Books

New Releases in Books on History

Non Fiction (Essay, Biography and Monograph)

Lepore, Jill (2019). These Truths: A History of the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

In the most ambitious one-volume American history in decades, award-winning historian Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation.

Widely hailed for its “sweeping, sobering account of the American past” (New York Times Book Review), Jill Lepore’s one-volume history of America places truth itself―a devotion to facts, proof, and evidence―at the center of the nation’s history. The American experiment rests on three ideas―“these truths,” Jefferson called them―political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. But has the nation, and democracy itself, delivered on that promise?

Holland, Tom (2019). Dominion. The Making of the Western World. Boston: Little, Brown.

Ranging in time from the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC to the on-going migration crisis in Europe today, and from Nebuchadnezzar to the Beatles, this book explores just what it was that made Christianity so revolutionary and disruptive; how completely it came to saturate the mind-set of Latin Christendom; and why, in a West that has become increasingly doubtful of religion’s claims, so many of its instincts remain irredeemably Christian. The aim is twofold: to make the reader appreciate just how novel and uncanny were Christian teachings when they first appeared in the world; and to make ourselves, and all that we take for granted, appear similarly strange in consequence. We stand at the end-point of an extraordinary transformation in the understanding of what it is to be human: one that can only be fully appreciated by tracing the arc of its parabola over millennia.

Figes, Orlando (2019). The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture. New York: Metropolitan Books.

The nineteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented artistic achievement. It was also the first age of cultural globalization―an epoch when mass communications and high-speed rail travel brought Europe together, overcoming the barriers of nationalism and facilitating the development of a truly European canon of artistic, musical, and literary works. Drawing from a wealth of documents, letters, and other archival materials, Orlando Figes examines the interplay of money and art that made this unification possible. At the center of the book is a poignant love triangle: the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev; the Spanish prima donna Pauline Viardot, with whom Turgenev had a long and intimate relationship; and her husband Louis Viardot, an art critic, theater manager, and republican activist.

Dikötter, Frank (2019). How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century.

No dictator can rule through fear and violence alone. Naked power can be grabbed and held temporarily, but it never suffices in the long term. In the twentieth century, as new technologies allowed leaders to place their image and voice directly into their citizens’ homes, a new phenomenon appeared where dictators exploited the cult of personality to achieve the illusion of popular approval without ever having to resort to elections. Frank Dikötter examines the cults and propaganda surrounding twentieth-century dictators, from Hitler and Stalin to Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung. These men were the founders of modern dictatorships, and they learned from each other and from history to build their regimes and maintain their public images. Their dictatorships, in turn, have influenced leaders in the twenty-first century, including Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Diamond, Jared (2019). Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Company.

Diamond compares how six countries have survived recent upheavals, ranging from the forced opening of Japan by U.S. Commodore Perry’s fleet, to the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland, to a murderous coup or countercoup in Chile and Indonesia, to the transformations of Germany and Austria after World War Two. Because Diamond has lived and spoken the language in five of these six countries, he can present gut-wrenching histories experienced firsthand. These nations coped, to varying degrees, through mechanisms such as acknowledgment of responsibility, painfully honest self-appraisal, and learning from models of other nations. Looking to the future, Diamond examines whether the United States, Japan, and the whole world are successfully coping with the grave crises they currently face. Can we learn from lessons of the past?

Beschloss, Michael (2018). Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times. New York: Crown.

Widely acclaimed and ten years in the making, Michael Beschloss’s Presidents of War is an intimate and irresistibly readable chronicle of the Chief Executives who took the United States into conflict and mobilized it for victory. From the War of 1812 to Vietnam, we see these leaders considering the difficult decision to send hundreds of thousands of Americans to their deaths; struggling with Congress, the courts, the press, and antiwar protesters; seeking comfort from their spouses and friends; and dropping to their knees in prayer. Through Beschloss’s interviews with surviving participants and findings in original letters and once-classified national security documents, we come to understand how these Presidents were able to withstand the pressures of war—or were broken by them.

Freijomil, Andrés G. (2020). Arts de braconner. Une histoire matérielle de la lecture chez Michel de Certeau. Paris: Classiques Garnier. [Preface by Roger Chartier].

This book intends to follow the material traces of an unknown Michel de Certeau. Starting from the underlining and marginal annotations left in his books, from his way of citing other works, from reading himself in the re-use of his writings, and from the construction of readers free from any scriptural system, this book brings out an unknown territory, that of texts scattered in journals and magazines, fundamental traces of the process of writing a work whose present has always kept track of the otherness hidden from its past: the arts of poaching.

“Andrés Freijomil lucidly formulates a formidable question: how to think together of the constraints transgressed and the restrained freedoms?” (Roger Chartier).

Fiction (Historical Novel)

Schwarz, Geraldine (2020). Those Who Forget: My Family’s Story in Nazi Europe – a Memoir, a History, a Warning. New York: Scribner.

During World War II, Géraldine Schwarz’s German grandparents were neither heroes nor villains; they were merely Mitlaüfer—those who followed the current. Once the war ended, they wanted to bury the past under the wreckage of the Third Reich. Weaving together the threads of three generations of her family story with Europe’s process of post-war reckoning, Schwarz explores how millions were seduced by ideology, overcome by a fog of denial after the war, and, in Germany at least, eventually managed to transform collective guilt into democratic responsibility. She asks: How can nations learn from history? And she observes that countries that avoid confronting the past are especially vulnerable to extremism. Searing and unforgettable, Those Who Forget is a riveting memoir, an illuminating history, and an urgent call for remembering.

Allende, Isabel (2020). A Long Petal of the Sea. New York: Ballantine Books.

In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires. Together with two thousand other refugees, they embark on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda, to Chile: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” As unlikely partners, they embrace exile as the rest of Europe erupts in world war. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning, and over the course of their lives, they will face trial after trial. But they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they will be exiles no more. 

Radden Keefe, Patrick (2019). Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. New York: Doubleday.

In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes. Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. 

Jenoff, Pam (2019). The Lost Girls of Paris. New York: Park Row.

One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Quinn, Kate (2019). The Huntress. New York: William Morrow.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.