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

    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.

  • Melissa Albert 3:30 pm on 2014/08/05 Permalink
    Tags: adam makos, , , , , , , , , , , , world war II   

    4 Gripping Works of Nonfiction for Readers Who Loved Unbroken 

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    In the Kingdom of Ice at B&N

    Since 2010 Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s white-knuckle account of the near-fatal plane crash and subsequent internment of World War II hero and former Olympian Louis Zamperini, has captured the imagination of readers around the world. It’s landed on best-seller lists and reader wish lists everywhere, and even inspired a film, out this December from director Angelina Jolie. If you’re looking for more historical tales to chill your blood, keep you up, and make you extra grateful for your easy chair, here are four more books you’ll love:

    In the Kingdom of Ice, by Hampton Sides
    Sides’ tale opens on the indelible image of the 1873 rescue of more than a dozen people—men, women, and children—from an Arctic ice flat, on which they’d spent 196 harrowing days. It then backs up to spin the story of the “grand and terrible Polar voyage of the USS Jeanette,” the ship from which the survivors were separated, folding in wealthy eccentrics, acts of great hubris, and life and death at sea. Set in the Gilded Age amid an unprecedented public thirst for Arctic exploration, In the Kingdom of Ice will keep you in its chilly grip from the first page to the last.

    Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, by Nathaniel Philbrick
    The 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill was a bloody tipping point in the Revolutionary War, and Philbrick’s book colors in the history, characters, and political and social landscape surrounding the powder keg of post–Tea Party Boston. By focusing tightly on just one battle, Philbrick uncovers new perspectives on an old story, and fleshes out the lives of a number of supporting players in the United States’ brutal struggle for independence.

    A Higher Call, by Adam Makos
    A sky-high act of incredible mercy inspired a dual biography of two World War II pilots: American Charlie Brown, who in December 1943 found himself in the pit of a crippled B-17, and Franz Stigler, the German pilot who, rather than ending his life, helped guide him to safety. That the two men met and became friends in 1990, following Brown’s late-life search for his unexpected savior, only sweetens this story of wartime grace.

    The Guns at Last Light, by Rick Atkinson
    In the concluding volume of his World War II Liberation trilogy, Atkinson highlights the often internally divided nature of the Allied forces, and never loses sight of the frightening costs of war. From the shores of Normandy to the final days of the Third Reich, Atkinson’s impeccably researched book will keep you riveted, whether you’re a military history buff or a n00b in need of a primer.

    What nonfiction page-turners have you been reading lately?

  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 3:30 pm on 2014/07/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , war fiction, world war II   

    Alan Furst’s Midnight in Europe Is a Fast-Paced, Dangerous Ride 

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    Alan Furst's Midnight in Europe

    It’s tempting, if you’re not already interested in war stories, to overlook the works of Alan Furst. “Oh yeah,” you might say, “that guy who writes all the books about World War II.” I know that’s how I approached him for a long while. Then, one night, staying with my grandparents and having finished whatever it was I’d brought along on the trip, I was left to forage for reading material in my grandfather’s shelves. My grandfather was a World War II vet himself, tall, grumpy, and quick to curse. He was also insanely intelligent. I spotted the row of Furst novels on his bookshelf and decided that surely no man would be allowed to write so many books if he were not good at what he does. This logic had served me well when I approached Patrick O’Brian (here’s looking at you, Master and Commander), so it made sense to trust the instinct a second time.

    I’m so very glad I did. Furst’s thrillers are set in Europe in the shadow of war. If you were to spread them out around you and quietly spend a week reading through the lot, you’d come away with a vivid tapestry of a time that’s reminiscent of works like Hans Fallada ‘s Every Man Dies Alone: the work has value that extends beyond entertainment.

    That being said—oh, my god, are Furst’s books entertaining, and Midnight in Europe is no exception. The book’s protagonist is a high-powered Catalan lawyer. Christian Ferrar is a hunk, he’s got a woman in every port, and though I’m a lady, I still couldn’t quite bring myself to roll my eyes at his conquests, so specifically crafted and real was Ferrar’s inner voice. He’s not a cad, he just loves women. A lot of women. Redheads, vaguely threatening but stunning spies like the one who maaaaay have been partly responsible for the death of his mission’s predecessor, and even Spanish aristocrats. Dude’s got game.

    Set just before the Spanish Civil War, Ferrar is tapped to travel to Europe and play the part of a spy, gathering weaponry for the Republican Army. The story is fast-paced and evokes the danger of the time. Ferrar’s like an untrained, accidental Bond—his wit, his immigrant history, and his desperation to stop tyranny color all of his interactions. He’s partying his way through the European spy circuit, but his family is always central in his mind. Ferrar might not be a trained spy, but he’s as stolidly anti-fascist as they come, like every Furst protagonist, and rather than struggle and bumble his way through his assignment, Ferrar proves to be a natural.

    Are you planning to read Midnight in Europe?

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