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History Books Roundup: Reliving the Past

In many ways, history defines us. When we can examine where we have been, we often can see a path to the future. Whether we’re reading books about battles and wars, political and personal triumphs and failures, or tales of places and moments that were significant, stories built on history give us a chance to assess the past with a new perspective. In this monthly Bookreporter.com feature, we take a look at some of the hardcover and paperback releases in the history genre that we think will be of interest to our readers.

May 2016

May's roundup of History titles includes FIVE PRESIDENTS, in which Secret Service agent Clint Hill reflects on his 17 years protecting the most powerful office in the nation, walking alongside Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford; VALIANT AMBITION by Nathaniel Philbrick, a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution, and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold; THE ROMANOVS: 1613-1918, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gripping chronicle that reveals the secret world of the Romanovs' unlimited power and ruthless empire-building; PAPER, Mark Kurlansky's definitive history of paper and the astonishing ways it has shaped today’s world; and DRIVE!, a revelatory new history of the birth of the automobile from Lawrence Goldstone, who tells the fascinating story of how the internal combustion engine, a “theory looking for an application,” evolved into an innovation that would change history.

April 2016

April's roundup of History titles includes Nathalia Holt's RISE OF THE ROCKET GIRLS, the riveting true story of an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible; THE NATURALIST, Darrin Lunde's captivating new account of how Theodore Roosevelt’s lifelong passion for the natural world set the stage for America’s wildlife conservation movement and determined his legacy as a founding father of today’s museum naturalism; BRILLIANT BEACONS, an epic history from Eric Jay Dolin that traces the evolution of America's lighthouse system from its earliest days, highlighting the political, military and technological battles fought to illuminate the nation's hardscrabble coastlines; and TEXAS RANGER by John Boessenecker, the first biography to tell the full story of Frank Hamer, the lawman who killed Bonnie and Clyde.

March 2016

March's roundup of History titles includes RIGHTFUL HERITAGE, in which Douglas Brinkley chronicles FDR's essential yet under-sung legacy as the founder of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and premier protector of America’s public lands; David Reid's THE BRAZEN AGE, an unparalleled look at the extraordinarily rich culture and turbulent politics of New York City between the years 1945 and 1950; STEALING GAMES, in which Maury Klein explains how the 1911 New York Giants (a team that stole an astonishing 347 bases, a record that still stands more than a century later) embodied a rapidly changing America on the cusp of a faster, more frenetic pace of life; and THE PAPER TRAIL by Alexander Monro, a sweeping and richly detailed history that tells the fascinating story of how paper --- the simple Chinese invention of 2,000 years ago --- wrapped itself around our world.

February 2016

February's roundup of History titles includes WEST OF EDEN, a mesmerizing oral history of Hollywood and Los Angeles from Jean Stein, the author of the contemporary classic EDIE; THE FIRST CONGRESS by Fergus M. Bordewich, which tells the dramatic story of the two remarkable years when George Washington, James Madison and their dedicated colleagues struggled to successfully create our government, an achievement that has lasted to the present day; THE BLACK CALHOUNS, in which Gail Lumet Buckley --- the daughter of actress Lena Horne --- delves deep into her family history, detailing the experiences of an extraordinary African-American family from Civil War to Civil Rights; and Patricia Bell-Scott's THE FIREBRAND AND THE FIRST LADY, which details the story of how a brilliant writer-turned-activist, granddaughter of a mulatto slave, and the first lady of the United States, whose ancestry gave her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, forged an enduring friendship that changed each of their lives and helped to alter the course of race and racism in America.

January 2016

January's roundup of History titles includes THE LOST TUDOR PRINCESS by Alison Weir, the first biography of Margaret Douglas, the beautiful, cunning niece of Henry VIII of England who used her sharp intelligence and covert power to influence the succession after the death of Elizabeth I; THE DEFENDER by Ethan Michaeli, a revelatory narrative of race in America that brings to life the reporters who braved lynch mobs and policemen’s clubs to do their jobs; THEIR PROMISED LAND, Ian Buruma’s account of his grandparents’ enduring love through the terror and separation of two world wars; and James P. Duffy's WAR AT THE END OF THE WORLD, a harrowing account of an epic, yet nearly forgotten, battle of World War II --- General Douglas MacArthur's four-year assault on the Pacific War's most hostile battleground: the mountainous, jungle-cloaked island of New Guinea.

December 2015

December's roundup of History titles includes Kim MacQuarrie's LIFE AND DEATH IN THE ANDES, which offers unique portraits of legendary characters along South America’s mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day; CONQUERORS, in which Roger Crowley tells the epic story of the emergence of Portugal, a small, poor nation that enjoyed a century of maritime supremacy thanks to the daring and navigational skill of its explorers; Michael A. McDonnell's MASTERS OF EMPIRE, which reveals the pivotal role played by the native peoples of the Great Lakes in the history of North America; and AGINCOURT, Sir Ranulph Fiennes' dynamic account of the Battle of Agincourt, which gives a unique perspective on one of the most significant battles in English history.

November 2015

November's roundup of History titles includes THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE TRIPOLI PIRATES by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, the little-known story of how a newly indepen­dent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America’s third president decided to stand up to intimidation; TO HELL AND BACK, acclaimed scholar Ian Kershaw’s long-anticipated analysis of the pivotal years of World War I and World War II; HUBRIS, in which Sir Alistair Horne revisits six battles of the past century and examines the strategies, leadership, preparation and geopolitical goals of aggressors and defenders to reveal the one trait that links them all: hubris; and THE WASHINGTONS by Flora Fraser, a full-scale portrait of the marriage of the father and mother of our country --- and of the struggle for independence that he led.

October 2015

October's roundup of History titles includes PACIFIC, an enthralling biography of the Pacific Ocean and its role in the modern world from Simon Winchester, who explores our relationship with this imposing force of nature; DRINKING IN AMERICA, in which Susan Cheever chronicles our national love affair with liquor, taking a long, thoughtful look at the way alcohol has changed our nation's history; LADY BIRD AND LYNDON by Betty Boyd Caroli, a fresh look at Lady Bird Johnson that upends her image as a plain Jane who was married for her money and mistreated by Lyndon; and Michael Broers' NAPOLEON: SOLDIER OF DESTINY,  the first volume of a majestic two-part biography of the great French emperor and conqueror that makes full use of his newly released personal correspondence compiled by the Napoléon Foundation in Paris.

September 2015

September's roundup of History titles includes KILLING REAGAN, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's page-turning epic account of the career of President Ronald Reagan that tells the vivid story of his rise to power --- and the forces of evil that conspired to bring him down; RFK Jr. by Jerry Oppenheimer, a sensational biography of the son of the legendary Senator and troubled standard bearer of America's most fabled political dynasty; THE CONQUERING TIDE, a masterful history by Ian W. Toll that encompasses the heart of the Pacific War, when parallel Allied counteroffensives north and south of the equator washed over Japan's far-flung island empire like a "conquering tide," concluding with Japan's irreversible strategic defeat in the Marianas; and THE MAKING OF ASIAN AMERICA by Erika Lee, which tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life.

August 2015

August's roundup of History titles includes GIVE US THE BALLOT, in which Ari Berman charts both the transformation of American democracy under the Voting Rights Act and the counterrevolution that has sought to limit voting rights, from 1965 to the present day; AVENUE OF SPIES, the latest book from the bestselling author of THE LIBERATOR, who documents the incredible true story of an American doctor in Paris and his heroic espionage efforts during World War II; THE STORM OF THE CENTURY by Al Roker, a gripping narrative history that vividly brings to life the Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in American history; and DEATH IN FLORENCE, in which Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts and political compromises that made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city of Florence one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.