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  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2019/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: , history,   

    The Best History & Current Affairs Books of September 2019 

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    As we head into the final quarter of 2019, history isn’t slowing down to let you catch your breath. The best history and current events books coming this month include a fascinating rumination on leadership from General Jim Mattis, an analysis of our current president by Bill O’Reilly, a book about one new Supreme Court justice and a book by another, and more.

    Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, by Jim Mattis and Bing West
    General Jim Mattis looks back over a storied military and political career that has taught him more about leadership than most people could ever hope to learn. Divided into three sections, Mattis’ memoir reflects on what it means to lead men directly into battle, to coordinate huge forces while being far from the front lines, and finally what it takes to weigh the needs of an entire nation when crafting strategy. Mattis, who started his career as a common recruit and became a four-star general and then, briefly, Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump, brings humility and wisdom to an uncommon memoir, a book with something to teach everyone who reads it, no matter their position or profession.

    The United States of Trump: How the President Really Sees America, by Bill O’Reilly
    Framed as a nonpartisan analysis of President Trump’s worldview and political beliefs, O’Reilly’s latest draws on direct interviews conducted with Trump as well as research into his life and experiences. The result is an attempt to offer fresh insights into how our 45th president sees both his country and the world beyond it. O’Reilly, who has known Trump personally for decades, has the inside track, and uses the skills he’s employed in his bestselling Killing series to trace the origins and evolution of Trump’s politics from his childhood all the way through the most recent developments in the White House. This is a fascinating and unprecedented in-the-moment study of a sitting president.

    The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly
    Journalists Pogrebin and Kelly, who broke several stories about Brett Kavanaugh even as his confirmation hearings descended into chaos, believed that the FBI investigation into allegations against him was truncated and crippled. Here, they finally present the sum total of their investigations into the Supreme Court justice’s upbringing, education, and young adulthood. The result is a portrait of a privileged, contradictory man—a portrait colored by never-before-seen testimony from people who knew Kavanaugh at key moments in his life. As Kavanaugh settles into a lifetime role on the Supreme Court that will allow him to influence America’s way forward for decades to come, this book offers a glimpse into the mind that will be making those consequential decisions.

    Power Grab: The Liberal Scheme to Undermine Trump, the GOP, and Our Republic, by Jason Chaffetz
    A former Utah congressman and chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform offers his perspective on how the country has changed in the wake of President Trump’s election, painting the Democratic party and the progressive movement as irrationally angry and willing to ignore or destroy both political norms and legal restrictions in order to attack conservative positions and leadership. With a healthy dose of inside baseball from his time in congress, Chaffetz accuses many on the Left of deception, corruption, and following an unconstitutional agenda hidden behind accusations of fascism and claims of resistance.

    Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy, by Seth Abramson
    Legal and political analyst Abramson delivers a book that reads more like a summer spy thriller than reality, positing that in 2015, George Nader met with various leaders of the Arab world to unveil a plan reshape the political reality of the entire planet—with Donald Trump’s help. Abramson suggests that Nader pitched these leaders a pro-U.S. and pro-Israel alliance designed to contain the ambitions of Turkey and Iran, and that they threw their money, influence, and other resources behind Trump, who they expected to be friendly to Russia and belligerent towards Iran. It’s an intriguing argument, and, if you buy into it, a terrifying glimpse into realpolitik in the modern age.

    A Republic, If You Can Keep It, by Neil Gorsuch
    Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch made headlines when President Donald Trump nominated him to our nation’s highest court. In this book, Gorsuch seeks to define his views on the constitution, our system of government, and the rights that every American citizen enjoys. With speeches, essays, and personal notes, Gorsuch reflects on a life spent studying, interpreting, and defending the laws of the nation, and presents his arguments concerning his role as a justice—and everyone’s role as a citizen—in keeping this republic healthy for future generations of Americans. At the same time, Gorsuch offers glimpses of the personal events in his life that have shaped him just as much as his legal education and practice. Considering the immense influence Gorsuch will have on America over the coming years, this is an essential read for any enlightened citizen.

    Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on the FBI, by Josh Campbell
    Former FBI special agent and law enforcement analyst for CNN Campbell was part of the team that accompanied FBI Director James Comey to Trump Tower to brief the newly-elected president about the Steele dossier, putting him in a unique position to observe the sustained attack that the White House launched against the FBI. Campbell details the early days of the so-called Russia investigation (code-named Crossfire Hurricane), beginning with in-the-room-when-it-happened, firsthand knowledge and continuing the saga with an insider’s keen instincts in the wake of his 2018 resignation. Campbell paints a picture of a historically independent and crucial law enforcement agency that is demoralized and in danger of being politically compromised—or even destroyed—by an out of control presidential administration. His years of access lend gravitas to the incredible events he details here.

    The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History, by Lee Smith
    Smith and Nunes present their narrative of a conspiracy to not only target and destroy President Trump, but the very institutions that sustain our republic—a conspiracy only revealed, Nunes says, due to his investigations as head of the House Intelligence Committee. The plot begins in 2016 with the FBI investigation into Russian infiltration on the upcoming elections—but Nunes claims that investigation never targeted any Russians, rather working to undermine first Trump’s campaign, and then his administration. Nunes believes his investigations expose efforts by the “deep state” to protect its own interests over those of the nation at large.

    Laughing with Obama: A Photographic Look Back at the Enduring Wit and Spirit of President Barack Obama, by M. Sweeney
    Shifting gears from current controversies, M. Sweeney follows up his similarly positive books Hugs from Obama and Go High with one filled with gorgeous images of former President Barack Obama throughout the years. It’s a book to remind readers (of a favorable political persuasion, anyway) how warm, human, and truly funny Obama is. Photos of the 44th president laughing, smiling, and looking joyful are paired with some of the former commander-in-chief’s funniest remarks and one-liners from throughout his administration and beyond. For anyone in desperate need of a bit of optimism or a reminder that American politics can occasionally produce humor or even joy, this book will serve as a mental palate cleanser.

    The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, by Eric Foner
    Wars have far-reaching consequences, and Pulitzer Prize winner Foner takes a deep dive into those of the Civil War, most notably the so-call Reconstruction Amendments—the 13th, 14th, and 15th—and their enduring impact on our constitution and system of government. Foner notes that these amendments marked the first time equality was specifically extended to all Americans, and went contrary to tradition by charging the federal government with enforcement of the rule of law they established, rather than the states. Foner sees this change as ushering in a second iteration of the United States—one that floundered almost immediately, but which he sees as still viable; the book is shot-through with optimism and a belief that we can still be a country in which all citizens are truly equal.

    The post The Best History & Current Affairs Books of September 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2019/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , history,   

    This Summer’s Essential History Books 

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    July is when America celebrates its independence, which means it’s the perfect month to stock up on history books. This month’s best include new tomes from Pulitzer winners David McCullogh and Rick Atkinson, the untold story of superspy Virginia Hall, and a firsthand account of D-Day that belongs on everyone’s to-read list.

    The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, by David McCullough
    David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, returns with an in-depth study of the settlement of the Northwest Territory, telling the stories of the hardy and fearless pioneers who traveled into the unknown determined to enlarge and enrich our country with their bare hands and at risk of their very lives. The movement west began sooner than most people realize, with the first settlers—veterans of the Revolutionary War—arriving in Ohio in 1788. McCullough tells the story of the town they carved out of the wilderness through the eyes of five historical figures, who becomes characters in a story about bravery, tragedy, diplomacy, and the conquest of a wilderness that wanted nothing more than to sweep them aside.

    Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations, by William H. McRaven
    There are those people who have earned the right to have their advice listened to without question, and Admiral McRaven is one of them. McRaven entered the collective consciousness with his viral commencement speech-turned-inspirational book, Make Your Bed, but he is more than a man in uniform dispensing wisdom—he’s a true-life hero, having spent his whole adult life serving his country in some of the most dangerous places in the world. McRaven’s autobiography reads like an improbable thriller as he recounts his childhood, his career as a Navy SEAL and as commander of America’s Special Operations Forces, not to mention his involvement in events like the rescue of Captain Phillips, the execution of Osama bin Laden, and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

    Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy, by Dan Abrams and David Fisher
    Abrams and Fisher deliver a close examination of an mostly overlooked moment in 20th century: a 1915 lawsuit against former president Theodore Roosevelt. The libel suit, brought against Roosevelt by political boss William Barnes due to Roosevelt’s public assertions that he was a corrupt official, was a sensation at the time, highlighted by Roosevelt’s turn as a witness on the stand, where the full power of his personality and intellect came into view for a whole week. After 38 hours being badgered by Barnes’ lawyers, Roosevelt emerged unscathed, having made an incredible impression on everyone involved. This detailed study of the incident brings Roosevelt to roaring life, and is a treat for anyone who wants to get a clearer of one of history’s larger-than-life players.

    The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, by Rick Atkinson
    Pulitzer-winning Rick Atkinson delivers the first of three books covering the Revolutionary War in astonishing detail. This initial volume takes the reader through the first 21 months of the conflict, beginning with Lexington and Concord in 1775 and leaving off in the winter of 1777. Along the way, Atkinson dives deep into the personalities on both sides of the battlefield, including men who defined the fighting, like Henry Knox and George Washington, and men who defined the struggle for hearts and minds around the world, like Benjamin Franklin. The result is one of the most detailed and comprehensive studies of the early stages of a war that seemed doomed to be a short and futile one for the Americans, but instead birthed a nation.

    Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, by Jared Diamond
    Jared Diamond, another Pulitzer-winner best known for Guns, Germs, and Steel, returns with a unique look at history as seen through the lens of psychology, applying trauma treatment protocols to entire nations in order to explain sudden policy shifts and course corrections, from Chile’s wild political swings in the 20th century, to Japan’s opening to the West in the 19th century, to the persistence of the institution of slavery in the U.S., to the Winter War between the U.S.S.R. and Finland. Diamond argues that nations either take an honest look at themselves after disaster… or they don’t, and that willingness or unwillingness to acknowledge hard truths is the determining factor in what happens next.

    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
    Harari is no stranger to ambitious works of sweeping historical context, and here he tackles the story of how Homo sapiens—that is, us—came to be not just the dominant species on the planet, but the sole variety of the human species left standing. Harari argues that three distinct moments of evolution revolution made us masters of the planet: a cognitive revolution that gave us a mental advantage over other species; an agricultural revolution that allowed us to form permanent settlements and complex societies; and most recently, a technological revolution that allowed us to truly master the world, its resources, and the other creatures that populate it. Harari thoughtfully weaves in the disturbing question of whether our ascendancy and mastery has actually made us happier—and offers plenty of thoughtful evidence that the answer is no.

    K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner
    Baseball fans know pitching has always been the true throughline of the game. By charting the progress of the sport through 10 distinct pitches, Kepner offers a unique perspective on one of the most analyzed and romanticized games ever devised. His investigative work traces the origins of the monumental pitches—from the curveball, first developed in 1867, to the maligned spitball, still secretly in use today—and explores the lives of legends pitching like Nolan Ryan and Pedro Martinez, who discuss the technical side of their profession in fascinating terms.

    The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II, by Alex Kershaw
    The most complex and dangerous invasion in military history needed a front line, and the people who were part of the first wave of soldiers who stormed the beaches on D-Day faced the brunt of the danger while pursuing the most difficult missions. Without them, all who followed would’ve been lost. Kershaw illuminates the stories of the men who were first on the beach, from the paratroopers who were the first to enter Normandy, to the men who led troops through thick machine-gun fire on Juno Beach, to the French commandos who came home to use their intimate knowledge of the area to undermine the German invaders’ defenses. This is an important addition to any World War II reading list.

    A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, by Sonia Purnell
    Anyone interested in stories of wartime bravery should know the name Virginia Hall. She joined the State Department when the Foreign Service was uninterested, lost her leg to a hunting accident, drove ambulances in France duringWorld War II, and eagerly signed up with the British Special Operations Executive when the opportunity came. Hall was a brilliant agent, creating a well-organized and effective network that did great work fighting the Germans—until her cover was blown in 1942. She fled to Spain, then demanded to be sent back to France to continue her work. When she was refused, she joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services to assist with D-Day preparations. Hall is one of the most important—and least-known—heroes of the war, and it’s about time someone brought her remarkable story to light.

    Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, the First Wave at Omaha Beach, and a World at War, by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice
    As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the number of eyewitnesses to the heroics and horrors of that incredible achievement dwindles—making the 98-year old Lambert’s contribution especially important. Lambert’s charm and humility shine as he describes his early life, his training, and the brutal fighting he engaged in all over the theater, from Africa to Normandy, where he suffered a broken back while rescuing his fellow soldiers. The sheer level of insider detail that Lambert can offer on what it was really like to be involved in Operation Overlord is incredible, ranging from the way soldiers interacted to the equipment and training they had to work with. This is a personal and powerful testament to the heroics of an entire generation, told through an individual’s lens.

    What’s you favorite history read of the year so far?

    The post This Summer’s Essential History Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 8:00 pm on 2019/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: apollo 11, apollo 11 50th anniversary, bang! zoom!, , history, moon landing   

    Celebrating 50 Years Since the Apollo 11 Moon Landing 

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    On July 16, 1969, a Saturn V rocket launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center carrying the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Four days later, on July 20, Apollo’s Lunar Module touched down on the surface of Earth’s moon, and American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on extraterrestrial soil.

    Fifty years is a long time in some ways, but it’s well within the lifetime of many living people (including two of the mission’s astronauts), and in the scope of human history it’s barely yesterday—not nearly long enough for us to take our exploration of the Moon for granted. Humans looked at the Moon in wonder for millennia; but those alive in the last half century are the first to have any real understanding of its mysteries. Because it’s easy to forget just how extraordinary an accomplishment that was, this year’s landmark anniversary is a good time to reconnect with the stories of the astronauts, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and even PR people who somehow took us down a very long road that lead to one of our most awe-inspiring human achievements, a feat now immortalized in history books, picture books, collectibles, and even LEGO bricks..

    First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Experience, by Rod Pyle with Buzz Aldrin
    Rod Pyle’s gorgeous, full-color coffee table-style book goes behind-the-scenes of the Apollo 11 mission, exploring the adventure and the scientific and engineering accomplishments of the first Moon landing. Based on Pyle’s spent years combing NASA archives and private collections, the book includes stunning pictures and newly restored photomontages as well as reproductions of original 1969 documents. Buzz Aldrin provides an introduction, and there are new interviews with the adult children of the original astronauts.It’s a thorough but accessible narrative of the events that led to the Apollo 11 mission, and a visually stunning commemoration of the achievement.

    Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Susanna Leonard Hill and Elisa Paganelli
    This unique picture book beautifully reimagines the moon landing from the Moon’s point of view. The Moon watches Earth from afar, curious at the moment of dinosaurs, wondering at the construction of the pyramids, and eager to make friends with all the people she’s observing down on the surface. The day a rocket finally arrives carrying human visitors is the one she’s been waiting for. This lovely, heartwarming story mixes in real facts about the Apollo mission, the Moon, and rockets, and the Barnes & Noble edition features an alternate cover hidden on the back of the dust jacket.

    LEGO Ideas: NASA Apollo Saturn V
    We can’t all be rocket scientists, but anyone can build a rocket thanks to this LEGO kit. The Saturn V was the very rocket that sent humans to land, for the first time, on the Moon. This authentically detailed set includes not just the rocket itself, but also the detachable stages—the three points at which it separated along its flight—as well as the lunar lander and lunar orbiter modules and three astronaut mini figures. This a complete a representation of Apollo 11 from launch to landing in 1,900 pieces, and it even comes with a book about the mission.

    50mm Refractor Table Telescope with Case from Celestron
    Learning about the Moon landing is important, but the real opportunity is to use that story to inspire an interest in science and astronomy among the next generation of explorers. This one, with a 50 mm refractor, a tabletop tripod, and a hard carrying case, makes a great starter telescope for 8 and up crowd. The 50th anniversary of Apollo is a perfect time to get kids looking at the Moon, and help them see for themselves the connection between the adventures of the past to the promise of the future.

    American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race, by Douglas Brinkley
    The Moon mission didn’t begin with a Saturn V rocket launching from Florida. It didn’t even begin with John F. Kennedy’s 1961 announcement of a plan to visit the Moon by the end of that decade—but that’s nonetheless a good place to begin the story. Douglas Brinkley, a historian and expert on the Kennedy presidency, revisits the era in full, with new interviews and primary source material that explores the fast-paced scientific, cultural, and political initiatives that made the moonshot happen. It’s a book that tells the stories of the people who lived through—and made—history, including those who, like Kennedy, didn’t live to see the outcome.

    Moon! Earth’s Best Friend (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Stacy McAnulty and Stevie Lewis
    The third part of a trio of books about the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon, this picture book tells the story of our single satellite from her own point of view, in the style of an autobiography. After all, the Moon will never turn her back on us (literally), so it’s only fair that we should listen to what she has to say. Beautifully illustrated, it’s a great way to introduce children to our orbiting friend with kid-friendly facts relayed in an easy-to-understand way.

    Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon, by Robert Kurson
    Over 400,000 people contributed to the Apollo program, but three astronauts stood at the public forefront of the program, championing its goals while facing the very real dangers of stepping into the unknown. Before we could land on the Moon, we had to prove that we could safely visit and orbit it—a feat ultimately accomplished by the three Apollo 8 astronauts: Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders. In 1968, one of the most turbulent years in the history of America, the decision was made to put everything on the line and vastly accelerate the program’s timeframe in order to keep ahead of the Soviet Union. While telling the whole story, Kurson focuses on the three men who would be the ones to ride that perilous rocket.

    Who Was Neil Armstrong?, by Roberta Edwards
    The Who HQ books offer a wonderfully accessible way for middle grade children to learn about important figures and events in history. They’re fun, but genuinely informative, and this one begins, appropriately, with the kid who made model rocket planes before becoming a test pilot and astronaut: Neil Armstrong. Over 80 illustrations bring the information to life.

    LEGO Ideas: Women of NASA
    The coolest LEGO set? This 4-figure Women of NASA box might well be it. It comes with three builds and four mini figures: astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, and astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison. Roman, whose work planning the Hubble was essential, has a figure attached to a detailed built of the space telescope; Hamilton’s figure is part of a build that includes stacks of books representing the Apollo Guidance Computer onboard flight software source code (books are cool, as is coding); and Ride and Jamison are part of a build that includes a launchpad and a detailed Space Shuttle Challenger. The set also comes with a booklet telling the stories of the four inspiring space pioneers.

    100-Piece Moon Puzzle: Featuring Photography from the Archives of NASA, by Chronicle Books LLC
    We can’t all go to the Moon, but there are other ways to spend some time appreciating our satellite’s beauty. This oversized, 100-piece floor puzzle (measuring about 2.5 feet in diameter) features a photo of the Moon taken directly from the NASA archives. With a moderate level of difficulty, it’s great for older kids or for families to work on together.

    Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11, by James Donovan
    Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, an event that shocked Americans with the revelation that their Cold War adversary might be leaping ahead in the Space Race. It led to the Mercury mission to put an American into orbit, the Gemini mission to extend our capabilities in space, and, of course, the Apollo program, which took us to the Moon. Donovan explores the whole series of events from beginning to end, highlighting the triumphs and disasters of the three programs that eventually did put people on the Moon. There were incredible challenges, heartbreaking losses, and moments that might have turned out very differently—such as when a critical alarm went off 40,000 feet over the lunar surface—were it not for human ingenuity.

    S’well Nat Geo Rover Bottle
    If you’re going to go to the Moon, you’ve got to get hydrated. (It’s a start, anyway.) Nat Geo and S’Well have teamed up to create this 17-ounce water bottle celebrating the Apollo landing: a limited-edition collectible that features a diagram of the landing module. It’s eco-friendly, BPA-free, and reusable.

    One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon, by Charles Fishman
    When President Kennedy challenged us to go to the Moon, no one really knew if it was even possible; nor what the Moon’s surface would really be like; nor how to build a rocket large enough or computer small enough to get us there. Fishman’s book focuses on the people involved: not only the engineers, astronauts, and researchers, but also ordinary Americans like the factory workers (typically women) who sewed spacesuits and parachutes and even computer hardware (which, believe it or not, often involved weaving) by hand. Ultimately, over 400,000 people contributed to the Apollo mission, and many of their stories told here.

    Moonbound: Apollo 11 and the Dream of Spaceflight, by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm with Michael Collins
    The Moon landing is celebrated in a whole new way in this graphic history. With an attractive and accessible but in no way simplistic art style, it alternates between a narrative retelling of the harrowing and epic moments immediately prior to the 1969 moon landing, and capsule biographies of key figures like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Margaret Hamilton, and Wehrner von Braun. It’s an impressive and easy-to-absorb homage to an inspiring historical moment, and the remarkable individuals who made it happen.

    Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program, by David Meerman Scott, Richard Jurek, Eugene Cernan, and Scott-Martin Kosofsky
    Amidst the discussions of heroic astronauts and indefatigable scientists, it’s easy to forget that the Apollo program was expensive: a massive undertaking involving thousands of people and billions of dollars. It was also intended to strike a blow to the morale of the Eastern Bloc, making the case that American democracy could reach higher than could Soviet-style communism. If the American public wasn’t onboard, the whole thing could have fallen apart in a number of ways. For the first time, this book turns our attention toward the marketing of Apollo: the press-savvy scientists and astronauts, defense contractors, and PR firms who built a sophisticated apparatus, from logo design to product placement, to convince the U.S. and the world that Moon program was worth paying attention to—and paying for.

    Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson, by Katherine Johnson
    The recognition is long overdue, but in recent years we’ve come to understand that many of the women (and women of color, like Johnson) who worked at NASA in the 1960s weren’t just fetching coffee. The centenarian mathematician’s calculations of orbital mechanics were essential in getting Mercury, and then Apollo, off the ground—and also in getting their astronauts home. Her work continued well into the Space Shuttle era, and this new middle grade-aimed autobiography is her first effort to tell her own life story in her own words. Though it’s perfect for younger readers who might be interested in sciences, Katherine Johnson’s story is a thrilling, and deserves to be heard by all of us.

    How are you celebrating the anniversary of the Apollo mission?

    The post Celebrating 50 Years Since the Apollo 11 Moon Landing appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2019/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , 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 4:00 pm on 2019/05/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , d-day, history, 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.

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