History

Must read books for the history buff.

The Library Book

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

The Point of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors

Created and compiled by Charles Krauthammer before his death, The Point of It All is a powerful collection of the influential columnist’s most important works. Spanning the personal, the political and the philosophical, it includes never-before-published speeches and a major new essay about the effect of today’s populist movements on the future of global democracy. Edited and with an introduction by the columnist’s son, Daniel Krauthammer, it is the most intimate and profound book yet by the legendary writer and thinker.

In his decades of work as America’s preeminent political commentator, Charles Krauthammer elevated the opinion column to a form of art. Whether writing about statecraft and foreign policy or reflecting on more esoteric topics such as baseball, spaceflight and medical ethics, Krauthammer was beloved not only for his penetrating wit and insight but also for his ability to identify the hidden moral truths that animate our politics and culture.

This new collection, which Krauthammer composed before his death in June 2018, features the columns, speeches and unpublished writings that showcase the best of his original thought and his last, enduring words on the state of American politics, the nature of liberal democracy and the course of world history.

The book also includes a deeply personal section offering insight into Krauthammer’s beliefs about what mattered most to him–friendship, family and the principles he lived by–all anchored by Daniel Krauthammer’s poignant eulogy for his father.

For longtime readers and newcomers alike, The Point of It All is a timely demonstration of what it means to cut through the noise of petty politics with clarity, integrity and intellectual fortitude. It is a reminder of what made Charles Krauthammer the most celebrated American columnist and political thinker of his generation, a revealing look at the man behind the words and a lasting testament to his belief that anyone with an open and honest mind can grapple deeply with the most urgent questions in politics and in life.

Ancient Civilizations of North America

For the past few hundred years, most of what we’ve been taught about the native cultures of North America came from reports authored by the conquerors and colonizers who destroyed them. Now – with the technological advances of modern archaeology and a new perspective on world history – we are finally able to piece together their compelling true stories. In Ancient Civilizations of North America, Professor Edwin Barnhart, Director of the Maya Exploration Center, will open your eyes to a fascinating world you never knew existed – even though you’ve been living right next to it, or even on top of it, for as long as you’ve been on the continent.

The peoples of ancient North America were exceptionally knowledgeable about their environment, but their intellectual and artistic curiosity went much beyond the immediate need for food and safety. Beginning thousands of years ago, and without benefit of written language, native peoples became mathematicians, construction and soil engineers, astronomers, urban planners, and more. They developed thriving cities, extensive trade routes, canals to bring water to the desert, and earthworks we still marvel over today.

In 24 exciting lectures, you’ll learn about the vibrant cities of Poverty Point, the first city in North America, built about 3,500 years ago, and Cahokia, the largest city of ancient North America. You’ll explore the many ways in which the Chacoan environment provided cultural and religious focus for peoples of the southwest. And you’ll learn about the Iroquoian source of some of our most basic “American” values.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

“I have long been a fan of David Christian. In Origin Story, he elegantly weaves evidence and insights from many scientific and historical disciplines into a single, accessible historical narrative.” –Bill Gates

A captivating history of the universe — from before the dawn of time through the far reaches of the distant future.

Most historians study the smallest slivers of time, emphasizing specific dates, individuals, and documents. But what would it look like to study the whole of history, from the big bang through the present day — and even into the remote future? How would looking at the full span of time change the way we perceive the universe, the earth, and our very existence?

These were the questions David Christian set out to answer when he created the field of “Big History,” the most exciting new approach to understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. In Origin Story, Christian takes readers on a wild ride through the entire 13.8 billion years we’ve come to know as “history.” By focusing on defining events (thresholds), major trends, and profound questions about our origins, Christian exposes the hidden threads that tie everything together — from the creation of the planet to the advent of agriculture, nuclear war, and beyond.

With stunning insights into the origin of the universe, the beginning of life, the emergence of humans, and what the future might bring, Origin Story boldly reframes our place in the cosmos.

made in america: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States

Bill Bryson, bestselling author of The Mother Tongue, now celebrates its magnificent offspring in the book that reveals once and for all how a dusty western hamlet with neither woods nor holly came to be known as Hollywood . . . and exactly why Mr. Yankee Doodle called his befeathered cap “Macaroni.”

Voices from the Civil War: North and South, Men and Women, Black and White

What was it like to live during the Civil War? Not only for soldiers, but for their wives and children, mothers and fathers, sweethearts and friends? In Voices from the Civil War, twenty-six men and women, North and South, black and white, young and old tell their stories. Grounded in historical fact, these fictional characters relate how they struggled to survive the greatest conflict in American history.

God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State

With humor and the biting insight of a native, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower explores the history, culture, and politics of Texas, while holding the stereotypes up for rigorous scrutiny.

God Save Texas is a journey through the most controversial state in America. It is a red state in the heart of Trumpland that hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office in more than twenty years; but it is also a state in which minorities already form a majority (including the largest number of Muslims). The cities are blue and among the most diverse in the nation. Oil is still king but Texas now leads California in technology exports. The Texas economic model of low taxes and minimal regulation has produced extraordinary growth but also striking income disparities. Texas looks a lot like the America that Donald Trump wants to create. And Wright’s profound portrait of the state not only reflects our country back as it is, but as it was and as it might be.

Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin

In his meteoric, thirteen-year rise to fame, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a mass movement for Civil Rights — with his relentless peaceful, non-violent protests, public demonstrations, and eloquent speeches. But as violent threats cast a dark shadow over Dr. King’s life, Swanson hones in on James Earl Ray, a bizarre, racist, prison escapee who tragically ends King’s life.As he did in his bestselling Scholastic MG/YA books Chasing LIncoln’s Killer and “THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT!”, Swanson transports readers back to one of the most shocking, sad, and terrifying events in American history.With an introduction by Congressman John Lewis, and over 80 photographs, captions, bibliography, various source notes, and index included.

The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure

Two modern adventurers sought a treasure possessed by the legendary “Wild Men of Borneo.” One found riches. The other vanished forever into an endless jungle. Had he shed civilization—or lost his mind? Global headlines suspected murder. Lured by these mysteries, New York Times bestselling author Carl Hoffman journeyed to find the truth, discovering that nothing is as it seems in the world’s last Eden, where the lines between sinner and saint blur into one.

In 1984, Swiss traveler Bruno Manser joined an expedition to the Mulu caves on Borneo, the planet’s third largest island. There he slipped into the forest interior to make contact with the Penan, an indigenous tribe of peace-loving nomads living among the Dayak people, the fabled “Headhunters of Borneo.” Bruno lived for years with the Penan, gaining acceptance as a member of the tribe. However, when commercial logging began devouring the Penan’s homeland, Bruno led the tribe against these outside forces, earning him status as an enemy of the state, but also worldwide fame as an environmental hero. He escaped captivity under gunfire twice, but the strain took a psychological toll. Then, in 2000, Bruno disappeared without a trace. Had he become a madman, a hermit, or a martyr?

American Michael Palmieri is, in many ways, Bruno’s opposite. Evading the Vietnam War, the Californian wandered the world, finally settling in Bali in the 1970s. From there, he staged expeditions into the Bornean jungle to acquire astonishing art and artifacts from the Dayaks. He would become one of the world’s most successful tribal-art field collectors, supplying sacred works to prestigious museums and wealthy private collectors. And yet suspicion shadowed this self-styled buccaneer who made his living extracting the treasure of the Dayak: Was he preserving or exploiting native culture?

As Carl Hoffman unravels the deepening riddle of Bruno’s disappearance and seeks answers to the questions surrounding both men, it becomes clear saint and sinner are not so easily defined and Michael and Bruno are, in a sense, two parts of one whole: each spent his life in pursuit of the sacred fire of indigenous people. The Last Wild Men of Borneo is the product of Hoffman’s extensive travels to the region, guided by Penan through jungle paths traveled by Bruno and by Palmieri himself up rivers to remote villages. Hoffman also draws on exclusive interviews with Manser’s family and colleagues, and rare access to his letters and journals. Here is a peerless adventure propelled by the entwined lives of two singular, enigmatic men whose stories reveal both the grandeur and the precarious fate of the wildest place on earth.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries, searching for safety—perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive.

When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. Though their bond remained unbreakable, Claire, who had for so long protected and provided for Clemantine, was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, while Clemantine was taken in by a family who raised her as their own. She seemed to live the American dream: attending private school, taking up cheerleading, and, ultimately, graduating from Yale. Yet the years of being treated as less than human, of going hungry and seeing death, could not be erased. She felt at the same time six years old and one hundred years old.

In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.

Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier

From the acclaimed, bestselling author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a fascinating, wild, and wonder-filled journey into Alaska, America’s last frontier

In 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman organized a most unusual summer voyage to the wilds of Alaska: He converted a steamship into a luxury “floating university,” populated by some of America’s best and brightest scientists and writers, including the anti-capitalist eco-prophet John Muir. Those aboard encountered a land of immeasurable beauty and impending environmental calamity. More than a hundred years later, Alaska is still America’s most sublime wilderness, both the lure that draws one million tourists annually on Inside Passage cruises and as a natural resources larder waiting to be raided. As ever, it remains a magnet for weirdos and dreamers.

Armed with Dramamine and an industrial-strength mosquito net, Mark Adams sets out to retrace the 1899 expedition. Traveling town to town by water, Adams ventures three thousand miles north through Wrangell, Juneau, and Glacier Bay, then continues west into the colder and stranger regions of the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he encounters dozens of unusual characters (and a couple of very hungry bears) and investigates how lessons learned in 1899 might relate to Alaska’s current struggles in adapting to the pressures of a changing climate and world.

Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency

The true story of Abraham Lincoln’s last murder trial, a case in which he had a deep personal involvement—and which played out in the nation’s newspapers as he began his presidential campaign

At the end of the summer of 1859, twenty-two-year-old Peachy Quinn Harrison went on trial for murder in Springfield, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln, who had been involved in more than three thousand cases—including more than twenty-five murder trials—during his two-decades-long career, was hired to defend him. This was to be his last great case as a lawyer.

What normally would have been a local case took on momentous meaning. Lincoln’s debates with Senator Stephen Douglas the previous fall had gained him a national following, transforming the little-known, self-taught lawyer into a respected politician. He was being urged to make a dark-horse run for the presidency in 1860. Taking this case involved great risk. His reputation was untarnished, but should he lose this trial, should Harrison be convicted of murder, the spotlight now focused so brightly on him might be dimmed. He had won his most recent murder trial with a daring and dramatic maneuver that had become a local legend, but another had ended with his client dangling from the end of a rope.

The case posed painful personal challenges for Lincoln. The murder victim had trained for the law in his office, and Lincoln had been his friend and his mentor. His accused killer, the young man Lincoln would defend, was the son of a close friend and loyal supporter. And to win this trial he would have to form an unholy allegiance with a longtime enemy, a revivalist preacher he had twice run against for political office—and who had bitterly slandered Lincoln as an “infidel…too lacking in faith” to be elected.

Lincoln’s Last Trial captures the presidential hopeful’s dramatic courtroom confrontations in vivid detail as he fights for his client—but also for his own blossoming political future. It is a moment in history that shines a light on our legal system, as in this case Lincoln fought a legal battle that remains incredibly relevant today.

The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In a 2017 survey, presidential historians ranked Dwight D. Eisenhower fifth on the list of great presidents, behind the perennial top four: Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Teddy Roosevelt. Historian William Hitchcock shows that this high ranking is justified. Eisenhower’s accomplishments were enormous, and loom ever larger from the vantage point of our own tumultuous times.

A former general, Ike kept the peace: he ended the Korean War, avoided a war in Vietnam, adroitly managed a potential confrontation with China, and soothed relations with the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death. He guided the Republican Party to embrace central aspects of the New Deal like Social Security. He thwarted the demagoguery of McCarthy and he advanced the agenda of civil rights for African Americans. As part of his strategy to wage, and win, the Cold War, Eisenhower expanded American military power, built a fearsome nuclear arsenal and launched the space race. In his famous Farewell Address, he acknowledged that Americans needed such weapons in order to keep global peace—but he also admonished his citizens to remain alert to the potentially harmful influence of the “military-industrial complex.”

From 1953 to 1961, no one dominated the world stage as did President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Age of Eisenhower is the definitive account of this presidency, drawing extensively on declassified material from the Eisenhower Library, the CIA and Defense Department, and troves of unpublished documents. In his masterful account, Hitchcock shows how Ike shaped modern America, and he astutely assesses Eisenhower’s close confidants, from Attorney General Brownell to Secretary of State Dulles. The result is an eye-opening reevaluation that explains why this “do-nothing” president is rightly regarded as one of the best leaders our country has ever had.

Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars, the epic and enthralling story of America’s intelligence, military, and diplomatic efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11

Prior to 9/11, the United States had been carrying out small-scale covert operations in Afghanistan, ostensibly in cooperation, although often in direct opposition, with I.S.I., the Pakistani intelligence agency. While the US was trying to quell extremists, a highly secretive and compartmentalized wing of I.S.I., known as “Directorate S,” was covertly training, arming, and seeking to legitimize the Taliban, in order to enlarge Pakistan’s sphere of influence. After 9/11, when fifty-nine countries, led by the U. S., deployed troops or provided aid to Afghanistan in an effort to flush out the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the U.S. was set on an invisible slow-motion collision course with Pakistan.

Today we know that the war in Afghanistan would falter badly because of military hubris at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the drain on resources and provocation in the Muslim world caused by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and corruption. But more than anything, as Coll makes painfully clear, the war in Afghanistan was doomed because of the failure of the United States to apprehend the motivations and intentions of I.S.I.’s “Directorate S”. This was a swirling and shadowy struggle of historic proportions, which endured over a decade and across both the Bush and Obama administrations, involving multiple secret intelligence agencies, a litany of incongruous strategies and tactics, and dozens of players, including some of the most prominent military and political figures. A sprawling American tragedy, the war was an open clash of arms but also a covert melee of ideas, secrets, and subterranean violence.

Coll excavates this grand battle, which took place away from the gaze of the American public. With unsurpassed expertise, original research, and attention to detail, he brings to life a narrative at once vast and intricate, local and global, propulsive and painstaking.

This is the definitive explanation of how America came to be so badly ensnared in an elaborate, factional, and seemingly interminable conflict in South Asia. Nothing less than a forensic examination of the personal and political forces that shape world history, Directorate S is a complete masterpiece of both investigative and narrative journalism.

Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found

In December 1957, the wife of a Florida citrus baron is raped in her home while her husband is away. She claims a “husky Negro” did it, and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, does not hesitate to round up a herd of suspects. But within days, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old. Soon Jesse is railroaded up to the state hospital for the insane, and locked away without trial.
But crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese cannot stop fretting over the case and its baffling outcome. Who was protecting whom, or what? She pursues the story for years, chasing down leads, hitting dead ends, winning unlikely allies. Bit by bit, the unspeakable truths behind a conspiracy that shocked a community into silence begin to surface.

Beneath a Ruthless Sun tells a powerful, page-turning story rooted in the fears that rippled through the South as integration began to take hold, sparking a surge of virulent racism that savaged the vulnerable, debased the powerful, and roils our own times still.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines

and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the

West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature–tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization,

magical thinking–which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the

precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.]