History

Must read books for the history buff.

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.

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.

Sitting Target

1973. Rhodesia. An outlawed state with an infant insurgency smouldering in the northeast border regions. That’s when I stumbled unintentionally into farm work north of a pinprick sized village of Centenary. Named after the centenary of the birth of Cecil Rhodes (1853 – 1902), the region boasted the best tobacco growing conditions in the world. Using cheap African labour and low tech farming methods, the rich smelling leaves reached the buyers in Europe despite the United Nations embargo.The commercial tobacco farms were surrounded by reserves exclusive to Africans, a hideout for emerging insurgents. From these enclaves, heavily armed terrorists struck at farming families to murder or frighten them into abandoning their land. Africans living in adjacent areas were barbarically tortured and murdered. Anyone living or working in the Centenary district was a sitting target.Farm houses were mortared and machine-gunned at night, individual farmers and workers ambushed by day. Landmines were frequently laid on the dirt roads that crossed the area, exploding with devastating effect under civilian cars. As well as mortal danger, farmers faced economic sanctions designed to cripple agriculture, constant attacks by the overseas media as well as normal farming challenges of market pricing, weather and cash flow.With a history of bloody or chaotic changeovers from white to black rule in countries north of Rhodesia convinced the European population to cling onto power. They circumvented United Nations sanctions, developed innovative products to replace shortages and kept machinery working well past its replacement date. The white farmers were decent, genuine, resilient, and hard- working people who did whatever necessary to preserve their legacy.Sitting Target describes the farming experience, the funny, the serious and the murder.

Besa Po

Queen Teuta of Illyria was not only a famous Warrior Queen that lived almost two hundred years before Cleopatra, but her love for King Agron was one of the most legendary love stories in history. BESA PO is inspired by the true story of love, loss, betrayal, victory and defeat.

BESA is a code of honor, a promise to protect someone or a Kingdom even with their life. PO is the word YES in Illyrian. Queen Teuta gave her BESA PO to King Agron and the people of Illyria. During the years of 231 BC to 227 BC, in order to fulfill her promise after the Kings tragic death, she challenged the mighty Roman Army and Navy. The Romans learned of her fierceness and skill in battle suffering humiliating defeats. They feared her, turned her own flesh and blood against her, captured her Kingdom but never captured her.

Venture back into ancient times and discover Queen Teuta’s story, a love so deep it spans the ages, leadership so compelling that Rome was put to shame. One of the first women to rise to power in the Kingdom of men.

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.

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 Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important and dramatic chapter in the American story—the settling of the Northwest Territory by dauntless pioneers who overcame incredible hardships to build a community based on ideals that would come to define our country.

As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River.

McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler’s son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. They and their families created a town in a primeval wilderness, while coping with such frontier realities as floods, fires, wolves and bears, no roads or bridges, no guarantees of any sort, all the while negotiating a contentious and sometimes hostile relationship with the native people. Like so many of McCullough’s subjects, they let no obstacle deter or defeat them.

Drawn in great part from a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures, The Pioneers is a uniquely American story of people whose ambition and courage led them to remarkable accomplishments. This is a revelatory and quintessentially American story, written with David McCullough’s signature narrative energy.

Elizabeth II: Life of a Monarch: An Audible Original

Respected royal broadcaster Jennie Bond narrates the life story of Queen Elizabeth II, and takes listeners inside the private life of one of the most public figures in modern history. Learn intimate details of Elizabeth’s childhood, her courtship and marriage, and the tragic moments following the death of Princess Diana.

Born a minor royal in 1926, Elizabeth is now the longest-reigning British monarch and also the most recognizable woman in the world. Admired by many, she has reigned through a period of unprecedented change, keeping the monarchy strong and consistent through the end of the empire, public scandals, and private loss. This riveting history uses actors and eyewitness observations to bring to life the story of this most remarkable woman.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Warriors and Fools: How America’s Leaders Lost the Vietnam War and Why It Still Matters

Warriors and Fools is not just another book about the Vietnam War. It is different from most. Unlike some others, the author is a veteran of that conflict, and a retired military officer with nearly thirty years’ service. He has spent much of the last three decades studying the war and taught a course on Vietnam at a prestigious senior military war college.

This book is also different from others because it is a story not just of the American decisions and actions during the war. This Vietnam War story uses the latest, ground breaking research and released documentation of the war from the Communist Vietnamese side of the conflict. Consequently, the book delves deeply into the decision making, strategies, motives, and goals of the North Vietnam leaders as they waged their war for unification, first against the French and then against the Americans. The book also uses memoirs, interviews, and oral histories of former South Vietnamese leaders and combatants to discover their views on their struggle to form a new nation free from communist aggression.

Warriors and Fools is both broad and deep in scope in its narration of the Vietnam War story. It takes the reader from the White House’s oval office and Hanoi’s Politburo room, to the Pentagon’s and North Vietnam Army’s command centers, to Vietnam’s mountain and rice patty battlefields to show the determination, deceit, foolhardiness, mistakes, courage, and horrors of war from the views of both sides.

While it examines multiple participant views, overall the book seeks to answer one specific question – why did the US fail to achieve its principal objective to defend South Vietnam from communist aggression? The story’s findings and conclusions are neither orthodox nor revisionist. Those trying to gain insights on how American civilian leaders lost the war that its military could have won; or how the US Congress, Press, or Antiwar activists convinced the Public to stop its support will be disappointed. None of these traditional ‘answers’ on why the US lost are really valid.

Rather, as this story explains the answer is much more linked to human factors, interactions, and relationships. In this case, the interrelationship between American civilian and military leaders and advisors was extraordinarily divisive and dysfunctional. So much so that it resulted in flawed, timid policies and foolish strategies that led to defeat. Moreover, that troublesome interrelationship was primarily a result of mistrusts, misunderstandings, and misperceptions on their roles, responsibilities, and what they thought would lead to a positive end to the war. In addition, primarily because they were either ignorant of the nature of war or overconfident from their past experiences, civilian and military policymakers ignored or misunderstood their enemy.

Warriors and Fools should be of interest to those who served in the war, and serious students and teachers of this event and period. It is not intended as light reading, or for someone trying to get just a brief understanding of what happened there and in America at the time.

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.

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From the outspoken former governor, an “explosive” (Guardian) “must read” (Hugh Hewitt) account of Chris Christie’s life in politics including his eye-opening insights into Donald Trump — “you will like the stories he tells” (Brian Kilmeade).

After dropping out of the 2016 presidential race, Chris Christie stunned the political world by becoming the first major official to endorse Donald Trump. A friend of Trump’s for fifteen years, the two-term New Jersey governor understood the future president as well as anyone in the political arena–and Christie quickly became one of Trump’s most trusted advisers. Tapped with running Trump’s transition team, Christie was nearly named his running mate. But within days of Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, Christie was in for his own surprise: he was being booted out.

In Let Me Finish, Christie sets the record straight about his tenure as a corruption-fighting prosecutor and a Republican running a Democratic state, as well as what really happened on the 2016 campaign trail and inside Trump Tower. Christie takes readers inside the ego-driven battles for Trump’s attention among figures like Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowksi, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, Jeff Sessions, and Paul Manafort. He shows how the literal trashing of Christie’s transition plan put the new administration in the hands of self-serving amateurs, all but guaranteeing the Trump presidency’s shaky start. Christie also addresses hot-button issues from his own years in power, including what really went down during Bridgegate. And, for the first time, Christie tells the full story of the Kushner saga: how, as a federal prosecutor, Christie put Jared Kushner’s powerful father behind bars–a fact Trump’s son-in-law makes Christie pay for later.

Packed with news-making revelations and told with the kind of bluntness few politicians can match, Christie’s memoir is an essential guide to understanding the Trump presidency.

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump

On March 16, 2018, just twenty-six hours before his scheduled retirement from the organization he had served with distinction for more than two decades, Andrew G. McCabe was fired from his position as deputy director of the FBI. President Donald Trump celebrated on Twitter: “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy.”

In The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, Andrew G. McCabe offers a dramatic and candid account of his career, and an impassioned defense of the FBI’s agents, and of the institution’s integrity and independence in protecting America and upholding our Constitution.

McCabe started as a street agent in the FBI’s New York field office, serving under director Louis Freeh. He became an expert in two kinds of investigations that are critical to American national security: Russian organized crime—which is inextricably linked to the Russian state—and terrorism. Under Director Robert Mueller, McCabe led the investigations of major attacks on American soil, including the Boston Marathon bombing, a plot to bomb the New York subways, and several narrowly averted bombings of aircraft. And under James Comey, McCabe was deeply involved in the controversial investigations of the Benghazi attack, the Clinton Foundation’s activities, and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

The Threat recounts in compelling detail the time between Donald Trump’s November 2016 election and McCabe’s firing, set against a page-turning narrative spanning two decades when the FBI’s mission shifted to a new goal: preventing terrorist attacks on Americans. But as McCabe shows, right now the greatest threat to the United States comes from within, as President Trump and his administration ignore the law, attack democratic institutions, degrade human rights, and undermine the U.S. Constitution that protects every citizen.

Important, revealing, and powerfully argued, The Threat tells the true story of what the FBI is, how it works, and why it will endure as an institution of integrity that protects America.