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October 2016

History Books Roundup: Reliving the Past

October 2016

October's roundup of History titles includes Beth Macy's TRUEVINE, the true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back; INDESTRUCTIBLE by John R. Bruning, the remarkable World World II story of a renegade American pilot who fights against all odds to rescue his family --- imprisoned by the Japanese --- and revolutionizes modern warfare along the way; BEATLES '66, Steve Turner's riveting look at the transformative year in the lives and careers of the legendary group whose groundbreaking legacy would forever change music and popular culture; and EINSTEIN'S GREATEST MISTAKE, an intimate biography from David Bodanis that touches on the romances and rivalries of the celebrated physicist, as much as on his scientific goals.

American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White - Biography


In his time, Ulysses S. Grant was routinely grouped with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in the “Trinity of Great American Leaders.” But the battlefield commander–turned–commander-in-chief fell out of favor in the 20th century. In AMERICAN ULYSSES, Ronald C. White argues that we need to once more revise our estimates of him in the 21st. He shows Grant to be a generous, curious, introspective man and leader --- a willing delegator with a natural gift for managing the rampaging egos of his fellow officers. His wife, Julia Dent Grant, long marginalized in the historic record, emerges in her own right as a spirited and influential partner.

The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World by Anthony M. Amore - True Crime/History


Art scams are so numerous today that the specter of a lawsuit arising from a mistaken attribution has scared a number of experts away from the business of authentication and forgery, and with good reason. Art scams are increasingly convincing and involve incredible sums of money. The cons perpetrated by unscrupulous art dealers and their accomplices are proportionately elaborate. Anthony M. Amore's THE ART OF THE CON tells the stories of some of history's most notorious yet untold cons.

Beatles '66: The Revolutionary Year by Steve Turner - Music History

They started off as hysteria-inducing pop stars playing to audiences of screaming teenage fans and ended up as musical sages considered responsible for ushering in a new era. The year that changed everything for the Beatles was 1966. On the 50th anniversary of this seminal year, music journalist and Beatles expert Steve Turner investigates the enormous changes that took place in the Beatles’ lives and work during 1966. He looks at the historical events that had an impact on the group, the music they made that in turn profoundly affected the culture around them, and the vision that allowed four young men from Liverpool to transform popular music and serve as pioneers for artists from Coldplay to David Bowie, Jay-Z to U2.

Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and Eisenhower's Campaign for Peace by Alex von Tunzelmann - History


The year 1956 was a turning point in history. Over 16 extraordinary days, the twin crises involving Suez and Hungary pushed the world to the brink of a nuclear conflict. BLOOD AND SAND delivers this story in an hour-by-hour account through a fascinating international cast of characters: Anthony Eden, the British prime minister, caught in a trap of his own making; Gamal Abdel Nasser, the bold young populist leader of Egypt; David Ben-Gurion, the aging Zionist hero of Israel; Guy Mollet, the bellicose French prime minister; and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American president, torn between an old world order and a new one in the very same week that his own fate as president was to be decided by the American people.

City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York by Tyler Anbinder - History


With more than three million foreign-born residents today, New York has been America’s defining port of entry for nearly four centuries, a magnet for transplants from all over the globe. These migrants have brought their hundreds of languages and distinct cultures to the city, and from there to the entire country. More immigrants have come to New York than all other entry points combined. Tyler Anbinder’s story is one of innovators and artists, revolutionaries and rioters, staggering deprivation and soaring triumphs, all playing out against the powerful backdrop of New York City, at once ever-changing and profoundly, permanently itself.

Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T. J. Stiles - Biography


T. J. Stiles paints a portrait of Gen. George Armstrong Custer both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, proving how much of Custer’s legacy has been ignored. He demolishes Custer’s historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person --- capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years).

Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City by Paul Strathern - History


By the end of the 15th century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo de' Medici they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances between the major Italian powers. However, in the form of Savonarola, an unprepossessing provincial monk, Lorenzo found his nemesis. The battle between these two men would be a fight to the death, a series of sensational events featuring a cast of the most important and charismatic Renaissance figures.

Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever - History

From the drunkenness of the Pilgrims to Prohibition hijinks, drinking has always been a cherished American custom: a way to celebrate, grieve, and take the edge off. At many pivotal points in our history, alcohol has acted as a catalyst. In DRINKING IN AMERICA, Susan Cheever chronicles our national love affair with liquor, taking a long, thoughtful look at the way alcohol has changed our nation's history.

Einstein's Greatest Mistake: A Biography by David Bodanis - Biography

Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped to lead us into the atomic age. Yet in the final decades of his life, he was also ignored by most working scientists, his ideas opposed by even his closest friends. As renowned writer David Bodanis explains in EINSTEIN’S GREATEST MISTAKE, this stunning downfall can be traced to Einstein’s earliest successes and to personal qualities that were at first his best assets.

The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H. W. Brands - History/Politics


At the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, "The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has." This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done. Two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way.

In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages by Max Adams - History


The five centuries between the end of Roman Britain and the death of Alfred the Great have left few voices save a handful of chroniclers, but Britain's "Dark Ages" can still be explored through their material remnants: architecture, books, metalwork and, above all, landscapes. Max Adams explores Britain's lost early medieval past by walking its paths and exploring its lasting imprint on valley, hill and field. Each of his 10 walking narratives form free-standing chapters as well as parts of a wider portrait of a Britain of fort and fyrd, crypt and crannog, church and causeway, holy well and memorial stone.

Indestructible: One Man's Rescue Mission That Changed the Course of WWII by John R. Bruning - History

December, 1941: Manila is invaded, and US citizen and Philippines Airlines manager Pappy Gunn is ordered to fly key military command out of the country, leaving his family at home. So Gunn was miles away when the Japanese captured his wife and children, placing them in an internment camp where they faced disease, abuse and starvation. Gunn spent three years trying to rescue them. His exploits became legend as he revolutionized the art of air warfare, devising his own weaponry, missions and combat strategies. By the end of the war, Pappy's ingenuity and flair for innovation helped transform MacArthur's air force into the scourge of the Pacific.

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis - History

Though Israel’s history is rife with conflict, these conflicts do not fully communicate the spirit of Israel and its people: they give short shrift to the dream that gave birth to the state, and to the vision for the Jewish people that was at its core. Guiding us through the milestones of Israeli history, Daniel Gordis relays the drama of the Jewish people’s story and the creation of the state. He illustrates how Israel became a cultural, economic and military powerhouse, but also explains where Israel made grave mistakes and traces the long history of Israel’s deepening isolation.

Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel by Dan Ephron - History/Politics

The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin remains the single most consequential event in Israel’s recent history, and one that fundamentally altered the trajectory for both Israel and the Palestinians. KILLING A KING relates the parallel stories of Rabin and his stalker, Yigal Amir, over the two years leading up to the assassination, as one of them planned political deals he hoped would lead to peace, and the other plotted murder.

Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage That Made a President by Betty Boyd Caroli - Biography/Politics

The conventional story goes that Lyndon Johnson married Lady Bird for her money, demeaned her by flaunting his many affairs, and that her legacy was protecting the nation’s wildflowers. But she was actually a full political partner throughout his ascent. And while others were shocked that she put up with his womanizing, she always knew she had the upper hand. In LADY BIRD AND LYNDON, Betty Boyd Caroli paints a vivid portrait of a marriage with complex, but familiar and identifiable overtones.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell - History


Chronicling General Lafayette’s years in Washington’s army, Sarah Vowell reflects on the ideals of the American Revolution versus the reality of the Revolutionary War. Riding shotgun with Lafayette, Vowell swerves from the high-minded debates of Independence Hall to the frozen wasteland of Valley Forge, from bloody battlefields to the Palace of Versailles, bumping into John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Lord Cornwallis, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Antoinette, and various kings, Quakers and redcoats along the way.

The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward - History/Politics

Bob Woodward exposes one of the final pieces of the Richard Nixon puzzle in THE LAST OF THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. He reveals the untold story of Alexander Butterfield, the Nixon aide who disclosed the secret White House taping system that changed history and led to Nixon’s resignation. In 46 hours of interviews with Butterfield, supported by thousands of documents, many of them original and not in the presidential archives and libraries, Woodward has uncovered new dimensions of Nixon’s secrets, obsessions and deceptions.

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers by Simon Winchester - History

As the Mediterranean shaped the classical world, and the Atlantic connected Europe to the New World, the Pacific Ocean defines our tomorrow. With China on the rise, so, too, are the American cities of the West coast. Today, the Pacific is ascendant. Its geological history has long transformed us --- tremendous earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis --- but its human history, from a Western perspective, is quite young, beginning with Magellan’s 16th-century circumnavigation. It is a natural wonder whose most fascinating history is currently being made.

Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire by Shane White - History


Eminent historian Shane White reveals the larger-than-life story of a man who defied every convention of his time. He wheeled and dealed in the lily white business world, married a white woman, bought a mansion in rural New Jersey, owned railroad stock on trains he was not legally allowed to ride, and generally set his white contemporaries’ teeth on edge when he wasn't just plain outsmarting them. An important contribution to American history, Jeremiah G. Hamilton's life offers a way into considering subjects that are usually seen as being quintessentially white.

Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway by Michael Riedel - History/Performing Arts


Broadway’s most respected (and feared) commentator pulls back the curtain on its stars, producers and mega-hits to reveal all the shocking drama, intrigue and power plays that happened off stage. RAZZLE DAZZLE is a no-holds-barred narrative account of the people, money and power that reinvented an iconic quarter of New York City, turning its gritty back alleys and sex shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way --- and bringing a crippled New York from the brink of bankruptcy to its glittering glory.

Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain's Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War by Ben MacIntyre - History

Britain’s Special Air Service was the brainchild of David Stirling, a young, gadabout aristocrat whose aimlessness in early life belied a remarkable strategic mind. Where most of his colleagues looked at a battlefield map of World War II’s African theater and saw a protracted struggle with Rommel’s desert forces, Stirling saw an opportunity: given a small number of elite, well-trained men, he could parachute behind enemy lines and sabotage their airplanes and war material. Paired with his constitutional opposite, the disciplined martinet Jock Lewes, Stirling assembled a revolutionary fighting force that would upend not just the balance of the war, but the nature of combat itself.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger - History


When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly. But its merchant ships were under attack by pirates from North Africa’s Barbary coast who routinely captured American sailors and held them as slaves. In response, Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy’s new warships and a detachment of marines to blockade Tripoli --- launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America’s journey toward future superpower status.

Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy - History


George and Willie Muse were two little boys born to a sharecropper family. One day, a white man offered them a piece of candy, setting off events that would take them around the world and change their lives forever. Captured into the circus, the Muse brothers performed for royalty at Buckingham Palace and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. But the very root of their success was in the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume. Through hundreds of interviews and decades of research, Beth Macy explores a central and difficult question: Where were the brothers better off? On the world stage as stars, or in poverty at home?

The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill by Greg Mitchell - History

In the summer of 1962, the year after the rise of the Berlin Wall, a group of young West Germans risked prison, Stasi torture and even death to liberate friends, lovers and strangers in East Berlin by digging tunnels under the Wall. NBC and CBS funded two separate tunnels in return for the right to film the escapes, planning spectacular prime-time specials. President John F. Kennedy, however, was wary of anything that might spark a confrontation with the Soviets. So he approved unprecedented maneuvers to quash both documentaries, testing the limits of a free press in an era of escalating nuclear tensions.

War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel that Stunned the Nation by John Sedgwick - History


In WAR OF TWO, John Sedgwick explores the long-standing conflict between Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr. A study in contrasts from birth, they had been compatriots, colleagues and even friends. But above all they were rivals. Matching each other’s ambition and skill as lawyers in New York, they later battled for power along political fault lines that would not only decide the future of the United States, but define it.

The Washingtons: George and Martha, "Join'd by Friendship, Crown'd by Love" by Flora Fraser - History

Flora Fraser provides us with a brilliant account of the public George Washington and of the war he waged, and gives us, as well, the domestic Washingtons, whether at Mount Vernon before and during the war or in New York and Philadelphia during his presidency. This is a remarkable story of a remarkable pair as well as a gripping narrative of the birth of a nation --- a major, and vastly appealing, contribution to the literature of our founding fathers…and founding mother.

The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro - History

Preeminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro shows how the tumultuous events in England in 1606 affected Shakespeare and shaped the three great tragedies he wrote that year --- KING LEAR, MACBETH and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. THE YEAR OF LEAR sheds light on these tragedies by placing them in the context of their times, while also allowing us greater insight into how Shakespeare was personally touched by such events as a terrible outbreak of plague and growing religious divisions.