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June 2016

History Books Roundup: Reliving the Past

June 2016

June's roundup of History titles includes COMMANDER IN CHIEF, the sequel to Nigel Hamilton's THE MANTLE OF COMMAND, which recounts the astonishing story of FDR's year-long, defining battle with Churchill, as World War II raged in Africa and Italy; NEVER A DULL MOMENT, David Hepworth's rollicking look at 1971 --- the busiest, most innovative and resonant year of the '70s, defined by the musical arrival of such stars as David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Joni Mitchell; DOUGLAS MacARTHUR: AMERICAN WARRIOR by Pulitzer Prize finalist Arthur Herman, the definitive biography of the visionary general who led American forces through three wars and foresaw his nation’s great geopolitical shift toward the Pacific Rim; and HOW THE POST OFFICE CREATED AMERICA, Winifred Gallagher's examination of the postal service's surprising role in our country's political, social, economic and physical development.

The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood: The Spy Who Stole the Crown Jewels and Became the King's Secret Agent by Robert Hutchinson - History

One morning in May 1671, a man disguised as a parson daringly attempted to seize the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Astonishingly, he managed to escape with the regalia and crown before being apprehended. And yet he was not executed for treason. Instead, the king granted him a generous income, and he became a familiar strutting figure in the royal court's glittering state apartments. This man was Colonel Thomas Blood, a notorious turncoat and fugitive from justice. Historian Robert Hutchinson paints a vivid portrait of a double agent bent on ambiguous political and personal motivation.

Commander in Chief: FDR's Battle with Churchill, 1943 by Nigel Hamilton - History


Nigel Hamilton's MANTLE OF COMMAND, long-listed for the National Book Award, drew on years of archival research and interviews to portray FDR in a tight close-up, as he determined Allied strategy in the crucial initial phases of World War II. COMMANDER IN CHIEF reveals the astonishing sequel --- suppressed by Winston Churchill in his memoirs --- of Roosevelt's battles with Churchill to maintain that strategy. It shows FDR in top form at a crucial time in the modern history of the West.

Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior by Arthur Herman - Biography

Douglas MacArthur was arguably the last American public figure to be worshipped unreservedly as a national hero, the last military figure to conjure up the romantic stirrings once evoked by George Armstrong Custer and Robert E. Lee. But he was also one of America’s most divisive figures, a man whose entire career was steeped in controversy. Was he an avatar or an anachronism, a brilliant strategist or a vainglorious mountebank? Drawing on a wealth of new sources, Arthur Herman delivers a biography that peels back the layers of myth --- both good and bad --- and exposes the marrow of the man beneath.

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M. M. Blume - Biography


In the summer of 1925, Ernest Hemingway and a clique of raucous companions traveled to Pamplona, Spain, for the town’s infamous running of the bulls. Then, over the next six weeks, he channeled that trip’s maelstrom of drunken brawls, sexual rivalry, midnight betrayals and midday hangovers into his groundbreaking novel, THE SUN ALSO RISES. But the full story of Hemingway’s legendary rise has remained untold until now. Lesley Blume resurrects the explosive, restless landscape of 1920s Paris and Spain, and reveals how Hemingway helped create his own legend.

A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain by Marc Morris - Biography/History

Marc Morris examines afresh the forces that drove Edward I throughout his relentless career: his character, his Christian faith, and his sense of England's destiny --- a sense shaped in particular by the tales of the legendary King Arthur. He also explores the competing reasons that led Edward's opponents (including Robert Bruce) to resist him. The result is a sweeping story, immaculately researched yet compellingly told, and a vivid picture of medieval Britain at the moment when its future was decided.

How the Post Office Created America: A History by Winifred Gallagher - History


The founders established the post office before they had even signed the Declaration of Independence, and for a very long time, it was the U.S. government’s largest and most important endeavor. This was no conventional mail network, but the central nervous system of the new body politic, designed to bind 13 quarrelsome colonies into the United States by delivering news about public affairs to every citizen --- a radical idea that appalled Europe’s great powers. Winifred Gallagher presents the history of the post office as America’s own story, told from a fresh perspective over more than two centuries.

The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War by Arkady Ostrovsky - History

The end of communism and breakup of the Soviet Union was a time of euphoria around the world, but Russia today is violently anti-American and dangerously nationalistic. So how did we go from the promise of those heady days to the autocratic police state of Putin’s new Russia? THE INVENTION OF RUSSIA reaches back to the darkest days of the cold war to tell the story of the fight for the soul of a nation. Arkady Ostrovsky introduces us to the propagandists, oligarchs and fixers who have set Russia’s course since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer - History


Arrested, charged and convicted of a brutal race-based killing, Henry Hays, a member of Klavern 900 of the United Klans of America, was sentenced to death --- the first time in more than half a century that the state of Alabama sentenced a white man to death for killing a black man. On behalf of the victim’s grieving mother, legendary civil rights lawyer Morris Dees filed a civil suit against the members of the local Klan unit involved and the UKA, the largest Klan organization. Charging them with conspiracy, Dees put the Klan on trial, resulting in a verdict that would level a deadly blow to its organization.

Melville in Love: The Secret Life of Herman Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick by Michael Shelden - Biography

Herman Melville’s epic novel, MOBY-DICK, was a spectacular failure when it was published in 1851. Because he was neglected by academics for so long and made little effort to preserve his legacy, we know very little about Melville, and even less about what he called his “wicked book.” Scholars still puzzle over what drove him to invent Captain Ahab's mad pursuit of the great white whale. Pulitzer Prize finalist Michael Shelden sheds light on this literary mystery to tell a story of Melville’s affair with a married woman named Sarah Morewood, whose libertine impulses encouraged and sustained his own.

Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition by Nisid Hajari - History


Nobody expected the liberation of India and birth of Pakistan to be so bloody. Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s protégé and the political leader of India, believed Indians were an inherently nonviolent, peaceful people. Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular lawyer, not a firebrand. But in August 1946, exactly a year before Independence, Calcutta erupted in street-gang fighting, and a cycle of riots spiraled out of control. From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation, the searing tale told in MIDNIGHT'S FURIES explains all too many of the headlines we read today.

A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life from the Stone Age to the Phone Age by Greg Jenner - Social History


Who invented beds? When did we start cleaning our teeth? How old are wine and beer? Which came first: the toilet seat or toilet paper? What was the first clock? Every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us in the morning until our head hits our pillow at night, we all take part in rituals that are millennia old. Structured around one ordinary day, A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY reveals the astonishing origins and development of the daily practices we take for granted. In this entertaining romp through human history, Greg Jenner explores the gradual --- and often unexpected --- evolution of our daily routines.

Never a Dull Moment: 1971 -- The Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth - Music/History


David Hepworth, an ardent music fan and well-regarded critic, was 21 in 1971, the same age as many of the legendary artists who arrived on the scene. Taking us on a tour of the major moments, the events and songs of this remarkable year, Hepworth shows how musicians came together to form the perfect storm of rock and roll greatness, starting a musical era that would last longer than anyone predicted. Those who joined bands to escape things that lasted found themselves in a new age, its colossal start being part of the genre's staying power.

New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren - History


NEW ENGLAND BOUND reclaims the lives of so many long-forgotten enslaved Africans and Native Americans in the 17th century. Based on new evidence, Wendy Warren links the growth of the northern colonies to the Atlantic slave trade, demonstrating how New England’s economy derived its vitality from the profusion of slave-trading ships coursing through its ports. She documents how Indians were systematically sold into slavery in the West Indies and reveals how colonial families like the Winthrops were motivated not only by religious freedom but also by their slave-trading investments.

No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII by Robert Weintraub - History


NO BETTER FRIEND tells the remarkable story of Royal Air Force technician Frank Williams and Judy, a purebred pointer, who met in a World War II internment camp. Judy was fiercely loyal, with a keen sense for who was friend and who was foe, and the pair's relationship deepened throughout their captivity. When the prisoners suffered beatings, Judy would interrupt by barking. She survived bombings and other near-death experiences and became a beacon for the men, who saw in her survival a flicker of hope for their own.

Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs: A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder by Ben Mezrich - History/Politics


ONCE UPON A TIME IN RUSSIA is the untold true story of the larger-than-life billionaire oligarchs who surfed the waves of privatization to reap riches after the fall of the Soviet regime: “Godfather of the Kremlin” Boris Berezovsky, a former mathematician whose first entrepreneurial venture was running an automobile reselling business, and Roman Abramovich, his dashing young protégé who built a multi-billion-dollar empire of oil and aluminum.

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck - History


Rinker Buck’s bestseller is an epic account of traveling the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way --- in a covered wagon with a team of mules, an audacious journey that hasn’t been attempted in a century --- which also chronicles the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.

PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy by William Doyle - History


At 2:00 a.m. on August 2, 1943, U.S. Patrol Torpedo boat PT-109, captained by Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, was struck by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri near the Solomon Islands. Despite injuring his back, Lt. Kennedy led his battered and exhausted men on a harrowing three-and-a-half-mile swim to a tiny uninhabited island. Desperate for food and water, Kennedy set off on a solo reconnaissance mission, scouting two larger islands two-and-a-half miles away. For six days they lived off coconuts and kept out of sight of passing Japanese patrols until they were rescued.

Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva by Rosemary Sullivan - Biography

Born in the early years of the Soviet Union, Svetlana Stalin spent her youth inside the walls of the Kremlin. As she gradually learned about the extent of her father’s brutality after his death, Svetlana could no longer keep quiet. In 1967 she shocked the world by defecting to the United States, leaving her two children behind. With access to KGB, CIA and Soviet government archives, as well as the close cooperation of Svetlana’s daughter, Rosemary Sullivan pieces together Svetlana’s incredible life.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg - History


Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over 400 years, Nancy Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society --- where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early 19th century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics --- a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.

William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough - Biography


General Sherman’s 1864 burning of Atlanta solidified his legacy as a ruthless leader. Yet he proved far more complex than his legendary military tactics reveal. James Lee McDonough offers fresh insight into a man tormented by the fear that history would pass him by, who was plagued by personal debts, and who lived much of his life separated from his family. As a soldier, Sherman evolved from a spirited student at West Point into a general who steered the Civil War’s most decisive campaigns. Lamenting casualties, Sherman sought the war’s swift end by devastating Southern resources in the Carolinas and on his famous March to the Sea.