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  • BN Editors 8:00 pm on 2020/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , erik larson, the splendid and the vile   

    The B&N Podcast: Erik Larson on The Splendid and the Vile 

    Our guest today is Erik Larson, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake joins us to discuss his newest work, The Splendid and The Vile, where he delivers a fresh and compelling portrait of Winston Churchill and London during The Blitz.

    The post The B&N Podcast: Erik Larson on <i>The Splendid and the Vile</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Joel Cunningham 1:45 pm on 2015/04/05 Permalink
    Tags: , chris kyle, , , eric blehm, erik larson, , , james bradley,   

    April’s Top Picks in History 

    This month’s top picks in history takes us from the Civil War to the Wild West, from Vietnam to China, and from World War II to the Iraq War, revealing, at each stop, that an understanding of the world around us requires an understanding of how we got to this point.

    Bill O’Reilly’s Legends & Lies: The Real West, by Bill O’Reilly and David Fisher
    The companion piece to O’Reilly’s upcoming, same-titled documentary series on the Fox News Channel, Legends & Lies is another engaging, accessible dive into the real history behind the stories we think we know about the Wild West. From Billy the Kid to Jesse James to the Lone Ranger, this book uncovers the truth behind the myths and shines a new light on the past. Illustrations bring the fascinating stories to life.

    Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
    With The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson proved himself a master of narrative nonfiction. In his new book, he turns his attention to the second-most famous nautical disaster of the 20th century: the torpedoing of the luxury liner Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915. One hundred years after the ship sank, taking 1,198 passengers and crew with it, Larson examines the unusual circumstances that contributed to the tragedy, profiles a few of the notable personalities onboard, and places the disaster in a larger social and political context.

    Legend, by Eric Blehm
    This harrowing work of nonfiction has all the narrative drive of an action thriller. A small group of elite soldiers on a reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines in Vietnam find themselves surrounded and low on supplies. Their only hope is Special Forces Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez, already a decorated hero who’d returned to service following debilitating injuries received in the line of duty. Determined to bring the soldiers home, whatever it took, Benavidez jumped from a rescue chopper amid a hail of gunfire, was struck several times, yet spent hours aiding the wounded before reinforcements could arrive. Through first-person accounts and reminiscences from family members, Blehm recounts an unrivaled feat of military heroism in captivating detail.

    Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, by Cokie Roberts
    Journalist and bestselling historian Cokie Roberts turns her attention to the women without whom the Civil War could never have been fought. When war broke out, Washington, D.C. transformed itself from the nation’s capital into a Union stronghold. Women answered the call, serving as nurses, supply workers, and journalists, and even aiding in the manufacture of ammunition—a highly dangerous job. They took over the Treasury presses to print greenbacks to fund the war effort, and worked alongside men in the Navy Yard stitching bags to carry munitions. Incorporating contemporary accounts and newspaper articles, this heavily-researched work sheds new light on the unheralded heroines of our nation’s bloodiest conflict.

    The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, by James Bradley
    The bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers has long focused on explosive conflicts between the U.S. and Asia. His latest takes the long view on the tumultuous relationship between the U.S. and China, from American profiteering in the opium trade to the influence of missionaries on Chinese culture to the rise of Communism in the 20th century. As China looms ever larger on the world stage, there’s never been a more important time to explore the history between our cultures, and Bradley’s page-turning account makes for essential reading.

    The Life and Legend of Chris Kyle: American Sniper, Navy SEAL, by Michael J. Mooney
    Thanks to a riveting memoir and Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster film, we’ve all heard the fascinating story of Chris Kyle, a decorated veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who has been called the deadliest sniper in American history. This new biography goes beyond the conflicts and their aftermath to consider Kyle’s complete life story, from his Texas childhood, through his multiple tours of duty, to his sudden, violent death on American soil at the hands of a fellow soldier. Through interviews with family and comrades, Mooney offers us a more complete picture than ever before of a singular figure in American military history. 

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  • Jeff Somers 12:53 pm on 2015/03/13 Permalink
    Tags: dead wake, erik larson,   

    The Shocking True Story of a Tragedy at Sea 

    When it comes to luxury liner tragedies, the Titanic gets all the attention, but the story behind the Lusitania’s sinking is filled with just as much tension, intrigue, mystery, and human drama. When the luxury ship was attacked by a German submarine in 1915, 1,198 crew and passengers died, a tragedy that ultimately precipitated America’s entrance into World War I. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson, plumbs the depths of this disaster, creating one of the most enthralling works of nonfiction in recent memory.

    Ideal for conspiracy theorists
    The sinking of the Lusitania is veiled in conspiracy theory-ready mystery. The British Admiralty, which had broken German codes and was monitoring them continually, picked up chatter that Lusitania was a target. British intelligence also knew a German U-20 submarine was in the area. Despite these forewarnings, nothing was done to prevent the tragedy. In fact, the Lusitania was ordered to travel with one of her coal-burning boilers shut down, despite the fact that passengers were assured that the ship’s great speed would keep it safe from a German attack. Larson notes that many passengers were sent mysterious private warnings not to embark on the voyage, and Winston Churchill himself, then First Lord of the Admiralty, went on a trip to France right before the disaster.

    The story of two boats
    While the most visible recent account of the Titanic focuses on class distinctions dividing the passengers, Larson hits on an aspect of the Lusitania disaster that is rarely noted: the difference between life on the luxury liner and that on the U-Boat that sunk her. Larson notes that even third class passengers on the Lusitania enjoyed plenty of food, fresh air, and comfortable quarters. In contrast, the men aboard the U-20 lived lives of squalor and discomfort in hot, oily, and tight space under the waves. The author paints vivid portraits of experienced, confident Captain Turner on the Lusitania, and cooly amoral Captain Schwieger of U-20, who complied when ordered to engage in “total war” on all vessels, including civilian ones.

    Strikingly modern
    1915 was one hundred years ago, but the world that saw the Lusitania sink wasn’t as primitive as modern readers might imagine. The U-boat that sunk the Lusitania ran on powerful batteries, and most of the communications during the period were conducted wirelessly. The Lusitania itself was a modern marvel of engineering, capable of traveling at 26 knots when under full power. The Queen Mary II is the fastest passenger liner in operation today, and it can manage 30 knots under certain conditions.

    Interesting passengers
    The Lusitania was a floating soap opera filled with fascinating people leading fascinating lives. Passengers included the first female architect in America, Theodate Pope, who fought her whole life against sexism and the assumption that women should not pursue intellectual fulfillment; bookseller Charles Lauriet, who had packed priceless books and drawings; and Dwight Harris, carrying both a custom-made life jacket and an engagement ring—surviving to deliver the latter because of the former. Larson’s cast of characters includes President Woodrow Wilson, a recent widower who found new love and a reason to live just before the Lusitania pulled him and the country he led into war.

    The second explosion
    Unlike the Titanic, which sank over a period of hours, the Lusitania sank within twenty minutes from a single torpedo fired by U-20. Ironically, because of what had happened to the Titanic, the Lusitania had plenty of lifeboats, but lacked the time to deploy them. The submarine crew and the survivors both report a mysterious second explosion that suddenly accelerated the sinking, dooming most of the passengers and crew. The most likely explanation is that the torpedo hit ammunition the ship was bringing to Britain from America—which would have made the ship a legitimate target. Whatever the truth, the sinking of the Lusitania was a sudden, explosive tragedy that shook the world and brought America into war.

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  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 7:00 pm on 2014/07/21 Permalink
    Tags: alex garland, anthony barnosky, bad ideas, , devil in the white city, erik larson, , hans christian andersen, jaws, marian collins, nevil shute, on the beach, peter benchley, somali deraniyagala, , the beach, , wave   

    7 Books NOT to Bring to the Beach 


    It’s summertime! Everybody do the popsicle dance! (That’s just a regular dance of your choosing, done while eating popsicles.) As readers, we all know that finding the perfect piece of beachside reading is essential. You want something fun and easy, light-hearted and captivating. You’ll find lists all over the web of books that are perfect for you to lug to the shore, so we thought we’d try something a little different and help you out another way. Here are 8 books you should NOT take the beach. Read them in bed, read them on your couch, read them plopped directly in front of a large box fan…just don’t read them anywhere near open water and sand:

    1. Jaws, by Peter Benchley
    I’ve definitely made my fair share of jokes about this infamously murderous shark, but I did it knowing full well I’d be avoiding the ocean the way I avoided the shower after first seeing Psycho. Sure, read Jaws…in February.

    2. The Beach, by Alex Garland
    When you go to spend the day on the beach, you don’t want to quietly become concerned you’re in a faux-utopian haven with murderous undercurrents. Oh sure, this book is set in Thailand, but it’s vivid enough that you’ll start looking at everyone around you askance. ESPECIALLY that guy. You know the one.

    3. The Palm Beach Murder, by Marion Collins
    The true-crime account of James Sullivan, a man who paid to have his wife murdered before gallivanting through exotic vacation locales the world over will really put a damper on all that sun and fun you’ve got planned. And you thought your vacation was expensive and difficult to plan! (I’ll be here all week, folks! Try the mozzarella sticks, but leave some for me.)

    4. The Devil in The White City, by Erik Larson
    Thinking about switching up locales this year? Want to save a couple of bucks by finding a discount place to stay? I fully support this, while also supporting the idea that you wait to read this one until you’re home again. I mean, unless you’re cool with vaguely wondering whether or not the owner of that “charming beachside B&B” might actually be welcoming you into a mazelike den of horrors.

    5. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala
    This book is brutal. Deraniyagala lost her whole family in 2004 after a tsunami hit Sri Lanka. While reading about a natural disaster while at the beach is a bummer, find a time to read this one anyway. Deraniyagala’s gripping, powerful, and heartbreaking memoir of life with and without her family is just stunning.

    6. Heatstroke: Danger In an Age of Global Warming, by Anthony D. Barnosky
    You know who reads about global warming at the beach? KILLJOYS, THAT’S WHO.

    7. On The Beach, by Nevil Shute
    Ain’t nobody handles the apocalyptic genre like an Australian, and Nevil Shute is no exception. This book takes place on the beach…where a bunch of survivors are quietly waiting to be killed by nuclear radiation. There isn’t enough sunscreen in the world to make this lighthearted reading.

    What books are you NOT bringing to the beach this summer?

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 3:30 pm on 2014/07/09 Permalink
    Tags: , cockroaches, , erik larson, jeanette walls, , , kimberly mccreight, , , , ,   

    Make Your Escape with These 10 Summer Book-cations 

    Tell the Wolves Im Home

    It’s not summer without searing hot car seats, miniature golf, and a page-turning novel you can’t seem to put down even though it’s your turn at miniature golf. The summer months are the perfect time to dig into a lighthearted book of comic essays, a gripping thriller, or an unforgettable journey into the darkest periods of history. Isn’t it just your luck that we’ve rounded up a few of each, for your reading pleasure?

    The Racketeer, by John Grisham
    Grisham is the grand master of the legal thriller, and he’s in top form here. The Racketeer (also known as former attorney Malcolm Bannister) may be in prison, but he’s the only one who seems to have any clue as to how an active federal judge and his young secretary managed to turn up dead in an isolated lakeside cabin. And he’s all too happy to share the information he has—but it comes at a steep price. A diabolically clever thriller you’ll burn through in a long weekend, especially if you’re a lover of twists and turns.

    The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
    A brilliant, unforgettable, and true account of the planning and execution of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (a monumental achievement for its time—and for now), this utterly absorbing book focuses on the struggles and triumphs of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect tasked with overseeing the unfathomably large project of designing and building the immense Fair, as the world watched and waited to see if he would succeed. Larson brilliantly injects an element of darkness into the narrative by interspersing it with a chilling account of the nefarious activities of one H. H. Holmes, a sociopathic serial killer who committed a number of heinous crimes around the advent of the Chicago World’s Fair. This is one beach book that will find you sitting on the sand reading with a flashlight long after everyone else has shaken out their towels and gone home.

    Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, by Mindy Kaling
    It could be argued that it is a beach book’s job to make you laugh until you hiccup—and if you subscribe to that belief, then look no further than Kaling’s bitingly funny (and yet also disarmingly sweet and thoughtful) collection of essays. With wit and insight, Kaling tackles such issues as growing up, deciding to pursue an acting career, and ultimately making it in the notoriously difficult world of show business. I dare you to read this book and not wish Mindy Kaling were one of your best friends. Her smart, wry, well-honed observational humor is as refreshing as a tall, frosty mojito. And…now I need a cold drink. Darn you, summer!

    Cockroaches, by Jo Nesbø
    The second book in the arresting Harry Hole series, Nesbo’s Cockroaches finds the intrepid investigator looking into a murder in a Bangkok brothel of a Norwegian ambassador to Thailand. A fascinating peek into the seedy underbelly of a beautiful and exotic vacation destination, the novel interweaves Harry’s struggles to resolve his messy personal life with his efforts to solve a case that grows ever more complex and dangerous the closer he comes to the truth. If you haven’t yet checked out Jo Nesbø’s thrilling detective series, which is up to 10 books, you’re in for a wicked treat.

    Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan
    Standup comedian Jim Gaffigan has always had a way with words—and this new book about his experiences as a father of five children is filled with memorable (and hard won) one-liners and scathing observational humor. A fun, light read that will make you feel like you’re on vacation simply because you don’t have five children (unless of course you do, in which case you should definitely pick up a copy and commiserate), Dad is Fat is a breezy, funny summer read that will have you snort-laughing at least once per chapter. (I can’t be the only one here who snort-laughs.)

    Ladies’ Night, by Mary Kay Andrews
    When Grace Stanton catches her husband cheating, naturally she retaliates by driving his fancy sports car into a swimming pool. Unfortunately, this teensy little incident knocks her from a life high on the hog and at the top of a rapidly ascending career, down to sharing a house with her widowed mother above a dive bar. Fortunately, her court-mandated “divorce recovery” therapy sessions introduce her to a cotillion of like-minded friends, who begin organizing their own “therapy” sessions together at the bar…and that’s when the fun really begins in this salty, clever poolside read.

    The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
    Summer isn’t just about barbecues and beach balls and tan lines. For those quiet, introspective, rainy summer days when even the fact that it’s July isn’t enough cheer you up, it’s nice to have a searing memoir in your back pocket. The Glass Castle is a mesmerizing, wrenching account of Walls’ childhood, during which she and three siblings were raised (if that term even applies here) by an alcoholic father and an unstable mother, parents who were by turns brilliant, disinterested, and completely self-destructive. Walls and her siblings eventually mustered the strength and resources to leave, and her courage and ability to build a normal, successful life for herself in the wake of such early chaos is as inspiring as her story is unforgettable.

    Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
    If you miss the summer reading you used to be assigned in school—in part because it helped you choose what to read, but also because the material was often enriching and enlightening—then Wolf Hall, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, is going on your Fake Grownup Assigned Summer Reading List. The fascinating story of life in Tudor England under the erratic, alternately passionate and vicious rule of the indomitable King Henry VIII, Mantel’s account focuses on the crafty maneuverings of his ambitious statesman and adviser, Thomas Cromwell. A seamless blend of history and fiction, you’ll be both educated and entertained—what could be better?

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
    An inspiring and memorable debut novel about a young girl’s coming of age, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the moving story of 14-year-old June Elbus, who loses her uncle, Finn Weiss—who also happens to be her godfather and best friend. June feels adrift in the world until she makes the acquaintance of Toby, a friend of Finn’s, and their fragile relationship teaches her about loss, love, and growing up.

    Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight
    Don’t pick up this riveting mystery unless you’re ready to stay up all night reading! When busy single mom Kate Baron gets a call from her daughter’s exclusive Brooklyn private school letting her know that her daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating, she’s shocked and disappointed. But when she arrives at the school, the news is even worse: Amelia is dead after having apparently jumped off the roof of a building. Unable to believe that her bright, ambitious daughter would commit suicide (especially after receiving an anonymous text that simply reads, “She didn’t jump”), Kate dedicates herself to sifting through Amelia’s social media and cellphone history, finding herself caught up in an increasingly alarming and convoluted race to find out what really happened.

    What books are in your beach bag (or briefcase) this summer?

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