2013 doesn’t mark a big anniversary for any major conflict—we don’t like our wars to begin or end on the unlucky number—but plenty of blood has been spilled throughout history, and so has a lot of ink. The coming year is rife with grand retrospectives and viva voce histories from those on the frontlines.
When most people think of anti-Semitism, their minds race to its most infamous manifestations: Auschwitz, The Merchant of Venice, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, David Nirenberg argues that a more abstracted form of animosity—one that takes not just Jews but Judaism as its object—has laid the foundations for Western thought. The University of Chicago professor’s magisterial analysis stretches from antiquity to the Holocaust, but for the most part he leaves the well-trod territory of the latter to others. Indeed, Rick Atkinson has spent the past 14 years chronicling that tragedy and the war that ended it. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner caps off his Liberation trilogy with The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945. Mitchell Zuckoff demonstrates in his thrilling newest that though that war is over, amazing stories remain to be told. In Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II, he examines the fates of a trio of doomed planes and their crews that crashed in Greenland in the early years of the conflict, including one that the U.S. Coast Guard is still trying to locate.
With the war in Afghanistan slouching into its 12th year, many have been wondering, “How did we get into this mess?” Turns out folks are still asking that same question about some very old conflicts. National Book Award–winner Nathaniel Philbrick takes a look at one of the deadliest battles of the early American Revolution in Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution, while Sean McMeeken investigates why it took Austria so long to respond to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in July 1914: Countdown to War.
Richard Rubin offers up a novel take on that same war: Ten years ago, he set out to interview the few dozen remaining WWI vets. The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War preserves their remarkable stories. History, it is often said, is written by the winners—but how do we get it down when the conflict continues? Peter Eichstaedt went to Afghanistan to talk with its people, from former warlords to female politicians. The result, Above the Din of War: Afghans Speak About Their Lives, Their Country, and Their Future—and Why America Should Listen, is illuminating, timely, and necessary.
Though some opine that it’s people—not guns—that kill other people, it’s hard to ignore the technological developments that have made it much easier for one person to kill a whole lot of folks. In American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms, Chris Kyle, America’s most lethal sniper and former Navy SEAL, tracks the country’s and guns’ development from musket to M-16. In Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior, John Man, however, shows that long ago, it was indeed people that killed people. If that’s enough blood and guts for you, Lily Koppel’s got another kind of military history: The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story. Though Eisenhower formed NASA as a civilian rather than a military organization, its first spacemen were all culled from the Armed Forces. This is the story of their better halves, whose Earthbound lives were no less interesting than those of their high-flying husbands.
PW’s Top 10: History & Military History
Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. David Nirenberg. Norton, Feb. 4
The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945. Rick Atkinson. Henry Holt, May 14
Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II. Mitchell Zuckoff. Harper, Apr. 23
Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution. Nathaniel Philbrick. Viking, May 7
July 1914: Countdown to War. Sean McMeekin. Basic, Apr. 9
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War. Richard Rubin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 28
Above the Din of War: Afghans Speak About Their Lives, Their Country, and Their Future—and Why America Should Listen. Peter Eichstaedt. Lawrence Hill, Apr. 1
American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms. Chris Kyle. Morrow, May 14
Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior. John Man. Morrow, Feb. 5
The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story. Lily Koppel. Grand Central, June 11
History & Military History Listings
(Dist. by Norton)
Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care by Scott McGaugh (July 1, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1611458398). The marketing director of the USS Midway Museum presents the first full-length biography of the Civil War surgeon who over the course of the war’s bloodiest battles—from Antietam to Gettysburg—redefined military medicine.
The Borgias: The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer (Apr. 2, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0345526915). The Edgar Award winner reveals in colorful detail the true story of the infamous Borgias and the tumultuous world of the Italian Renaissance.
Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood (Feb. 26, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0465018314). The major female players in the series of dynastic conflicts that tore apart the ruling Plantagenet family in 15th-century England get their due in Gristwood’s grand take on history’s most dramatic family feud.
How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate by Wendy Moore (Apr. 9, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0465065745). Thomas Day knew exactly the sort of woman he wanted to marry: pure and virginal, tough and hardy, and subservient. She didn’t seem to exist in Georgian society—this is the tale of Day’s quest to create her.
July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin (Apr. 9, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0465031450). It took Austria more than four weeks to respond to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Tomlinson Prize–winning historian McMeekin explores the fateful delay that many deem responsible for the outbreak of war.
Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present by Brendan Simms (Apr. 30, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0465013333). If there is a fundamental truth of geopolitics, it is this: whoever controls central Europe controls the entire continent, and whoever controls all of Europe can dominate the world. In this account of the past half millennium of European history, University of Cambridge professor Simms investigates that claim.
Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married by Nancy Rubin Stuart (Apr. 9, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0807001172). From the executive director of the Cape Cod Writers Center comes the story of two Revolutionary-era teenagers who defied their Loyalist families to marry radical patriots—Henry Knox and Benedict Arnold—and how they were changed.
The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost—from Ancient Greece to Iraq by Victor Davis Hanson (May 14, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-160819163-5). Hanson offers valuable lessons in military leadership in his profiles of Themistocles, Belisarius, William Tecumseh Sherman, Matthew Ridgway, and David Petraeus.
Here Is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll (May 14, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-307-46397-5). The bestselling historian and author of The War Letters takes readers on a fascinating cross-country tour of forgotten spots in America to explore their connections to momentous events and remarkable individuals in U.S. history.
The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe by Stephen Harding (Apr. 23, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0306822087) is the true story of a rescue mission in which American and German soldiers fought side by side in the final days of WWII. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War by Thomas Fleming (May 7, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0306821264). Distinguished historian Fleming explores the long-simmering tensions that culminated in the United States’ most deadly war. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues: A History of Greenwich Village by John Strausbaugh (Apr. 9, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0062078193). In this lively anecdotal biography, cultural commentator Strausbaugh presents the history of the influential and famous New York City neighborhood from 1600 to the present. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox (May 14, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062228833). A thrilling intellectual detective story brings into focus one of the most mesmerizing puzzles in Western history and chronicles the obsession of the people who unlocked its secrets. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century by Joel F. Harrington (Mar. 19, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0809049929) is the extraordinary story of a Renaissance-era German executioner and his world, based on an overlooked journal.
The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island by Mac Griswold (June 18, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0374266295). Centuries-old boxwoods initially drew landscape historian Griswold to Sylvester Manor, but that was only the beginning of his fascinating investigation into the stately manse’s 11-generation history.
O My America!: Six Women and Their Second Acts in a New World by Sara Wheeler (July 9, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0374298814). The award-winning author of Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica journeys across the United States while tracing the stories of six women who transformed themselves in the New World.
FSG/Hill and Wang
Bringing It All Back Home: An Oral History of New York City’s Vietnam Veterans by Philip F. Napoli (June 11, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0809073184). The director of the Veterans Oral History Project at Brooklyn College, topples assumptions about the people who served in Vietnam with this collection of heartrending oral histories.
America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal by Michael Golay (May 14, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1439196014). The first account of the 18-month journey of Lorena Hickok—intimate of Eleanor Roosevelt—throughout the country during the worst of the Great Depression, bears witness to the unprecedented ravages of an unprecedented crisis.
The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel (June 11, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1455503254). This tale of friendship, marriage, and space age adventure focuses on the young wives of the intrepid Mercury Seven astronauts. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. 200,000-copy announced first printing.
Masters of the Word: How Media Shaped History by William J. Bernstein (Apr. 2, hardcover, $27.50, ISBN 978-0802121387). A practicing neurologist, chronicles the remarkable history of media—from the creation of the alphabet through the invention of the Internet—and how it has shaped human society over millennia.
The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance, 1427–1527 by Leonie Frieda (Apr. 2, hardcover, $32.50, ISBN 978-0061563089). From the biographer of Catherine de Medici comes an epic tale of eight women whose lives—marked by fortune and poverty, power and powerlessness—embody the spectacle, opportunity, and depravity of Italy’s Renaissance. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff (Apr. 23, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0062133434). The author of the New York Times bestseller Lost in Shangri-La delivers a gripping true story of survival that shifts between WWII and today. 200,000-copy announced first printing.
Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and the End of Compromise, 1848–1877 by Brenda Wineapple (July 2, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0061234576). National Book Critics Circle Award–finalist Wineapple relates the rise of America during the 19th century in this sweeping work of political, intellectual, and cultural history. 40,000-copy announced first printing.
Harvard Univ. press
Napalm: An American Biography by Robert M. Neer (Apr., hardcover, $29.95, 9780674073012). From a secret Harvard laboratory in 1942 to Iraq in 2003, napalm has led a notorious life. Neer’s biography of the weapon is wide-ranging and incisive.
The People’s Car: A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle by Bernhard Rieger (Apr. 9, hardcover, $28.95, 9780674050914) reveals how a car commissioned by Hitler and designed by Ferdinand Porsche became a global commodity on a par with Coca-Cola.
FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman (Mar. 19, hardcover, $29.95, 9780674050266). A duo of American University professors shows that contrary to accusations, FDR did not turn his back on the Jews of Hitler’s Europe.
Evil Men by James Dawes (May 6, hardcover, $25.95, 9780674072657). Drawing from interviews with convicted war criminals of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), Dawes investigates the darkest side of war—from genocide to torture—to discover what it means to commit such acts.
The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945 by Rick Atkinson (May 14, hardcover, $38, ISBN 978-0805062908). Two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Atkinson concludes his acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about WWII with this expansive and intimate look at the last years of the war in Western Europe.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War by Richard Rubin (May 28, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0547554433). Ten years ago, Rubin set out to interview every living American WWI vet. There were a few dozen then; now there are none. These are their stories. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences by David Cannadine (Apr. 9, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0307269072). An eminent British historian and Princeton University professor gives an account of human solidarity throughout the ages, provocatively arguing against the received wisdom that history is best understood as a chronicle of groups in conflict.
The Return of a King: Shah Shuja and the First Battle for Afghanistan by William Dalrymple (Apr. 16, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0307958280). Asian House Award–winning historian Dalrymple contends that the first Afghan war—perhaps the West’s greatest imperial disaster in the East—was an important parable of neocolonial ambition and cultural collision, folly, and hubris.
Gettysburg: The Last Invasion by Allen C. Guelzo (May 14, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0307594082). From an acclaimed Civil War historian comes this intimate and richly readable account of the conflict’s deadliest battle. Timed to coincide with the engagement’s 150th anniversary.
(dist. by IPG)
Above the Din of War: Afghans Speak About Their Lives, Their Country, and Their Future—and Why America Should Listen by Peter Eichstaedt (Apr. 1, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1613745151). Most books about the war in Afghanistan examine the conflict from the perspective of a foreign personage. Eichstaedt elevates the voices of the Afghan people to get their take on this complex international situation.
Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior by John Man (Feb. 5, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062222022). Even in the age of drones and weapons of mass destruction, the legendary Japanese stealth assassin remains a subject of fascination. Man’s pop history of the ninja is a thrilling ride. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms by Chris Kyle, with William Doyle (May 14, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0062242716). #1 New York Times bestselling author of American Sniper and former Navy SEAL Kyle explores U.S. history through the lens of the nation’s most notable guns. 500,000-copy announced first printing.
Cronkite’s War: Walter Cronkite’s World War II Letters Home by Walter Cronkite IV and Maurice Isserman, foreword by Tom Brokaw (May 7, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1426210198). From one of the defining voices of “The Greatest Generation” comes a story of love and war, told through the vivid letters of the young war correspondent to his wife, Betsy.
Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg (Feb. 4, hardcover, $35, 9780393058246). Based on a decade of research, this nuanced and broad-ranging book traces the history of anti-Judaism as an intellectual current, from ancient Egypt to immediately after the Holocaust.
Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel (May 6, hardcover, $28.95, 9780393082418). The founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation delivers a thrilling tale of the international struggle to safeguard priceless works of art while the world that begot them fell apart.
Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson (Mar. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0871404503). Political scientist and historian Katznelson delivers a major re-evaluation of the New Deal that extends the period through the Truman administration and evaluates the role that Southern Democrats (and Jim Crow policy) played in shaping it.
For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England by Allegra di Bonaventura (Apr. 22, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0871404305). From the assistant dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences comes this historical narrative of family life and slaveholding in the colonial North, based on diaries kept between 1711 and 1758.
The Elimination: A Survivor of the Khmer Rouge Confronts His Past and the Commandant of the Killing Fields by Rithy Panh and Christophe Bataille, trans. from the French by John Cullen (Feb. 12, hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-1590515587). Thirty years after losing his entire family, Cambodian filmmaker Panh confronts Comrade Duch, one of the men principally responsible for the genocide.
Oxford Univ. press
The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War by Peter Hart (May, hardcover, $34.95, 9780199976270). The oral historian at London’s Imperial War Museum surveys the weapons, tactics, and critical engagements of WWI in this grim telling.
Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr (May, hardcover, $24.95, 9780199742677). From ancient Rome to the rough streets of today, Renaissance literature scholar Mohr takes readers on a colorful trip through the history of four-letter words and their role in society.
Lincoln Dreamt He Died: The American Subconscious from Colonial Times to Freud by Andrew Burstein (May 21, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1137278272). In this intellectually stimulating history, Burstein explores the early American psyche through the dream lives of its citizens, including such luminaries as Thoreau, Emerson, Lincoln, and Twain.
(dist. by Norton)
The Wrath of Cochise: The Bascom Affair and the Origins of the Apache Wars by Terry Mort (Apr., hardcover, $27.95, 9781605984223). This insightful and dramatic tale hinges on the kidnapping of the young son of a white rancher and the ensuing misunderstandings and violence, using it as a means to examine tensions between Native Americans and the United States during the frontier era.
The Penguin Press
The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America by Ernest Freeberg (Feb. 21, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594204265). A history of the culture of invention—epitomized by Edison—that explains America’s lead in the electric light revolution of the late 19th century and how that revolution transformed American life.
Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A History of the World in Three Castes by David Priestland (Mar. 21, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594203107). An Oxford University professor offers a bold new interpretation of modern history as a continual struggle among three prevailing power groups: merchant, soldier, and sage.
The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II by Charles Glass (June 13, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594204289). This fast-paced narrative history centers on the misunderstood role of deserters in the American and British armed forces during WWII.
Princeton Univ. Press
Making War at Fort Hood by Kenneth T. MacLeish (Mar., hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-691-15274-5). This case study by Vanderbilt’s MacLeish focuses on Fort Hood, Tex., where soldiers struggle to reconcile the normalcy of home life with the stresses of deployment and the rigidity of military organizational structures.
The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century by Paul Collins (Feb. 12, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1610390132). Former Catholic priest Collins offers a new interpretation of the origins of Western civilization in this hair-raising history, arguing that Europe was born out of the depths of the Dark Ages.
Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk, July 1943 by Dennis Showalter (July 9, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1400066773) gives an account of the titanic and critical tank battle at Kursk, U.S.S.R., a struggle that involved 3.5 million men and was perhaps the largest battle in history.
I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford by Richard Snow (May 14, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1476713885). A former editor-in-chief of American Heritage profiles the life and achievements of Henry Ford, as well as the ushering in of a new industrial age based on the assembly line and the gasoline engine.
The Twelve Caesars: The Dramatic Lives of the Emperors of Rome by Matthew Dennison (June 25, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1250023537). Biographer and historian Dennison offers this unforgettable depiction of the Roman Empire at the height of its power and reach, and an elegantly sensational retelling of the lives and times of the 12 Caesars.
Thames & Hudson
Viking: The Norse Warrior’s [Unofficial] Manual by John Haywood (June 1, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-0500251942). From the author of The Ancient World comes an informative and humorous take on what it took to be a Viking in the 10th century.
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (Mar. 5, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1451617528). Relying on numerous interviews, Kiernan tells the incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tenn., who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in world history.
(dist. by Norton)
Soldier Box: Why I Won’t Go Back to War by Joe Glenton (June 4, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1781680926). This brave, moving account of a soldier who refused to return to Afghanistan stands in stark contrast to the recent flood of proudly bellicose military memoirs.
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Daniel Jones (Apr. 18, hardcover, $36, ISBN 978-0670026654). The Tudors have been the object of plenty of fascination over the years, but British historian Jones contends that their forebears—the Plantagenets—were even more interesting, and influential.
Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick (May 7, hardcover, $32.95, ISBN 978-0670025442). National Book Award–winner Philbrick gives a visceral account of the battle that ignited the American Revolution while deftly examining the political climate of rebellion.
Yale Univ. Press
On Historical Distance by Mark Salber Phillips (May 21, hardcover, $50, ISBN 978-0300140378). A Carleton University history professor explores temporal, spatial, and ideological distances in this compelling academic investigation and meta-history of history itself.
Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century by Patrick Smith (May 21, hardcover, $27.50, ISBN 978-0300176568). The former bureau chief for the International Herald Tribune in Hong Kong and Tokyo explains why America’s founding myths no longer apply, and why we must reconsider the facts of our history.