By David McCullough
Here a preeminent master of narrative history takes on the most fascinating of our founders to create a benchmark for all Adams biographers. With a keen eye for telling detail and a master storyteller's instinct for human interest, McCullough (Truman; Mornings on Horseback) resurrects the great Federalist (1735-1826), revealing in particular his restrained, sometimes off-putting disposition, as well as his political guile. The events McCullough recounts are well-known, but with his astute marshaling of facts, the author surpasses previous biographers in depicting Adams's years at Harvard, his early public life in Boston and his role in the first Continental Congress, where he helped shape the philosophical basis for the Revolution. McCullough also makes vivid Adams's actions in the second Congress, during which he was the first to propose George Washington to command the new Continental Army. Later on, we see Adams bickering with Tom Paine's plan for government as suggested in Common Sense, helping push through the draft for the Declaration of Independence penned by his longtime friend and frequent rival, Thomas Jefferson, and serving as commissioner to France and envoy to the Court of St. James's. The author is likewise brilliant in portraying Adams's complex relationship with Jefferson, who ousted him from the White House in 1800 and with whom he would share a remarkable death date 26 years later: July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration. (June) Forecast: Joseph Ellis has shown us the Founding Fathers can be bestsellers, and S&S knows it has a winner: first printing is 350,000 copies, and McCullough will go on a 15-city tour; both Book-of-the-Month Club and the History Book Club have taken this book as a selection.
The Radicalism of the American Revolution
By Gordon Wood
Perhaps, as is often noted, the American Revolution was not as convulsive or transforming as its French and Russian counterparts. Yet this sparkling analysis from Wood (History/Brown Univ.; ed., The Rising Glory of America, 1971) impressively argues that it was anything but conservative. Wood's contention that the Revolution was ``the most radical and far-reaching event in American history'' may stretch the point (did it really have more of an impact than the Civil War?). But from now on it will be hard to argue that the rebellion was a genteel event that left fundamental institutions unscathed. Wood pictures colonial society as overwhelmingly deferential--to king, to family patriarch, and to aristocrats--with ``personal obligations and reciprocity that ran through the whole society.'' But patriots such as Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin, aspiring to become gentlemen, resented this entrenched order of patronage and kinship. Their classical republicanism stressed benevolence and government by an enlightened elite. To their dismay, however, they discovered that their rhetoric unleashed all the latent entrepreneurial and egalitarian energies of American life, which even the elaborate mechanism of the Constitution could not completely contain. Among the results, Wood says, were a new concept of the dignity of labor, improvements in the lot of women, the first significant antislavery movement, and the frank acceptance of private interest underlying the political party system. Above all, Wood suggests, the Revolution produced the messy, fractious politics of liberal democracy, dominated by ordinary people pursuing commercial interests. A provocative, highly accomplished examination of how American society was reshaped in the cauldron of revolution.
The First Salute
By Barbara Tuchman
Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, distinguished historian Barbara W. Tuchman now turns her sights homeward. Tuchman analyzes the American Revolution in a brilliantly original way, placing the war in the historical context of centuries-long conflicts between England and both France and Holland, demonstrating how the aid of both of these nations made the triumph of American independence possible. She sheds new light on the key role played by the contending navies, paints a magnificent portrait of General George Washington, and recounts in riveting detail the decisive campaign of the war at Yorktown. A compellingly written work of history, The First Salute brings vividly to life the people and events responsible for the birth of our nation.
By Stephen Ambrose
A biography of Meriwether Lewis that relies heavily on the journals of both Lewis and Clark, this book is also backed up by the author's personal travels along Lewis and Clark's route to the Pacific. Ambrose is not content to simply chronicle the events of the "Corps of Discovery" as the explorers called their ventures. He often pauses to assess the military leadership of Lewis and Clark, how they negotiated with various native peoples and what they reported to Jefferson. Though the expedition failed to find Jefferson's hoped for water route to the Pacific, it fired interest among fur traders and other Americans, changing the face of the West forever.
Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life
By Joan Hedrick
Harriet Beecher Stowe, daughter of a preacher, married to a poor Biblical scholar, and mother of nine, had the early good fortune of an education at a school founded by her feminist older sister. To help support her family, Stowe began to write. In 1851, born of evangelical outrage against slavery, her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin made her famous. Today the very name conveys white paternalism and black passivity, but Hedrick points out that this unfairly ignores the "freedom narrative" of a book that had an electrifying effect on the abolitionist cause. When Abraham Lincoln met Stowe in 1862 he joked, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war." Hedrick's illuminating biography of this remarkable woman won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize.
Battle Cry of Freedom
By James M. McPherson
The esteemed, Pulitzer Prize-Winning history of the Civil War that brings to vivid life, the generals, the presidents, the soldiers, politicians, Abolitionists, Southern fire-eaters, Northern barn-burners, Copperheads, and Know-Nothings. An instant classic, this is the single volume on the tragic war and its background that every historian--amateur or trained--will want to have on the shelf to read again and again.
By Marc Reisner
Cadillac Desert is a history of how the West was won--not with six-guns and lassos, but with steam shovels and cement that moved "water from where it is, and presumably isn't needed, to where it isn't, and presumably is needed." California, Marc Reisner writes, was the chief beneficiary of the great hydrological projects that remade the West; transplanted water allowed it to grow to boast a population now larger than Canada's, and to create an economy richer than all but seven nations', a condition not "remotely conceivable within the pre-existing natural order." Reisner's careful, thoughtful history of the West's great water projects, with notes on similar projects in Central Asia and the Middle East, is essential reading for students of desert ecology.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
By Dee Brown
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is Dee Brown's eloquent, fully documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. A national bestseller in hardcover for more than a year after its initial publication, it has sold almost four million copies and has been translated into seventeen languages. For this elegant thirtieth-anniversary edition -- published in both hardcover and paperback -- Brown has contributed an incisive new preface.
Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows the great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated. A unique and disturbing narrative told with force and clarity, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee changed forever our vision of how the West was really won.
Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans
By Jean Pfaelzer
Pfaelzer, professor of American studies, reveals one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history--the purging of thousands of Chinese immigrants in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region between 1850 and 1906. Drawing on newspaper accounts, diaries, legal pleadings, and photographs, Pfaelzer retells the story of the horrific purge of the Chinese. Testifying in their own words, Chinese businessmen recall being driven out of their shops, while women tell of being forced into prostitution; they were driven from gold mines, orchards, and small towns in the booming West. The Chinese responded with defenses from boycotts to lawsuits asking for reparations, challenges to
police harassment, shipments of arms from China, and pressure on the Chinese government to intervene. Pfaelzer also catalogs the racist images of docile and dirty Chinese subject to lynchings, night raids, murder, expulsion, and deportation. She compares the expulsions to those in Nazi Germany, as well as modern Rwanda and Bosnia, and puts the Driven Out campaign into the broader context of American racism.
Path Between the Seas
By David McCullough
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Truman, here is the national bestselling epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal. In The Path Between the Seas, acclaimed historian David McCullough delivers a first-rate drama of the sweeping human undertaking that led to the creation of this grand enterprise.
The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. Applying his remarkable gift for writing lucid, lively exposition, McCullough weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating tale.
Winner of the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs), The Path Between the Seas is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, the history of technology, international intrigue, and human drama.
The Zimmerman Telegram
By Barbara Tuchman
The average person thinks that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the United States into World War I. Not so! In this volume that reads like a whodunnit, Barbara Tuchman reveals the little known secret of The Zimmerman Telegram. Basically, Germany wanted to keep the U.S. and its industrial might out of the European conflict by convincing Mexico and Japan to attack the U.S. Germany even promised Mexico it would get back Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona! What the Germans didn't know is that as soon as war was declared, the first thing the British did was cut Germany's transatlantic cable. All telegrams or telephone calls to North America had to travel over Britain's cable. And the British intercepted every telegram out of Germany. Even though the Zimmerman telegram was sent in code, it was broken. But the shrewd British held onto it, not revealing its contents until it was absolutely necessary, and in such a way that they didn't have to reveal that they were intercepting German messages! Brilliant! When the New York Times published the telegram in 1917, it was but a short time until pacifist Woodrow Wilson got a declaration of war from Congress, and the U.S. began sending troops "over there.
Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion
By Edward J. Larson
If you haven't seen the film version of Inherit the Wind, you might have read it in high school. And even people who have never heard of either the movie or the play probably know something about the events that inspired them: The 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," during which Darwin's theory of evolution was essentially put on trial before the nation. Inherit the Wind paints a romantic picture of John Scopes as a principled biology teacher driven to present scientific theory to his students, even in the teeth of a Tennessee state law prohibiting the teaching of anything other than creationism. The truth, it turns out, was something quite different. In his fascinating history of the Scopes trial, Summer for the Gods, Edward J. Larson makes it abundantly clear that Truth and the Purity of Science had very little to do with the Scopes case. Tennessee had passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution, and the American Civil Liberties Union responded by advertising statewide for a high-school teacher willing to defy the law. Communities all across Tennessee saw an opportunity to put themselves on the map by hosting such a controversial trial, but it was the town of Dayton that came up with a sacrificial victim: John Scopes, a man who knew little about evolution and wasn't even the class's regular teacher. Chosen by the city fathers, Scopes obligingly broke the law and was carted off to jail to await trial. What happened next was a bizarre mix of theatrics and law, enacted by William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow for the defense. Though Darrow lost the trial, he made his point--and his career--by calling Bryan, a noted Bible expert, as a witness for the defense. Summer for the Gods is a remarkable retelling of the trial and the events leading up to it, proof positive that truth is stranger than science.
Breaking Blue by Timothy Egan
In the course of preparing a master's thesis on law enforcement in Pend Oreille County, Washington, Sheriff Tony Bamonte discovered new evidence relating to the 1935 murder of Town Marshal George Conniff. Bamonte uncovered documents that implicated another police officer in the murder and also revealed a widespread cover-up by the Spokane Police Department. Already unpopular because of his confrontations with the lumber industry and his criticism of other law-enforcement agencies, Bamonte further angered the police community by disregarding the code that forbids going after a fellow police officer--"breaking blue." Tracking down witnesses who verified his suspicions, Bamonte turned his efforts to a search for the murder weapon, a gun thrown into a river more than 50 years earlier. The trail eventually led him to a final surprising discovery, which in turn was capped by an even greater irony. Egan, Seattle bureau chief of the New York Times , tells this remarkable story with a journalist's thoroughness and a novelist's ability to evoke place and character. The tale is rich in history and suspense and is recommended for all crime collections.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
Egan tells an extraordinary tale in this visceral account of how America's great, grassy plains turned to dust, and how the ferocious plains winds stirred up an endless series of "black blizzards" that were like a biblical plague: "Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains" in what became known as the Dust Bowl. But the plague was man-made, as Egan shows: the plains weren't suited to farming, and plowing up the grass to plant wheat, along with a confluence of economic disaster—the Depression—and natural disaster—eight years of drought
—resulted in an ecological and human catastrophe that Egan details with stunning specificity. He grounds his tale in portraits of the people who settled the plains: hardy Americans and immigrants desperate for a piece of land to call their own and lured by the lies of promoters who said the ground was arable. Egan's interviews with survivors produce tales of courage and suffering: Hazel Lucas, for instance, dared to give birth in the midst of the blight only to see her baby die of "dust pneumonia" when her lungs clogged with the airborne dirt. With characters who seem to have sprung from a novel by Sinclair Lewis or Steinbeck, and Egan's powerful writing, this account will long remain in readers' minds.
Like No Ordinary Time
By Doris Kearns Goodwin
People often say they don't like to read history because it's so dry. They apparently have not read history the way Goodwin writes it. The subtitles set the order of importance here: first come the Roosevelts--the ever cool, ever charming Franklin, and his conscience, Eleanor--set against the background of World War II as it was waged on the home front. By the time we finish we feel as if we have been present during the events described, as if we have known the players. And what a group of players they were. Goodwin uses the setting of the home front quite literally, focusing on the White House itself, which was a veritable boardinghouse, home to an odd assortment of ducks including the president's sickly, irreplaceable associate Harry Hopkins; Hopkins' young daughter, Missy LeHand, FDR's secretary and confidant, who was desperately in love with her boss; and Lorena Hickok, a onetime journalist who was desperately in love with Eleanor--and those were just the regular roomers. The story could turn on that plot alone, but there was also a war going on, and Goodwin is as capable of deciphering world events as she is people. Though she never shies away from discussing battle strategy when appropriate, she always maintains her focus on how the war affected life over here. In this context, the evolution of social problems in the U.S.--especially the treatment of minorities and women (shepherded by their patron saint, Eleanor)--becomes a major theme in the book. In fact, readers gain a real understanding of the genesis of many of our current social ills. But always, Goodwin makes us see the Big Picture in terms of individual lives. Emerson once said, "There is no history, only biography." This book makes that quote a living, breathing reality.
By Monica Itoi Sone
Monica Sone spent her childhood in pre-World War II Seattle, in a part Japanese, part American world. Dinner might be steak and pumpkin pie or pickled daikon, rice, and soy sauce; there was American public school during the day and the strict formality of Japanese school in the late afternoons. "I found myself switching my personality back and forth daily like a chameleon. At Bailey Gatzert School I was a jumping, screaming, roustabout Yankee, but at the stroke of three...I suddenly became a modest, faltering, earnest little Japanese girl with a small timid voice." Her memories of growing up are vivid and full of marvelous stories, showing the confusion, frustration, and enrichment of living within two cultures. These elements come together when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and Monica and her family are sent to an internment camp in Topaz, Idaho. Nisei Daughter describes the loss of property and the personal insults, the barbed wire and armed guards, the dust
storms, horrible food, unfinished barracks, and barren land - and the efforts of the Japanese- Americans to maintain their ethics, family life, and belief in the United States. Monica Sone is furious at the blatant disregard of her civil rights, and yet ironically, it is during her time in the camps and afterwards in the Midwest that she finally brings together the various aspects of her heritage. Straightforward, searching, often funny, this is a highly readable account of one woman's experience living in many worlds.
On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II
By Jack Hamann
When TV journalist Hamann was covering the expansion of a sewage-treatment plant at Seattle's Discovery Park some 18 years ago, a ranger told him of an odd headstone at the park, dated August 14, 1944, with an Italian inscription. The offhanded remark would lead Hamann to investigate the unsolved murder of Italian POW Guglielmo Olivotto at the park, which was then an Army base known as Fort Lawton. More than 10,000 military personnel were at the base at any given time during the war, including soldiers leaving for, or returning from, the Pacific; Italian prisoners-of-war captured by Allied troops in northern Africa; and a large contingent of segregated black soldiers who served primarily as porters to load and unload ships in the Pacific theater. The story line that Hamann uncovers is compelling enough. But it is the crime's historical context--wartime racial dynamics, colossal army incompetence, international political implications, and the (humane) treatment of POWs, for example--that makes the book so relevant now.
War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War
Dower uncovers an important aspect to the US war with Japan—racism. Using ample primary source detail, he demonstrates that the brutality of the Pacific Theater was in part due to the process of dehumanizing the enemy. It is an even-handed account, detailing atrocities on both sides. A must read for anyone interested in learning more about the Pacific Theater and the context of racism for any war.
*Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII
After WWII, the U.S. occupied Japan and helped to write their new Constitution. Dower’s portrayal of events after WWII deepens ones understanding of Japanese culture and dispenses with myths regarding the “kamikaze” mindset. It is an important read for anyone interested in learning more about Japan both before and after WWII, and for learning about attitudes that Americans had about the limitations of the people they would come to occupy and ally with in the post war years.
By David McCullough
Truman, though the first President of the nuclear era, was fundamentally a throwback to 19th-century midwestern ideals of honesty. Like the young Teddy Roosevelt in the author's Mornings on Horseback (1981), the pre-Presidential Truman most impresses McCullough as a battler against overwhelming odds: the failed farmer and haberdasher; the WW I captain who kept his unit together under deadly fire; and the scorned product of the Kansas City machine who won Senate colleagues' respect by chairing an investigation into WW II defense spending and winning a ferocious primary contest. With the stage thus set, the narrative picks up whirlwind force, following Truman from his assumption of the Presidency upon FDR's death--when ``the sun, the moon, and the stars'' seemed ready to fall on him--through the decisions to drop the atomic bomb; confront Stalin at Potsdam; send troops to Korea (the most important decision of his Presidency, Truman felt); and fire MacArthur. The book's main event, however, is the legendary ``Whistle-Stop Campaign'' of 1948, when Truman pulled off the political upset of the century. Readers jaded by Vietnam and Watergate may ask: Could any President be this serene, honest, and courageous?
Bearing the Cross
By David J. Garrow
In this 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, David J. Garrow, through extensive interviews, and access to F.B.I. transcripts, delves deeply into both Dr. Martin Luther King's leadership role and his private life. He attributes King's moral and physical courage to his religious faith: King believed that he had literally been called to do the Lord's work. But from 1965, when the F.B.I. taped King in sexual encounters and sent the tape to S.C.L.L. headquarters, his associates noted a "spiritual depression", even a "death wish." Fear that exposure would ruin his public work dogged him until his assassination in 1968. While documenting the F.B.I.'s dirty tricks, Garrow never loses sight of King's achievement and vision, nor of the poignancy of King's belief that "the cross is something that you bear and ultimately that you die on."