The last time that I looked at the history & biography genres when it comes to new releases was way back in November 2017. That’s a long time ago! So what better time to look at these genres again than right now, on this fifth Wednesday of May? Right, let’s get on it then!
- Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston
Publication date: May 8th, 2018
In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, to interview ninety-five-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States. In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past—memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilde, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War. Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon brilliantly illuminates the tragedy of slavery and one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.
- A Brotherhood of Spies: The U-2 and the CIA’s Secret War by Monte Reel
Publication date: May 8th, 2018
On May 1, 1960, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union just weeks before a peace summit between the two nations. The CIA concocted a cover story for President Eisenhower to deliver, assuring him that no one could have survived a fall from that altitude. And even if pilot Francis Gary Powers had survived, he had been supplied with a poison pin with which to commit suicide. But against all odds, Powers emerged from the wreckage and was seized by the KGB. He confessed to espionage charges, revealing to the world that Eisenhower had just lied to the American people–and to the Soviet Premier. Infuriated, Nikita Khrushchev slammed the door on a rare opening in Cold War relations. In A Brotherhood of Spies, award-winning journalist Monte Reel reveals how the U-2 spy program, principally devised by four men working in secret, upended the Cold War and carved a new mission for the CIA. This secret fraternity, made up of Edwin Land, best known as the inventor of instant photography and the head of Polaroid Corporation; Kelly Johnson, a hard-charging taskmaster from Lockheed; Richard Bissell, the secretive and ambitious spymaster; and ace Air Force flyer Powers, set out to replace yesterday’s fallible human spies with tomorrow’s undetectable eye in the sky. Their clandestine successes and all-too-public failures make this brilliantly reported account a true-life thriller with the highest stakes and tragic repercussions.
- House of Nutter: The Rebel Traitor of Savile Row by Lance Richardson
Publication date: May 1st, 2018
From an early age, there was something different about Tommy and David Nutter. Growing up in an austere apartment above a café catering to truck drivers, both boys seemed destined to lead rather humble lives in post-war London—Tommy as a civil servant, David as a darkroom technician. Yet the strength of their imagination (plus a little help from their friends) transformed them instead into unlikely protagonists of a swinging cultural revolution. In 1969, at the age of twenty-six, Tommy opened an unusual new boutique on the “golden mile” of bespoke tailoring, Savile Row. While shocking a haughty establishment resistant to change, “Nutters of Savile Row” became an immediate sensation among the young, rich, and beautiful, beguiling everyone from Bianca Jagger to the Beatles—who immortalized Tommy’s designs on the album cover of Abbey Road. Meanwhile, David’s innate talent with a camera vaulted him across the Atlantic to New York City, where he found himself in a parallel constellation of stars (Yoko Ono, Elton John) who enjoyed his dry wit almost as much as his photography. House of Nutter tells the stunning true story of two gay men who influenced some of the most iconic styles and pop images of the twentieth century. Drawing on interviews with more than seventy people—and taking advantage of unparalleled access to never-before-seen pictures, letters, sketches, and diaries—journalist Lance Richardson presents a dual portrait of brothers improvising their way through five decades of extraordinary events, their personal struggles playing out against vivid backdrops of the Blitz, an obscenity trial, the birth of disco, and the devastation of the AIDS crisis. A propulsive, deftly plotted narrative filled with surprising details and near-operatic twists, House of Nutter takes readers on a wild ride into the minds and times of two brilliant dreamers.
- From Cold War to Hot Peace: The Inside Story of Russia and America by Michael McFaul
Publication date: May 8th, 2018
In 2008, when Michael McFaul was asked to leave his perch at Stanford and join an unlikely presidential campaign, he had no idea that he would find himself at the beating heart of one of today’s most contentious and consequential international relationships. As President Barack Obama’s adviser on Russian affairs, McFaul helped craft the United States’ policy known as “reset” that fostered new and unprecedented collaboration between the two countries. And then, as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, he had a front-row seat when this fleeting, hopeful moment crumbled with Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. This riveting inside account combines history and memoir to tell the full story of U.S.-Russia relations from the fall of the Soviet Union to the new rise of the hostile, paranoid Russian president. From the first days of McFaul’s ambassadorship, the Kremlin actively sought to discredit and undermine him, hassling him with tactics that included dispatching protesters to his front gates, slandering him on state media, and tightly surveilling him, his staff, and his family. From Cold War to Hot Peace is an essential account of the most consequential global confrontation of our time.
- World War II at Sea: A Global History by Craig L. Symonds
Publication date: April 13th, 2018
Craig L. Symonds ranks among the country’s finest naval historians. World War II at Sea is his crowning achievement, a narrative of the entire war and all of its belligerents, on all of the world’s oceans and seas between 1939 and 1945. Here are the major engagements and their interconnections: the U-boat attack on Scapa Flow and the Battle of the Atlantic; the “miracle” evacuation from Dunkirk and the scuttling of the French Navy; the pitched battles for control of Norway fjords and Mussolini’s Regia Marina; the rise of the Kidö Butai and Pearl Harbor; the landings in North Africa and New Guinea, then on Normandy and Iwo Jima. Symonds offers indelible portraits of the great naval leaders-FDR and Churchill (self-proclaimed “Navy men”), Karl Dönitz, François Darlan, Ernest King, Isoroku Yamamoto, Louis Mountbatten, and William Halsey, while acknowledging the countless seamen and officers of all nationalities whose lives were lost during the greatest naval conflicts ever fought. World War II at Sea is history on a truly epic scale.
Other new releases of May 2018 can be found by genre right here on Goodreads.