Oak Ridge, Tennessee didn't exist until the American government bought land in the hills of Tennessee in 1942. Soon, 75,000 people were living and working in Oak Ridge, many of them young women just out of high school recruited to help in the war effort. No one knew exactly what they were working on until the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Then they were told the truth: they had been enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.
Although most women never dreamed of staying on in Oak Ridge, many married and settled there. These women provided author Denise Kiernan with an oral history of their part in the war effort and their ambivalent feelings about what happened that she records in The Girls of Atomic City.
Read our review in BookPage here and watch an interview-style book trailer with Denise Kiernan about The Girls of Atomic City:
Will you read The Girls of Atomic City? Do you think the government could keep such a big secret like the Manhattan Project today?
In May, BookPage interviewed Mitchell Zuckoff about his book Lost in Shangri-La, the amazing true story of a crash landing in the New Guinea jungle at the end of World War II. I loved Zuckoff's explanation of how he came across this part of history—and why he chose to write a book about it:
“It was about seven years ago. I was searching online newspaper databases, particularly The Chicago Tribune, to see what else was happening around the same time.” That’s when he encountered a series of stories on the crash and rescue written by the Tribune’s war correspondent, Walter Simmons. “It was almost comic strip-like,” he recalls. “My eyes were bulging, my jaw dropped to the floor and my tongue rolled out. By the time I pulled myself together, I knew I couldn’t pursue the other story.”
Frozen in Time will be published in 2014. Are you a fan of true-life adventure stories? Do you have any recommendations for fans of Lost in Shangri-La? (Hey, how about my other favorite book from 2011 with the word "Shangri-La" in the title . . . Radio Shangri-La? It's about a very different kind of adventure, but an adventure nonetheless!)
Erik Larson has a truly dark gift for turning nonfiction into pure entertainment. His sixth book, In the Garden of the Beasts, continues his reputation of capturing that which we wish were untrue by detailing the first year of Nazi rule with unflinching depth.
In his interview with contributor Alden Mudge, Larson discusses his struggle to cover the topic, saying, "When you get immersed in this era there’s something so repulsive about it that it can really drag you down ... No one really studies the very first year of Hitler’s rule. This is about the first dark warnings on the horizon."
With historical accuracy down to the weather and a uniquely personal and American take on the topic, In the Garden of the Beasts is something to get excited about.
I'm definitely picking it up today -- who's with me?
BookPage's top pick for nonfiction this month is "one of the strangest survival stories of WWII." In 1945, a group of American soldiers flew over a remote valley in New Guinea and crashed into the side of a mountain. Only three out of 24 survived. Mitchell Zuckoff's amazingly-researched new book is practically an hour-by-hour account of what happened to the survivors.
Zuckoff gives us more information in this book trailer:
Want to learn about the rescue? Pick up Lost in Shangri-La, which is on sale now.
Want more info on 30-year-old survivor Margaret Hastings, a beautiful woman who was decades ahead of her time? Read this interview with Zuckoff.
Have you seen any good book trailers lately?
If you're interested in military history and loved Band of Brothers, mark your calendar for this Sunday at 9 pm EST—it's the premiere of HBO’s miniseries The Pacific, based on memoirs by two U.S. Marines: With the Old Breed by Eugene B. Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie. The series is produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman, the team behind Band of Brothers.
On an HBO message board for the series, a commenter wrote, “Without a doubt Sledge's account is the greatest WWII story ever told.” If you’ve read With the Old Breed, do you agree?
Watch a trailer for the miniseries: