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May 2016

History Books Roundup: Reliving the Past

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.

American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America to Victory in World War II by Jonathan W. Jordan - History


After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was wakened from its slumber of isolationism. To help him steer the nation through the coming war, President Franklin Roosevelt turned to the greatest “team of rivals” since the days of Lincoln: Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Admiral Ernest J. King and General George C. Marshall. Together, these four men led the nation through history’s most devastating conflict and ushered in a new era of unprecedented American influence, all while forced to overcome the profound personal and political differences that divided them.

Architecture's Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson by Hugh Howard - History

Differing radically in their views on architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson shared a restless creativity, enormous charisma and an outspokenness that made each man irresistible to the media. Often publicly at odds, they were the 20th century's flint and steel; their repeated encounters consistently set off sparks. Yet, as acclaimed historian Hugh Howard shows, their rivalry was also a fruitful artistic conversation, one that yielded new directions for both men. It was not despite but rather because of their contentious --- and not always admiring --- relationship that they were able to influence history so powerfully.

The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties by Carol Berkin - History


Revered today for articulating America’s founding principles, the first 10 amendments was in fact a political stratagem executed by James Madison to preserve the Constitution, the Federal government, and the latter’s authority over the states. In the hands of award-winning historian Carol Berkin, the story of the Founders’ fight over the Bill of Rights comes alive in a gripping drama of partisan politics, acrimonious debate and manipulated procedure.

The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman - History


While driving out of the American embassy in Moscow one evening in 1978, the chief of the CIA’s Moscow station heard a knock on his car window. A man on the curb handed him an envelope whose contents stunned U.S. intelligence: details of top-secret Soviet research and developments in military technology that were totally unknown to the United States. In the years that followed, the man, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer in a Soviet military design bureau, used his high-level access to hand over tens of thousands of pages of technical secrets.

Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope by Wendy Holden - History


Eastern Europe, 1944: Three women believe they are pregnant, but are torn from their husbands before they can be certain. Rachel is sent to Auschwitz, unaware that her husband has been shot. Priska and her husband travel there together, but are immediately separated. Also at Auschwitz, Anka hopes in vain to be reunited with her husband. With the rest of their families gassed, these young wives are determined to hold on to all they have left --- their lives, and those of their unborn babies.

Breaking Rockefeller: The Incredible Story of the Ambitious Rivals Who Toppled an Oil Empire by Peter B. Doran - History


Marcus Samuel, Jr. is an unorthodox Jewish merchant trader. Henri Deterding is a take-no-prisoners oilman. In 1889, John D. Rockefeller is at the peak of his power. Having annihilated all competition and possessing near-total domination of the market, even the U.S. government is wary of challenging the great “anaconda” of Standard Oil. The Standard never loses --- that is until Samuel and Deterding team up to form Royal Dutch Shell. BREAKING ROCKEFELLER traces Samuel’s rise from outsider to the heights of the British aristocracy, Deterding’s conquest of America, and the collapse of Rockefeller’s monopoly.

The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia by James Bradley - History


James Bradley introduces us to the prominent Americans who, in the 1800s, made their fortunes in the China opium trade. Meanwhile, American missionaries sought a myth: noble Chinese peasants eager to Westernize. The media propagated this mirage, and FDR believed that supporting Chiang Kai-shek would make China America's best friend in Asia. But Chiang was on his way out, and when Mao Zedong instead came to power, Americans were shocked, wondering how we had "lost China." From the 1850s to the origins of the Vietnam War, Bradley reveals how American misconceptions about China have distorted our policies and led to the avoidable deaths of millions.

Drive!: Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age by Lawrence Goldstone - History

In 1900, the Automobile Club of America sponsored the nation’s first car show in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Among the spectators was an obscure would-be automaker named Henry Ford, who walked the floor speaking with designers and engineers, trying to gauge public enthusiasm for what was then a revolutionary invention. His conclusion: the automobile was going to be a fixture in American society, both in the city and on the farm --- and would make some people very rich. None, he decided, more than he. Lawrence Goldstone tells the fascinating story of how the internal combustion engine, a “theory looking for an application,” evolved into an innovation that would change history.

Elizabeth: The Later Years by John Guy - Biography

Elizabeth was crowned at 25 after a tempestuous childhood as a bastard and an outcast, but it was only when she reached 50 and all hopes of a royal marriage were dashed that she began to wield real power in her own right. For 25 years, she had struggled to assert her authority over advisers who pressed her to marry and settle the succession; now, she was determined not only to reign but also to rule. In this intimate biography of England's most ambitious Tudor queen, John Guy introduces us to a woman who is refreshingly unfamiliar: at once powerful and vulnerable, willful and afraid.

Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin - History


Secret Service agent Clint Hill brings history intimately and vividly to life as he reflects on his 17 years protecting the most powerful office in the nation. Hill walked alongside Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford, seeing them through a long, tumultuous era --- the Cold War; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr. and RFK; the Vietnam War; Watergate; and the resignations of Spiro Agnew and Nixon.

Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency by Charles Rappleye - History/Politics


Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933. Often considered placid, passive, unsympathetic and even paralyzed by national events, Hoover faced an uphill battle in the face of the Great Depression. Many historians dismiss him as merely ineffective. But in HERBERT HOOVER IN THE WHITE HOUSE, Charles Rappleye draws on rare and intimate sources --- memoirs and diaries and thousands of documents kept by members of his cabinet and close advisors --- to reveal a very different figure than the one often portrayed.

The Hidden History of America at War: Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah by Kenneth C. Davis - History


Multi-million-copy bestselling historian Kenneth C. Davis sets his sights on war stories in THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR. He brings to life six emblematic battles, revealing untold tales that span our nation's history, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq. Along the way, he illuminates why we go to war, who fights, the grunt's-eye view of combat, and how these conflicts reshaped our military and national identity.

Joan of Arc: A History by Helen Castor - Biography/History


Helen Castor 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. But unlike the traditional narrative, a story already shaped by the knowledge of what Joan would become and told in hindsight, Castor’s book takes us back to 15th-century France and tells the story forwards. Instead of an icon, she gives us a living, breathing woman confronting the challenges of faith and doubt.

The Kamikaze Hunters: Fighting for the Pacific: 1945 by Will Iredale - History

In May 1945, with victory in Europe established, the war was all but over. But on the other side of the world, the Allies were still engaged in a bitter struggle to control the Pacific. And it was then that the Japanese unleashed a terrible new form of warfare: the suicide pilots, or Kamikaze. Will Iredale follows a group of young men from the moment they signed up through their initial training to the terrifying reality of fighting against pilots who, in the cruel last summer of the war, chose death rather than risk their country's dishonourable defeat --- and deliberately flew their planes into Allied aircraft carriers.

The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers by Michael Leahy - Sports/History

Legendary Dodgers Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Wes Parker, Jeff Torborg, Dick Tracewski, Lou Johnson and Tommy Davis encapsulated 1960s America: white and black, Jewish and Christian, wealthy and working class, pro-Vietnam and anti-war, golden boy and seasoned veteran. THE LAST INNOCENTS is a thoughtful, technicolor portrait of these six players and their storied team. Bringing into focus the high drama of their World Series appearances and pivotal games, Michael Leahy explores these men’s interpersonal relationships and illuminates the triumphs, agonies and challenges each faced individually.

MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific by Walter R. Borneman - History


World War II changed the course of history. Douglas MacArthur changed the course of World War II. MacARTHUR AT WAR will go deeper into this transformative period of his life than previous biographies, drilling into the military strategy that Walter R. Borneman is so skilled at conveying, and exploring how personality and ego translate into military successes and failures. This in-depth study of the most critical period of his career shows how MacArthur's influence spread far beyond the war-torn Pacific.

The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History by Jonathan Horn - History


On the eve of the Civil War, one soldier embodied the legacy of George Washington and the hopes of leaders across a divided land. Both North and South knew Robert E. Lee as the son of Washington’s most famous eulogist and the son-in-law of Washington’s adopted child. Each side sought his service for high command; Lee could choose only one. Former White House speechwriter Jonathan Horn reveals how the officer most associated with Washington went to war against the union that Washington had forged.

The Nazi Hunters by Andrew Nagorski - History


After the Nuremberg trials and the start of the Cold War, most of the victors in World War II lost interest in prosecuting Nazi war criminals. Many of the lower-ranking perpetrators quickly blended in with the millions who were seeking to rebuild their lives in a new Europe, while those who felt most at risk fled the continent. THE NAZI HUNTERS focuses on the small band of men and women who refused to allow their crimes to be forgotten --- and who were determined to track them down to the farthest corners of the earth.

Neither Snow Nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service by Devin Leonard - History


Journalist Devin Leonard tackles the fascinating, centuries-long history of the USPS, from the first letter carriers through Benjamin Franklin’s days, when postmasters worked out of their homes and post roads cut new paths through the wilderness. Under Andrew Jackson, the post office was molded into a vast patronage machine, and by the 1870s, over 70% of federal employees were postal workers. As the country boomed, USPS aggressively developed new technology --- from mobile post offices on railroads and air mail service to mechanical sorting machines and optical character readers.

Paper: A World History by Mark Kurlansky - History

Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce and art; it has formed the foundation of civilizations, promoting revolutions and restoring stability. By tracing paper’s evolution from antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on the contributions made in Asia and the Middle East, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology’s influence, affirming that paper is here to stay.

The Politicians and the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics by Sean Wilentz - History/Politics

“There are two keys to unlocking the secrets of American politics and American political history.” So begins THE POLITICIANS AND THE EGALITARIANS, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz’s bold new work of history. First, America is built on an egalitarian tradition. At the nation’s founding, Americans believed that extremes of wealth and want would destroy their revolutionary experiment in republican government. Second, partisanship is a permanent fixture in America, and America is the better for it. With these two insights, Wilentz offers a crystal-clear portrait of American history, told through politicians and egalitarians --- a portrait that runs counter to current political and historical thinking.

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis - History


In 1776, 13 American colonies declared themselves independent states that only temporarily joined forces in order to defeat the British. Once victorious, they planned to go their separate ways. The triumph of the American Revolution was neither an ideological nor a political guarantee that the colonies would relinquish their independence and accept the creation of a federal government with power over their autonomy as states. THE QUARTET is the story of this second American founding and of the men most responsible: Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Jay and James Madison.

Reagan: The Life by H. W. Brands - Biography


H. W. Brands establishes Ronald Reagan as one of the two great presidents of the 20th century, a true peer to Franklin Roosevelt. REAGAN conveys how the confident force of Reagan’s personality and the unwavering nature of his beliefs enabled him to engineer a conservative revolution in American politics and play a crucial role in ending communism in the Soviet Union. He shut down the age of liberalism, Brands shows, and ushered in the age of Reagan, whose defining principles are still powerfully felt today.

The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore - History


This is the intimate story of 20 tsars and tsarinas --- some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance. It features a global cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets --- from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy and Pushkin, to Bismarck, Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Lenin.

Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill by Mark Lee Gardner - History


Two months after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898, Congress authorized President McKinley to recruit a volunteer army to drive the Spaniards from Cuba. From this army emerged the legendary “Rough Riders,” a mounted regiment drawn from America’s western territories and led by the indomitable Theodore Roosevelt. Mark Lee Gardner synthesizes previously unknown primary accounts, as well as period newspaper articles, letters and diaries from public and private archives in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Boston and Washington, DC, to produce this authoritative chronicle.

So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family's Fight for Survival During World War II by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O'Leary - History


On May 19, 1942, a U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico stalked its prey 50 miles from New Orleans. Captained by 29-year-old Iron Cross and King's Cross recipient Erich Würdemann, the submarine set its sights on the freighter Heredia with 62 souls on board. Most were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians, including the Downs family. Fast asleep in their berths, they had no idea that two torpedoes were heading their way. When the ship exploded, chaos ensued --- and each family member had to find his or her own path to survival.

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen - Biography

Ty Cobb is baseball royalty. His lifetime batting average is still the highest of all time, and when he retired in 1928, he held more than 90 records. But the numbers don’t tell half of Cobb’s tale. Setting the record straight, Charles Leerhsen pushed aside the myths and re-traced Cobb’s journey, from the shy son of a professor and state senator who was progressive on race for his time, to America’s first true sports celebrity. In the process, he tells of a life overflowing with incident and a man who cut his own path through his times.

Underground in Berlin: A Young Woman's Extraordinary Tale of Survival in the Heart of Nazi Germany written by Marie Jalowicz Simon, translated by Anthea Bell - Memoir/History


In 1942, Marie Jalowicz, a 20-year-old Jewish Berliner, made the extraordinary decision to do everything in her power to avoid the concentration camps. She removed her yellow star, took on an assumed identity and disappeared into the city. In the years that followed, Marie took shelter wherever it was offered, living with the strangest of bedfellows, from circus performers and committed communists to convinced Nazis. As Marie quickly learned, however, compassion and cruelty are very often two sides of the same coin. Fifty years later, she agreed to tell her story for the first time.

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick - History


In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, Benedict Arnold miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell - History


On June 18, 1815, the armies of France, Britain and Prussia descended upon a quiet valley south of Brussels. In the previous three days, the French army had beaten the Prussians at Ligny and fought the British to a standstill at Quatre-Bras. The Allies were in retreat. The little village north of where they turned to fight the French army was called Waterloo. The blood-soaked battle to which it gave its name would become a landmark in European history. In his first work of nonfiction, Bernard Cornwell offers a riveting chronicle of every dramatic moment.

Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It by John Ferling - History


A master historian and superb teller of history, John Ferling illuminates the years 1763 to 1783 --- from the end of the French and Indian War that left England triumphant in North America to the signing of the Treaty of Paris in September 1783 and the final departure of British troops from New York City in November of that year. With original insight, he chronicles the myriad and complex events and contentious viewpoints that drove Americans in their insurgency against Great Britain and sustained them in the seemingly quixotic belief that they could win their independence.

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb - History


It’s 1942, and the Nazis are racing to be the first to build a weapon unlike any known before. All their plans depend on amassing a single ingredient: heavy water, which is produced in Norway’s Vemork, the lone plant in all the world that makes this rare substance. Under threat of death, Vemork’s engineers push production into overdrive. For the Allies, the plant must be destroyed. But how would they reach the castle fortress set on a precipitous gorge in one of the coldest, most inhospitable places on Earth?

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough - History


On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. Who were these men, and how was it that they achieved what they did? David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly American story of Wilbur and Orville Wright.