"We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage."
~ Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. president
Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising... by Brady CarlsonDid you know that George Washington's body was kept in a falling-apart tomb for the first 30 years after his death? Learn about this and other eye-opening stories in this fast-paced, fascinating first book by public radio journalist Brady Carlson. Ever since he was a boy, Carlson has been intrigued by the lives and -- thanks to a childhood trip to Lincoln's tomb -- the afterlives of American presidents. Indulging his interest in this fun (and funny) book, Carlson travels across the country to explore what happens when presidents die, sharing their death stories, the wild and varied ways that people have memorialized them (from sandwiches to Mt. Rushmore), and the histories of presidential monuments.
And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East by Richard EngelNot long out of Stanford, Richard Engel headed to the Middle East in 1996 to work as a journalist. Now NBC's chief foreign correspondent, he draws on nearly two decades in the area to share insights into the region's past and present as he blends reportage with his personal experiences in Jerusalem, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and other places. He's dodged bullets and been kidnapped while covering stories about area leaders, the Arab Spring, many wars, regional terrorism, and the experiences of regular people caught in the crossfire. Anyone interested in a fast-paced, intelligent account of what the Middle East is like right now should read this book.
Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne GarrelsWhat is life in Russia really like and why do Russians love Vladimir Putin? Anne Garrels, formerly an NPR correspondent based in Moscow, answers these complicated questions using a variety of people (from taxi drivers to doctors) in the Chelyabinsk region as a microcosm. Having visited the area (which is located far from Moscow) for two decades, she not only offers "a collection of scrupulous, timely journalistic portraits" (Kirkus Reviews) that document the differences in everyday lives over time, but also describes how growing freedoms have not always been beneficial, and shares what Russians really think of the West.
The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn Anahid MacKeenDuring and after World War I, the Ottoman government killed over a million Armenians in one of the first modern genocides. One survivor was Stepan Miskjian; he escaped from a caravan leading him to slaughter, walked 1,000 miles across Turkey and Syria, and later wrote journals about his experiences. Using those journals as a starting point, his granddaughter, journalist Dawn Anahid MacKeen retraced his footsteps, learning about her grandfather, her roots, herself, and the Middle East in the process. Those who enjoyed Meline Toumani's There Was and There Was Not, which examined the genocide and took a close look at modern Turkey, should read this inspirational tale of survival, which Library Journal says "is on par with Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken."
Navigating Historical Waters
Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through the World's Most Dangerous... by Tim ButcherIn this enthralling travelogue, British journalist Tim Butcher recounts his perilous six-week trip retracing both the 1874 expedition of explorer H.M. Stanley and the 1950 genteel trip of his mother along the Congo River. Traveling alone in the war-ravaged country that inspired Joseph Conrad to write Heart of Darkness, Butcher uses an assortment of vehicles (including a motorbike and a dugout canoe) and is aided by unlikely helpers (ranging from U.N. aid workers to a pygmy-rights advocate). Blood River is a "brilliant account of a broken land" (Kirkus Reviews) that anyone interested in the Congo Region should devour.
Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony HorwitzBetween 1768 and 1779, British Navy Captain James Cook embarked on three highly adventurous voyages that allowed him to map the last uncharted parts of the globe. Following in Cook's footsteps, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Horwitz and his very funny friend Roger Williamson travel around the Pacific (Tahiti, Bora Bora, Hawaii, etc.), enjoying their own modern-day adventures. Horwitz also provides a history lesson on what life was like for 18th-century sailors and offers an analysis of how Cook's visits -- and the attention of the Western world in general -- came to affect the local populations in the places he visited. Armchair travelers, sailors, and historians alike will find something to enjoy in this informative and entertaining read.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik LarsonDuring World War I, on May 7, 1915, one of the world's worst maritime disasters occurred: RMS Lusitania -- a passenger ship traveling from New York to Liverpool -- was struck by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat. Though this occurred just 11 miles off the southern coast of Ireland, within 18 minutes the ship had already sunk, killing nearly 1,200 of the passengers and crew. Taking modern readers on a fascinating journey to the past, bestselling author Erik Larson splices survivors' accounts of the tragedy together with descriptions of life aboard the U-boat; he also offers insightful discussions of history, politics, espionage, and maritime technology in this "intriguing, entirely engrossing" (Kirkus Reviews) narrative.
River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice MillardTeddy Roosevelt was a man of many adventures, but not everyone is aware that in addition to being a war hero and president of the U.S., he also was an explorer who co-led a 1913-14 expedition to map the River of Doubt, a nearly 1,000-mile tributary of the Amazon. After losing the election that would have made him president for the third time, Teddy set out with his son Kermit, a knowledgeable Brazilian explorer, and other members of their expedition party. This "marvelously atmospheric" (Booklist) account details the dangerous trials the poorly equipped group faced in order to accomplish their goal, including white-water rapids, illness and injuries, jungle insects and animals, poisonous plants, cannibalistic natives, starvation, and even a murderer in their midst.
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