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  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2018/03/01 Permalink
    Tags: , history,   

    THe Best History Books of March 2018 

    History moves pretty fast, and it’s impossible to pay attention to everything at once. History books open windows onto a frozen period of the past, allowing us to take our time and dig deep into the fine grain of events. This month’s crop of new history books bringboth modern-day events like the 2016 election and those more distant past, like the 18th century siege of Gilbraltar, into focus, giving us the room to understand how they affected the world speeding along around us.

    Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn
    Americans on both sides are still trying to figure out precisely what happened in the 2016 presidential election, and sometimes it seems like the more information we glean about Russian hacking and propaganda programs, the more confusing it becomes. Veteran journalists Isikoff and Corn take a systematic approach to tracing the course of events, starting with the souring of Russia-U.S. relations, tracing the Trump organization’s close ties to Russia, then outlining the incredibly complex system of espionage that the Russians employed to influence the election.

    Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History, by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins
    At the height of the Revolutionary War, Great Britain was distracted and weakened by war with France and Spain, and the strain contributed to the American victory that birthed a nation. Roy and Lesley Adkins take a thrilling close look at one of the most strategically important events of the time: the nearly-four year siege of Gilbraltar. Incredibly important to Britain’s empire, the story of the soldiers, sailors, and officers who held the rock against all odds deserves all the attention it can get, as it’s easily one of the most thrilling episodes of the period. Fighting not just bullets and sabers but disease and starvation as the French and Spanish worked tirelessly to intercept all resupply attempts, the longest siege in Britain’s history is one of those real-life events that seems like it came out of a fantastic thriller.

    Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage, by Brian Castner
    In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie set off into Canada’s Northwest Territories in search of the Northwest Passage. Navigating a river he named Disappointment (today known as the Mackenzie River) he pushed his team further north than any European had ever been, ultimately failing in his quest. In 2016 Castner set off to follow the same route and to experience some of the same nightmarish conditions suffered by Mackenzie more than two centuries earlier. The world Castner finds is much changed, and yet the indigenous people of the area are still struggling in similar fashion—just against different forces. Mackenzie’s incredible journey combined with Castner’s modern-day memoir bring the area and its history to vibrant life.

    To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration, by Edward Larson
    Larson offers a snapshot of a bygone age where the idle rich wished to be not quite so idle, and lavished their resources on exploration that brought fame and status. In 1909, three incredible expeditions were mounted: Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole, Peary’s eighth attempt to reach the North Pole, and Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy’s attempt to climb to the “Pole of Altitude” in the Himalayas. Armed with equipment that broke down or was easily lost along the way, Larson details the thrillingly dangerous conditions these men endured as they pursued their goals—the last frontiers of exploration on a planet that was rapidly being settled and modernized. Mutinies, lost appendages, and other incredible setbacks make each attempt a gripping story of adventure, detailed with fine-point accuracy by Larson’s research and access to original sources.

    In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, by Mitch Landrieu
    If anyone needed a reminder that we are far from living in any sort of “post-racial” society, the events surrounding the removal of various confederate statues in the southern United States in 2017 served as a grim lesson. Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans, ordered the removal of four Confederate statues, and here writes movingly—and disturbingly—of the segregationist and supremacist forces that opposed him. While some argue about the erasing of history, Landrieu doesn’t flinch away from categorizing those who fight to protect the symbols of slavery as racists, or from outlining the ways these forces still control the mechanisms of the law and politics in the southern states.

    New World, Inc.: The Making of America by England’s Merchant Adventurers, by John Butman and Simon Targett
    The story of capitalism and its influence on the world didn’t begin with the USA, and Butman and Targett serve up a fascinating reminder that the New World was, in fact, discovered and mapped largely by for-profit adventurers representing corporations. Beginning with the three ships of the Mysterie Company in 1533 that set off—unsuccessfully—to find a northern passage to China. The authors further argue that the contributions of such money-minded entrepreneurs was erased in favor of the religious, pious Pilgrims who offered America a better pedigree. They also underscore the link between commerce and the desperate need for new trade routes and the advancement of seafaring technology and knowledge, making a successful argument that to find a new world more than simple adventure and curiosity was needed—profits also had to be in the cards.

    The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, by Elaine Weiss
    It might be difficult to believe that less than a century ago women did not have the right to vote in the United States. As the #MeToo movement puts women’s rights and equality back in the spotlight, it’s the ideal time to revisit the surprisingly thrilling and tense battle for women’s suffrage—a battle that looked to be lost just a short time before the vote. Weiss recounts the surprisingly dirty politics of the struggle, defined by the threats, bribes, and tricks of the anti-suffrage movement, countered at every turn by the passionate, fearless work of Carrie Catt, Sue White, and dozens of others. Readers will see plenty of parallels to modern times in the corporate influences, disinformation campaigns, and outright sexism and racism that marked a struggle for something that seems like simple common sense today—and which many assume was a simple procedural matter, when the reality was much more violent and exciting.

    The Age of Eisenhower, by William I. Hitchcock
    Dwight D. Eisenhower was so successful and fundamentally important to 20th century American—and world—history it’s almost unavoidable that people would work to undermine his legacy, complaining that he was a figurehead during World War II and that he was a lightweight, inconsequential President who floated along on a warm wave of postwar prosperity. Hitchcock takes a much-needed second look at Ike’s presidency, offering compelling evidence that Eisenhower was much more subtle and intelligent a political operative than has been assumed. Eisenhower in fact followed smart, even-handed economic policies that balanced the needs of citizens with budgetary restraint, and was more important to the Civil Rights movement than most grade school history books give him credit for. At a time when presidential performance is on every American’s mind in some sense, this is an ideal book for those seeking historical objectivity.

    The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure, by Carl Hoffman
    Hoffman tells the parallel tales of Bruno Manser, a Swiss environmentalist, and Michael Palmieri, and art dealer from America, who both found adventure and purpose on the wild and untamed island of Borneo int he 1970s and 1980s. Palmieri collected artifacts and tribal art, becoming a notable dealer while Manser lived with the primitive Penan tribe and worked tirelessly to protect the island from corporate forces seeking to denude it of natural resources. Remarkably, the men never met in person, and Hoffman turns their true life stories into the stuff of adventure fiction, filled with battles against nature and tense smuggling adventures that would make as excellent a Hollywood movie as they do a book of modern-day history.

    China’s Great Wall of Debt, by Dinny McMahon
    China seems to be on an inevitable economic ascent, and it’s easy to assume their “miracle” was accomplished through diligent manipulation of market forces and a wave of exported goods. McMahon traces the true engine of China’s economic expansion—debt, and plenty of it, to the tune of $12 trillion that may never be paid back. This puts not just China’s future but the future of the entire world at risk, as the collapse of this wall of debt would set off a chain reaction the world’s economies have never experienced. McMahon doesn’t settle for academic research and number-crunching, traveling to China to visit idle factories and empty ghost cities and meeting with businesspeople who operate their Chinese companies outside of China because it’s easier to get the basics they need in countries like the United States. All in all an eye-opening book that will change views on the world’s economy and future, and not necessarily for the better.

    The post THe Best History Books of March 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jen Harper 5:00 pm on 2018/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , hild, history, , jubilee, margaret walker, michelle moran, nefertiti, nicola griffith, , Priya Parmar, , , tananarive due, the black rose, the dream lover, the invention of wings, , vanessa and her sister, women's history month,   

    10 Books Celebrating Influential Women in History 

    March is Women’s History Month, so to celebrate, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite historical fiction books about some awesome women through the ages. From the first professional female pilot and American’s first black female millionaire to well-known names like Zelda Fitzgerald, George Sand, and Nefertiti, these incredible women—and so many more—have had a profound impact on their communities, society, and the world. So in commemoration of Women’s History Month, these are her stories.

    The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
    With alternating narratives by two extraordinary female characters, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings tells the incredible story of real-life abolitionist pioneer Sarah Grimke and urban slave Hetty “Handful” Grimke in early 19th-century Charleston. On her 11th birthday, Sarah is given ownership of 10-year-old Hetty, and the two go on to influence each other and the destiny of women’s and African-American rights over the next 35 years. In real life, Hetty died of an “unspecified disease” after being severely beaten as punishment for Sarah teaching her how to read. But Kidd knew Hetty’s voice was imperative to telling this powerful story.

    Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler
    Zelda Fitzgerald was so much more than the beautiful, outlandish wife of famed This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald. And Therese Anne Fowler’s impeccably researched novel brings her to life, starting with her whirlwind courtship with young army lieutenant Scott when she was just 17 in Montgomery, Ala. Despite her parents’ disapproval, Zelda falls for Scott, and what follows is an incredibly readable tale of the couple’s fame at the dawn of the Jazz Age; their days galavanting around New York City, Paris, and more; the alcoholism and infidelity that plague their marriage; and the talented and often scandalous Zelda’s struggles with mental illness.

    Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain
    From the author of The Paris Wife comes another riveting read for historical fiction lovers. Paula McLain has crafted a compelling story about real-life female aviator and author Beryl Markham in 1920s colonial Kenya. Following an unconventional upbringing by her father and the native tribe who share his estate, the bold and fearless Beryl goes on to become a horse trainer—during a time when there were no female horse trainers—and later the first professional female pilot and a record-setting flyer. Beryl also finds herself tangled in a love triangle with hunter Denys Finch Hatton and writer Karen Blixen in this rich and passionate tale.

    Jubilee, by Margaret Walker
    Margaret Walker’s powerful novel set in the South during the American Civil War tells the true story of Vyry Brown, a biracial slave who was the daughter of a white plantation owner and a black enslaved woman. Vyry’s tale is based on the life of Margaret Duggans Ware Brown, the author’s great-grandmother. Walker is able to seamlessly blend together her family’s oral history she heard from her grandmother along with extensive research to offer a deeply moving and realistic portrayal of what life was like for slaves in the deep South—their struggles and desires—from their own perspective.

    Saint Mazie, by Jami Attenberg
    Bringing not only Mazie Phillips Gordon to life but also the sights and sounds of Jazz Age New York City, Jami Attenberg’s Saint Mazie tells the story of a movie ticket seller, an ordinary woman who did some extraordinary things. Witnessing the hungry, addicted, and injured homeless people roaming the Bowery, Mazie selflessly helped them the best she could, giving them money and opening the doors of The Venice theater to those in need. With details of her life imagined through fictional diary entries and account from those who knew her and only knew her through her journal, Attenberg’s witty book allows the spirit of Mazie to live on.

    The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg
    Nineteenth-century French novelist George Sand was an eccentric and passionate woman who embraced an unconventional lifestyle in the pursuit of her dream of becoming a writer. In Elizabeth Berg’s richly captivating novel, readers are initially introduced to Sand as Aurore Dupin, a woman in the process of leaving a loveless marriage to start a new life in Paris. She changes her name, defies the restrictions on women in society, and takes on a who’s who of lovers and friends including Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset. Exploring themes of sexuality, gender, and art, The Dream Lover is a must-read for fans of historical fiction.

    Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar
    History remembers writer Virginia Woolf much more so than her sister, painter Vanessa Bell. But Priya Parmar’s elegant and dazzling novel, set in early 20th-century London, brings Vanessa out of her sister’s shadow to show just how truly gifted and multidimensional Vanessa was as well as the profound influence she had on Virginia. The story is told through Vanessa’s invented journal entries and correspondence and follows the siblings as they buck convention and forge their own path toward artistic success. But when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love, Virginia careens into madness, having been ever-dependent on her sister as a steadying force in her life.

    Hild, by Nicola Griffith
    For fans of A Game of Thrones and exquisitely written historical fiction, Nicola Griffith’s Hild sheds some light on the Dark Ages and one of its most pivotal women, Saint Hilda of Whitby. The well-researched tome set in seventh-century Britain introduces readers to Hild as a curious child with a plotting and ambitious uncle set on becoming overking of Angles. Hild finds a place at his side as the king’s seer, an indispensable role that leads to her being feared by many as she truly seems to see the future. Griffith manages to bring the harsh yet beautiful realities of Hild’s experiences to life in this impeccable read.

    Nefertiti, by Michelle Moran
    Michelle Moran transports readers to ancient Egypt in her novel about two influential royal women in history, Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet. Strong-willed Nefertiti is set to marry an unstable pharaoh named Amunhotep. Following her marriage, Nefertiti is beloved by the people of Thebes, but, unbeknownst to her, powerful priests are plotting against her heretical husband. The only person willing to brave the inevitable ramifications and tell Nefertiti of the plot is her younger sister. While Nefertiti longs for power, her sister only wishes for a quiet life and to follow the her heart. Moran manages to bring them both to life in vivid detail on the page.

    The Black Rose, by Tananarive Due
    Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, the daughter of slaves on a Louisiana plantation in 1867; she went on to become America’s first black female millionaire. After being orphaned at age 7, married at 14, and widowed with a young child at 20, she was not content to maintain her lot in life. She became an inventive entrepreneur, creating hair and beauty products like a potion that became Wonderful Hair Grower and a hot comb that allowed black women to straighten their hair. Walker rose from poverty to become the head of a hugely successful company and a philanthropist for African American and women’s causes. The Black Rose, started by author Alex Haley before his death in 1992 and completed by writer Tananarive Due, is the remarkable fictionalized account of her riveting life.

    What fiction would you recommend about influential women in history?

    The post 10 Books Celebrating Influential Women in History appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 5:00 pm on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: 11/22/63, abraham lincoln vampire hunter, all american girl, american queen, american wife, , , , , , , dolley, eighteen acres, ellen feldman, eugene burdock, executive orders, failsafe, frost/nixon, , harvey wheeler, history, it can’t happen here, jailbird, , jenn marie thorne, joe klein, , , leader of the free world, , lucy, , , mount vernon love story, mrs. President, nicole wallace, peter morgan, , primary colors, , seth grahams-smith, sierra simone, sinclair lewis, stephen carter, , , the impeachment of abraham lincoln, , the plot against america, the president is missing, the wrong side of right, , wide awake   

    25 Fictional Presidents 

    President’s Day is around the corner, so we compiled a list of 25 fictional presidents for you to read about! If watching the news bums you out, but political intrigue does not, these books are for you.

    Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
    This haunting novel centers around the true story of Lincoln’s son, who died during his Presidency. While President Lincoln visits the gravesite of his son, the ghosts who have clung to life narrate a deeply moving, complex thread of tales.

    11/22/63, by Stephen King
    This political sci-fi is about a man who travels back in time with one goal—to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While the President does not “officially” appear in the story, the entire plot centers around Jake Epping managing to stop Lee Harvey Oswald…but will his actions have the opposite impact on American history than he hopes?

    American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
    Loosely based on Laura Bush, this novel stars Alice, a small-town girl who grows up to marry a future President. Follow Alice in her courtship by a dazzling Republican man she finds herself unable to stay away from…but once they enter the White House, she realizes she disagrees with in ways they may be unable to reconcile.

    Jailbird, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Watergate gets even more insidious in this story, told from the perspective of a fictional co-conspirator in the Nixon Administration cover-up. Wry and humorous, but also dark and revealing of the jagged edges of human nature, Vonnegut’s anti-hero shares the story from his perspective years later, after serving his time for the crime.

    Dolley, by Rita Mae Brown
    Dolley Madison was the fourth first lady in American history, and this novel explores her fictional diary. Being the wife of one of America’s founders was both glamorous, full of fashion and parties…and horrendous, as her husband ushers the country into war.

    Primary Colors, by Joe Klein
    Originally published anonymously, this novel takes readers behind the political curtain of presidential campaigns. Based on Bill Clinton’s rise to the presidency, told from the perspective of a lower-level aide, every moment is rife with drama on the verge of scandal.

    Eighteen Acres, by Nicolle Wallace
    Nicole Wallace is a former Communications Director of the White House (and current political pundit) and wrote a novel imagining the first woman president as she weathers a re-election campaign, an infidelity scandal, and an international blunder.

    American Queen, by Sierra Simone
    Now for a very different kind of novel, this erotic romance imagines a completely fictional scenario in which a girl finds herself in love with two men: they just happen to be the President of the United States…and the Vice President of the United States. Confused? Once you meet Greer, Embry and Maxen in this reimagining of Camelot, you’ll be in love.

    The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
    This book isn’t even available yet, but it’s totally pre-order worthy…because it’s the first novel written by a former President! Bill Clinton teamed up with James Patterson to write a political thriller about what happens when a President vanishes without a trace.

    Failsafe, by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler
    Published in 1962, when tensions between Russia and the US were at an all-time high, this speculative novel imagines a scenario in which American bombers take control of the nuclear weapons and decide to put an end to the conflict once and for all…and the President must act before Russia engages them in all-out war.

    The Dead Zone, by Stephen King
    Stephen King returns to the list with this bestselling speculative novel about a man who wakes up from a coma with the mysterious ability to see people’s futures. But this becomes a problem when he has a vision of a man running for President…and it’s disastrous. Does he intervene to prevent it from coming true?

    Executive Orders, by Tom Clancy
    The worst has occurred: the President, the cabinet, and most of congress is dead. That leaves the VP, Jack Ryan, in charge. President Ryan must govern without a government all the while trying to figure out who is responsible. Riveting and with twists that will leave you breathless, fans of Designated Survivor will love this novel.

    The Inner Circle, by Brad Meltzer
    An adventure of presidential proportions begins when an archivist and his one-time crush find a mysterious dictionary that belonged to the first president, George Washington. They must race against the clock to decipher the meaning of the dictionary, and, once a man ends up dead, hope they don’t end up suffering the same fate.

    The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen L. Carter
    This fascinating novel imagines a world where Lincoln did not die, and instead lived to face the consequences of the Civil War…namely, an impeachment trial for a breach of executive powers. When one of Lincoln’s lawyers is murdered, a young black woman working for his defense team must unravel the mystery.

    Mount Vernon Love Story, by Mary Higgins Clark
    Mystery master Mary Higgins Clark wrote an historical novel about George Washington! Did you know that many people believe Washington, despite being married to Martha, was in love with someone else? Higgins Clark is not one of them; she writes the love story between America’s FIRST first-couple as one of mutual respect, admiration, and affection.

    Lucy, by Ellen Feldman
    In contrast, this novel is about a president who was in love with someone who wasn’t his wife. Before he was President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved Lucy Mercer…Eleanor’s social secretary. Through polio, a world war, and two presidential terms, despite his promises to Eleanor, Franklin and Lucy remain connected. Heartbreaking, romantic, and beautiful.

    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith
    Presidents go paranormal in this fun novel that reveals the true story behind our 16th President. Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter, hell-bent on vengeance against the creatures responsible for his mother’s death.

    Mr. President, by Katy Evans
    Matt and Charlotte have known one another since they were kids. He was the son of a President, and vowed never to follow in his father’s footsteps…except now he has, bringing Charlotte along for the ride. The problem? Charlotte loves him, but knows she can never love a President. This erotic romance novel sizzles with political steam.

    The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth
    An Alternative history where FDR loses the 1940 election to isolationist Charles Lindbergh…who strikes a deal with Hitler to stay out of his way. But tensions rise, along with anti-Semintism, and the consequences are seen through the eyes of one boy.

    It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis
    This book was written during the Great Depression, but the subject matter is still relevant today. Featuring another character who unseats Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the Presidency, this novel details the dangers of populist rhetoric with a President who halts progress on all fronts and holds his enemies captive.

    Frost/Nixon, by Peter Morgan
    This play dramatizes the epic showdown between journalist David Frost and President Nixon, in which the former tries to get the latter to confess to his crimes. (You can watch the movie, too!)

    Crooked, by Austin Grossman
    Grossman’s reinvention of Tricky Dick as the inheritor of a presidency imbued with magical powers—a man consistently distrusted and marginalized by the people who could have prepared him for the battles to come—is thoroughly enjoyable. Most importantly, it offers up an idea of a president who has more than a veto up his or her sleeves. Certainly a little black magic would be very welcome in today’s unsettled world.

    All American Girl, by Meg Cabot
    One of my favorite YA novels featuring regular-girl Sam Madison, who saves the president from an assassination attempt. Sam is in love with her older sister’s boyfriend, but as she spends more time with the President’s son—the only person who seems to understand the downsides to her newfound fame—she starts to question both her choice, and whether she could love the kid who lives in the White House.

    The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne
    Kate has never known her father, but when her mother dies, he reveals himself: a powerful politician vying for the White House. Suddenly, Kate is embroiled in the world of politics, a new family, and a dangerous first-love…all the while grieving for her mom, and the life she once loved.

    Wide Awake, by David Levithan
    This speculative novel stars the first gay, Jewish President…whose election is promptly declared invalid by a governor of a crucial state. Jimmy and Duncan, a teen couple, decide to lend their support by joining the protests to support him.

    What novels featuring fictionalized presidents do you love?

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  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2018/02/01 Permalink
    Tags: , history,   

    The Best History Books of February 2018 

    Humanity has been mucking about for so long just about every single day on the calendar is the anniversary of some incredibly important historical event—and more are being added every single day. The only way to get a handle on everything that’s happened is to just start reading—and keep reading as many history books as possible. Towards that end, February offers up a short list of fascinating, informative, and surprising history books that will expand your understanding of the world you live in.

    Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, by Steve Coll
    As President Trump’s recent remarks about Pakistan reminded everyone, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan is crucial to American interests in the area. Pakistan’s Directorate S is a secret group withing Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) charged with prosecuting illegal operations. In Afghanistan, Directorate S and the CIA often find themselves working against each other while trying to maintain a fiction of cooperation between some of the most uncomfortable allies in history. Taking an admirably objective and non-partisan view of the politics and cultures of three nations and several non-nation groups (such as the Taliban), Coll paints a complex picture of realpolitik that offers hints of what the future of the region and U.S. policy might bring.

    Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West, by Tom Clavin
    Bringing a level of factual rigor to the legend of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson in Dodge City isn’t an easy task; the story of those pioneering lawmen, and the famed gunfight at the OK Corral, is slathered with mythic overtones. In this revealing work, Clavin strips away the unnecessary flourishes to focuses on the facets of the story he can verify—and that unadorned tale turns out to be just as fascinating, especially his telling of the lesser-known Dodge City War, a bloodless affair that saw Earp and Masterson return to the area years later to firmly establish the rule of law, once and for all. You might think you know the story of Dodge City’s most famous gunslingers, but like as not, you only know the Hollywood version. Here’s your chance to fix that.

    The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency, by Lanny J. Davis
    A year later, both sides of the political divide in this country are still trying to understand the 2016 Presidential Election. Davis is a long time operator in Washington, and well-versed in modern political maneuvers, and he argues that the single event that destroyed Hillary Clinton’s chance at being President of the United States was the letter James Comey sent to Congress just eleven days before the election. That remarkable letter stated that the FBI was investigating new information in the Clinton Email case, and sent shockwaves through the campaign. The letter was remarkable; there was actually no new information at all, and it contravened long-time protocols. Davis lays out the theory that Comey’s action caused a significant shift in voter opinion, essentially causing Clinton to lose an election she had in the bag.

    Full Battle Rattle: My Story as the Longest-Serving Special Forces A-Team Soldier in American History, by Changiz Lahidji and Ralph Pezzullo
    On TV and in movies, fictional characters are involved in some intense military and intelligence operations, going undercover, taking fire, and changing the fate of nations. In real life, such people are few and far between—but Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji is one of them. The longest-serving member of American Special Forces, Lahidji is one of the most highly-decorated non-commissioned officers in U.S. history, and has been front and center at almost every significant military event involving the U.S. over the last three decades, from Tehran to Mogadishu to Fallujah. His stories are incredible, demonstrating bravery, patriotism, and professionalism far beyond what you might think possible, and this is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the true cost of American exceptionalism.

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

    Richard Nixon: The Life, by John A. Farrell
    There are few more complex figures in American political history than Richard Nixon. Brilliant, paranoid, both a failure and a great success—Nixon was a man who defied expectations throughout his career. Farrell smartly focuses on smaller moments in Nixon’s lengthy legacy, the sort of grace notes often overlooked in favor of grand achievements—or scandals—but which can offer insight into the thought process of a man who managed one of the greatest political comebacks ever, and then was brought low by perhaps the most unnecessary political scandal of all time.

    A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America, by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Miller and Armstrong take an unblinking look at the often brutally unfair and clearly misogynistic state of law enforcement when it comes to rape allegations. Pivoting off a horrifying story of a young woman who was convinced by skeptical police that she’d imagined an assault, only later to be vindicated by evidence recovered in a separate incident, they explore how slanted against accusers the criminal justice system is when it comes to rape, and how difficult it can be for victims to come forward and be heard. Deeply researched—and deeply depressing—this is the ideal book for the current #MeToo moment.

    The post The Best History Books of February 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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

    The Best History Books of January 20187 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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