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September 2016

History Books Roundup: Reliving the Past

September 2016

September's roundup of History titles includes KILLING THE RISING SUN, the new book in Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard's Killing series, in which the authors recount "how America vanquished World War II Japan"; Candice Millard's HERO OF THE EMPIRE, a thrilling narrative of Winston Churchill's extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War; PEARL HARBOR, Craig Nelson's gripping and definitive account of the event that changed 20th-century America, published in time for the 75th anniversary; GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SECRET SPY WAR by John A. Nagy, the untold story of how George Washington took a disorderly, ill-equipped rabble and defeated the best trained and best equipped army of its day in the Revolutionary War; and THE BIRTH OF A NATION, the official tie-in to the highly acclaimed film of the same name, which surveys the history and legacy of Nat Turner, the leader of one of the most renowned slave rebellions on American soil, while also exploring his relevance to contemporary dialogues on race relations.

1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History by Jay Winik - History

1944 witnessed a series of titanic events: FDR at the pinnacle of his wartime leadership as well as his reelection, the planning of Operation Overlord with Churchill and Stalin, the unprecedented D-Day invasion, the liberation of Paris and the horrific Battle of the Bulge, and the tumultuous conferences that finally shaped the coming peace. But on the way, millions of more lives were still at stake as President Roosevelt was exposed to mounting evidence of the most grotesque crime in history: the Final Solution.

1956: The World in Revolt by Simon Hall - History

1956 was one of the most remarkable years of the 20th century. All across the globe, ordinary people spoke out, filled the streets and city squares, and took up arms in an attempt to win their freedom. Simon Hall takes the long view of the year's events --- putting them in their post-war context and looking toward their influence on the counterculture movements of the 1960s --- to tell the story of the year's epic, global struggles from the point of view of the freedom fighters, dissidents, and countless ordinary people who worked to overturn oppressive and authoritarian systems in order to build a brave new world.

American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 by Alan Taylor - History

The American Revolution is often portrayed as a high-minded, orderly event whose capstone, the Constitution, provided the ideal framework for a democratic, prosperous nation. In AMERICAN REVOLUTIONS, Alan Taylor gives us a different creation story. Rising out of the continental rivalries of European empires and their native allies, Taylor’s Revolution builds like a ground fire overspreading Britain’s mainland colonies. Conflict ignited on the frontier, where settlers clamored to push west into Indian lands against British restrictions, and in the seaboard cities, where commercial elites mobilized riots and boycotts to resist British tax policies.

Asylum: A Survivor's Flight from Nazi-Occupied Vienna Through Wartime France by Moriz Scheyer - Memoir

As arts editor for one of Vienna's principal newspapers, Moriz Scheyer knew many of the city's foremost artists, and was an important literary journalist. With the advent of the Nazis, he was forced from both job and home. In 1943, in hiding in France, Scheyer began drafting what was to become this book. Tracing events from the Anschluss in Vienna, through life in Paris and unoccupied France, including a period in a French concentration camp, contact with the Resistance, and clandestine life in a convent caring for mentally disabled women, he gives an extraordinarily vivid account of the events and experience of persecution.

The Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement edited by Nate Parker - History

This official tie-in to the highly acclaimed film The Birth of a Nation surveys the history and legacy of Nat Turner, the leader of one of the most renowned slave rebellions on American soil, while also exploring Turner’s relevance to contemporary dialogues on race relations. Beautifully illustrated with stills from the movie and original illustrations, the book also features an essay by writer/director Nate Parker, contributions by members of the cast and crew, and commentary by educator Brian Favors and historians Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Daina Ramey Berry, who place Nat Turner and the rebellion he led into historical context.

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips - History


Forsyth County, Georgia, at the turn of the 20th century was home to a large African American community. Many black residents were poor sharecroppers, but others owned their own farms. But then in September 1912, three young black laborers were accused of raping and murdering a white girl. One man was dragged from a jail cell and lynched on the town square, two teenagers were hung after a one-day trial, and soon bands of white “night riders” launched a coordinated campaign of arson and terror. National Book Award finalist Patrick Phillips tells Forsyth’s tragic story in vivid detail and traces its long history of racial violence all the way back to antebellum Georgia.

The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 by Ian W. Toll - History

THE CONQUERING TIDE encompasses the heart of the Pacific War --- the period between mid-1942 and mid-1944 --- when parallel Allied counteroffensives north and south of the equator washed over Japan's far-flung island empire like a "conquering tide," concluding with Japan's irreversible strategic defeat in the Marianas. It was the largest, bloodiest, most costly, most technically innovative and logistically complicated amphibious war in history, and it fostered bitter interservice rivalries, leaving wounds that even victory could not heal.

Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini - Biography


The product of 30 years of friendship and conversation, Jay Parini’s EMPIRE OF SELF probes behind the glittering surface of Gore Vidal's colorful life to reveal the complex emotional and sexual truth underlying his celebrity-strewn life. But there is plenty of glittering surface as well --- a virtual Who's Who of the American Century, from Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart through the Kennedys, Princess Margaret and the crème de la crème of Hollywood.

Fields of Battle: Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to War by Brian Curtis - History


In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the 1942 Rose Bowl was moved from Pasadena to Duke University out of fear of further Japanese attacks on the West Coast. Shortly after this unforgettable game, many of the players and coaches left their respective colleges, entered the military, and went on to serve around the world in famous battlegrounds. Fate and destiny would bring them back together on faraway battlefields, fighting on the same team. FIELDS OF BATTLE sheds light on a little-known slice of American history where World War II and football intersect.

The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith - Biography


Widely considered the first female presidential chief of staff, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was the right-hand woman to FDR for more than 20 years. Although her official title as personal secretary was relatively humble, her power and influence were unparalleled. She was one of his most trusted advisors, affording her a unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim. With unprecedented access to Missy’s family and original source materials, journalist Kathryn Smith tells the captivating and forgotten story of the intelligent, loyal and clever woman who had a front-row seat to history in the making.

George Washington's Secret Spy War: The Making of America's First Spymaster by John A. Nagy - History


This is the untold story of how George Washington took a disorderly, ill-equipped rabble and defeated the best trained and best equipped army of its day in the Revolutionary War. Author John A. Nagy has become the nation’s leading expert on the subject, discovering hundreds of spies who went behind enemy lines to gather intelligence during the American Revolution, many of whom are completely unknown to most historians. Using George Washington’s diary as the primary source, Nagy tells the story of Washington’s experiences during the French and Indian War and his first steps in the field of espionage.

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard - History


At the age of 24, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England. He arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels and jumpstart his political career. But just two weeks later, Churchill was taken prisoner. Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape --- traversing hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate and his wits to guide him.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly - History


Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, HIDDEN FIGURES follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich - Biography


For all the literature about Adolf Hitler, there have been just four seminal biographies; this is the fifth, a landmark work that sheds important new light on Hitler himself. Drawing on previously unseen papers and a wealth of recent scholarly research, Volker Ullrich reveals the man behind the public persona --- from Hitler's childhood to his failures as a young man in Vienna to his experiences during the First World War to his rise as a far-right party leader. Ullrich deftly captures Hitler's intelligence, instinctive grasp of politics and gift for oratory, as well as his megalomania, deep insecurity and repulsive worldview.

Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America's Free Press by Richard Kluger - History


When Britain began colonizing the New World, strict censorship was the iron rule and any words that disparaged the government were a punishable crime. So when a small newspaper, the New-York Weekly Journal, printed scathing articles assailing the new British governor, William Cosby, as corrupt and abusive, it was the paper’s publisher, John Peter Zenger, who took the fall. Although Zenger was merely a front man for Cosby’s true adversaries, he was jailed for the better part of a year and faced a jury in a proceeding matched in importance during the colonial period only by the Salem Witch Trials.

Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo - Biography

In 1942, social worker Irena Sendler was granted access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist. While there, she reached out to the trapped Jewish families, going from door to door and asking the parents to trust her with their young children. She started smuggling them out of the walled district, convincing her friends and neighbors to hide them. Driven to extreme measures and with the help of a network of local tradesmen, ghetto residents, and her star-crossed lover in the Jewish resistance, Irena ultimately smuggled thousands of children past the Nazis. In IRENA’S CHILDREN, Tilar Mazzeo tells the incredible story of this courageous and brave woman who risked her life to save innocent children from the Holocaust.

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard - History


Autumn 1944. World War II is nearly over in Europe but is escalating in the Pacific, where American soldiers face an opponent who will go to any length to avoid defeat. The Japanese army follows the samurai code of Bushido, stipulating that surrender is a form of dishonor. KILLING THE RISING SUN takes readers to the bloody tropical-island battlefields of Peleliu and Iwo Jima and to the embattled Philippines, where General Douglas MacArthur has made a triumphant return and is plotting a full-scale invasion of Japan.

Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman by Greg Grandin - History/Politics

Examining Henry Kissinger's own writings, as well as a wealth of newly declassified documents, Greg Grandin reveals how Richard Nixon's top foreign policy advisor, even as he was presiding over defeat in Vietnam and a disastrous, secret and illegal war in Cambodia, was helping to revive a militarized version of American exceptionalism centered on an imperial presidency. Believing that reality could be bent to his will, Kissinger anticipated, even enabled, the ascendance of the neoconservative idealists who took America into crippling wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story -- How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War by Nigel Cliff - Biography


In 1958, an unheralded 23-year-old piano prodigy from Texas named Van Cliburn traveled to Moscow to compete in the First International Tchaikovsky Competition. The Soviets had no intention of bestowing their coveted prize on an unknown American; a Russian pianist had already been chosen to win. Yet when the gangly Texan with the shy grin took the stage and began to play, he instantly captivated an entire nation. Adored by millions in the USSR, Cliburn returned to a thunderous hero’s welcome in the US and became, for a time, an ambassador of hope for two dangerously hostile superpowers.

The Nixon Tapes: 1973 by Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter - History/Politics

Between 1971 and 1973, President Richard Nixon’s voice-activated tape recorders captured 3,700 hours of conversations. Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter’s intrepid two-volume transcription and annotation of the highlights of this essential archive provides an unprecedented and fascinating window into the inner workings of a momentous presidency. THE NIXON TAPES: 1973 tells the concluding chapter of the story, the final year of taping, covering such events as the Vietnam cease-fire, the Wounded Knee standoff and, of course, the Watergate investigation.

Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story by David Maraniss - History


Detroit in 1963 is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford; Henry Ford II; Motown’s founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the incredible Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rights advocate; car salesman Lee Iacocca; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before. Yet the shadows of collapse were evident even then.

Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson - History


The America we live in today was born, not on July 4, 1776, but on December 7, 1941, when an armada of 354 Japanese warplanes supported by aircraft carriers, destroyers and midget submarines suddenly and savagely attacked the United States, killing 2,403 men --- and forced America’s entry into World War II. PEARL HARBOR follows, moment by moment, the sailors, soldiers, pilots, diplomats, admirals, generals, emperor and president as they engineer, fight and react to this stunningly dramatic moment in world history.

Quixote: The Novel and the World by Ilan Stavans - Cultural History

The year 2015 marked the 400th anniversary of the publication of the complete DON QUIXOTE OF LA MANCHA. The novel has spawned ballets and operas, poems and plays, movies and video games, and even shapes the identities of entire nations. In QUIXOTE, Ilan Stavans explores these many manifestations. Training his eye on the tumultuous struggle between logic and dreams, he reveals the ways in which a work of literature is a living thing that influences and is influenced by the world around it.

RFK Jr.: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Dark Side of the Dream by Jerry Oppenheimer - Biography

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. inherited his assassinated father's piercing blue eyes and Brahmin style, earning a reputation as the nation's foremost environmental activist and lawyer, battling corporate polluters. But in this first-ever biography of him, Jerry Oppenheimer places Bobby Jr., leader of the third generation of America's royal family, under a journalistic microscope. Like his slain father, the iconic senator and presidential hopeful, he was destined for political greatness. Why it never happened is revealed here.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin - Biography


Still known to millions primarily as the author of “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson (1916–1965) has been curiously absent from the mainstream American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense and psychological horror, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America more deeply than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author of such classics as THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard - History


Ancient Rome was an imposing city even by modern standards, a sprawling imperial metropolis of more than a million inhabitants that served as the seat of power for an empire that spanned from Spain to Syria. Yet how did all this emerge from what was once an insignificant village in central Italy? In SPQR, world-renowned classicist Mary Beard narrates the unprecedented rise of a civilization that even 2,000 years later still shapes many of our most fundamental assumptions about power, citizenship, responsibility, political violence, empire, luxury and beauty.

True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy by Kati Marton - History

TRUE BELIEVER reveals the life of Noel Field, an American who betrayed his country and crushed his family. Field, once a well-meaning and privileged American, spied for Stalin during the 1930s and '40s. Then a pawn in Stalin’s sinister master strategy, Field was kidnapped and tortured by the KGB and forced to testify against his own Communist comrades. How does an Ivy League-educated, US State Department employee, deeply rooted in American culture and history, become a hardcore Stalinist? Communism promised the righting of social and political wrongs, and many in Field’s generation were seduced by its siren song. Few, however, went as far as he did in betraying their own country.

The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem by Stacy Schiff - History

It began in 1692 when a minister's daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death. The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.