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Good Reads for Summer Vacation

Originally published by MHQ magazine. Published Online: June 14, 2013 
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A U.S. soldier assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, takes a reading break atop his M113 Armored Personnel Carrier after a simulated battle at the Twin Bridges training area in the Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 1998. (TSGT James D. Mossman/Department of Defense)
A U.S. soldier assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, takes a reading break atop his M113 Armored Personnel Carrier after a simulated battle at the Twin Bridges training area in the Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 1998. (TSGT James D. Mossman/Department of Defense)

 

REVIEWS AND EXCERPTS

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, by Christopher M. Clark, and
July 1914: Countdown to War, by Sean McMeekin
Reviewed by Holger H. Herwig

Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, by Allen C. Guelzo, Reviewed by Drew Lindsay

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"Up Close and Personal: An Oral History of the Iraq War by Photojournalists" Photojournalists on War, by Michael Kamber

Furies: War in Europe, 1450–1700, by Lauro Martines, Reviewed by Paul D. Lockhart

The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War, by Paul Kennedy, Reviewed by Jim Lacey
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Exerpt: The Fall of the House of Dixie, by Bruce Levine

Interview: MHQ editor Drew Lindsay asks Robert Utley about his fascination with Geronimo

 

NOTABLE BOOKS

17th Century

Global Crisis
War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century
by Geoffrey Parker
(Yale, $40)
Parker, an MHQ contributing editor, looks at the conflicts and chaos rocking the world from Japan to the Americas during what historians call the "General Crisis."

 
1812

Through the Perilous Fight
Six Weeks That Saved the Nation
by Steve Vogel
(Random House, $30)
Vogel, author of The Pentagon: A History, recounts the most desperate hours of the War of 1812—the burning of Washington and the battle of Baltimore.
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Aerial Wafare (WWII)

A Higher Call
An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II
by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander
(Berkley, $26.95)
A remarkable narrative about the famous 1943 encounter between German ace Franz Stigler and U.S. bomber pilot Charlie Brown—how Stigler passed up a chance to shoot down Brown, and the friendship they later developed.

 
American Civil War

The Civil War in 50 Objects
by Harold Holzer and the New-York Historical Society
(Viking, $36)
In this essay collection, the renowned historian writes eloquently about a Confederate soldier's letters home, John Brown's pike, Abraham Lincoln's 1864 campaign flag, and other treasures from the society's collection

A Disease in the Public Mind
A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War
by Thomas Fleming
(Da Capo, $26.99)
The longtime MHQ contributor argues that the divisions that tore the nation apart in 1861 took hold in fanaticism and bitterness born more than a half century before.
Podcast of Fleming's June 6 interview at the Pritzker Military Library

Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy
A Civil War Odyssey
by Peter Carlson
(Public Affairs, $26.99)
The amazing tale of Northern newspaper reporters captured at Vicksburg who escaped a notorious Confederate prison and spent a month on the run behind enemy lines.

The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant
A General Who Will Fight
by Harry S. Laver
(University Press of Kentucky, $32.50)
A tightly focused study of the general's leadership and what Laver calls his "analytical determination" as displayed at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and beyond.

 
American Revolution

Bunker Hill
A City, a Siege, a Revolution
by Nathaniel Philbrick
(Viking, $32.95)
The award-winning writer (Mayflower, In the Heart of the Sea, The Last Stand) traces what happened in the months leading up to the battle to persuade Boston's citizens to stand so bravely against the British.
Info on Facebook

 

American West

38 Nooses
Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End
by Scott W. Berg
(Pantheon, $27.95)
A deep look inside the six-week Dakota Indian War that roiled the West during one of the darkest times of the Civil War.

Coming Through Fire
George Armstrong Custer and Chief Black Kettle
by Duane Schultz
(Westholme, $28)
A gripping but complex narrative of the 1868 U.S. Army–Cheyenne clash at the Washita River that fueled Custer's celebrity and embittered the Indians.

 
British Military History

Nelson
The Sword of Albion
by John Sugden
(Henry Holt, $45)
The second volume of Sugden's sweeping biography of famed British admiral Horatio Nelson picks up in the late 18th century and covers the years of his greatest achievements, including the triumph at Trafalgar.
Review in the Telegraph

The Plantagenets
The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England
by Dan Jones
(Viking, $36)
A bestseller in Britain, this is the story of the royal line that ruled by the sword for more than two centuries during the Middle Ages and became the heroes—and villains—of such famous battles as Bannockburn, Sluys, Crécy, and Poitiers.
Review in the Guardian
 
 
Cold War

A Military History of the Cold War, 1944–1962
by Jonathan M. House
(University of Oklahoma, $45)
House zeroes in on the era's many small wars and revolutions as well as the new paradigms and tensions brought about by nuclear weapons.

 
Commanders

Masters of the Battlefield
Great Commanders From the Classical Age to the Napoleonic Era
by Paul K. Davis
(Oxford, $34.95)
The author of 100 Decisive Battles turns his attention to tactical geniuses, with profiles of Caesar, Genghis Khan, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, and more.

The Savior Generals
How Five Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost—From Ancient Greece to Iraq
by Victor Davis Hanson
(Bloomsbury, $28)
The columnist and military historian presents Themistocles, Flavius Belisarius, William T. Sherman, Matthew Ridgway, and David Petraeus as examples of how one man can make the difference between victory and defeat.

 
Japanese MIlitary History

Ninja, 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior
by John Man
(William Morrow, $25.99)
The British writer known for his popular histories of Asia takes on the murky history of the special forces of Japanese feudal society.
Interview with Johh Man

 
Napoleon

Napoleon, Life, Legacy, and Image
A Biography
by Alan Forrest 
(St. Martin's, $31.99)
Forrest, a British historian who has written extensively about the experience of the French soldier under Napoleon, looks at the general and empire builder as a product of his times as much as their creator.

 
Naval History

Churchill and Sea Power
by Christopher M. Bell
(Oxford, $34.95).
Bell, a respected historian of 20th-century maritime matters, defends the British leader's checkered record as naval strategist and guardian of Royal Navy power.

Intrepid Sailors
The Legacy of Preble's Boys and the Tripoli Campaign
by Chipp Reid
(Naval Institute, $35.95)
Reid digs into the details of the war waged by Commodore Edward Preble, Stephen Decatur Jr., and the fledgling U.S. Navy against the Barbary pirates.

 
Scottish Military History

A Military History of Scotland
edited by Edward M. Spiers, Jeremy A. Craig, and Matthew J. Strickland
(Edinburgh University Press, $200)
At almost 900 pages, this reference is a deep and detailed plunge into the long history of this small country.

 
U.S. Military

The Double V
How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military
by Rawn James Jr.
(Bloomsbury, $28)
James traces the history of African Americans in American service, from Crispus Attucks to today.

The Insurgents
David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War
by Fred Kaplan
(Simon & Schuster, $28)
The Pulitzer Prize–winning national security correspondent recounts how "COINdinistas"—counterinsurgency advocates such as Petraeus—challenged and overhauled orthodoxy within the U.S. military.

 
Weapons and Warfare

Blackett's War
The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare
by Stephen Budiansky
(Knopf, $27.95)
Budiansky (Perilous Fight, Air Power) tells the little-known tale of British physicist Patrick Blackett and a small group of Allied scientists who led the effort to blunt the threat of the German submarines.

Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons
by Ward Wilson
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22)
A nuclear nonproliferation expert challenges the conventional history of nuclear weapons—including the idea that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki persuaded the Japanese to surrender in World War II.
New York Times review of this book and two others

Invisible Armies
An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present
by Max Boot
(Liveright, $35)
The small-wars expert delivers a sweeping account of unconventional warfare, from prehistoric tribal clashes to modern-day terrorism.
Max Boot talks about Invisible Armies at University of Virginia's Miller Forum

Moment of Battle
The Twenty Clashes That Changed the World
by James Lacey and Williamson Murray
(Bantam, $30)
The two scholars and MHQ contributors write about the conflicts that shaped history and reverberate today—from Marathon to Vicksburg to the American attack on Baghdad in 2003.

 

World War II

For Crew and Country
The Inspirational True Story of Bravery and Sacrifice Aboard the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts
by John Wukovits
(St. Martin's, $26.99).
The veteran military chronicler spins the tale of the little destroyer escort that made a suicidal run at a Japanese battle group in the Battle of Samar to protect an invasion fleet. It was sunk, but 120 seaman survived three days in the water to return home as heroes.

The Eagle Unbowed
Poland and the Poles in the Second World War
by Halik Kochanski
(Harvard, $35)
The first comprehensive military, political, and diplomatic account of Poles in a conflict that would see them lose almost a fifth of their countrymen.

The Last Battle
When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe
by Stephen Harding
(Da Capo, $26.99)
Harding, senior editor of Military History, turns a footnote into major drama with the story of how American tankers and German prison guards fought a Nazi unit to save French VIPs from execution. Hear Harding discuss this New York Times bestseller.

 
Fiction

Hell or Richmond
by Ralph Peters
(Forge, $25.99)
Following up Cain at Gettysburg, Peters takes readers into the trenches and war-council sessions at the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and Spotsylvania.

The Reprisal
A Novel, by Laudomia Bonanni
(University of Chicago, $22)
This Italian classic (translated to English for the first time) taps true stories from Abruzzo during World War II to spin a story about a pregnant woman tragically trapped between guerrilla partisans and fascist supporters.

A Possible Life
A Novel in Five Parts
by Sebastian Faulks
(Henry Holt, $26.99)
In this time-shifting narrative (akin to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas), the bestselling British author ties five novellas together into a pleasing package. But the fine prose does little to lighten the frank assessment of the first character as he experiences the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

 

Poetry

Taps on the Walls
Poems From the Hanoi Hilton
by John Borling (Master Wings, $19.95)
Shot down over Vietnam, Borling composed these poems as a POW. Using a tap code, he rapped them out with his knuckles on the wall to share them with other prisoners—a "valuable source of mental stimulation and discussion," writes his fellow internee John McCain. More from MHQ about Borling and his book.

 

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