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Parting the Waters

By Taylor Branch

The first book of a formidable two-volume social history, Parting the Waters is more than just a biography of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the decade preceding his emergence as a national figure. Branch's 880-page effort, which won the 1988 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction, profiles the key players and events that helped shape the American social landscape following World War II but before the civil-rights movement of the 1960s reached its climax. The author then goes a step further, endeavoring to explain how the struggles evolved as they did by probing the influences of the main actors while discussing the manner in which events conspired to create fertile ground for change.
The Children

By David Halberstam

Like the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the civil rights movement has achieved mythical status in America--an epic tale of heroes and martyrs; of sacrifice, honor, and courage in the face of overwhelming odds; of ideals worth dying for in a time and place where death was an all-too-real possibility. In The Children, prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam goes back in time to the beginnings of the civil rights movement in Nashville, Tennessee, tracing both the lives of the individuals who initiated it and the growth of the movement itself into its present-day status.

Every epic must have its hero, and The Children has James Lawson, a young, African American divinity student whose tactics in civil disobedience were learned at the knees of Mahatma Gandhi's followers during a three-year stint as a missionary to India. When he returned to the States and was accepted into the all-white Vanderbilt Divinity School, Lawson began teaching workshops to Nashville's African American youth designed to equip them for the equal-rights struggle, a battle Lawson believed could be won only with nonviolent tactics. Halberstam chronicles the fight against racism with the insight that comes from witnessing it first-hand. As a young journalist for the Tennessean in Nashville, he covered the rise of the civil rights movement, and in The Children he draws on many of his writings from the era. From accounts of lunch-counter sit-ins to the freedom

rides, Halberstam's book covers the map of the crusade for racial equality, serving as a poignant reminder that heroes come in all ages, colors, and characters.
The Fifties

By David Halberstam

The Fifties is a sweeping social, political, economic, and cultural history of the ten years that Halberstam regards as seminal in determining what our nation is today. Halberstam offers portraits of not only the titans of the age: Eisenhower Dulles, Oppenheimer, MacArthur, Hoover, and Nixon, but also of Harley Earl, who put fins on cars; Dick and Mac McDonald and Ray Kroc, who mass-produced the American hamburger; Kemmons Wilson, who placed his Holiday Inns along the nation's roadsides; U-2 pilot Gary Francis Powers; Grace Metalious, who wrote Peyton Place; and "Goody" Pincus, who led the team that invented the Pill.
Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families

By J. Anthony Lucas

The climax of this humane account of 10 years in Boston that began with news of Martin Luther King's assassination, is a watershed moment in the city's modern history--the 1974 racist riots that followed the court-ordered busing of kids to integrate the schools. To bring understanding to that moment, Lukas, a former New York Times journalist, focuses on two working-class families, headed by an Irish-American widow and an African-American mother, and on the middle-class family of a white liberal couple. Lukas goes beyond stereotypes, carefully grounding each perspective in its historical roots, whether in the antebellum South, or famine-era Ireland. In the background is the cast of public figures--including Judge Garrity, Mayor White, and Cardinal Cushing--with cameo roles in this disturbing history that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction
*The Best and the Brightest

By David Halberstam

David Halberstam’s masterpiece, the defining history of the making of the Vietnam tragedy, with a new Foreword by Senator John McCain.

Using portraits of America’s flawed policy makers and accounts of the forces that drove them, The Best and the Brightest reckons magnificently with the most important abiding question of our country’s recent history: Why did America become mired in Vietnam, and why did we lose? As the definitive single-volume answer to that question, this enthralling book has never been superseded. It is an American classic.

A Bright Shining Lie

By Neil Sheehan This passionate, epic account of the Vietnam War centers on Lt. Col. John Paul Vann, whose story

illuminates America's failures and disillusionment in Southeast Asia. Vann was a field adviser to the army when American involvement was just beginning. He quickly became appalled at the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime, their incompetence in fighting the Communists, and their brutal alienation of their own people. Finding his superiors too blinded by political lies to understand that the war was being thrown away, he secretly briefed reporters on what was really happening. One of those reporters was Neil Sheehan. This definitive expose on why America lost the war won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1989.
The Long Gray Line

By Rick Atkinson

This is the story of the twenty-five-year adventure of the generation of officers who fought in Vietnam. With novelistic detail, Atkinson tells the story of West Point's Class of 1966 primarily through the experiences of three classmates and the women they loved--from the boisterous cadet years and youthful romances to the fires of Vietnam, where dozens of their classmates died and hundreds more grew disillusioned, to the hard peace and family adjustments that followed. The rich cast of characters includes Douglas MacArthur, William Westmoreland, and a score of other memorable figures. The West Point Class of 1966 straddled a fault line in American history, and Rick Atkinson's masterly book speaks for a generation of American men and women about innocence, patriotism, and the price we pay for our dreams.
All the President's Men

By Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward The Portrait of a President Under Investigation.

Beginning with the story of a simple burglary at Democratic headquarters and then continuing with headline after headline, Bernstein and Woodward kept the tale of conspiracy and the trail of dirty tricks and dark secrets coming -- delivering the stunning revelations and pieces in the Watergate puzzle that brought about Nixon's scandalous downfall. Their explosive reports won a Pulitzer Prize for The Washington Post and toppled the President. This is their book that changed America.
*Havana Nocturne

T.J. English

English’s account of the American mafia in Havana before and during the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s if nothing short of brilliant. It reads like a novel, but stays true to the history. His cast of characters include: John F Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Frank Sinatra and Lucky Luciano (among others). This is a fantastic read for anyone interested in Cuba, the mob or U.S. drug policy.
Lakota Woman

By Mary Brave Bird & Mary Crow Dog

A unique autobiography unparalleled in American Indian literature, and a deeply moving account of a woman's triumphant struggle to survive in a hostile world. Relates the experiences of a native American woman who grew up on a reservation and joined in the revolution for native American rights during the 1960s and 1970s.

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

By Philip Gourevitch

The West's conventional wisdom blames ancient hatreds--"ethnic" in the former Yugoslavia, "tribal" in central Africa--for a kind and degree of savagery few can comprehend. It is an easy explanation, justifying inaction. But was it really so mindless and simple, New Yorker staff writer Gourevitch wondered? In 1994, Rwanda's Hutus, egged on by government, media, and the ruling class, killed 800,000 in 100 days, mostly members of the Tutsi minority but also Hutus who helped Tutsis rather than murdering them. After the massacre, Gourevitch spent months in a Rwanda struggling to recover from the horror; in Zaire, where some refugee camps trained Hutus for continued genocide; and in other African states whose leaders were convinced, by the international community's fecklessness in Rwanda, to help overthrow Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. With a new rebellion brewing in Zaire, Gourevitch offers vital historical context. In a world where too many groups seek their enemies' extermination, his conversations with central Africans shed light on the worst and best of which humans are capable.
*The Forever War

By Dexter Filkins

From the front lines of the battle against Islamic fundamentalism, a searing, unforgettable book that captures, in stunning vignettes, snapshots, and episodes, the human essence of the greatest conflict of our time.

New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins's work in Iraq was hailed by David Halberstam as "reporting of the highest quality imaginable." Now, through Filkins's eyes, we witness the chain of events that began with the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, led to the attacks of 9/11, and culminated in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Filkins's "camera" moves across a vast and various landscape of amazing characters and astonishing scenes: deserts, mountains, and streets of carnage; a public amputation performed by Taliban; the days and nights of 9/11 rescue workers. He takes us inside the homes of suicide bombers and into street- to-street combat alongside a battalion of U.S. Marines in Falluja. We meet Iraqi insurgents; an American captain who loses a quarter of his men in eight days; Ahmed Chalabi, who tricked America into war; and Ahmed Shah Masoud, the anti-Taliban rebel killed by Al Qaeda.

Like no other book, The Forever War allows us a visceral understanding of the war on terror and of the experiences of the people involved, combatants and victims alike. It is a stunning debut: a brilliant, fearless book about one war and, ultimately, about all war.

*Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard

Millard details the assassination of President James Garfield, illuminating Garfield’s remarkable tale of growing up poor in Ohio, becoming University Professor and eventually President. She explores the psychological profile of Garfield’s assassin Charles Guiteau and introduces other important characters such as Joseph Lister (inventor of sterilization methods that will later save countless lives) and Alexander Graham Bell, who tried for months in vain to save his friend’s life. Millard places the entire event in the larger context of political infighting in the early 1880s. This book reads like fiction, but leaves the reader highly informed of this amazing story.
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