Big Week: six days that changed the course of World War II , by Bill Yenne
In just six days, the United States Strategic Air Forces changed the course of military offense in World War II. During those six days, they launched the largest bombing campaign of the war, dropping roughly 10,000 tons of bombs in a rain of destruction that would take the skies back from the Nazis...
It later came to be known as the Big Week and became of the most important episodes of World War II, and coincidentally, one of the most overlooked.
The Borgias: the hidden history, by G.J. Meyer
The Borgias burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century--as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers--they held center stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicenter of the power games in which Europe's kings and Italy's warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes. Five centuries after their fall--a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power--they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo Borgia, who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare Borgia, who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia Borgia, who was as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil. But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape, a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day, when Western civilization simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights.
The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the roots of modern U.S.-Iranian relations, by Ervand Abrahamian
In August 1953, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the swift overthrow of Iran's democratically elected leader and installed Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in his place. Over the next twenty-six years, the United States backed the unpopular, authoritarian shah and his secret police; in exchange, it reaped a share of Iran's oil wealth and became a key player in this volatile region. The blowback was almost inevitable, as this new and revealing history of the coup and its consequences shows. When the 1979 Iranian Revolution deposed the shah and replaced his puppet government with a radical Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the shift reverberated throughout the Middle East and the world, casting a long, dark shadow over U.S.-Iran relations that extends to the present day. In this new history of the coup and its aftermath, Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian uncovers little-known documents that challenge conventional interpretations and also sheds new light on how the American role in the coup influenced U.S.-Iranian relations, both past and present. Drawing from the hitherto closed archives of British Petroleum, the Foreign Office, and the U.S. State Department, as well as from Iranian memoirs and published interviews, Abrahamian's account of this key historical event will change America's understanding of a crucial turning point in modern U.S.-Iranian relations.
Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513 : Henry VIII, James IV and the battle for Renaissance Britain, by George Goodwin
On September 9, 1513, the vicious rivalry between the young Henry VIII of England and his charismatic brother-in-law, James IV of Scotland, ended in violence at Flodden Field in the north of England. It was the inevitable climax to years of mounting personal and political tension through which James bravely asserted Scotland's independence and Henry demanded its obedience. This book captures the vibrant Renaissance splendor of the royal courts of England and Scotland, with their unprecedented wealth, innovation, and artistic expression. It shows how the wily Henry VII, far from the miser king of tradition, spent vast sums to secure his throne and elevate the monarchy to a new standard of magnificence among the courts of Europe. It also demonstrates how James IV competed with the elder Henry, even claiming that Arthurian legend supported a separate Scottish identity. Such rivalry served as a substitute for war--until Henry VIII's belligerence forced the real thing.
As England and Scotland scheme toward their biggest-ever battle, the author deploys a fascinating and treacherous cast of characters: maneuvering ministers, cynical foreign allies, conspiring cardinals, and contrasting queens in Katherine of Aragon and Margaret Tudor.
Finally, at Flodden on September 9, 1513, King James seems poised for the crushing victory that will confirm him as Scotland's greatest king and--if an old military foe proves unable to stop him--put all of Britain in his grasp.
JFK's Last Hundred Days: the transformation of a man and the emergence of a great president , by Thurston Clarke
Kennedy's last hundred days began just after the death of two-day-old Patrick Kennedy, and during this time, the president made strides in the Cold War, civil rights, Vietnam, and his personal life. While Jackie was recuperating, the premature infant and his father were flown to Boston for Patrick's treatment. Kennedy was holding his son's hand when Patrick died on August 9, 1963. The loss of his son convinced Kennedy to work harder as a husband and father, and there is ample evidence that he suspended his notorious philandering during these last months of his life. Also in these months Kennedy finally came to view civil rights as a moral as well as a political issue, and after the March on Washington, he appreciated the power of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., for the first time. Though he is often depicted as a devout cold warrior, Kennedy pushed through his proudest legislative achievement in this period, the Limited Test Ban Treaty. This success, combined with his warming relations with Nikita Khrushchev in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, led to a détente that British foreign secretary Sir Alec Douglas- Home hailed as the "beginning of the end of the Cold War." Throughout his presidency, Kennedy challenged demands from his advisers and the Pentagon to escalate America's involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy began a reappraisal in the last hundred days that would have led to the withdrawal of all sixteen thousand U.S. military advisers by 1965.
Lady at the OK Corral: The true story of Josephine Marcus Earp, by Ann Kirschnerr
For nearly fifty years, she was the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp: hero of the O.K. Corral and the most famous lawman of the Old West. Yet Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp has nearly been erased from Western lore. In this biography, Ann Kirschner brings Josephine out of the shadows of history to tell her tale: a spirited and colorful tale of ambition, adventure, self-invention, and devotion. Reflective of America itself, her story brings us from the post-Civil War years to World War II, and from New York to the Arizona Territory to old Hollywood. Read more about it in the New York Times review of the book. This is a nice companion to Andrew Isenberg's biography of Wyatt Earp listed below.
The Rainborowes: one family's quest to build a new England, by Adrian Tinniswood
The period between 1630 and 1660 was one of the most tumultuous in Western history. These three decades witnessed the birth of English America and, in the mother country, a vicious civil war that rent the very fabric of English social, political, and religious life. It was an era of death and new beginnings, and at its heart was one remarkable family: the Rainborowes. Historian Adrian Tinniswood tells the story of this all-but-forgotten clan for the very first time, showing how the family bridged two worlds as they struggled to build a godly community for themselves and their kin. The Rainborowes' patriarch, William, was a shipmaster and merchant whose taste for adventure and profit drew him into the expanding transatlantic traffic between England and its colonies in the New World. Eventually two of his daughters settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, marrying into the upper echelons of New England society. Back in England, meanwhile, William Rainborowe's sons threw themselves behind the English parliament in its rebellion against King Charles I. So, too, did many New World settlers, who returned to England to fight for the parliamentary cause. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, many of these revolutionaries quit their homeland for New England, where their dreams of liberty and equality were much closer to being realized. Following the Rainborowes from hectic London shipyards to remote Aegean islands, from the muddy streets of Boston to the battles of the English Civil War, Tinniswood reveals the indelible marks they left on America and England?and the profound and irrevocable changes these thirty years had on the family and their fellow Englishmen in Europe and America. Read the Guardian review here.
Strange Rebels: 1979 and the birth of the 21st century , by Christian Caryl
Few moments in history have seen as many seismic transformations as 1979. That single year marked the emergence of revolutionary Islam as a political force on the world stage, the beginning of market revolutions in China and Britain that would fuel globalization and radically alter the international economy, and the first stirrings of the resistance movements in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan that ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. More than any other year in the latter half of the twentieth century, 1979 heralded the economic, political, and religious realities that define the twenty-first. The book interweaves these history of five pivotal events of the year 1979, arguing that in these events can be discerned the first stirrings of the world we live in today, a world of politicized religion and the retreat of the secular, combined with the supremacy of market thinking and the decline of socialist and communist thought. The Economist likes it quite a bit. Here's their review.
The Village: 400 years of beats and bohemians, radicals and rogues, a history of Greenwich Village, by John Strausbaugh
The first complete history of Greenwich Village, the prodigiously influential and infamous New York City neighborhood. From the Dutch settlers and Washington Square patricians, to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and Prohibition-era speakeasies; from Abstract Expressionism and beatniks, to Stonewall and AIDS, this book reveals how Greenwich Village became the pinnacle of culture, politics, and social movements in America. In this video, the author describes the history he chronicled in the book.
Strasbaugh will be speaking about the book early in 2014 at the New York Historical Society. More information on that visit can be found here.
Wyatt Earp: a vigilante life, by Andrew C. Isenberg
In popular culture, Wyatt Earp is the hero of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, and a beacon of rough justice in the tumultuous American West. The subject of dozens of films, he has been invoked in battles against organized crime (in the 1930s), communism (in the 1950s), and al-Qaeda (after 2001). Yet as the historian Andrew C. Isenberg reveals, the Hollywood Earp is largely a fiction--one created by none other than Earp himself. The lawman played on-screen by Henry Fonda and Burt Lancaster is stubbornly duty-bound; in actuality, Earp led a life of impulsive lawbreaking and shifting identities. When he wasn't wearing a badge, he was variously a thief, a brothel bouncer, a gambler, and a confidence man.
By 1900, Earp's misdeeds had caught up with him: his involvement as a referee in a fixed heavyweight prizefight brought him national notoriety as a scoundrel. Stung by the press, Earp set out to rebuild his reputation. He spent his last decades in Los Angeles, where he befriended Western silent film actors and directors. Having tried and failed over the course of his life to invent a better future for himself, in the end he invented a better past. Isenberg argues that even though Earp, who died in 1929, did not live to see it, Hollywood's embrace of him as a paragon of law and order was his greatest confidence game of all.