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History

Accidental Presidents

Accidental Presidents

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Accidental Presidents looks at eight men who came to the office without being elected to it. It demonstrates how the character of the man in that powerful seat affects the nation and world.

Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent died in office. In one way or another they vastly changed our history. Only Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in his own right. Only TR, Truman, Coolidge, and LBJ were re-elected.

John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison who died 30 days into his term. He was kicked out of his party and became the first president threatened with impeachment. Millard Fillmore succeeded esteemed General Zachary Taylor. He immediately sacked the entire cabinet and delayed an inevitable Civil War by standing with Henry Clay's compromise of 1850. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded our greatest president, sided with remnants of the Confederacy in Reconstruction. Chester Arthur, the embodiment of the spoils system, was so reviled as James Garfield's successor that he had to defend himself against plotting Garfield's assassination; but he reformed the civil service. Theodore Roosevelt broke up the trusts. Calvin Coolidge silently cooled down the Harding scandals and preserved the White House for the Republican Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. Truman surprised everybody when he succeeded the great FDR and proved an able and accomplished president. Lyndon B. Johnson was named to deliver Texas electorally. He led the nation forward on Civil Rights but failed on Vietnam.

Accidental Presidents adds immeasurably to our understanding of the power and limits of the American presidency in critical times.

Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

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In this strikingly original and groundbreaking book, Dr. Shay examines the psychological devastation of war by comparing the soldiers of Homer's "Iliad" with Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Although the "Iliad" was written twenty-seven centuries ago it has much to teach about combat trauma, as do the more recent, compelling voices and experiences of Vietnam vets.
Achilles Trap

Achilles Trap

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"Excellent . . . A more intimate picture of the dictator's thinking about world politics, local power and his relationship to the United States than has been seen before." --The New York Times

"Another triumph from one of our best journalists." --The Washington Post

"Voluminously researched and compulsively readable." --Air Mail

From bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll, the definitive story of the decades-long relationship between the United States and Saddam Hussein, and a deeply researched and news-breaking investigation into how human error, cultural miscommunication, and hubris led to one of the costliest geopolitical conflicts of our time

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, its message was clear: Iraq, under the control of strongman Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction that, if left unchecked, posed grave danger to the world. But when no WMDs were found, the United States and its allies were forced to examine the political and intelligence failures that had led to the invasion and the occupation, and the civil war that followed. One integral question has remained unsolved: Why had Saddam seemingly sacrificed his long reign in power by giving the false impression that he had hidden stocks of dangerous weapons?

The Achilles Trap masterfully untangles the people, ploys of power, and geopolitics that led to America's disastrous war with Iraq and, for the first time, details America's fundamental miscalculations during its decades-long relationship with Saddam Hussein. Beginning with Saddam's rise to power in 1979 and the birth of Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program, Steve Coll traces Saddam's motives by way of his inner circle. He brings to life the diplomats, scientists, family members, and generals who had no choice but to defer to their leader--a leader directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, as well as the torture or imprisonment of hundreds of thousands more. This was a man whose reasoning was impossible to reduce to a simple explanation, and the CIA and successive presidential administrations failed to grasp critical nuances of his paranoia, resentments, and inconsistencies--even when the stakes were incredibly high.

Calling on unpublished and underreported sources, interviews with surviving participants, and Saddam's own transcripts and audio files, Coll pulls together an incredibly comprehensive portrait of a man who was convinced the world was out to get him and acted accordingly. A work of great historical significance, The Achilles Trap is the definitive account of how corruptions of power, lies of diplomacy, and vanity--on both sides--led to avoidable errors of statecraft, ones that would enact immeasurable human suffering and forever change the political landscape as we know it.

Across the Pond

Across the Pond

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Americans have long been fascinated with the oddness of the British, but the English, says literary critic Terry Eagleton, find their transatlantic neighbors just as strange. Only an alien race would admiringly refer to a colleague as "aggressive," use superlatives to describe everything from one's pet dog to one's rock collection, or speak frequently of being "empowered." Why, asks Eagleton, must we broadcast our children's school grades with bumper stickers announcing "My Child Made the Honor Roll"? Why don't we appreciate the indispensability of the teapot? And why must we remain so irritatingly optimistic, even when all signs point to failure?

On his quirky journey through the language, geography, and national character of the United States, Eagleton proves to be at once an informal and utterly idiosyncratic guide to our peculiar race. He answers the questions his compatriots have always had but (being British) dare not ask, like why Americans willingly rise at the crack of dawn, even on Sundays, or why we publicly chastise cigarette smokers as if we're all spokespeople for the surgeon general.

In this pithy, warmhearted, and very funny book, Eagleton melds a good old-fashioned roast with genuine admiration for his neighbors "across the pond."

Across the Top of the World

Across the Top of the World

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The centuries-long quest for the fabled Northwest Passage rivals the story of Antarctic exploration for heroism, drama, and tragedy. Expedition after expedition set off in search of a sea route connecting Europe with Asia's riches; each expedition suffered extreme hardship and ended in defeat, until Roald Amundsen finally succeeded in 1903-06. Across the Top of the World brings this incredible saga to life through exhaustive research, grim firsthand accounts, and hundreds of dramatic images. Paintings, engravings, and photos of the intrepid men and their ships, as well as of relics and archaeological sites, provide a poignant and compelling link with the past, while landscapes and seascapes of the harsh yet beautiful Arctic illustrate the challenges that faced explorers. Covering all the major expeditions in detail, and written with passion and authority, this book is both a scholarly reference and an eminently readable history of Arctic exploration.
Acting in the Night: Macbeth and Places of the Civil War

Acting in the Night: Macbeth and Places of the Civil War

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What can the performance of a single play on one specific night tell us about the world this event inhabited so briefly? Alexander Nemerov takes a performance of Macbeth in Washington, DC on October 17, 1863--with Abraham Lincoln in attendance--to explore this question and illuminate American art, politics, technology, and life as it was being lived. Nemerov's inspiration is Wallace Stevens and his poem "Anecdote of the Jar," in which a single object organizes the wilderness around it in the consciousness of the poet. For Nemerov, that evening's performance of Macbeth reached across the tragedy of civil war to acknowledge the horrors and emptiness of a world it tried and ultimately failed to change.
Activist: John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, and the Myth of Judicial Review

Activist: John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, and the Myth of Judicial Review

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The story of the landmark case that put the "Supreme" in Supreme Court.

Among the many momentous decisions rendered by the Supreme Court, none has had a greater impact than that passed down in 1803 by Chief Justice John Marshall in the case of Marbury v. Madison. While the ruling itself was innocuous--denying the plea of a minor functionary named William Marbury on constitutionally technical grounds--its implications were enormous. For Marshall had, in essence, claimed for the Supreme Court the right to determine what the Constitution and our laws under it really mean, known formally as the principle of "judicial review." Yet, as Lawrence Goldstone shows in his compelling narrative, that right is nowhere expressed in the Constitution and was not even considered by the Framers or the Founding Fathers, who would never have granted such power in a checks-and-balances system to unelected officials serving for life.

The Activist underscores the drama that occurred in 1803 by examining the debates that took place during the Constitutional Convention of 1787--among the most dramatic moments in American history--over the formation and structure of our judicial system. In parallel, Goldstone introduces in brief the life and ambition of John Marshall, and the early, fragile years of the Supreme Court, which--until Marshall's ascension to Chief Justice--sat atop the weakest of the three branches of government. Marshall made the Court supreme, and while judicial review has been used sparingly, without it the Court would likely never have intervened in the 2000 presidential election. Indeed, the great irony Goldstone reveals is that judicial review is now so enfranchised that Justice Antonin Scalia could admit, as he has, that the Supreme Court "made it up" in the same breath as he insists that justices must adhere steadfastly to the exact words of the Constitution.

Nobody brings the debates of the Constitutional Convention to life as does Lawrence Goldstone, and in this election year, no more interesting book on the Supreme Court will appear than The Activist, which makes the past come alive in the present.

Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin

Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin

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"An absorbing, scholarly account of the history of the Latin language, from its origins in antiquity to its afterlife in our own time...Ad Infinitum treats its readers with the dignity of Roman citizens."--The Wall Street Journal

The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia. It has defined the way in which we express our thoughts, our faith, and our knowledge of how the world functions, its use echoing on in the law codes of half the world, in the terminologies of modern science, and, until forty years ago, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. In his erudite and entertaining "biography," Nicholas Ostler shows how and why Latin survived and thrived even as its creators and other languages failed. Originally the dialect of Rome and its surrounds, Latin supplanted its neighbors to become, by conquest and settlement, the language of all Italy, and then of Western Europe and North Africa. After the empire collapsed, spoken Latin re-emerged as a host of new languages, from Portuguese and Spanish in the west to Romanian in the east, while a knowledge of Latin lived on as the common code of European thought, and inspired the founders of Europe's New World in the Americas. E pluribus unum. Illuminating the extravaganza of its past, Nicholas Ostler makes clear that, in a thousand echoes, Latin lives on, ad infinitum.

Ada's Algorithm

Ada's Algorithm

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"[Ada Lovelace], like Steve Jobs, stands at the intersection of arts and technology."--Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators

Over 150 years after her death, a widely-used scientific computer program was named "Ada," after Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of the eighteenth century's version of a rock star, Lord Byron. Why?

Because, after computer pioneers such as Alan Turing began to rediscover her, it slowly became apparent that she had been a key but overlooked figure in the invention of the computer.

In Ada Lovelace, James Essinger makes the case that the computer age could have started two centuries ago if Lovelace's contemporaries had recognized her research and fully grasped its implications.

It's a remarkable tale, starting with the outrageous behavior of her father, which made Ada instantly famous upon birth. Ada would go on to overcome numerous obstacles to obtain a level of education typically forbidden to women of her day. She would eventually join forces with Charles Babbage, generally credited with inventing the computer, although as Essinger makes clear, Babbage couldn't have done it without Lovelace. Indeed, Lovelace wrote what is today considered the world's first computer program--despite opposition that the principles of science were "beyond the strength of a woman's physical power of application."

Based on ten years of research and filled with fascinating characters and observations of the period, not to mention numerous illustrations, Essinger tells Ada's fascinating story in unprecedented detail to absorbing and inspiring effect.

Address Book

Address Book

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Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction One of Time Magazines's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 Longlisted for the 2020 Porchlight Business Book Awards

An entertaining quest to trace the origins and implications of the names of the roads on which we reside. --Sarah Vowell, The New York Times Book Review

When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won't get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class.

In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Deirdre Mask looks at the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr., the wayfinding means of ancient Romans, and how Nazis haunt the streets of modern Germany. The flipside of having an address is not having one, and we also see what that means for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London. Filled with fascinating people and histories, The Address Book illuminates the complex and sometimes hidden stories behind street names and their power to name, to hide, to decide who counts, who doesn't--and why.

Admirals

Admirals

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How history's only five-star admirals triumphed in World War II and made the United States the world's dominant sea power.

Only four men in American history have been promoted to the five-star rank of Admiral of the Fleet: William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey. These four men were the best and the brightest the navy produced, and together they led the U.S. navy to victory in World War II, establishing the United States as the world's greatest fleet.

In The Admirals, award-winning historian Walter R. Borneman tells their story in full detail for the first time. Drawing upon journals, ship logs, and other primary sources, he brings an incredible historical moment to life, showing us how the four admirals revolutionized naval warfare forever with submarines and aircraft carriers, and how these men -- who were both friends and rivals -- worked together to ensure that the Axis fleets lay destroyed on the ocean floor at the end of World War II.

Admirals

Admirals

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How history's only five-star admirals triumphed in World War II and made the United States the world's dominant sea power.

Only four men in American history have been promoted to the five-star rank of Admiral of the Fleet: William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey. These four men were the best and the brightest the navy produced, and together they led the U.S. navy to victory in World War II, establishing the United States as the world's greatest fleet.

In The Admirals, award-winning historian Walter R. Borneman tells their story in full detail for the first time. Drawing upon journals, ship logs, and other primary sources, he brings an incredible historical moment to life, showing us how the four admirals revolutionized naval warfare forever with submarines and aircraft carriers, and how these men -- who were both friends and rivals -- worked together to ensure that the Axis fleets lay destroyed on the ocean floor at the end of World War II.

Adrift

Adrift

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A story of tragedy at sea where every desperate act meant life or death

The small ship making the Liverpool-to-New York trip in the early months of 1856 carried mail, crates of dry goods, and more than one hundred passengers, mostly Irish emigrants. Suddenly an iceberg tore the ship asunder and five lifeboats were lowered. As four lifeboats drifted into the fog and icy water, never to be heard from again, the last boat wrenched away from the sinking ship with a few blankets, some water and biscuits, and thirteen souls. Only one would survive. This is his story.

As they started their nine days adrift more than four hundred miles off Newfoundland, the castaways--an Irish couple and their two boys, an English woman and her daughter, newlyweds from Ireland, and several crewmen, including Thomas W. Nye from Fairhaven, Massachusetts--began fighting over food and water. One by one, though, day by day, they died. Some from exposure, others from madness and panic. In the end, only Nye and the ship's log survived.

Using Nye's firsthand descriptions and later newspaper accounts, ship's logs, assorted diaries, and family archives, Brian Murphy chronicles the horrific nine days that thirteen people suffered adrift on the cold gray Atlantic. Adrift brings readers to the edge of human limits, where every frantic decision and desperate act is a potential life saver or life taker.

Adventures of Pedro in Equador

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Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War

Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War

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A Washington Post Best Book of 2021

The #1 New York Times bestselling investigative story of how three successive presidents and their military commanders deceived the public year after year about America's longest war, foreshadowing the Taliban's recapture of Afghanistan, by Washington Post reporter and three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Craig Whitlock.

Unlike the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had near-unanimous public support. At first, the goals were straightforward and clear: defeat al-Qaeda and prevent a repeat of 9/11. Yet soon after the United States and its allies removed the Taliban from power, the mission veered off course and US officials lost sight of their original objectives.

Distracted by the war in Iraq, the US military become mired in an unwinnable guerrilla conflict in a country it did not understand. But no president wanted to admit failure, especially in a war that began as a just cause. Instead, the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations sent more and more troops to Afghanistan and repeatedly said they were making progress, even though they knew there was no realistic prospect for an outright victory.

Just as the Pentagon Papers changed the public's understanding of Vietnam, The Afghanistan Papers contains "fast-paced and vivid" (The New York Times Book Review) revelation after revelation from people who played a direct role in the war from leaders in the White House and the Pentagon to soldiers and aid workers on the front lines. In unvarnished language, they admit that the US government's strategies were a mess, that the nation-building project was a colossal failure, and that drugs and corruption gained a stranglehold over their allies in the Afghan government. All told, the account is based on interviews with more than 1,000 people who knew that the US government was presenting a distorted, and sometimes entirely fabricated, version of the facts on the ground.

Documents unearthed by The Washington Post reveal that President Bush didn't know the name of his Afghanistan war commander--and didn't want to meet with him. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that he had "no visibility into who the bad guys are." His successor, Robert Gates, said: "We didn't know jack shit about al-Qaeda."

The Afghanistan Papers is a "searing indictment of the deceit, blunders, and hubris of senior military and civilian officials" (Tom Bowman, NRP Pentagon Correspondent) that will supercharge a long-overdue reckoning over what went wrong and forever change the way the conflict is remembered.

Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History

Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History

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A major history of Afghanistan and its changing political culture

Afghanistan traces the historic struggles and the changing nature of political authority in this volatile region of the world, from the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century to the Taliban resurgence today. Thomas Barfield introduces readers to the bewildering diversity of tribal and ethnic groups in Afghanistan, explaining what unites them as Afghans despite the regional, cultural, and political differences that divide them. He shows how governing these peoples was relatively easy when power was concentrated in a small dynastic elite, but how this delicate political order broke down in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when Afghanistan's rulers mobilized rural militias to expel first the British and later the Soviets. Armed insurgency proved remarkably successful against the foreign occupiers, but it also undermined the Afghan government's authority and rendered the country ever more difficult to govern as time passed. Barfield vividly describes how Afghanistan's armed factions plunged the country into a civil war, giving rise to clerical rule by the Taliban and Afghanistan's isolation from the world. He examines why the American invasion in the wake of September 11 toppled the Taliban so quickly, and how this easy victory lulled the United States into falsely believing that a viable state could be built just as easily.

Afghanistan is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how a land conquered and ruled by foreign dynasties for more than a thousand years became the "graveyard of empires" for the British and Soviets, and what the United States must do to avoid a similar fate.

Africa

Africa

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Immerse yourself in Africa's vast and intricate story and discover Africa's true place in world history.

Spanning more than 200,000 years, from the emergence of the first humans to the rise of megacities, Africa explores the history and cultures of the world's second-largest continent in vivid detail. It brings to life the stories that shaped Africa and the world around it, from powerful and influential empires and kingdoms such as Mali and Benin, through the struggle against colonization and the fight for independence to Africa's place on the global stage today.

You will meet some of Africa's most important political and military leaders, including Hannibal, Mansa Musa, Oba Ewuare, Queen Nzinga, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, and Ellen Sirleaf. Brilliant photography showcases the great art and architecture that African civilizations have created while engaging text written by experts of African heritage covers every facet of African cultures, from music and literature to oral traditions and languages. Specially commissioned CGI artworks recreate iconic buildings and life in lost cities like Timbuktu and Great Zimbabwe.

Explore the pages of this awe-inspiring African history book to discover:

-The whol-e story of the African continent, covering every aspect from culture and trade to politics and society
-The chapters explore developments in religion, languages, music, literature, and mythology.
-Biography sections portray the lives, impact, and legacy of influential figures in African history.
-Detailed maps set the main sites in context and showcase vast empires and key trade routes
-Optional 80-page reference section provides a directory of the histories and cultures of all the sovereign states in Africa.

Beautifully illustrated and unparalleled in scope, Africa is the perfect book for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of Africa's vital and inspiring history.

African American and Latinx History of the United States

African American and Latinx History of the United States

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An intersectional history of the shared struggle for African American and Latinx civil rights

Spanning more than two hundred years, An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the "Global South" was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Paul Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like "manifest destiny" and "Jacksonian democracy," and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism.

Drawing on rich narratives and primary source documents, Ortiz links racial segregation in the Southwest and the rise and violent fall of a powerful tradition of Mexican labor organizing in the twentieth century, to May 1, 2006, known as International Workers' Day, when migrant laborers--Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, and immigrants from every continent on earth--united in resistance on the first "Day Without Immigrants." As African American civil rights activists fought Jim Crow laws and Mexican labor organizers warred against the suffocating grip of capitalism, Black and Spanish-language newspapers, abolitionists, and Latin American revolutionaries coalesced around movements built between people from the United States and people from Central America and the Caribbean. In stark contrast to the resurgence of "America First" rhetoric, Black and Latinx intellectuals and organizers today have historically urged the United States to build bridges of solidarity with the nations of the Americas.

Incisive and timely, this bottom-up history, told from the interconnected vantage points of Latinx and African Americans, reveals the radically different ways that people of the diaspora have addressed issues still plaguing the United States today, and it offers a way forward in the continued struggle for universal civil rights.

2018 Winner of the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award