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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.

December 2014

December’s roundup of History titles includes WATERLOO, a new military history of one of the key battles in world history, by veteran historian Gordon Corrigan, who brings the campaign and battle, its armies and their commanders to fresh and vivid life; THE ITALIAN AMERICANS, a gorgeous companion book to the PBS series, in which Maria Laurino strips away stereotypes and nostalgia to tell the complicated, centuries-long story of the true Italian-American experience; THE GREATEST KNIGHT, Thomas Asbridge’s portrait of one of history's most illustrious knights --- William Marshal --- that evokes the grandeur and barbarity of the Middle Ages; and EMPIRE OF COTTON by Sven Beckert, the epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality to the world economy, and its making and remaking of global capitalism.

November 2014

November’s roundup of History titles includes NAPOLEON: A LIFE by Andrew Roberts, the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s 33,000 letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation; CHINA 1945: Mao’s Revolution and America’s Fateful Choice, Richard Bernstein’s riveting account of the watershed moment in America’s dealings with China that forever altered the course of East-West relations; THE SPHINX: Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists, and the Road to World War II, in which Nicholas Wapshott recounts how an ambitious and resilient FDR devised and doggedly pursued a strategy to sway the American people to abandon isolationism and take up the mantle of the world's most powerful nation; and A ROYAL EXPERIMENT: The Private Life of King George III, Janice Hadlow’s surprising, dramatic and ultimately heartbreaking account of King George III’s radical pursuit of happiness in his private life with Queen Charlotte and their 15 children.

October 2014

October’s roundup of History titles includes DREAMERS AND DECEIVERS, the follow-up to Glenn Beck’s national bestseller MIRACLES AND MASSACRES, in which the popular radio and television host brings 10 more true and untold stories to life; WHEN LIONS ROAR by Thomas Maier, the first comprehensive history of the deeply entwined personal and public lives of the Churchills and the Kennedys and what their “special relationship” meant for Great Britain and the United States; THE RETURN OF GEORGE WASHINGTON, in which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson recovers an almost always overlooked chapter of George Washington’s life, revealing how Washington saved the United States by coming out of retirement to lead the Constitutional Convention and serve as our first president; and Eric Lichtblau’s THE NAZI NEXT DOOR, the shocking story of how America became one of the world’s safest postwar havens for Nazis.

September 2014

September’s roundup of History titles includes THE ROOSEVELTS: An Intimate History, Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns’s companion volume to the seven-part PBS documentary series, which presents an intimate history of Theodore, Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and features a whopping 796 photographs (some of which have never been seen before); Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s KILLING PATTON, which takes readers inside the final year of World War II and recounts the events surrounding General George S. Patton’s tragic demise, naming names of the many powerful individuals who wanted him silenced; DEATH OF A KING, Tavis Smiley and David Ritz’s revealing and dramatic chronicle of the 12 months leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination; and SUCH TROOPS AS THESE, in which acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander offers a fresh analysis of Stonewall Jackson’s military genius and reveals how the Civil War might have ended differently if Jackson’s strategies had been adopted.

August 2014

August’s roundup of History titles includes IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides, a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age; THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, Rick Perlstein’s examination of an America on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the tumultuous political and economic times of the 1970s; INFIDEL KINGS AND UNHOLY WARRIORS: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad by Brian A. Catlos, an in-depth portrait of the Crusades-era Mediterranean world and a new understanding of the forces that shaped it; and PEPPER: A History of the World's Most Influential Spice, in which Marjorie Shaffer describes the essential role that pepper played in bringing both Americans and Europeans to Asia.

July 2014

July’s roundup of History titles includes Robert L. O’Connell’s biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, FIERCE PATRIOT, a bold, revisionist portrait of how America’s first “celebrity” general exerted an outsize impact on the American landscape --- and the American character; THE NIXON TAPES: 1971-1972, Douglas Brinkley’s latest book that was made possible by professor Luke Nichter's massive effort to digitize and transcribe the Nixon White House tapes, revealing for the first time the 37th President uncensored, unfiltered and in his own words; DOUBLE AGENT by Peter Duffy, the never-before-told tale of the German-American who spearheaded a covert mission to infiltrate New York’s Nazi underground in the days leading up to World War II --- the most successful counterespionage operation in US history; and Linda Porter’s TUDORS VERSUS STEWARTS, which sheds new light on Henry VIII, his daughter Elizabeth I, and his great-niece, Mary Queen of Scots.

June 2014

June’s roundup of History titles includes THE EXPLORERS, Martin Dugard's riveting account of one of history’s greatest adventures --- the Burton and Speke expedition of 1856 --- and a study of the seven character traits all great explorers share; A. J. Baime's THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY, a dramatic, intimate narrative of how Ford Motor Company went from making automobiles to producing the airplanes that would mean the difference between winning and losing World War II; JET SET by Vanity Fair contributor William Stadiem, the first-ever book about the glamorous decade when Americans took to the skies in massive numbers as never before, with the rich and famous elbowing their way to the front of the line; and WHAT SO PROUDLY WE HAILED by Marc Leepson, the first full-length biography of Francis Scott Key in more than 75 years, which is being published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

May 2014

May’s roundup of History titles includes THE LION'S GATE by Steven Pressfield, which tells the story of the Six Day War in the voices of the young men and women who battled not only for their lives, but also for the survival of a Jewish state and for the dreams of their ancestors; JAMES MADISION: A Life Reconsidered, Lynne Cheney's new biography of James Madison that explores the astonishing story of a man of vaunted modesty who audaciously changed the world; SUPREME CITY, Donald L. Miller’s account of Manhattan’s growth and transformation in the 1920s and the brilliant people behind it; THE PHANTOM OF FIFTH AVENUE by Meryl Gordon, which, as the subtitle states, details "the mysterious life and scandalous death of heiress Huguette Clark,” a vivacious, young socialite who became a recluse; and an illustrated edition of Stephen E. Ambrose's D-DAY: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, featuring an extraordinary collection of over 125 photos.

April 2014

April’s roundup of History titles includes THE BILL OF THE CENTURY, a thorough exploration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the single most important piece of legislation passed by Congress in American history; THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF DIXIE, the riveting story of how the Civil War upended the economic, political and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended; BOLIVAR: AMERICAN LIBERATOR, a sweeping biography of Simon Bolivar and the winner of this year's Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Biography category; THE LAST WHITE ROSE, a new interpretation of one of the most dramatic periods of British history: the Tudor victory and their dynasty; and 50 CHILDREN, the astonishing true story of how one American couple transported 50 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Austria to America in 1939.

March 2014

March’s roundup of History titles includes MACHINE MADE, a surprising new history of New York’s most famous political machine --- Tammany Hall --- revealing, beyond the vice and corruption, a birthplace of progressive urban politics; THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY, a remarkable true story of the top-secret World War II town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there unknowingly to help build the atomic bomb; THE AGE OF RADIANCE, a magisterial account of the men and women who uncovered the secrets of the nucleus, brought its power to America, and ignited the 20th century;  WASHED AWAY, the incredible story of a flood of near-biblical proportions --- its destruction, its heroes and victims, and how it shaped America's natural-disaster policies for the next century; and THE ETERNAL NAZI, the never-before-told story of the most hunted Nazi war criminal in the world, by the New York Times reporters who first uncovered S.S. officer Aribert Heim’s secret life in Egypt.