In 1979, Iran became a revolutionary theocracy. Since then, to the outside world, the country has been identified with repression, false confessions, brutality, torture and worse. But as journalist Laura Secor demonstrates in her compelling, enlightening and often disturbing Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran, there is another aspect of the country’s modern history, a “revolutionary impulse as complexly modern as the society that produced it.”
Robert Lowell was considered by many to be the English-speaking world’s pre-eminent poet after the Second World War. In 1946, when he was barely 30 years old, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his second poetry collection, Lord Weary’s Castle. He received a second Pulitzer for The Dolphin in 1973, and many other awards followed until his death in 1977.
Roger Angell, now 94, has had an extraordinary life. A longtime fiction editor of The New Yorker and one of the best-ever writers on baseball, he is the only writer elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Baseball Hall of Fame. His wonderful new collection, This Old Man: All in Pieces, is, he says, a grab bag, a portrait of his brain at this point in his life. The title piece, a moving and personal account of aging, received the 2014 prize for best essay from the American Society of Magazine Editors.
Jack London lived during America’s first Gilded Age from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Readers of his very popular books (he was the first U.S. author to make more than a million dollars) were entertained by stories about dogs and wolves and gold miners and ships and cannibals. At the same time, London was educating the public about serious societal problems that required fundamental reform.
Ancient Rome helps define the way we understand the world and think about ourselves. The ideas of liberty and citizenship, the Western calendar, phrases such as “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” and much more came from this one source. Renowned classicist Mary Beard, a professor at Cambridge University, has spent much of the last 50 years studying the literature of the Romans and the thousands of books and papers written about them. Her magnificent, eminently readable SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome is an authoritative exploration of how a small and unremarkable village became such a dominant power on three continents.
Henry Kissinger is one of the most controversial statesmen in American history. Some regard him as the country’s greatest strategic foreign relations thinker, while others describe him as conspiratorial or as a war criminal. Noted Harvard historian Niall Ferguson tells the first part of Kissinger’s story in great detail in Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist, the first of a projected two-volume biography.
In his richly detailed and stimulating new book, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman, historian Greg Grandin writes that Kissinger was “the quintessential American, his cast of mind perfectly molded to his place and time.”
The residents of the Gulf Coast in the 1770s and 1780s saw the American Revolution differently from the rebelling colonists in the north.In her richly detailed and riveting Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution, historian Kathleen DuVal explores what the war and its aftermath meant in the lives of eight individuals who lived in an area with many competing interests.
In his farewell remarks to the White House staff after his resignation from the presidency, Richard Nixon said, “Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” In his illuminating and compelling One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, award-winning author and journalist Tim Weiner tells the story of a tormented man, considered by many to be a brilliant politician, in the process of destroying himself.
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.