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, by Sonia Purnell
    “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” That was the message sent out by the Gestapo in 1942 regarding Baltimore socialite Virginia Hall, who had escaped to London from Vichy-controlled Paris and joined up with the spies at the Special Operations Executive. Referred to as “the limping lady” because of her prosthetic leg, she returned to France to coordinate the underground resistance effort. Her cover blown, she then escaped on foot to Spain before venturing back into France again to lead guerrilla forces in advance of the Normandy landing. Hall’s is an incredible true story, and its told like never before in this book by celebrated journalist and historian Sonia Purnell.

    The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, by Rick Atkinson
    Rick Atkinson, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning works on World War II, steps further back  in time to chronicle the first two years of the American Revolution. This is the first book of what will be a trilogy covering the entirety of the war. With an incredible level of detail and benefitting from new research (including access to materials only recently made available), Atkinson begins with the battles at Lexington and Concord and focuses on the lives of the extraordinary individuals who play key roles in the country’s founding and the subsequent, seemingly unwinnable conflict. This isn’t a whitewashed look back: the author considers the British perspective on the war and isn’t shy about exploring the hypocrisy of the slave-owning American leaders.

    Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, by Jared Diamond
    In his latest, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond considers the historical actions of six nations in moments of crisis to understand how and with what degree of success they withstood the challenges and emerged from them for better or worse. From the forced opening of Japan by Western powers; to coups in Chile and Indonesia; to the transformations of Germany and Austria post-World War II; to the Soviet invasion of Finland, he finds the common threads and weaves them into lessons that might predict how successfully we’ll deal with current and future crises. This is more than simple history; Diamond combines disciplines to root out the matters of human psychology essential to a nation’s survival.

    The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington (B&N Exclusive), by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
    Counterintelligence might seem to be a modern discipline, but Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch go back centuries to explore the origins of American spycraft that led to the eventual creation of the CIA. In 1776, a group of soldiers were selected to serve as the personal bodyguards to George Washington. What Washington didn’t know was that they weren’t all loyal: some were part of a murderous plot lead by the British governor of New York and the loyalist mayor of New York City. The authors revisit this crucial time, and the uncovering of a plot that might have seen the American Revolution lost almost before it began.

    Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II, by Adam Makos
    The European front in World War II saw an exponential growth in the development and use of tank warfare, with each side fighting for dominance in war machines that were “invincible”—at least until the other side developed something more powerful. Adam Makos’ new book tells the story of Gunner Clarence Smoyer, eventually assigned to one of only 20 Pershings—super-tanks designed to counter the Germans fearsome Panzers. That power and armor didn’t come without a cost, though: Smoyer and his crew were ordered to spearhead every attack, placing themselves in the most dangerous positions, time and again. This is a story of tank warfare, but also of the unexpected bond that develops between Smoyer and Gustav Schaefer, a teenaged German gunner sent on a suicide mission.

    Churchill: Walking with Destiny, by Andrew Roberts
    Much has been written on Winston Churchill, one of the most impactful and fascinating political figures of the 20th century. Still, Roberts new single-volume biography breaks new ground: offering a wealth of new information, it’s more extensive and closer to definitive than any earlier work. How did it come about? Roberts had access to newly available government documents from the war era, as well as exclusive permission from the Royal Family to review notes and diary entries from King George VI. The result is a comprehensive look at a political legend: as an individual and as a politician, and in his failures as well as his triumphs.

    Leadership: In Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
    Returning to the figures she has studied most closely in her career—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson—Pulitzer-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin explores the very nature of leadership, finding that, while there are commonalities, each individual’s journey is unique. A culmination of 50 years of scholarship, Leadership is a work of history as well as an essential guide to budding leaders in all fields.

    Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight
    He lived one of the most consequential of all American lives in a deeply turbulent time, even when large swaths of his country didn’t see him as a citizen, or even as a human being, for most of it. Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery and traveled the country to tell his own story of the institution’s brutality and horror, galvanizing the abolition movement and doing as much to end the institution of legal slavery as any single figure in American history. David W. Blight’s new, comprehensive biography takes a fresh look at Douglass’ life and times, incorporating new research and material from previously unavailable sources to create the most complete picture of the life of the activist, orator, and author.

    The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer
    Tellings of Native American history often end with the deaths of 150 Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890, suggesting the massacre represents a tragic endpoint to Indigenous civilization. Ojibwe author David Treuer’s experiences as a child on a Minnesota reservation taught him otherwise: Native peoples did not disappear, and their history has not ended. In the decades following the massacre, each tribe was forced to adapt its own distinctive culture to meet the needs and restrictions of a new reality, often developing sophisticated legal and political strategies in order to survive and maintain their identities. Treuer tells the story of a multitude of peoples across a century of challenges and change, taking us right up to modern times to consider a new generation of resistance.

    First: Sandra Day O’Connor, by Evan Thomas
    While current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been in the zeitgeist for a while now, it’s worth remembering the pioneering efforts of Sandra Day O’Connor, who paved the way for RBG, serving as the court’s first female justice (not quite two centuries after the establishment of the institution). Her service came at the mid-point of a remarkable career that saw her go from a quiet life on a cattle ranch to Stanford Law at a time when women  were still rarely seen practicing law. She became the majority leader of the Arizona state senate and then a judge before eventually joining the Supreme Court, on which she served for several incredibly consequential decades in American jurisprudence and politics. In crafting this definitive biography, Thomas has made use of exclusive interviews and gained access to the Justice’s archives for the first time.

    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
    There were two disasters involved in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945. The first was the attack on the ship itself; it was fired upon and sunk by a Japanese submarine, ending the lives of many of the crew. The second was in the Navy’s response: a flawed and nearly incompetent recovery operation that saw 600 surviving sailors lost as they drifted, waiting for rescue, for four days. Looking for a scapegoat, the Navy court-martialed the ship’s captain. Though Captain Charles McVay III was eventually exonerated, he’d already taken his own life. This new book finally sets the record straight, telling the whole grim story of the Indianapolis and her crew.

    The post Why History Matters, in 12 Essential Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Joel Cunningham 3:00 pm on 2019/05/03 Permalink
    Tags: a night to remember, a stillness at appomattox, barbara tuchman, ben and me, , bnstorefront-history, , bruce cotton, conrad richter, , , michael shaara, oliver wendall holmes sr, robert lawson, special lists, specialists, the autocrat at the breakfast table, the killer angels, , the proud tower, the trees, ,   

    The Books That Inspire Me: Pulitzer Prize-Winner David McCollough 

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    David McCullough is one of the most beloved and respected historians of our time—a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize whose works explore the private lives of American presidents and delve into the underpinnings of conflicts, events, and personalities that changed history. But even a genius needs inspiration, so on the eve of the release of his latest book, The Pioneers, we asked him to share with us the works that have shaped him as a thinker, a writer, and one of our most-trusted authorities on the world as it was.

    Ben and Me, by Robert Lawson
    I read this wonderful account of the “real” Benjamin Franklin as told by a mouse that lived in Ben’s hat, when I was about ten and suddenly history came to life in a way I loved. I’ve been strongly recommending it ever since.

    A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord
    This superb book entered my life not long after I had finished college and started work in publishing in New York. It is a story powerfully told and not long after reading it, I met and got to know Walter from whom I learned a lot about how he went about the process of writing as he did, which was of great help to me.

    The Trees, by Conrad Richter
    A superb example, like Ben and Me, of historical fiction at its best, and it set me to reading all of Richter’s work and a subsequent friendship with him. And again, as with Walter Lord, much that I learned from him about the art of storytelling shaped my own development as a writer.

    The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman
    The admiration I’ve long had for all of Tuchman’s books could not be greater, but it was at the time I was writing my own first book, The Johnstown Flood, that The Proud Tower, a portrait of the world from 1890 to 1914, was first published, and I turned to it again and again for inspiration.

    A Stillness at Appomattox, by Bruce Catton
    A landmark publishing event, a book that set much of the country reading about the Civil War for the first time and certainly awakened my interest in the subject as nothing had until then.

    The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara
    Another example of historical fiction that works its magic in its way and brings the reader into the human reality of history in brilliant fashion.

    The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
    An autobiography by one of the most interesting and amusing Americans of the nineteenth century and a reminder that history is not about politics and war only.

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