History and Current Events
A Castle in Wartime: One Family, Their Missing Sons, and the Fight to Defeat the Nazis by Catherine BaileyWhat it's about: an aristocratic German Italian family living in northern Italy who resisted the Nazi regime and were later targeted for their connections to a failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler.
Read it for: a pulse-pounding story of courage and survival.
For fans of: Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin.
Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West by H.W. BrandsWhat it is: a sweeping yet concise three-century survey of the American West.
What sets it apart: Historian H.W. Brands' demythologizing study argues that it was violent federal intervention, not rugged individualism, that facilitated westward expansion.
Don't miss: profiles of little-known figures who shaped the region, including the Chinese laborers who built the Transcontinental Railroad.
Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War by S.C. GwynneWhat it is: a vivid chronicle of the Civil War's decisive battles.
Is it for you? This unsparing account doesn't shy away from the battlefield devastation, the conditions of the POW camps, and the mistreatment of black soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
About the author: Journalist and historian S.C. Gwynne was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for 2010's Empire of the Summer Moon.
Mudlark: In Search of London's Past Along the River Thames by Lara MaiklemFeaturing: British editor Lara Maiklem, whose scavenging for artifacts on the banks of the River Thames has led to many unusual discoveries and surprising revelations.
Want a taste? "The objects that are hidden in the mud at Greenwich fill in the details that are missing from history books."
Don't miss: After finding a bottle believed to be from a prison ship, Maiklem's research leads her to an ancestor who was transported to Australia on a prison ship.
One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene WeingartenHow it began: After enlisting the help of strangers to pick a random date out of a hat, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten spent years researching the events of December 28, 1986.
What's inside: murders, medical discoveries, freak accidents, and more; updated interviews with people involved in the headlines of the day.
Reviewers say: "a trove of compelling human-interest pieces with long reverberations" (Publishers Weekly).
The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal by Howard BlumStarring: charismatic American Betty Pack, the "blonde Bond" whose efforts as an MI6 operative were crucial to an Allied victory.
Read it for: white-knuckle tales of Pack's derring-do, including securing documents that helped Alan Turing decrypt the Enigma Machine and cracking safes at the Vichy French Embassy to obtain naval codes.
Don't miss: newly declassified files.
The Devil's Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler's Limousine... by Robert KlaraWhat it's about: how two Mercedes limousines with connections to Adolf Hitler wound up in postwar America, drawing headlines and fascinating onlookers for over 40 years, until an unsuspecting Canadian librarian discovered the shocking truth of their provenance.
Did you know? In 1973, one of the limos sold for $153,000.
Reviewers say: "An entertaining story of the irresistible cult of a creepy car" (Kirkus); "endlessly riveting" (Booklist).
Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer and the African Adventure That Took the... by Monte ReelWhat it's about: In the 1850s, explorer Paul Du Chaillu embarked on a harrowing expedition to West Africa, returning to Victorian London with gorilla specimens, a creature many Europeans believed to be myth.
Why it matters: Du Chaillu's discovery and his enigmatic background stoked much fascination and controversy in the scientific community, which was also in the midst of heated debates concerning Charles Darwin's recently published On the Origin of Species.
Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961 by Nicholas ReynoldsWhat it is: the intriguing, meticulously researched story of author Ernest Hemingway's affiliation with the OSS, a precursor to the CIA, and Russia's NKVD, a forerunner to the KGB.
Why you might like it: This globe-trotting adventure offers a revealing glimpse into the Pulitzer Prize winner's extracurricular exploits.
Further reading: Terry Mort's The Hemingway Patrols chronicles Hemingway's efforts to track German submarines during World War II.
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