PositiveBooklist... notable historian Hastings provides a narrative more coherent than would have been experienced by the principals, emphasizing how limited information could have led to disaster, such as when the USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev proposed to base nuclear missiles in Cuba as his military assured could be done secretly and without provoking the U.S. This was wrong on both counts. Once the crisis broke, the Americans, led by President John Kennedy, groped to discern the intent of Khrushchev’s gambit, which, as Hastings notes, was not even clear to the Soviet leader himself. When exposed by Kennedy’s October 22 revelation of the Soviet missiles, Khrushchev immediately began a week-long retreat, during which Kennedy was under immense pressure to invade Cuba. Replete with astute characterizations of participants in the crisis, Hastings’ able account registers the peril humanity then faced and still faces in a world of competitive, nuclear-armed countries.
PositiveBooklistWhile not sanguine about climate warming, Smil equally dismisses predictions of catastrophe and technology-driven salvation, providing an information-dense presentation that will benefit open-minded readers engaged with climate and energy issues.
PositiveBooklistThroughout this narrative of the checkered conformance to Franklin’s intentions, Meyer wryly injects apt adages from Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack into his own lively prose. A unique and entrancing investigation.
PositiveBooklistZelikow ably dramatizes their thoughts and actions ... Despite the immense literature about World War I, there is, Zelikow attests, no history until now about this tragic impasse, making this supremely well-written work essential.
PositiveBooklistLevine takes a fresh approach to the life of abolitionist and congressman Thaddeus Stevens ... Levine’s biography of the South’s much-loathed Northern antagonist is a fine addition to the literature of this ever-relevant era.
PositiveBooklistPhilosopher Strevens now enters the ring, writing accessibly and lucidly about this complex question ... Expanding his discussion to illuminate the work of contemporary scientists and today’s most urgent scientific issues, Strevens offers a bold, lively, and intriguing new perspective on science’s crucial devotion to facts and reason.
Rebecca Wragg Sykes
PositiveBooklistAccumulated from the approximately 200 known Neanderthal sites, the information that Sykes evocatively and enthusiastically presents enables readers to appreciate Neanderthals as sentient creatures, and possibly imagine themselves sharing, Jean Auel–like, a Pleistocene encounter with them. Every library needs its science up to date; Sykes delivers.
PositiveBooklistSubramanian captures Haldane’s outsize character, productive scientific career, and communist convictions ... Explaining clearly Haldane’s science and discerning astutely Haldane’s personality, Subramanian delivers a well-judged biography.
PositiveBooklistJohnson establishes Avery’s historical significance in this full account of his depredations ... The men’s trial and conviction showed that England would not countenance piracy, making possible, Johnson argues, the preservation of the East India Company and its domination of India in the subsequent century. Johnson’s fluid narrative makes a strong case for Avery’s pivotal role.
PositiveBooklistFollowing a superb rendering of the attack, Hastings addresses two uncomfortable consequences: many civilians and, ironically, enslaved laborers were killed, and the operation failed its strategic ambition since the destroyed dams were quickly rebuilt. Hastings has composed a fitting memorial to Operation Chastise’s participants.
PositiveBooklistCoverage of researchers’ projects and ideas, which include sending fleets of robots to nearby stars, is of particular interest. Concluding with the title’s paradox: human curiosity motivating SETI versus the unknown risk to humanity of making contact with ET, Cooper delivers an exciting, provocative tome to which science buffs will flock.
PositiveBooklistServing as a mediator between professionals and lay people interested in political economy, Krugman extols the Affordable Care Act as well as progressives’ proposed policies to alleviate income inequality and climate change. Criticizing by contrast the favorite macroeconomic policy of conservatives, tax cuts (the title’s zombies), Krugman will cheer readers who think as he does and appreciate that he supplies them with evidence and intellectual arguments to buttress their outlooks.
PositiveBooklistThe Vikings’ forays across the North Atlantic and China’s fleets in the Indian Ocean command Rader’s attention as a prelude to his summary of the epic Age of Discovery and accessible accounts of the feats of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, James Cook, and others, which expanded geographical knowledge and connected, for better and worse, hitherto isolated human populations ... Exulting in the curiosity and audacity that have propelled past exploration, Rader will excite readers about the future.
PositiveBooklist... entertaining ... Knowlton profiles each location’s primary investor and promoter, skillfully presenting their personalities as they amassed fortunes, only to end as paupers ... Knowlton delivers a vibrant, eminently readable cautionary tale about business and cultural history.
PositiveBooklistFishman eschews a chronological approach to the Apollo moon missions in favor of a focus on technical problems, momentous or trivial, spotlighting the engineers or technicians who tackled them ... Addressing the scale and expense of Apollo, Fishman concludes with an emphatic affirmation of its worth in a work that will reward readers with new angles on a familiar story.
RaveBooklistDrawing Pilecki’s witnessing of appalling crimes into a forceful narrative with unstoppable reading momentum, Fairweather has created an insightful biography of a covert war hero and an extraordinary contribution to the history of the Holocaust.
John Paul Stevens
PositiveBooklistWhile the decisions in which he participated will be of primary interest, Stevens’ recollections of his upbringing in Chicago, naval service in WWII, and legal career in the 1950s and 1960s will also sustain attention ... Stevens’ illumination of the court’s internal processes, accounts of cases, and often caustic opinions of its results form an important contribution to legal literature.
David I. Kertzer
PositiveBooklistHow relations between [Pope Pius XI and Mussolini] developed until the pope’s 1939 demise occupies this original history, which rests on Kertzer’s thorough research ... An important work of history, Kertzer’s adroit profiles of Pius and Mussolini will broaden its audience.
John Lewis Gaddis
RaveBooklist... in its documentary thoroughness and lucidity about his enigmatic, fragile personality must stand as the definitive portrait ... doubly significant and a new essential in any reading, recreational or scholarly, in the history of American foreign policy.
PositiveBooklistAssiduously researched, energetically expressed, Klein’s report bears an ideological perspective that won’t leave readers neutral about her economic interpretations.
PositiveBooklist... draws extensively from primary documentation, yielding lively episodes of agents and operations and the reactions to their results by CIA directors and presidents ... Although critical, Weiner expresses esteem for certain CIA directors, such as Richard Helms. These directors understood espionage basics, and Weiner concludes with the hope that the CIA will get back to them. Thousands of the CIA’s annual applicants will seek out an institutional history, and Weiner’s ably meets that need.
John W Dower
PositiveBooklist... capably explains the Americans’ imposition of a constitution that was the last, and generally overlooked, great project of liberal New Dealers. Japan’s conservative political elite hated the changes, though elsewhere Dower contrasts the populace’s more differentiated reaction to the top-down revolution. Dower’s theme of acceptance versus resistance to change emerges clearly from his surveys of the postwar cultural and political scene (including an acidic appraisal of the war crimes trials), and his book will enhance most World War II collections.
RaveBooklistIn vivid fashion, Egan reports on the grit, the drifts, and the figures bent against the gusts. All the elements of the iconic dust bowl photographs come together in the author’s evocative portrait of those who first prospered and then suffered during the 1930s drought.
RaveBooklistThe catalog of cruelty Elkins uncovered—bits from surviving documents, more from interviewing survivors—makes for quite nauseating reading that descends the slope of depravity from torture to outright killing. Inevitably news of incidents leaked out, igniting parliamentary rows in London, which Elkins chronicles with contained fury. Filling a previously blank page in history, Elkins’ pioneering study is a crucial recording of Kenyan history in particular, and that of African decolonization in general.
RaveBooklistThompson freshly illuminates ... A superb chronicler of the intellectual explorers of Polynesian history, Thompson writes with command and insight, enhancing this fascinating book’s rich appeal.
PositiveBooklistRutkow’s excellent, thoroughly researched, and unusual look at this complicated mix of infrastructure innovations and international relations will engage a variety of reading tastes.
PositiveBooklistBlack hole research is now entering a realm of description (that Milky Way radio beacon is a black hole four-million times the mass of the Sun) and of cosmic prediction. Replete with explanatory diagrams, visualizations of black holes, and lively accounts of scientific personalities, Impey’s book will wow the general-interest science audience.
PositiveBooklistNot the usual chronicle of a world-championship chess match ... A vibrant and provocative look at chess and its metaphorical battle for territory and power.
PositiveBooklistWhile Leopold Vindictive [the Belgian resistance group] is the solemn center of this fascinating history, Corera highlights many other aspects of the operation, including bureaucratic infighting. The eccentric idea of enlisting pigeons as spies, combined with the bravery of those in occupied Europe who picked them up, vividly animates Corera’s excellent addition to the annals of WWII espionage.
Eric Jay Dolin
PositiveBooklist\"Maritime historian Dolin...revels in the marauding adventures of...high-seas brigands while explaining factors, economic and political, involved in the rise and decline of the piratical phenomenon ... Amply illustrated, Dolin’s realistic rendition of piracy, which he contrasts with its romanticized, Jolly Roger image, will enthrall readers seeking a new take on this ever-popular topic.
David Levering Lewis
PositiveBooklist\"So unexpected was Wendell Willkie’s 1940 Republican presidential nomination, historical lore has attributed it to a conspiracy-like, inner-party cabal. Although the story does contain such an element, the context, as chronicled by...Lewis, renders Willkie’s meteoric rise understandable, if not predictable ... Regaling politics aficionados with details about how Willkie became GOP’s candidate, Lewis also offers a lively account of Willkie’s record-setting campaign. Though defeated, Willkie earned the reelected FDR’s favor and carried out wartime inspection trips until he died suddenly, in 1944, and faded from history. Crediting Willkie with advocacy of civil rights and world peace, Lewis delivers a thoroughly researched and discerning portrait that will reestablish Willkie’s political significance.
PositiveBooklistSwift tempers his melancholy over the fact that Tangier and the way of life it supports are in inexorable decline with information about possible ways to stem Tangier’s physical erosion with jetties, seawalls, and landfills. An empathetic portrait of a small and unique community and its plight under environmental stress.
PositiveBooklist\"Collins’ propulsive telling covers the search for George Parkman, rumors of sightings, offers of rewards, and the police learning from the janitor of strange happenings in the laboratory of the medical school’s chemistry professor, John Webster, who was quickly clapped into jail when a dismembered human body was discovered there ... Webster’s play to evade the gallows with a subsequent admission of his role in Parkman’s death will be as eagerly followed by Collins’ readers as was the case with Boston’s newspaper buyers of yore. A fine reconstruction of an indelible case.\
PositiveBooklistDescribing the risks Samaras took...Hargrove ably infuses his tale with a pulse-pounding element. Hargrove also brings forth Samaras’ diffident stance toward professional scientists ... Derived from extensive interviews with Samaras’ family and friends, Hargrove’s biography will gratify severe-weather fans while memorializing its protagonist.
PositiveBooklistCastner (All the Ways We Kill and Die, 2016) set out to replicate [river explorer] Mackenzie’s journey, which he ably recounts ... Appealing on both historical and contemporary levels, Castner’s work will please readers fascinated by tales of discovery.
RaveBooklistNoting structures around the world that attract her interest, such as the London sewer system and Mexico City’s cathedral, and saluting her 'idol,' Emily Warren Roebling, wife of the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, Agrawal will vividly inform, enthuse, and inspire readers.