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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.

July 2015

July's roundup of History titles includes VENDETTA, in which investigative reporter James Neff brings to life the gripping, no-holds-barred clash of two American titans: Robert Kennedy and his nemesis, Jimmy Hoffa; THE ART OF THE CON by Anthony M. Amore, which tells the stories of some of history's most notorious yet untold art scams, while also taking the reader into the investigations that led to the capture of the con men, who oftentimes return back to the world of crime; Jonathan M. Bryant's DARK PLACES OF THE EARTH, a dramatic work of historical detection illuminating one of the most significant --- and long forgotten --- Supreme Court cases in American history; and SICILY, John Julius Norwich's latest book that weaves the turbulent story of Sicily into a spellbinding narrative that places the island at the crossroads of world history.

June 2015

June's roundup of History titles includes THE COST OF COURAGE by Charles Kaiser, the heroic true story of the three youngest children of a bourgeois Catholic family who worked together in the French Resistance; STALIN'S DAUGHTER, Rosemary Sullivan's painstakingly researched, revelatory biography of Svetlana Stalin, a woman fated to live her life in the shadow of one of history’s most monstrous dictators --- her father, Josef Stalin; Nancy Goldstone's THE RIVAL QUEENS, the riveting true story of mother-and-daughter queens Catherine de' Medici and Marguerite de Valois, whose wildly divergent personalities and turbulent relationship changed the shape of their tempestuous and dangerous century; and THE SCORPION'S STING, in which award-winning historian James Oakes illuminates the strategy for ending slavery that precipitated the crisis of civil war.

May 2015

May's roundup of History titles includes THE WRIGHT BROTHERS by David McCullough, which tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright; WATERLOO, Bernard Cornwell's first work of nonfiction that is being published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s last stand; THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR, the latest book from Kenneth C. Davis, who brings to life six emblematic battles, revealing untold tales that span our nation's history --- from the Revolutionary War to Iraq; and Helen Castor's JOAN OF ARC, which tells afresh the gripping story of the peasant girl from Domremy who hears voices from God, leads the French army to victory, is burned at the stake for heresy, and eventually becomes a saint.

April 2015

April’s roundup of History titles includes CAPITAL DAMES by Cokie Roberts, a riveting exploration of the ways in which the Civil War transformed not only the lives of women in Washington, D.C., but also the city itself; James Bradley’s THE CHINA MIRAGE, a spellbinding history of turbulent U.S.-China relations from the 19th century to World War II and Mao's ascent; KL by Nikolaus Wachsmann, an unprecedented, integrated account of the Nazi concentration camps from their inception in 1933 through their demise, 70 years ago, in the spring of 1945; and WENT THE DAY WELL?, David Crane’s astonishing hour-by-hour chronicle that starts the day before Waterloo, the battle that reset the course of world history, and continues to its aftermath.

March 2015

March’s roundup of History titles includes DEAD WAKE, Erik Larson’s enthralling account of the sinking of the Lusitania that also brings to life a cast of evocative characters --- from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson; THE DEATH OF CAESAR, the exciting, dramatic story of one of history’s most famous events --- the death of Julius Caesar --- which is now placed in full context of Rome’s civil wars by Barry Strauss; THE GREAT DIVIDE, in which acclaimed historian Thomas Fleming examines how the differing temperaments and leadership styles of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson shaped two opposing views of the presidency --- and the nation; and A GREAT AND TERRIBLE KING, the first major biography of King Edward I, whose reign was one of the most dramatic and important of the entire Middle Ages, leading to war and conquest on an unprecedented scale.

February 2015

February's roundup of History titles includes WASHINGTON'S REVOLUTION, Pulitzer Prize finalist Robert Middlekauff's account of the formative years that shaped a callow George Washington into an extraordinary leader; LINCOLN'S GREATEST CASE by lawyer and Lincoln scholar Brian McGinty, the untold story of how one sensational trial propelled a self-taught lawyer and a future president into the national spotlight; EYE ON THE STRUGGLE, in which acclaimed biographer James McGrath Morris brings into focus the riveting life of one of the most significant yet least known figures of the civil rights era --- pioneering journalist Ethel Payne, the “First Lady of the Black Press”; and LUSITANIA by Greg King and Penny Wilson, which tells the story of the Lusitania's glamorous passengers and the torpedo that ended an era and prompted the US entry into World War I.

January 2015

January's roundup of History titles includes GATEWAY TO FREEDOM, in which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner tells the dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom; THE TRAIN TO CRYSTAL CITY by Jan Jarboe Russell, the never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved American internment camp in Texas during World War II, where thousands of families --- many US citizens --- were incarcerated; IN THESE TIMES, a beautifully observed history of the British home front during the Napoleonic Wars by celebrated historian Jenny Uglow; and MARCHING HOME, a groundbreaking investigation from Civil War historian Brian Matthew Jordan examining the fate of Union veterans who won the war but couldn’t bear the peace.

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.