Hard as it might be to imagine, readers of Ben Mezrich’s Once Upon a Time in Russia could find themselves feeling a certain sympathy for Vladimir Putin. Sure, the new Russian president was trying to seize control of the news media in 2000 when he forced television magnate Boris Berezovsky to sell his business. But Berezovsky was, to put it mildly, a handful.
The final chapter in Lev Grossman's Magicians Trilogy, a suspenseful historic account of a perilous voyage and a National Book Award finalist make for great reading this month.
The epic struggle between cultures and strong personalities is at the heart of Steve Inskeep’s fast-paced, extensively researched Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab.
Judy, a purebred English pointer born in Shanghai in 1936, was clearly one special dog: The only canine POW of World War II, she survived the grueling experience thanks to her friend and protector, Royal Air Force technician Frank Williams. When the transport ship on which the two were being moved came under attack, Frank pushed Judy through a porthole into the South China Sea to save her life. It was one of many close calls she would endure during more than three years in captivity.
Nationhood was never a goal of the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence refers to “Free and Independent States.” After the Revolutionary War ended, a majority of the population was opposed or indifferent to a transition from individual states to a federal government. In his brilliant and exciting new book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, historian Joseph J. Ellis tells the story of how a small group of leaders, disregarding popular opinion, took the American story in a new direction
Clearly it’s not just cats that have nine lives. In Robert Weintraub’s exceptionally well researched and engaging No Better Friend, we meet Judy, a purebred English pointer and hero of World War II.
In Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese-American Internment in World War II, Richard Reeves re-tells—with heart-breaking specificity—the story of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast who were incarcerated during World War II strictly because of their ancestry.
It’s reassuring to discover that heroes, both ancient and modern, are not somehow supernaturally endowed after all. Indeed, they may come by their skills quite naturally. In the thoroughly absorbing Natural Born Heroes, which tracks heroism from the times of Zeus and Odysseus to the World War II bravery of a motley crew of fighters, Christopher McDougall makes it clear that incredible acts of strength and endurance are doable. His extensive knowledge of fitness training, nutrition and physiology winds artfully around a tale of superhuman resistance during the Nazi occupation of the Greek island of Crete, Hitler’s designated launching pad for the invasion of Russia.
The end of World War II in Europe brought a wide range of reactions, especially in Germany. From concentration camp prisoners to top Nazi officers, from refugees crowding the roads to soldiers eager to see the war finally over, there was a mixture of heartbreak, relief, chaos and disbelief. For German novelist Walter Kempowski, who died in 2007, researching and compiling those responses, through eyewitness accounts, letters and diaries, became a lifelong mission. The result was 10 volumes and a diary of his project’s progress.
Los Angeles would not exist as the sprawling, highly populated global center it is today were it not for one man. At the turn of the last century, William Mulholland, a civil servant self-educated in the ways of water engineering, all but willed Southern California’s future when he masterminded one of the greatest engineering projects of all time: the Los Angeles Aqueduct.