PositiveBooklistPhilbrick moves from one century’s point of view to another’s, perceptively observing what has changed and what has not. He particularly notes the past and current legacy of slaveholding, whether in North or South. This provides highly personal reflection and unique perspective on both the history and the often-contradictory lives of present-day Americans. Includes maps, illustrations, and bibliography.
RaveBooklistIn this biography and literary analysis, McCrum finds plenty of parallels to contemporary events within Shakespeare’s life, poetry, and drama ... McCrum covers authorship controversies but always puts the Bard’s words front and center. Shakespeare fans will find this book engrossing, comprehensive, challenging, and thrilling.
RaveBooklistFerrer has produced an English-language history of Cuba remarkable not only for being comprehensive, but also eminently readable ... Ferrer delves into deep background that students of contemporary history may have never before encountered.
PositiveBooklistGathering together scientific, cultural, aesthetic, and gastronomic data, Siegel puckishly plumbs the backstories of some of the most significant foods in the American diet ... He makes a compelling case for the centrality of pie. Noting its British origins, he explains with winning insight how American colonists made it distinctively different by replacing the thick, hard, tough, and just-for-encasing British pastry with something much more delicate and tempting.
PositiveBooklistWilkinson microscopically picks apart all the theories that have sprung up about the man in the iron mask and all the arguments and counterarguments that scholars have wrestled with over the centuries. Wilkinson’s cast of characters swirls torrents of intrigue, but adepts in historical sleuthing will appreciate the dizzying twists and turns of all the minutiae.
PositiveBooklistRobinson introduces many South Americans whose lives have been upended in the current economy, which now faces domination not only by its historic big brother, the U.S., but also by China, whose burgeoning tech industry demands access to those same scarce metals. Robinson writes passionately and expects that his readers have more than a little knowledge of the subject.
PositiveBooklistRonald paints an unflattering portrait of Joe Kennedy, and details how FDR outfoxed him, ruining Kennedy’s maneuvering to be the first Roman Catholic U.S. President. Ronald surveys the vast network of politicos and lovers whose lives intersected with Kennedy during his eventful and disastrous diplomatic career.
PositiveBooklistJ. P. Daughton’s...history of the Congo-Océan railroad details the depredations wrought to achieve the engineering success. Fans of tales of other tropical railroad constructions such as the famous bridge on the River Kwai will find this African version to be similarly compelling and perhaps even more grisly.
PositiveBooklistSome presidents have...had very striking friendships ... Out of these liaisons and more, Ginsberg has crafted an insightful series of biographies, showing just how these friendships thrived and survived and were consequential for the nation’s history.
RaveBooklistOffering a readable, masterful biography of a complex leader, Bird does a magnificent job characterizing the many strong and fiery personalities in the Carter administration, making them all individuals with virtues and flaws.
PositiveBooklistA tidy collection of recipes punctuates this memoir, displaying variety without overwhelming home cooks keen to try out new tastes. Phillips grasps the nuances of Chinese flavors and appreciates the Chinese focus on food’s mouthfeel. Her own line drawings add character and a sense of place.
RaveBooklistPoet W. H. Auden characterized the Depression Era’s Federal Writers’ Project as “one of the noblest and most absurd undertakings ever attempted by a state.” Borchert’s comprehensive history of that project’s American Guides series amply bears out Auden’s assessment ... Borchert focuses on a few of the most notable writers ... Borchert’s vast research and appreciation of this stellar group shows what government nurturing of artists can accomplish in even the worst of times.
Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford
RaveBooklistWriting in lively prose, Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford explore the historical record to uncover the facts obscured by myth, and try to maintain a non-partisan perspective. Nevertheless, their conclusions are bound to be controversial in Texas and beyond its borders.
Amanda M Fairbanks
PositiveBooklistFairbanks has dug into this tragic episode, reconstructing these lives that ended unexpectedly soon, interviewing relatives, friends, and other fishermen. She also relates her own life journey from Manhattan to the Hamptons, then California, and back again to Long Island.
RaveBooklistHe presents the Watergate scandal as a theater piece, beginning with a dramatis personae and organizing his chapters as acts of a play: Hubris, Crisis, Catastrophe, and Catharsis ... This is a compelling, moment-by-moment narrative, psychological as much as political, offering a sense of intimacy with the beleaguered Nixon without mawkishness ... This is a compelling, moment-by-moment narrative, psychological as much as political, offering a sense of intimacy with the beleaguered Nixon without mawkishness.
RaveBooklistWith this cookbook, Lawson reveals her mastery not only of the stove but also of the essay. Each recipe comes with extensive reflections on hospitality, family, cooking techniques, and ingredients that frame and give meaning to her creative British cuisine ... Many of the recipes are designed for just two, perfect for cooking in times of pandemic. Lawson comes to the defense of brown foods, such as stews and braises, which in the age of Instagram are too often dismissed as not photogenic enough. Nevertheless, her book swells with splendid full-color photographs.
Ronald C White
RaveBooklist... they do add a unique perspective on the evolution of thought in America’s greatest President, revealing seeds that later blossomed into his personal and political inspiration ... Students of Lincoln will find a deep background disclosing the personal thoughts that generated great national actions.
PositiveBooklistJelly-Schapiro’s sprightly prose and ear for New Yorkers’ stories shows, if nothing else, that place-names are less permanent than the ground they identify, and changing them helps forget a past or shape a future.
PositiveBooklistIreland delves into the psychology of Randolph’s complex personality and his volatile relations with both his adoring father and his chilly mother. No hagiographic treatment, this joint biography offers a decidedly unpleasant version of each subject. Students of father-son relationships will find this treatise compelling and full of eyebrow-raising anecdotes.
PositiveBooklistChicago journalist Coen links this particular murder to the larger issue of police accountability, and he brings the story up to present-day Chicago police abuse and corruption cases. Fans of true crime and of police procedurals will find much to relish here, but familiarity with Chicago history and geography is vital to appreciating this whole complex story.
RaveBooklistNothing escapes Heffer’s notice ... Heffer’s history is broad and deep and casts a brilliant light on this remarkable era.
RaveBooklist[Taylor] finds remarkable storytellers among the city’s eight million residents, a diverse lot from the city’s five boroughs, each borough claiming its own uniqueness. In this oral history, Taylor stands back as his subjects speak for themselves ... Taylor brings the record up to date with a nurse coping with dying COVID-19 patients as well as a lawyer who contracted the virus nearly fatally. No celebrities appear, just regular people who live and struggle, some quietly and heroically, in America’s first city.
RaveBooklistWith a keen sense of adventure and a sharp grasp of personalities on sea and land, Bergreen details Drake’s round-the-world adventures as well as political intrigues and mutinous sailors. Includes maps and bibliography.
Dan Pucci and Craig Cavallo
PositiveBooklistCider expert Pucci and food writer Cavallo have meticulously searched out cider makers old and new all across the land and have categorized their output ... This is a good, comprehensive guide to this once-again popular, refreshing quaff.
David O. Stewart
RaveBooklistStewart closes with an analysis of Washington’s ambivalent distaste for slavery and his posthumous freeing of his own enslaved workers. This is a readable and revealing contemporary look at an oft-studied personality. Includes illustrations and bibliography.
PositiveBooklistFood maven Bittman (How to Cook Everything, 2019; How to Eat, 2020) turns his wide-ranging attention to how foods arrive on the nation’s home and restaurant tables. What he discovers is not appetizing ... Little in the present food world escapes his critical eye, but Bittman cautions against deterministic analysis, noting that food is inextricably interwoven with cultural, economic, geographic, and political issues ... Bittman advocates for agroecology, attentiveness to nature’s interlocking components by producers and consumers alike. Bittman’s work is certain to increase controversy over the future of food.
PositiveBooklistSullivan interviewed some of the surviving crew in their later years, and their recollections add immediacy to his description of life aboard the ship and the amazing survival of the Plunkett from direct bomb hits. In great detail, Sullivan recreates the heat and chaos of the crew’s epic struggles to keep the Plunkett afloat, fighting onboard fires and preventing detonation of depth charges and ammunition as the ship burned. Readers, especially those with command of naval terminology, can virtually become part of the crew’s frenzied reeling as they aided their injured, dying, and dead comrades and kept the Plunkett seaworthy.
PositiveBooklistBragg’s most evocative writing comes forward as he recounts his love for the primitive pleasures of pigs’ feet from small-town Alabama, which he respects as much as the sumptuous fare of New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace. Bragg includes his reminiscences of writers Harper Lee and Pat Conroy, and he expresses his appreciation of Billy Graham as the best champion of Southern religion. Particularly recommended for regional collections.
RaveBooklist[MacMillan] sets the record straight ... Like a great general, MacMillan marshals strands of culture, economics, technology, strategy, tactics, and even music, art, literature, and movies, clearing away the smoke of battle to reveal war’s inner structure and impact. This is an erudite yet clearly written synthesis, sure to appeal to many readers.
PositiveBooklist\"Brands skillfully lays out nuances in these two men’s lives, showing how both were affected by diverse characters from Frederick Douglass to Roger Taney.\
David S. Reynolds
RaveBooklist... magisterial ... Beyond Lincoln’s frontier upbringing, Reynolds identifies deep historic differences in the American character deriving from English emigrant Puritans and Cavaliers, each struggling to define American polity ... Reynolds pulls together cultural, geographic, religious, social, psychological, military, and literary sources of Lincoln’s remarkable strengths as president. He brings to light some often-overlooked heroes ... Reynolds’ biography moves Lincoln’s life ever forward, inserting digressions without slowing the narrative pace. Even readers who think they know Lincoln’s life deeply will find new insights here. This is sure to win a wide audience. Includes period photos and extensive bibliographic notes.
RaveBooklistMacintyre...tells this convoluted, multi-layered story with the sensibilities of a novelist, making every character uniquely compelling while keeping suspense high and the narrative charging ever forward. In this must-read for fans of spy novels, truth becomes more exciting and astonishing than fiction.
Gerald F. Seib
RaveBooklistFollowers of contemporary political history will appreciate how Seib gathers together the many strands of people and events culminating in present realities.
PositiveBooklistA direct witness to Ike’s later years, the author draws on memories of her grandfather, and these highly personal anecdotes supplement her research. Armchair historians will treasure this book.
A. J. Baime
RaveBooklist... fascinating ... Pundits and pollsters predicted a Dewey sweep, but key states fell into the Truman column, leading to his victory and the famous faulty newspaper headline. In retrospect,1948 election issues still echo in the 2020 election season. Includes a few photographs and an extensive bibliography.
PositiveBooklistBoth the geographical and governmental scope of this scandal complicate the narrative, but Starobin sorts out characters and keeps the drama flowing.
Kate Andersen Brower
PositiveBooklistBased on what Brower has learned from the past, she guardedly and generously tries to anticipate how Donald Trump will fare when he eventually joins this tiny fraternity. Insights into presidential life beyond the rancor of everyday politics will make this a very popular read for the general public.
RaveBooklist[Buford] delves into the controversial origins of French cuisine and restaurants, drawing unflinching portraits of past and present luminaries like culinary school founder Paul Bocuse himself. He pursues origins of dishes, sauces, and their ingredients, even participating in the stark grittiness of butchering a pig and learning that in France the best, most coveted flavors come from the earthiest animal organs. An inside look into haute cuisine.
PositiveBooklistIn this comprehensive history, Rose does justice to the engineering of airships and airplanes, and gives a deep sense of the creativity and vision of the men behind the revolutionary concept of human flight.
RaveBooklist...Gewen offers a biography focused on the major historical and philosophical influences on Kissinger’s approach to diplomacy ... Gewen sorts out history’s ambiguities; yet, in the multitude of details he never loses direction or purpose, and his achievement stands as both diplomatic and intellectual history at its best.
PositiveBooklistBloomberg Businessweek journalist Berfield well portrays the major characters of this struggle without excessive detail, and her insights into both Roosevelt and Morgan make them seem quite contemporary. Includes photographs and bibliographic notes.
PositiveBooklistBach’s colossal output makes it difficult for anyone to characterize his music. Wolff knows the master’s work both broadly and deeply, so he sets out to find the larger themes and organizing principles to help modern listeners understand what Bach accomplished during his career ... Wolff’s work speaks to the musically adept, and his scholarly perspective requires more than passing familiarity with reading musical notation.
Edward J. Larson
PositiveBooklistPrize-winning historian Larson...brings together the lives of these titans, showing how their backgrounds and joint interests made them ideal partners ... Students of American Revolutionary history and the birth of the Republic will find here an inspired approach for considering the lives and legacies of these two founding fathers.
Samin Nosrat, Illus. by Alice MacNoughton
RaveBooklistAs Nosrat understands, the elements of good cooking couldn’t be simpler ... Trained at famed Chez Panisse, Nosrat lays out the science of cooking, but only insofar as it enhances flavors and creates gastronomic art. Culinary students and serious home cooks can discover from both text and drawings how to succeed through fundamentals of their craft.
RaveBooklistIllustrations grace the text, and extensive bibliographic notes brim with intriguing facts. Both history buffs and politics enthusiasts will relish this.
David G. Marwell
PositiveBooklistMarwell...has deeply researched Mengele’s life ... Marwell details the decades of fruitless hunting for Mengele and the eventual DNA identification of his bones. Includes a few photographs and extensive bibliography.
PositiveBooklistSankovitch lays out the evolution of eighteenth-century political thought and shows how it arose within these families and their interconnections. Students of American Revolution history will find a fresh perspective here. Maps and genealogies help orient readers.
RaveBooklist... significant, thoroughly researched ... If there’s one takeaway from this vast, overflowing cornucopia, it’s that American cuisine is not a canon but a work in progress, every day absorbing novel foods and new attitudes about what makes a good meal. Sidebars offer lists sure to provoke controversy among foodies. Both serious researchers and armchair readers will find education and amusement here. Includes many illustrations and a few recipes to support Freedman’s arguments as well as a comprehensive bibliography.
RaveBooklistRussell is unsparing in his portraits of those who failed in human decency. The book delves into the many conspiracy myths and even outright lies that have muddied the historical record, somewhat rehabilitating steamship executive J. Bruce Ismay, who survived but was accused of cowardice and worse. Photographs and a comprehensive bibliography add to Russell’s telling.
RaveBooklistBailey’s deep research and her amazing craft at reproducing in vivid detail the stories of von Hassell and the people she encounters as she is first imprisoned and then shipped through the Nazi concentration-camp system make for chilling prose. Maps and photographs help organize this terrifying story of the costs of political resistance.
J. D. Dickey
PositiveBooklistJournalist and U.S. historian Dickey enhances his account with illustrations from contemporary sources, which give readers compelling images of this era’s vivid personalities.
S. C. Gwynne
RaveBooklistCreating suspense in recounting familiar events marks real talent in a historian; Gwynne does just this, covering in detail events of the Civil War’s final year and giving his readers a real sense of wonder, even thrill. In vivid, bloody prose, he lays out the landscapes of the war’s culminating battles, not sparing the reader the gut punch of inhuman horror such slaughter creates ... A bibliography will aid readers in further research.
PositiveBooklistBriton MacGregor details the significance of this history-laden fulcrum as part of the larger story of Berlin ... MacGregor chronicles the tragic stories of those who died trying to escape the suffocating East German regime. Includes maps, illustrations, and a bibliography.
RaveBooklistWith much human interest, Cenziper draws out all the implications for principles of justice for victims and perpetrators of unspeakable crimes. Includes a map and bibliographic notes.
H. W. Brands
PositiveBooklistBrands’ history rushes forward, pausing from time to time to consider geography and economics, but his focus remains on the dozens of personalities with whom he sympathizes without sentimentality. This is a marvelous short history of the West, rewarding both expert and neophyte readers.
RaveBooklistJackson adeptly interweaves all these stories, connecting one radical thinker to another to show the sweep of progressive thought in the nineteenth century that continues to echo today. Abundantly detailing political movements and the characters who led them, this history appeals to a broad spectrum of readers.
PositiveBooklistDifficult as it is to separate fact from legend, Whittock’s recounting of these seminal lives makes great reading for students of early colonial American history.
RaveBooklistAs the number of Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle, capturing the stories of those who remain among us has become even more urgent ... As Roseman notes, Bund members could aid only a few imperiled Jews, and the compromises they were forced to make raise compelling moral issues not easily resolved. A bibliography documents not only printed works, but also personal conversations and radio interviews.
PositiveBooklistRoberts marvels at both the scenery and the current inhabitants’ near total ignorance of its history; his deep love for this desolate land and awed appreciation for the achievements of earlier explorers make this a great adventure story with appeal far beyond the Southwest.
PositiveBooklistacobs does a remarkable job reporting from the front lines of the truffle industry, bringing to vivid life French black-truffle farmers, Italian white-truffle foragers, and their marvelously well-trained dogs ... Foodies will learn perhaps too much here—they might never again be able to simply relish a truffle, naive of its power to unleash mayhem and murder—but they’ll certainly enjoy doing so.
PositiveBooklistGordinier, food and drinks editor at Esquire, follows Redzepi’s peripatetic quest to expand his palate ... Anyone aspiring to appreciate the borderless world of avant-garde cuisine will learn plenty about a diverse group of chefs and how these women and men are transforming the future of food.
RaveBooklistCohen skillfully narrates Hicks’ background, criminal career, and the rough-and-tumble world of New York City on the eve of the Civil War. True-crime stories rarely get much better than this one.
PositiveBooklistThis is a book about a man as well as a book about an idea, simultaneously sentimental and chillingly realistic. Readers will learn more about ocean farming here than they learned about whaling from Moby Dick, and will walk away with a handful of practical, tasty seaweed recipes to boot.
PositiveBooklistAlexander has visited with eminent chefs such as Tom Colicchio in New York and Gabriel Rucker in Portland, Oregon, who have each transformed what defines a successful restaurant ... in his first book, Alexander shows all sides of chefs who’ve transformed the American dining landscape.
RaveBooklistIn Chandler’s version of the narrative, these corporate behemoths are still made up of people. He shares a host of anecdotes about some ever-fascinating individuals, from servers to CEO’s—perhaps most notably in the tale of delicious vengeance by Aslam Khan, once spurned for a job at Church’s Fried Chicken and later hired as an executive for the company.
PositiveBooklistFans of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (2006) will appreciate how Wineapple’s narrative carries forward the saga of the men Lincoln so relied on during the Civil War, as, newly leaderless, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Secretary of State William Seward drifted back into conflict and competition. Appomattox scarcely resolved the Civil War’s intractable issues, and Stanton and Seward’s contradictions continued unresolved. And the impetus to restore the Union ran counter to the fight for rights of freed slaves.
PositiveBooklistReichl’s sharp eye and descriptive gifts render both food and people vital. A few recipes support her text’s narrative ... Order enough to feed a crowd.
Margaret Leslie Davis
RaveBooklistBook collecting might seem a preoccupation of a limited cadre of obsessive, pedantic academic wannabes, but Davis makes bibliographic history utterly page-turning and absorbing, with intrigues, devastating tragedies, vast fortunes, embezzlement, a seductively voiced telephone operator, the Teapot Dome scandal, murder-suicide, earthquake, and even Worcestershire sauce. Davis’ brilliantly told story features outsize characters[.]
PositiveBooklistWilkinson well describes Louis’ love life, his peripatetic infatuations and longer-term affairs that made for court intrigues ... Wilkinson’s attention to detail and her ability to create individual personalities of the seemingly endless parade of Louis’ courtiers mark this as a thorough political and cultural account of a long and complicated reign.
PositiveBooklistPerrottet’s history excels in putting a human face on the fighters. Fidel was at turns moody and petulant, and his brother Raul sometimes overreached. But the revolution’s real stars were the smart and strong women who acted as spies, couriers, logistical experts, and ultimately as the bravest, fiercest, and most indispensable combatants.
Albert Louis Zambone
PositiveBooklistZambone makes clear the critical role of logistics and logistical support in the success of any army. Military historians will appreciate Zambone’s detailed analysis of the tactics that Morgan employed to assure the revolution’s military triumph.
PositiveBooklistKelly vividly portrays the personalities involved, from elected officials to labor leaders, and makes the tensions of the time quite contemporary.
PositiveBooklistCanadian Tucker has thoroughly digested the writings of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman and finds them unsatisfying ... This social and culinary manifesto of sorts provides much food for thought.
PositiveBooklistHorn’s detailed analysis of events reveals how these twin events foreshadowed what would culminate in America’s birth as a nation.
PositiveBooklist\"...Author Christiansen focuses his efforts on illuminating Haussmann’s personality, his remarkable intelligence, and his foresight ... Good reading for all lovers of the City of Light.
PositiveBooklistWhen President Obama named him ambassador to the Czech Republic, Eisen found himself resident in a spectacular palace designed and built in the 1920s by Otto Petschek, a coal baron and banker and one of Prague’s richest citizens ... Eisen casts each successive caretaker of the palace as uniquely heroic and in so doing writes a wonderfully human history of twentieth-century Czechoslovakia.
Alice Sparberg Alexiou
PositiveBooklist OnlineNew York historian Alexiou...enlivens the street’s history with insightful portraits of the street’s denizens. A very valuable addition to any urban-history collection.
PositiveBooklistLee finds hope and joy in visiting ethnic communities all across the nation’s breadth ... He gathers recipes and inventively adapts them to his own tastes ... Lee’s most touching prose comes with his recounting of his Korean War–veteran father’s favorite food, an outlandish concoction of soy sauce, Korean chili paste, kimchi, tofu, fried bologna, and ramen noodles, topped with poached eggs and American cheese.
RaveBooklistBragg’s translation of the uncertainties of his mother’s cooking into modern, scientific recipes may sap some spontaneity, but he generously preserves a way of life that has endured in America’s backcountry. His prose evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of a rural Alabama kitchen and transforms apparent poverty into soul-satisfying plenty.
PositiveBooklistThe history of West Indian sugar, African slavery, and American colonization is an oft-told tale, but Collingham takes mere mercantilism and expands and deepens its consequences ... This unique approach to British history holds appeal for both professional historians and everyday buffs and includes a comprehensive bibliography and a few historical recipes.