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Articles in history

Book Review: Karl Doenitz and the Last Days of the Third Reich

May 6th, 2016
karl d

A new book looks at the little-known figure of Hitler’s chosen successor

Book Review: The First Nazi

May 3rd, 2016
first nazi cover

How much of the evil of Adolf Hitler can be traced to an infamous general of the First World War?

Book Review: Valiant Ambition

May 1st, 2016
valiant ambition

The infamous treachery of Benedict Arnold gets a vigorous and richly detailed new retelling by the bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea.

Second Glance: The Secret of Prometheus

May 1st, 2016
Second Glance: The Secret of Prometheus

The oldest texts can seem familiar, but they repay attention with strangeness. Robert Minto delves into the religious origins and unresolved mysteries of Prometheus Bound.

A Period of Most Powerful Transition

May 1st, 2016
A Period of Most Powerful Transition

In his world-ranging new popular history Heyday, Ben Wilson looks at the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a focal point of the 19th-century grand dream of commerce and culture. Zach Rabiroff reviews.

Change the Way They Live

May 1st, 2016
Change the Way They Live

As Andrew Bacevich relates in his important new book, US involvement in the Middle East has been characterized by confusion, mistakes, and blundering military force. Greg Waldmann reviews America’s War for the Greater Middle East.

‘Yes, Yes, Yes!’

May 1st, 2016
‘Yes, Yes, Yes!’

To be immortalized by Shakespeare is often also to be caricatured by him; a sumptuous new biography of King Henry IV admirably brings its royal subject out of the Bard’s shadow.

From Some Mountain Summit High in the Air: Lord Acton and History

May 1st, 2016
From Some Mountain Summit High in the Air: Lord Acton and History

History remembers him as the author of the famous dictum about power corrupting, but Lord Acton led an intense and fascinating life. Luciano Mangiafico tells his story.

From the Archives: Lizard on a Rock

May 1st, 2016
From the Archives: Lizard on a Rock

He survived years of dangerous exile, won his crown on the battlefield, and founded one of the most famous dynasties in human history – and yet we still haven’t embraced Henry VII. A spirited biography seeks to change that.

Book Review: The Habsburg Empire: A New History

April 25th, 2016
the habsburg empire

A new history takes a thought-provokingly centralist look at the oft-chronicled Habsburg Empire

Book Review: History and Presence

April 20th, 2016
history and presence

An invigorating new study of the real presence of the divine in the mundane workings of organized religion

Book Review: The Empire That Would Not Die

April 15th, 2016
empire that woudln’t die

Abandoned by the West and battered by the Islamic caliphate, the eastern Roman Empire shrank and withdrew but did not fall – a new history asks why

Book Review: The Fever of 1721

April 13th, 2016
the fever

When smallpox struck the city of Boston in 1721, battle lines were drawn over how to deal with it – and strange alliances formed

Book Review: Tales from the Long Twelfth Century

April 11th, 2016
tales from the long 12th

At the center of a lively, personality-driven new book about the twelfth century is the contentious family of King Henry II

Book Review: Everyday Renaissances

March 15th, 2016
everyday renaissances

An eye-opening new history sheds light on the book-lovers and book-collectors of Renaissance Venice

Book Review: The Brazen Age

March 13th, 2016
the brazen age

A boisterous new history of New York City and America in the wake of the Second World War

Book Review: The King’s Bed

March 2nd, 2016
the king’s bed

A lively new book gives readers a mistress-by-mistress recounting of the reign of Charles II

Book Review: Battle of the Atlantic

March 1st, 2016
battle atlantic

Atlantic shipping was the lifeline of Great Britain during the Second World War, and the Nazis knew it just as well as the Allies did. A thrilling new book recounts the sprawling, war-long Battle of the Atlantic

Mirror Writing

March 1st, 2016
Abani

There are two kinds of essayists: explainers and explorers. Which populate the new series from Restless Books about the human face? John Cotter investigates.

Book Review: Strange Gods

February 17th, 2016
strange gods

Throughout human history, people have found reasons to change their religions – Susan Jacoby’s brilliant new book examines the phenomenon of adopting strange gods

Book Review: Apostle

February 8th, 2016
apostle

An author spends years traveling to the various final resting places of the Apostles – and comes back with an unsettlingly insightful new look at the early history of Christianity

Book Review: The Annotated Lincoln

February 4th, 2016
the annotated lincoln

A big, gorgeous new anthology presents a virtual life of Abraham Lincoln as seen through his writings

Dream the Possible Dream

February 1st, 2016
Dream the Possible Dream

Can realpolitik – the doctrine of intimidation over ideology, force over ideals – actually be a good thing? Matt Ray reviews John Bew’s new study.

Book Review: Groundless

January 20th, 2016
groundless

Rumors and dark stories flew along the rutted dirt roads of colonial America, bearing tales that had virtually no basis in reality. A new book uses rumor to understand the rumormongers.

Book Review: The Butcher’s Trail

January 16th, 2016
the butcher’s trail

In the wake of the strife and collapse of Slobodan Mlosevic’s Yugoslavia, a large group of war criminals had to be hunted down and delivered for trial. A riveting new book tells the story.

Book Review: Justifying Genocide

January 15th, 2016
justifying genocide

A powerful new book looks at the ideological connections between the Armenian Genocide and the Nazi death-camps that followed twenty years later

Book Review: George Washington’s Journey

January 12th, 2016
george washington’s journey

In his first term as president, George Washington packed up and went on long, rattling tours of the new United States, to see the people and let them see him. A new book follows along.

Book Review: Beyond Greek

January 8th, 2016
beyond greek

A provocative new book re-examines the startling power and, yes, originality of Roman literature

Immanitas

January 1st, 2016
Immanitas

The only reverse-canonization ever performed was by Pius II in 1462, against his hated enemy Sigismondo Malatesta. A new book tells the fascinating story of this “precursor of the Antichrist.”

Book Review: “Forward, My Brave Boys!”

December 20th, 2015
james rains

A richly-detailed new history traces one Confederate volunteer infantry through the course of the Civil War

Book Review: The Day the Renaissance Was Saved

December 17th, 2015
the day the renaissance was saved

According to one historian, the battle commemorated in a lost painting by Leonardo Da Vinci was the little-known birth-moment of the Renaissance

Book Review: The Iran-Iraq War

December 2nd, 2015
the iran-iraq war

The brutal 1980s war between Iran and Iraq gets a definitive new history

Me Am Your Smallest Fan

December 1st, 2015
Me Am Your Smallest Fan

Long, long before Superman appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938, human folklore was rife with super-beings. A new book takes a look at the more-than-human.

In Defense of Makeup

December 1st, 2015
In Defense of Makeup

Lisa Eldridge, in her new book Face Paint, traces the long and surprisingly volatile history of makeup. Jane Shmidt reviews.

If Only Historians Could Write Like Him Now!” The Art and Legacy of Edward Gibbon

December 1st, 2015
If Only Historians Could Write Like Him Now!” The Art and Legacy of Edward Gibbon

“Always scribble, scribble, scribble!” the King joked to the historian, and we remember it still; Luciano Mangiafico looks at the remarkable life of Edward Gibbon.

Book Review: Battling the Gods

November 19th, 2015
battling the gods

The open, even evangelical atheism of the 21st century might be new, but as a sparkling-good new book demonstrates, atheism itself is as old as belief

Book Review: The English and Their History

November 10th, 2015
the english and their history

A huge – and hugely enjoyable – new book details the long history of the English people

Book Review: London Fog

November 9th, 2015
Book Review: London Fog

For centuries, “pea-soup” fog was synonymous with the city of London; a lively new book tells its story.

Book Review: City on a Grid

November 6th, 2015
city on a grid

The in-depth story of how it came to be that the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down – the grid system of Manhattan!

Book Review: The Work of the Dead

November 2nd, 2015
the work of the dead

A fascinating new history details the changing job description of the dead-and-buried over the centuries

Generals in Dark and Snow

November 1st, 2015
Generals in Dark and Snow

Late in 1944, the defeated Nazis staked everything on one last throw of the dice, a massive assault on the Allied forces in Belgium. Antony Beevor’s latest book tells the famous story of the Battle of the Bulge.

The Broken Clock

November 1st, 2015
The Broken Clock

Controversial former Vice President Dick Cheney and his journalist daughter Liz have written a book claiming that the exceptional nature of American power is being sullied and squandered by the current occupant of the White House. Greg Waldmann reviews Exceptional.

No Laughing Matter

November 1st, 2015
No Laughing Matter

In Timur Vermes’s bestselling novel, newly translated from the German, it’s 2011, the Führer is back, and he’s not happy at how the world has changed. Is it OK to find that funny?

Book Review: Magna Carta

October 24th, 2015
magna carta

A slim and intensely good new history of King John and the creation of the Great Charter

Book Review: Part of Our Lives

October 21st, 2015
part of our lives

A wonderful new book details the raucous past – and the complicated, vibrant present – of the public library in the United States

Book Review: After Hitler

October 18th, 2015
after hitler

A forensic and often quite moving new history of the last, desperate days of the Third Reich

Book Review: The German War

October 18th, 2015
the german war

A new book brings to life the experiences of ordinary Germans during the Second World War

Book Review: The Rise of Germany

October 16th, 2015
the rise of germany

An ambitious new work of history charts the rise to victory of Nazi Germany – and deflates a few treasured myths along the way

Book Review: The Year of Lear

October 11th, 2015
the year of lear

A new book looks at one tumultuous year in the life of William Shakespeare

Keeping Up With the Romans – Hits and Myths

October 1st, 2015
Keeping Up With the Romans – Hits and Myths

Two thousand years ago, the Roman historian Suetonius wrote about the lives and loves of the founding rulers of the Roman Empire. Historian Tom Holland takes up the familiar story in his new book Dynasty.

Book Review: Washington

September 27th, 2015
washington

The venerable sub-genre of the Washington, DC history gets a substantial new update

Book Review: Gallipoli

September 23rd, 2015
gallipoli

The new entry in Oxford University Press’ “Great Battles” series focuses on the long and potent afterlife of the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War

Book Review: A Strange Business

September 18th, 2015
a strange business

James Hamilton’s fascinating new book looks behind the glorious paintings of the Victorian era at the men who designed the frames, discovered the paint pigments, and heated the galleries

Book Review: India at War

September 15th, 2015
india at war

When the Second World War erupted, the British Empire expected all its client states to do their duty for the Crown; but in India, as a sharp new book details, that duty was deeply complicated

Book Review: The Conquering Tide

September 14th, 2015
the conquering tide

The fierce, epic height of WWII’s Pacific War is the subject of Ian Toll’s gripping new volume

Book Review: A Little History of the United States

September 13th, 2015
little history of us

The latest volume in Yale University Press’s series of short histories is a quick yet authoritative overview of United States history

Book Review: Bosworth 1485

September 13th, 2015
bosworth dan jones

A taut new history of Richard III and the battle in which he lost everything – and the new Tudor dynasty gained everything

Book Review: The Spirit of ’74

September 12th, 2015
spirit of 74

Long before the famous date of the Declaration, Boston was breaking the King’s Peace and warning other towns and colonies to do likewise – a lively new book tells the story

Book Review: The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

September 9th, 2015
ministry cover

They slit throats; the bombed churches; they were none too mentally stable – and these were the GOOD guys

Book Review: Renishaw Hall

September 7th, 2015
ren

The great home of generations of the Sitwell family, Renishaw Hall, is the subject of Desmond Seward’s latest book

Book Review: Word by Word

September 7th, 2015
word by word

A new book assembles and studies the scattered writings of American slaves

Book Review: Black Earth

September 6th, 2015
black earth

A harrowing and contentious new assessment of the Nazi war on the Jews of Europe.

“I am eager to play chess – I have mastered nine skills”

September 1st, 2015
“I am eager to play chess – I have mastered nine skills”

At the beginning of the 19th century, a small trove of elaboratedly carved chess pieces was uncovered on a remote beach – a lively new book traces the history and strange charisma of the Lewis chessmen.

Boy, Interrupted

September 1st, 2015
Boy, Interrupted

For the protagonist of Jim Shepard’s heartbreaking novel The Book of Aron it is terrible to be a poor Jew in anti-Semitic prewar Poland – but it is hardest of all to be a child, at the mercy of everyone else.

Book Review: Agents of Empire

August 30th, 2015
agents of empire

In the continents-spanning 16th-century clash between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, a crucial role was played by Albania – and by two families at the heart of events

Book Review: Death in Florence

August 29th, 2015
death in florence

At the end of the 14th century, Lorenzo de’ Medici and the friar Savonarola began a series of clashes in palace and pulpit that would end up altering the course of the city’s history. A lively new book tells the story.

Classics Reissued: Salvaged Pages

August 25th, 2015
salvaged pages

A new edition of this collection of Holocaust diaries by young people captures the voices and the worries of the Nazis’ most innocent victims

Book Review: The End of Tsarist Russia

August 19th, 2015
the end of tsarist russia

A powerful new book by one of our best historians examines from new sources the torturous path Russia took to the First World War

Book Review: Under Another Sky

August 14th, 2015
under another sky

Part history, part travel guide, part novel – a wonderful new book takes readers on a tour of Roman Britain

Book Review: The President and the Apprentice

August 7th, 2015
9780300181050

The settled opinion of historians has always been that President Eisenhower personally hated his vice president, Richard Nixon; a vigorous, unmissable new book tries to set that record straight

Book Review: Hirohito’s War

August 6th, 2015
hirohito’s war

A massive new history details the war in the Pacific Theater during WWII

Book Review: The Real Lives of Roman Britain

August 3rd, 2015
the real lives of roman britain

Archeological research has uncovered more than ever about the ordinary men and women who lived in Britain during the centuries of Roman occupation. A lively new book assesses what we know

Painful to Nice Feelings

August 1st, 2015
Painful to Nice Feelings

He sailed around Cape Horn and wrote a classic about it, and he fought for the downtrodden in Boston courts for thirty years – he was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and he’s the subject of a thought-provoking new biography.

Book Review: The Eagle in Splendour

July 30th, 2015
9781784531751.ashx

“How a Court LOOKS,” remarked a courtier to one of England’s more successful modern-day monarchs, “is at least as important as how a Court WORKS.” A re-issued study from Philip Mansel looks at form and function in the court of Napoleon Bonaparte

Book Review: For God and Kaiser

July 28th, 2015
for god and kaiser

“Austria,” quipped Talleyrand, “has the tiresome habit of always being beaten” – but Richard Bassett’s vigorous new history of the Imperial Austrian Army begs to differ!

Book Review: Braddock’s Defeat

July 27th, 2015
braddock’s defeat cover

A French army and a British army stumble upon each other in the wilderness of the New World, and their conflict changes the nature of the world’s biggest war

Book Review: Rome’s Revolution

July 27th, 2015
rome’s revolution

The epic change in ancient Rome from a Republic to an Empire hinged on one man: Julius Caesar. A new history tells the familiar story.

Book Review: Sicily

July 23rd, 2015
sicily

Veteran historian John Julius Norwich attempts to cram over 800 years of Sicilian history into 300 pages – and because he’s John Julius Norwich, he very nearly succeeds

Book Review: Last to Die

July 11th, 2015
last to die

Military historian Stephen Harding tells the poignant story of the last soldier killed in World War II

Book Review: The American Revolution

July 4th, 2015
loa american revolution

Just in time for America’s Independence Day, the Library of America presents its newest production: a two-volume collection of some of the pamphlets that so inflamed the colonial population in the decade leading up to the Revolution

Book Review: The Duke’s Assassin

July 1st, 2015
Dall’Aglio Jkt 9780300189780.indd

A brutal assassination in 1537 changed the course of Florentine history, and eleven years later, the assassin was himself murdered. Case closed? A fascinating new book thinks not!

Book Review: How Britain Saved the West

June 19th, 2015
when britain saved the west

For a key interval in 1940, Britain stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany at its peak – and that familiar story of determination and ultimate victory is the subject of Robin Prior’s new book

Book Review: Nixon’s Nuclear Specter

June 15th, 2015
nixon’s nuclear specter cover

At the height of the Vietnam War, President Nixon engaged in an incredibly risky game of nuclear brinksmanship – a richly-researched new book tells the story

Book Review: Yanks in the RAF

June 13th, 2015
yanks in the raf cover

While America was still technically neutral in Great Britain’s fight against Germany, a handful of American flyers traveled to England and volunteered to fly in the RAF – a fascinating new book tells their story

Book Review: First Over There

May 26th, 2015
first over there cover

On a chilly day in late May, 1918, American troops went into battle in the World War I for the first time – a gripping new history tells the story

In Paperback: Vesuvius

May 24th, 2015
vesuvius cover

Now in paperback: a fascinating history of mankind’s interactions with the most famous volcano in the world

Classics Reissued: Gallipoli

May 24th, 2015
gallipoli cover

The mad debacle of the Dardanelles campaign is now 100 years in the past, and to mark the anniversary, a classic account is reprinted

Book Review: Fracture

May 17th, 2015
fracture cover

In the wake of the First World War, unimaginable energies were unleashed upon the societies of the Western world. A fascinating new book attempts to assess the results.

Book Review: Whirlwind

May 16th, 2015
whirlwind cover

John Ferling, great historian of 18th century America, here tells the story of the American Revolution itself, in typically riveting fashion

Book Review: Cursed Victory

May 11th, 2015
cursed victory cover

A noted Israeli scholar and ‘refusnik’ writes a reserved and thorough history of the occupied territories

Book Review: The Constitution – An Introduction

May 4th, 2015
constitution cover

The US Constitution – the oldest in the world – gets a comprehensive new biography

‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

May 1st, 2015
‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

Renowned classicist and historian Peter Green has at last produced a translation of the Iliad – and it comes with its own Greek Chorus. Steve Donoghue investigates.

Hectic Hyperborea

May 1st, 2015
Hectic Hyperborea

Michael Pye’s new book provides a rich history of the North Sea in human culture – and pokes holes in some crass nationalist myth-making along the way. Matt Ray reviews The Edge of the World.

Book Review: Infamy

April 28th, 2015
ReevesBook

In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States summarily imprisoned thousands of its Japanese citizens for the duration of the war. Richard Reeves’ passionate new book tells the story

Book Review: In These Times

April 27th, 2015
in these times cover

Jenny Uglow’s new book goes into lively detail about how ordinary people in Britain experienced the cataclysmic events of the wars of the Napoleonic era

Book Review: The Last Days of George Armstrong Custer

April 26th, 2015
last days cover

Author Thom Hatch promises mind-blowing new revelations in his book on the Battle of Little Bighorn. And in other news, Rutherford B. Hayes is rumored to be contemplating a run for president.

Book Review: The Intimate Bond

April 23rd, 2015
the intimate bond cover

An extremely winning new book explores the enormous ways eight particular animal kinds have altered the course of human life on Earth

Book Review: Dead Wake

April 22nd, 2015
DeadWaketoChris.indd

One hundred years ago, a German U-boat sank the RMS Lusitania, with grievous loss of civilian life. The anniversary is observed by one of our best popular historians

Book Review: Princes at War

April 22nd, 2015
princes at war cover

A chatty, vivacious new book tracks the four sons of the Royal House of Windsor during the years of World War Two

Book Review: Hell from the Heavens

April 18th, 2015
hell from the heavens

In April of 1945, the destroyer USS Laffey was bombarded by wave after wave of kamikaze fighters – and yet survived. A gripping new book tells the story of a ship that refused to die

Book Review: “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else”

April 16th, 2015
armenian genocide suny cover

In time for the hundred-year anniversary of the Ottoman killing of over a million Armenians, a gripping new history tells the whole story of the tragedy

Book Review: Their Last Full Measure

April 14th, 2015
their last full measure cover

The tense and frantic final months of the American Civil War forms the backdrop for Joseph Wheelan’s lively new book

Book Review: KL

April 11th, 2015
kl cover

The sprawling system of concentration camps established by the Nazis gets its first comprehensive history

Book Review: Madness in Civilization

April 9th, 2015
madness in civilization cover

A fantastic, important new study traces the history of insanity in human history

Book Review: France 1940

April 8th, 2015
france 1940 cover

The military collapse of France in 1940 has been a punch line and byword for decades, but a provocative new book argues that the traditional view is too simple

Protean Things

April 8th, 2015
Protean Things

Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Tudor novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have made their way to the stage on the expert handling of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Zach Rabiroff had front row center.

Book Review: Hitler’s Shadow Empire

April 5th, 2015
hitler’s shadow empire cover

In 1936 Nazi Germany poured money and manpower into backing General Franco in the Spanish Civil War; a new history powerfully re-interprets that fraught relationship

Book Review: Ministers at War

April 4th, 2015
ministers at war cover

A new book tells the story of the War Cabinet Winston Churchill assembled to fight the Second World War

Book Review: Secret Warriors

April 3rd, 2015
Scan 46

Beyond the battles and trenches of the First World War, a dozen less glamorous but no less vital fights were being waged – in laboratories and darkrooms and publishing offices. A vibrant new book tells the story of the other World War I

Book Review: King John and the Road to Magna Carta

April 2nd, 2015
king john uk cover

800 years ago, King John “Lackland” sealed Magna Carta and unwittingly laid the foundation for some of Western law; a new book takes a fresh look at this much-maligned figure

Book Review: The Baltic

April 1st, 2015
the baltic cover

For more than a thousand years, the sprawling area of the Baltic has played host to history, art, and fitful commerce – a new history tells the story.

Mary Anne and the Adventurer

April 1st, 2015
Mary Anne and the Adventurer

Traditional cynicism has always maintained that Benjamin Disraeli married Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis primarily for her money, but a new book argues that the real picture was a good deal more complex – and interesting – than that.

Unmaking L’empereur

April 1st, 2015
Unmaking <em>L’empereur</em>

The 2nd Light Battalion King’s Division played a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo, as a slim new history by Brendan Simms demonstrates. Matt Ray reviews the book in his Open Letters debut.

Book Review: Washington’s Circle

March 30th, 2015
washington’s circle cover

A fantastic new book tells the story of President Washington and the extraordinary team he assembled to form the new nation’s first administration

Book Review: Ravensbruck

March 28th, 2015
ravensbruck cover

In 1939 the Nazis established their only concentration camp specifically for women; a comprehensive new book tells the history of Ravensbruck

Book Review: The Big Trial

March 26th, 2015
the big trial cover

From Lizzie Borden to O. J. Simpson, big public show-trials have fascinated the American people. In his new book, renowned legal historian Lawrence Friedman tries to dissect why that is.

Book Review: Akhenaten & The Origins of Monotheism

March 16th, 2015
akhenaten & the origins of monotheism

The rebel pharaoh who instituted a radical new monotheism gets a highly-detailed and revisionist investigation

Book Review: The Fall of the Ottomans

March 4th, 2015
fall of the ottomans uscover

The Ottoman Empire joined the fighting of the First World War deeply misunderstood by both sides; a charismatic new book seeks to clarify the story of that odd meeting of East and West

Book Review: Killers of the King

February 27th, 2015
killers of the king cover

Under the direction of Oliver Cromwell, dozens of men deliberated to execute the captive King Charles I, and when Charles II came to power a decade later, those men were suddenly in the gravest danger. A fascinating new book tells their stories.

Book Review: American Reckoning

February 22nd, 2015
Book Review: American Reckoning

A harrowing new book looks at the many spaces the Vietnam Was has occupied in the American mental landscape

Book Review: Cold War Modernists

February 19th, 2015
9780231162302

The clashes of the Cold War weren’t just matters of missiles and border guards; they also enlisted honey-voiced broadcasters, drunken novelists, and bookish magazine editors, as a fascinating new book makes clear

Book Review: The Summit – Bretton Woods, 1944

February 17th, 2015
the summit cover

In 1944 a contentious group of delegates gathered in New Hampshire in order to lay out a blueprint for the postwar world economy; a great new history tells the story of Bretton Woods

Book Review: Thieves’ Road

February 6th, 2015
thieves road cover

Two years before he gained fame in the most painful way imaginable at the Battle of Little Bighorn, George Armstrong Custer led a large expedition into the Black Hills sacred to the Sioux – in search of gold

Book Review: Phantom Terror

February 2nd, 2015
phantom terror cover

In his new book, historian Adam Zamoyski paints a picture of a Europe convulsed with fear of upheavals like the French Revolution and the tyranny of Bonaparte – and willing to do anything to prevent them

Book Review: A Superpower Transformed

February 1st, 2015
superpower transformed cover

A paradigm-shifting new book looks at the turbulent decade of the 1970s in United States politics and the re-shaping of the world

These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

February 1st, 2015
These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

A new reprint line from the New York Review of Books concentrates on literature from – and on – China’s long literary history, and the first three volumes offer the strange, the familiar, and the beautiful.

The Buildup of Erasure

February 1st, 2015
The Buildup of Erasure

Claudia Rankine articulates the truths of the black experience so poignantly in her celebrated collection Citizen by putting them, paradoxically, both plainly and artfully.

Faith-Based Initiative

February 1st, 2015
Barack_Obama_and_John_Boehner_enjoying_Saint_Patrick’s_Day_2014

In his new book City of Rivals, James Grumet takes a gloomy close-up look at America’s deeply dysfunctional Congress and offers some solutions. But are those solutions dysfunctional too?

Book Review: One Nation, Under Gods

January 30th, 2015
one nation cover

From the Puritans and their city on a hill to the Mormons to modern-day charlatans, the story of the United States is the story of competing faiths; a lively new book looks at that complicated tapestry

Book Review: Like A Bomb Going Off

January 27th, 2015
like a bomb going off cover

Revolutionary Russian choreographer Leonid Yakobson fought prejudice, rivals, and the omnipresent Soviet censors to pursue his art, as a magnificent new book narrates

Book Review: American Passage

January 23rd, 2015
american passage cover

For the earliest New England settlers, there were no roads through the wilderness – only the pathways used by suspicious and distrustful natives. And yet, the desire to share news was as strong as ever – a fascinating new book looks at the ways gossip travels in the woods.

Book Review: The Middle Ages

January 18th, 2015
the middle ages cover

A nimble and tremendously engaging history of the Middle Ages finally gets translated into English

Independence Day

January 1st, 2015
Independence Day

Two recent votes on independence remind us that globalization has not put an end to nationalism. A new book on the 1995 Quebec referendum highlights just how complicated a people’s “yes” or “no” votes really are.

Enlisted Again

January 1st, 2015
Enlisted Again

Once he’d led the Continental Army to victory, General George Washington retired to his Mount Vernon home – but the newborn country wasn’t done with him yet. A new book looks at First Citizen Washington.

#NotAllNazis

December 1st, 2014
#NotAllNazis

What would you do if your artistic survival suddenly depended on the whims of a brutal dictatorship? How far would you compromise? How much would you risk? A new book studies artists in the Third Reich.

Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

December 1st, 2014
Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

Can a book about the Jewish Diaspora add anything useful on the topic if it’s uninterested in Jewish history and slightly dodgy about the Diaspora? Jordan MaGill gives Alan Wolfe’s At Home in Exile a close reading.

Thinking in Common

November 1st, 2014
Thinking in Common

The great critic and essayist Irving Howe laid claim to a great many decayed traditions – and then elevated them all to high art. A new collection of his prose presents some of his gems.

The Book of Abraham

November 1st, 2014
The Book of Abraham

Veteran historian Brookhiser takes a look at the formative influences on Abraham Lincoln – not so much his own father as the Founding Fathers.

Grosz Anatomy

October 1st, 2014
Grosz Anatomy

In his latest collection of essays, Theater of Cruelty, Ian Buruma launches a series of expert investigations into the springs of cruelty and the perils of victomhood.

Coalition of the Chilling

October 1st, 2014
Coalition of the Chilling

A British historian’s richly-sourced accounting of Molotov-Ribbentrop offers fresh insights into this Nazi-Soviet pact of “non-aggression.”

The Lion’s Den

September 1st, 2014
The Lion’s Den

We think of the Middle East as a place of hopeless deadlocks – but once upon a time, an Egyptian president, an Israeli prime minister, and a U.S. president worked for two weeks to hammer out a plan for peace. Lawrence Wright takes readers to Camp David at a turning point in history.

Words Plucked from Our Tongues

September 1st, 2014
Words Plucked from Our Tongues

Can Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda heal Canada’s colonial relationship with its First Nations? Why should we expect literature to succeed where our leaders have failed?

The Done Thing

September 1st, 2014
The Done Thing

England had been at war with France almost continuously since the Norman Conquest, but in the Hundred Years War, the conflict became especially heightened – and transformative. A new history tells the story as a rattling good yarn.

High and Outside

September 1st, 2014
High and Outside

Uncertain Justice, by Lawrence Tribe and Joshua Matz, suggests that personality plays a greater role than ideology in today’s Supreme Court. David Culberg assesses the arguments.

The Grey Zone

August 1st, 2014
The Grey Zone

Gertrude van Tijn helped more than 20,000 Jews escape occupied Holland. What does it mean that, in saving their lives, she had to collaborate with Nazis?

Socrates Offside

August 1st, 2014
Socrates Offside

What place do deep questions about the meaning of life have in our technological age? Is philosophy more important than ever?

Twenty Feet Tall!

August 1st, 2014
Twenty Feet Tall!

The third voume of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland trilogy is sure to fly off the shelves, but those flying copies will be light to the tune of a few needed footnotes, omissions our managing editor finds, to say the least, troubling.

It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

July 1st, 2014
It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

The collectors of rare 78 rpm records are nearly as singular and remarkable as the vinyl they seek out. A new book travels to flea markets and music fairs to discover the secrets of these American obsessives.

Pashtunwali

July 1st, 2014
Pashtunwali

Of all the borders in the world, the Durand line is perhaps the most dangerous. A new book seeks to explain the Taliban, who plague the peoples on both sides of it.

The Reign of Saturn

July 1st, 2014
The Reign of Saturn

Babe Ruth, Mayor Walker, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker – New York City in the Jazz Age was a bristling landscape of giants, most of them from out of town. A vast and enthralling new history tells the stories of the people who made the Big Apple.

2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

July 1st, 2014
2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

“You can throw out every damn other thing in the Constitution, as long as you don’t touch my guns,” one Southern U.S. Senator famously bellowed, perfectly typifying a certain psychosis. A new book picks fights on history of American gun law.

Dervishes and Gypsies

June 1st, 2014
Dervishes and Gypsies

Legendary Indian author Saadat Hasan Manto’s choicest short stories – depicting a teeming Bombay that’s both long-vanished and eternal – receive an attractive new paperback edition from Vintage International

Words at the Grave

June 1st, 2014
Words at the Grave

On Marx, the latest chip off the block of Alan Ryan’s 2-volume On Politics, focuses on the founder of Marxism – but Ryan’s a man in a hurry, and the devil is in the details.

The Battle for Justice in Palestine

May 23rd, 2014
Layout 1

A controversial author’s latest and most devastating indictment of Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian citizens and neighbors

Circumspice

May 1st, 2014
Circumspice

Ronald Reagan single-handedly ended the Cold War at Reykjavik in 1985. And if you believe that, his loyal aid Ken Adelman has a book to sell you.

Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

May 1st, 2014
Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

A fascinating new book tells the remarkable stories of five ‘improbable’ women who defied convention to explore the much mythologised landscape of the Middle East.

Ariel: Shelley in Italy

May 1st, 2014
Ariel: Shelley in Italy

Like so many before him, the celebrated Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had a tangled and complicated history with Italy, equal parts inspiration and frustration. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story

The Word Made Flesh

April 1st, 2014
The Word Made Flesh

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Laylat-al-Qadr

April 1st, 2014
Laylat-al-Qadr

A kaleidoscopic new book explores one of history’s sharpest paradoxes: the Age of Liberty was also the Age of Slavery

“There Is No Enjoyment in This Life”

April 1st, 2014
“There Is No Enjoyment in This Life”

Iraqi lawyer and former exile Zaid al-Ali writes a bleak, sobering account of the state of his homeland in the post-“Mission Accomplished” era – but is there any reason for hope?

Doubleplusungood

April 1st, 2014
Doubleplusungood

Putin’s Soviet predecessors were masters of doublespeak. As Ukraine suffers again, it’s clear that their descendents are now in charge.

The Danelaw

March 1st, 2014
The Danelaw

In her brilliantly scathing new book, Elaine Scarry charges that US Presidents, in maintaining and augmenting an enormous nuclear arsenal, have broken the social contract and become monarchs in all but name.

War, in Panorama

February 1st, 2014
War, in Panorama

How could they do it, those young men who, with every reason to live, walked deliberately into machine-gun fire? Joe Sacco gives us a panoramic view of the horror, the labor, and the losses of WWI.

February 2014 Issue

February 1st, 2014
February 2014 Issue

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Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

January 1st, 2014
Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

The Russian dissident writers are largely unknown in the West today, but their work was an inspiration at a time when their compatriots were forbidden to dream different dreams.

Strange Reckoning

January 1st, 2014
Strange Reckoning

She was the daughter, the sister, and the wife of kings in one of England’s most turbulent periods, but Alison Weir’s new biography is the first to make us feel we really know Elizabeth of York.

A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

January 1st, 2014
A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

Byron was mad, bad, and dangerous to know — and eventually his amorous, adventurous spirit led him to Italy.

Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

December 1st, 2013
Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor – but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.

Studio Matto e Disperatissimo: The Life and Writings of Giacomo Leopardi

December 1st, 2013
Studio Matto e Disperatissimo: The Life and Writings of Giacomo Leopardi

He was the greatest Italian poet since Dante, but he was tormented by a strict upbringing, ruinous health, and moods of black pessmism. He was Giacomo Leopardi, and this is his story.

Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

December 1st, 2013
Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

Ryszard Kapuściński has courted controversy for the poetic licenses in his groundbreaking works of history. But it’s those leaps of imagination and sympathy that make his 2001 book on Africa, The Shadow of the Sun, a lasting work of art.

It Was Fun, the Struggle

December 1st, 2013
It Was Fun, the Struggle

The age of Roosevelt and Taft was also the age of Progressive reform – spearheaded by an amazing team of ‘muckraking’ writers the like of which the United States had never seen.

What Does an African Woman Want in America?

November 1st, 2013
What Does an African Woman Want in America?

Chimananda Ngozi Adichie’s expansive novel Americanah centers on a Nigerian woman’s immigration to the United States and eventual return to Nigeria. Orem Ochiel explores what her story says about complex, often traumatic experience of being black and African in the West.

Feeding the Monster

November 1st, 2013
Feeding the Monster

From the agora 2,400 years ago to the present day, the schools of Plato and Aristotle have been locked in combat; a new book sees the struggle in disarmingly simple terms.

JFK in the Senate

October 5th, 2013
jfk in the senate

Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?

An Inglorious Life

October 1st, 2013
An Inglorious Life

Elizabeth Gilbert’s ambitious novel imagines the life of a 19th-century woman botanist, as insightful as Darwin but lost to history. It’s an interesting project, and a worthy one, but does the novel live up to its premise?

The Spirit of ’79

October 1st, 2013
The Spirit of ’79

Two thousand years ago, a bustling seaside town on the Naples coast was engulfed in a sudden, unthinkable catastrophe: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii in hot ash and froze it in death for two millennia. Can any museum exhibit capture the irresistible fascination of such a stark human drama?

From the Archives: In the Pocket of Satan

October 1st, 2013
Six Women of Salem

A girl, a widow, a matriarch, a mother, a businesswoman, and a minister’s slave: a new history traces the Salem Witch Trials through the lives of six women who paid dearly for their proximity to one of the most mysterious incidents in American history

Homo Sovieticus

September 1st, 2013
Homo Sovieticus

The USSR’s Book of Tasty and Healthy Food created an impression of bounty and gourmet splendor; Anya von Bremzen’s memoir Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking reveals the Soviet kitchen’s homelier truths

The Empire Strikes Back

September 1st, 2013
The Empire Strikes Back

King and Woolman’s new book Assassination of the Archduke, boasts new sources, very close to Franz Ferdinand and his wife — too close?

Behold the Man

August 1st, 2013
Behold the Man

The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.

In Prague on an Errand

August 1st, 2013
In Prague on an Errand

In Caleb Crain’s debut novel, a young man puts his ordinary life on hold and goes to post-revolution Prague in search of all the usual things young people go searching for in Prague. But, as reviewer Yulia Greyman observes, “false selves are a part of love.”

Vegetable Wonder

August 1st, 2013
Vegetable Wonder

It became entangled with the imperial hopes of a nation and inspired the design of one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace: a new book explores the remarkable story of the Amazonian water lily.

Mé Féin

June 1st, 2013
Mé Féin

Fintan O’Toole is an idealist about Irish republicanism and his books begin a desperately necessary conversation. It’s a bad sign, though, that he can’t quite get past the preliminaries.

Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

June 1st, 2013
Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

A debut novel of alternate history spins out one of the most tantalizing hypotheticals of the past: what if Anne Boleyn had managed to give King Henry VIII a healthy male heir? Some of the answers – and some of the resulting mysteries – may surprise you.

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

June 1st, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

Bohemian Back Bay was as key to Copley Square as aristocratic Back Bay and black artist models figured not only in Sargent’s work, but in Fred Holland Day’s too.

Approaching Auschwitz

April 1st, 2013
A MAN LOOKS AT PHOTOGRAPHS OF HUNGARIAN JEWS HELD AT THE AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP AT THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON

An incurious and indifferent Jew journeys to Auschwitz to confront the kitsch and the manicured ruins, looking for a sense of connection – and finding it in the most unlikely places

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Centerpiece 7

April 1st, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Centerpiece 7

“The Gods of Copley Square”s spirited multi-part examination of Boston’s Trinity Church (and its indomitable bishop-saint) comes to its conclusion right where it should: at the heart of worship

The Earl of Gallipoli

April 1st, 2013
The Earl of Gallipoli

The typical image of Winston Churchill comes from the dark days of World War II: a fat, old, bald Prime Minister eloquently defying Hitler’s Germany. But before there was a monument there was a man, as an engaging new biography brings to light.

From the Archives: Embossed Coins

April 1st, 2013
From the Archives: Embossed Coins

Elie Wiesel once claimed “a novel about Treblinka is either not a novel or not about Treblinka.” How does Steve Sem-Sandberg grapple with representing the unrepresentable in his sweeping chronicle of the Łódź ghetto, The Emperor of Lies? A review from our archives.

Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

March 1st, 2013
Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

He may not have anything new to tell us today, but as Spencer Lenfield demonstrates, Gilbert Highet’s friendly, engaging pedagogy is still rare enough to keep him relevant.

“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

March 1st, 2013
“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

After his first visit to Italy, Mark Twain pronounced her “one vast museum of magnificence and misery,” and yet he returned again and again. Luciano Magniafaco chronicles his journeys.

Judaize This

February 1st, 2013
Judaize This

The belief that Jews are the enemy of civilization is one of the West’s most tenacious and systemic ideas. Professor David Nirenberg’s new history offers a vast, seemingly inexhaustible record of a very old, very useful hatred.

Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

February 1st, 2013
Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

Joseph Epstein has a cult following as a sharp-tongued critic and essayist. His latest collection showcases his love of words and ideas as well as his caustic wit.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 6

February 1st, 2013
TrinityHarvardLibrary

Lost to history, here re-discovered, Trinity Chancel –“a daring enterprise in its day, as original an expression and as unique as was the genius of the American people.”

Entred in a Spacious Court

January 1st, 2013
Entred in a Spacious Court

Ben Jonson said that the once wealthy and acclaimed Edmund Spenser died “for want of bread”; a new biography tries to disentangle myth from fact, and to make the case for the great poet’s relevance today

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 5

January 1st, 2013
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 5

A rumor of Narnia at Trinity Church prompts two questions. Can a building have a spiritual life? Can a work of art not? Phillips Brooks and the idea of ecstasy

Sharing A Cab

December 1st, 2012
Sharing A Cab

Give Anthony Burgess a check and he’d write anything, even a Time-Life picture book. Which doesn’t mean that his 1976 guide to New York is anything less than fascinating.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 4

December 1st, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 4

“Truth is Catholic, but the search for it is Protestant,” quoth W.H. Auden, and this month Phillips Brooks is at Lourdes, of all places, his liking for which can only be explained by his experiences at Benares.

The Power Season

November 1st, 2012
The Power Season

As Americans go to the polls this month to elect a president, some recent biographies examine the lives of five very different men who once held the office.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 3

November 1st, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 3

“Perhaps a little drunk might answer” was Phillips Brooks’s idea of how to view Pre-Raphaelite art, several masterpieces of which he commissioned for Trinity Church. “Centerpiece” continues.

From The Archives: Raging Bull

November 1st, 2012
From The Archives: Raging Bull

In this tensely-charged election year, all eyes fix on the blogosphere – of 1787. Jeffrey Eaton signs us in to Library of America’s 2-volume Debate on the Constitution and fills the comments field.

Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

October 1st, 2012
Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

Madman, lothario, despot, drug fiend, friend and enemy of Mussolini – and immortal poet. Gabriele D’Annunzio was all of these things and many more in his whirlwind of a life.

American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

October 1st, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

Henry Adams on the road to Chartres, Phillips Brooks on the Madonna of the prairie, and John La Farge on why he worried Trinity Church had “no heart” — The Gods of Copley Square continues

Books Before and After

September 1st, 2012
6

It’s a bridge, a barrier, and a burden; it’s used in the bedroom, the kitchen, and the outhouse. Leah Price helps us think again about what we can, should, or want to do with that most fetishized of objects: the book.

‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

September 1st, 2012
‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

Lord Castlereagh lives in infamy as the target of the Romantic Poets’ most vicious insults, but one biography tries to salvage his reputation. Was the statesman a scourge of liberalism or pragmatist of Enlightenment ideals?

Attainted: The Life and Afterlife of Ezra Pound in Italy

September 1st, 2012
ep

Pound wrote The Pisan Cantos on toilet paper while prisoner in an open-air metal cage during WWII, and he spent many of the following years in mental hospitals. “I can get along with crazy people,” he quipped. “It’s only the fools I can’t stand.”

In Praise of the Practitioner

September 1st, 2012
GZhukov

Was General Zhukov the greatest general to order mass executions of his own soldiers? Was he the single most decisive factor in beating Hitler? A new biography opens more questions than it answers.

Those Feet

August 1st, 2012
CoF

This summer’s London Olympics take us back to 1981’s Chariots of Fire, the 1924 Olympics, and the poetry of William Blake. The connection? All remind us of the fragility of glory and our endless wish to make the past present.

We Could Have Beaten Kennedy…

August 1st, 2012
LBJ-RFK-JFK

Lyndon Johnson rained destruction on Vietnam and championed civil rights, amassed a secret fortune and fought for the needy. His paradoxical life continues in the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography.

A Writ of Certiorari

August 1st, 2012
37

A contentious Supreme Court in the headlines is hardly a new thing – nor is the Court being used for partisan politics and the brinksmanship of history, as Noah Feldman’s Scorpions makes clear

A Man Without Divisions

August 1st, 2012
Prejudices

“He calls you a swine,” Walter Lippmann once wrote of H.L. Mencken, “and he increases your will to live.” A reissue of Mencken’s 1926 rabble-rouser Notes on Democracy shows the journalist at his insulting, rejuvenating best.

Keeping Up With the Windsors – The Invisible Woman

June 1st, 2012
HMQEIIHC

She’s occupied the throne of Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 60 years, and in June Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Three new biographies try to understand the woman wearing the crown.

From the Archives: Supping with Glaucus: A Tour of Roman Historical Fiction

June 1st, 2012
barba_the_slaver

Steve Donoghue takes the emperor’s box to thumbs-up or thumbs-down an array of Roman historical novels, as “A Year with the Romans” continues.

From the Archives: Crowned and Anointed

June 1st, 2012
bodice

Ian Manfred St. Cyr settles in with Maureen Waller’s Sovereign Ladies, a biography of “the six reigning queens of England” and suggests that the author’s headcount may be a little low.

Monumental and Fragile

May 1st, 2012
sikuquanshu

No form of literature seems as thoroughly doomed in the 21st century as the printed encyclopedia, but even dinosaurs can have rich and rewarding life-stories. Where did we go, before we all went to the Internet?

American Aristocracy – Civil War: Pride and Shame on the Via Sacra

May 1st, 2012
WilliamJames

The clash between Brahmin liberalism and the legacy of slave-trading focuses on a monument to the men who redeemed a city and ransomed a nation. “American Aristocracy” continues.

Good Enough

April 1st, 2012
Good Enough

A new book takes readers back to a time when, according to historian Ira Shapiro, politics could sometimes be noble and senators could sometimes be giants.

Odi et Amo

April 1st, 2012
Catullus

The work of the Roman poet Catullus has always challenged the received idioms of poetry and society, and a daring new translation both underscores and undermines that iconoclastic Catullan stance.

American Aristocracy – Harvard Pulpit: Boston Brahmin Liberalism

April 1st, 2012
MIT postcard

To the quintessential virtues the Puritans lent to a fledgling republic – globality, philantropy, and autonomy – the ‘speaking aristocracy’ of the Boston Brahmins added one more: the love of learning

When She Was Lost

April 1st, 2012
bainbridge

One hundred years ago this month, the luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1500 lives. The centenary has released a flood of books, including some gems not to be missed.

Cato of the Antipodes

March 1st, 2012
Cato of the Antipodes

Of his 60+ books, one in particular, The United States, is best representative of his work as a whole and, by readers, best loved. On the Collected Essays of Gore Vidal.

The Apparatchik

February 1st, 2012
condoleezza-rice

For two terms, first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was the most – often the only – likeable face of the George W. Bush administration. But does this quintessential team player break ranks in her new memoir?

‘I am Thy Man’

February 1st, 2012
HundredYearsWar

He fought a world war with France, survived the Black Death, and gave England a real Parliament. Froissart and Chaucer loved him, Shakespeare (almost) wrote about him, and the Victorians disparaged him. He was Edward III, and he has a king-sized new biography from Yale University Press.

On Reading a Five-Volume Biography of Prince Albert

January 1st, 2012
princealbertqueenvictoriawedding

Maligned as nothing but handsome breeding stock, this German import did more to redefine the role of the monarchy than any subsequent royal, consort or king.

American Aristocracy – Brahmin Dreams: In Search of the Capital of The World

January 1st, 2012
fatkd

Boston without Brahmins, like Vienna without Jews, frames shifting capitoline visions, visions much more in the spirit than most realize of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who actually wrote: ‘It dwarfs the mind to feed it on any localism.’

Generalissimo

January 1st, 2012
madison

James Madison was more cautious and purposeful than the temperamental Hamilton or the effusive Jefferson. Indeed, to paraphrase Brookhiser, Hamilton was a rocket, Jefferson was a kite, Madison was a ballast.

Over Grinton Bridge: Riding into the Heart of Reformation

December 1st, 2011
2

A rich, beautiful, but sadly neglected historical masterpiece: Hilda Prescott’s The Man on a Donkey is the War and Peace of the English Reformation

The Prince of Now and Then

December 1st, 2011
william

He lost his famous mother when he was a boy, became a teen idol, had a storybook wedding, and he’s second in line to be King of England. The monarchy Prince William inherits will be like nothing his predecessors have experienced – if it exists at all. “A Year with the Windsors” concludes.

A Heartbeat Away

November 1st, 2011
Dick Cheney

John Nance Garner famously referred to the vice presidency as being not worth a bucket of warm, er, spit – and yet, during the two terms of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney used that office to wield unprecedented power. The former vice president writes an unapologetic memoir.

American Aristocracy – Letter from Boston: Toward a New History

October 1st, 2011
prendergast-west-church

Boston, so often reproved for living in its memories, may well be poised to lead the future, not in spite of its history but because of it.

Chairman of the Board

October 1st, 2011
bpimlottthequeen

Lodestar or mirror? Passé or ne plus ultra? Elizabeth II has presided with consistency over an inconsistent age. And what have we learned of her?

Changeable Camelion

September 1st, 2011
Painting Poet John Donne

Courtier and cleric, adventurer and ascetic, man of faith and man of the world — John Donne was many things in his life, and a sprawling new Companion does its best to assess them all.

A Very Ordinary Person

August 1st, 2011
george vi at sandringham, 1949

When his brother the king abdicated, shy Prince Bertie suddenly became king – and he was just settling in when the World War II threw his kingdom into chaos. ‘A Year with the Windsors’ continues.

The Golden Touch

August 1st, 2011
bankofnorthamericacurrency

A new biography explores the life of the erratic and headstrong ‘forgotten’ Founding Father who bankrolled a revolution and guided a new republic.

Folk and Fields Suffice

July 1st, 2011
9780713990645

When the tottering Roman Empire abandoned its far-flung outpost of Britain, the natives were forced to fend for themselves. The results were one part “Lord of the Flies” and one part “Camelot.”

A Very Narrow Area

July 1st, 2011
9780465013975

A pivotal part of the Second World War was fought not on land or sea but under the waves – and a new history attributes heroism to both sides.

A Brief for the Defense

June 1st, 2011
A Brief for the Defense

If you’re hoping for a heartfelt mea culpa from an architect of two disastrous wars, this isn’t it. Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is shallow at best, cynically self-serving at worst.

Prince Eddy and the Blackguards

April 1st, 2011
prince eddy and princess may

When the heir presumptive, Prince Eddy, died suddenly, the nation and empire was convulsed with mourning – and a century of speculation began! Had the lost prince been a simpleton, a saint, a catamite – even Jack the Ripper?

Forever Nell

April 1st, 2011
‘the duke of monmouth and my lady castlemaine’ by ernest shepard 1

She was an orange-seller, an actress, a whore, and the most popular of Charles II’s many mistresses: Nell Gwynn stars in two new novels.

Out of Sorts

March 1st, 2011
metalmoveabletype

Books have been with us for thousands of years, and books about books for very nearly that long. The world of books teems with themes, and in the latest massive Oxford Companion, that world receives a bestiary with hopes of being definitive.

History Without the Moon

February 1st, 2011
DiamonJubilee

Her reign was epic in length and social impact, but it very nearly didn’t happen at all. She ruled through two generations of her people, and she left the British monarchy very different from how she found it. She is Queen Victoria, and our Year with the Windsors starts as it must: with her.

There Can Only Be One

February 1st, 2011
SixNationsveteransWar1812

The United States’ first Civil War, Alan Taylor claims, was fought in 1812. Ivan Lett assesses the revisionist argument.

Duel

January 1st, 2011
Duel

Nixon’s crimes are known to us all. A new book reveals that his biggest tormentor in the media committed a few of them himself.

The Beginning of the End, the Battle at the End, and the End

January 1st, 2011
9780312628192

In 1941 Hitler had everything: all of Europe had fallen to his stormtroopers, and he could dispose of lone, defiant England at his leisure. Then he made a Napoleonic gamble: he invaded his one-time ally, Russia. Three new books deal with the Napoleonic results of that gamble.

The Prodigal Brothers

December 1st, 2010
gustavmahler

Ever since Cain and Abel, literature has reserved a prominent place for sterling heroes — and the flawed, grasping, and entirely more interesting brothers who live in their shadow.

Simple Man

December 1st, 2010
Simple Man

No American president in a generation has so polarized the country as George W. Bush, and his new book will almost certainly polarize its readers. Is it defiant agitprop or heartfelt memoir?

W.

December 1st, 2010
george-washington_4964

For two centuries, he’s been the founding myth of his nation: first in war, first in peace, Washington the paragon. Ron Chernow’s new biography does nothing to tarnish that image — but should it?

Misfiring the Canon

December 1st, 2010
charleshill

Of the charismatic Yale lecturer one adoring student wrote, “Charles Hill is God,” and in his new book, Hill moves in mysterious ways. He claims that statecraft and the Western canon are inextricably linked — but there are doubters in the temple.

A Day Such as This

November 1st, 2010
Battle-of-the-somme-2

The Battle of the Somme has become a watch-word for useless slaughter over worthless ground, but a new book contends that the Somme was actually a victory for the good guys–a ghastly, horrifying victory, but a victory just the same.

The Lion Saves His Pride

November 1st, 2010
The Lion Saves His Pride

Winston Churchill has become such an icon of wartime tenacity that many people tend to forget he had a postwar political career. Barbara Leaming’s 2010 biography examines the last act of a famous man’s career.

Keeping Up with the Romans: The Phenomenon of Her

November 1st, 2010
Keeping Up with the Romans: The Phenomenon of Her

She’s one of the most famous names in history, and the only figure in antiquity to rival Julius Caesar’s renown–but what do we really know about Cleopatra? Stacy Schiff’s biography takes us behind the legend.

Second Glance: The Daringly Sensible Marjorie Hillis

October 1st, 2010
Live alone cover

In books such as “Live Alone and Like It” Marjorie Hillis preached independence and practical style to “live-aloner” working women of the 1930s and beyond

The Curious Disposition

October 1st, 2010
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Some of the greatest works of English literature grapple with the dark, knotted roots of anti-Semitism, and the audience is always complicit. A new book studies the tangle of art and atrocity in writers Chaucer to Marlowe to Shakespeare

No Heaven for Suckers

October 1st, 2010
machiavelli

He has become synonymous with amoral, cold-hearted political machination, but there was more to Machiavelli than that. A new biography attempts to look at the whole man.

In Possession of the Place

October 1st, 2010
sissinghurst

Adam Nicolson chronicles his work bringing Sissinghurst castle and its grounds up to date–the delusions of a “hippie-squire” or the worthy restoration of a storied estate?

Keeping Up with the Romans: The Senator Investigates

October 1st, 2010
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He toadied to a succession of emperors and trembled at the mere thought of being mugged — on the surface, it looks odd to cast Pliny the Younger as a detective. A new mystery novel takes that chance.

The Western Star

September 1st, 2010
compromise1850

More than any other figure in American history (including his hated rival Andrew Jackson), Henry Clay towered over the political landscape in the decades before the Civil War; two new books look at his legacy.

Beyond the Pillars of Hercules

September 1st, 2010
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In addition to their gods and goddesses, the ancient Greeks worshiped youth and athletic prowess, and their foremost bard was Pindar.

Fetch My Embroidery!

September 1st, 2010
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Was Eleanor of Aquitaine a power in medieval politics or a glittering figurehead? This wife of two kings and mother of four stars in a new novel by Alison Weir – but will the real Eleanor please stand up?

The Thin, Clear, Happy Call

August 1st, 2010
edwardiansense

The sunlit aesthetics of the Edwardian era have been given a new look in this essay collection, and the consensus leans decidedly toward the darker meanings belying those lovely surfaces

An Anvil Unto Sorrow

August 1st, 2010
Edward-and-Gaveston

What we know about Edward II came from the brilliant mind of Christopher Marlowe. A new biography seeks to separate the real man from the dramatist’s fertile imagination.

Midlife Magic

August 1st, 2010
emmanuel_carrere

Emmanuel Carrere’s memoir is an uneasy blend of sexual fantasy and archival records, of a future with a beautiful young woman and a past haunted by a possible Nazi collaborator

The Ass Made Proud

August 1st, 2010
TalentedMrRipleyF

As Mark Twain pointed out a century ago, there’s no evidence the man from Stratford ever read a book, much less owned one, and so the number of books alleging and ‘proving’ evidence of his grand fraud grows and grows …

Keeping Up With The Tudors: Bernard’s Theorem

July 1st, 2010
jane-seymour

At her trial, Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery, witchcraft, and incest – charges long mocked by historians. But a new book asks: is it possible Anne was actually guilty?

American Golgotha

July 1st, 2010
bostonmassacre

When colonial tensions were at a boiling point, the British garrisoned troops on Boston Common and put the city under military occupation – until a certain Massacre, that is.

Revolution in a Half Shell

July 1st, 2010
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During the American Revolution, colonists ran blockades, fought sea-battles and … sent in an attack-submarine? No, it’s not time travel – it’s the amazing story of the Turtle.

The Summer’s Rage of Fire

June 1st, 2010
marne,1914

World War I is known for its inching attrition, but both sides tried their hand at massive, all-or-nothing ‘pushes’ – including two of the worst, the Marne and the Somme.

Write, Repeat Redux

June 1st, 2010
h f a

In his new memoir, Christopher Hitchens regales his readers with one good story after another. But as John Rodwan shows, we’ve heard most of them before – lots of times.

General Winter Had Help

June 1st, 2010
tsaralexander

We often let Napoleon’s failure to conquer Russia obscure the fact that Napoleon was then conquered by Russia. A new book restores the balance of power.

I Talk & Laugh & Listen

June 1st, 2010
King_George_VI_and_Queen_Elizabeth

A minor daughter of Scottish nobility was raised to the royalty of England at the turn of the 20th century and lived until she was 102. Her official biography chronicles an age.

Raggedy-Ass Marines

June 1st, 2010
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The Pacific Theater WWII battle against Japan – it will forever be ‘the other war’ – here takes center stage as the boredom and carnage are seen by five individual soldiers.

Foxhole Allies

June 1st, 2010
emma goldman

The Anarchist movement in America was the first to embrace some form of gay rights, but it was more a marriage of convenience than love at first sight.

Smiling, and Back to Work

May 1st, 2010
joseph_schumpeter

In 2007-2008, the world’s financial markets experienced ample “creative destruction.” Now in paperback is this rich (no pun intended) life of the man who coined the term.

The Nautilus

May 1st, 2010
south side of st marks from the loggia of the ducal palace, john ruskin, 1850

When John Ruskin, the foremost architectural critic of the Victorian era, discovered Venice, he fell in love. An elaborate new work paints the picture in great detail.

Ragged Ishmael

May 1st, 2010
growingupunderground

“Mad Bomber” Sam Melville protested the Vietnam War by blowing up buildings, and he died unrepentant in the Attica riots – but what, if anything, was his legacy?

A Fire Bell in the Night

April 1st, 2010
plaza

President Polk isn’t exactly a household name, and a new book seeks to change that. Will the facilitator of genocide and the originator of civil war get a fair shake? Read on!

Pay Attention, Cynewulf

April 1st, 2010
barbarian_inv.

The warrior tribes who chipped away at Rome’s Western empire were pretty rough on each other, too. A new book examines the fight for fledgling Europe.

Strategikon

April 1st, 2010
justinian (1)

The glory that was Rome lived on – in a strange new form – for a thousand years in the East, despite being beset by enemies on all sides. A new study illuminates how they managed it.

The Man and the Monument

February 1st, 2010
revolution

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 was peaceful, orderly, and above all sensible, or so says towering Victorian historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. Two new books look at the man and the Revolution he so indelibly described.

“Ranvaik Owns This Box”

January 1st, 2010
viking warrior unwilling wife

Is it possible to defend a group of people who gleefully made rape and torture a part of their lives? Freydis Skaar reviews a new history of the Vikings and finds its author, Robert Ferguson, doing something very close to that.

Over the Old Elms

January 1st, 2010
liu ta-wei 1977

It’s often forgotten, or ignored, that China has a four-thousand-year-old history as rich and varied as any Western civilization. Hugh Seames hopes that John Keay’s immense new book will change some misperceptions about the Middle Kingdom

Have You Seene Me?

December 1st, 2009
newlit

As Laura Kolbe shows, A New Literary History of America throws every word of its own title into question—and that’s not the most exciting part of Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’ immense anthology

The Better Part of Me

December 1st, 2009
ovid1

When he was banished for life from Rome, Ovid was trying to alter his artistic forms with his Metamorphoses. Trace the transformations in Steve Donoghue’s final “Year with the Romans”

“… and is there nothing more you want?”

December 1st, 2009
munich-1938

In 1938 Neville Chamberlain faced the ultimate ‘what if’ scenario, negotiating peace with Hitler; A.C. Childers weighs in on David Faber’s new account of the results.

Hurricanes, Murders, and Music

November 1st, 2009
yearbeforetheflood

Ned Sublette pens a loving portrait of New Orleans before Katrina struck. Ingrid Norton reviews The Year Before the Flood.

Horace in the Afternoon

November 1st, 2009
penguinodes

He was everybody’s friend, and his poetry breathes with life even today. He was Horace, and “A Year with the Romans” makes his acquaintance.

Tomb It May Concern

November 1st, 2009
themurderofkingtut

In a new work of Egyptology, bestselling author James Patterson claims he’s cracked the oldest murder case this side of Cain and Abel, but is Ascanio Tedeschi convinced?

The Grace of Seduction

October 1st, 2009
RecognizingPersius

Steve Donoghue’s “A Year with the Romans” continues with a look at the obscure Roman poet Persius – and the great new book about him.

Verissimus

September 1st, 2009
marcus-aurelius-mclynn

Statesmen, philosophers, and serial killers turn to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but what was the emperor himself like? Frank McLynn’s Marcus Aurelius tells, and in this month’s “A Year with the Romans,” Steve Donoghue assesses.

Alexander the Grating

August 1st, 2009
alexander-darius-veronese

The only surviving full-length biography of Alexander the Great was written by a Roman. Steve Donoghue looks at Quintus Curtius Rufus as “A Year with the Romans” continues.

He Wanted to Go to Disneyland

August 1st, 2009
k_blows_top

Sure, he banged his shoe on a podium, but there was more than that to the fun-loving, infuriating Khrushchev – lots more, as Kristen Borg finds out in Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top

‘To the Great Infamy of the King’s Highness’

August 1st, 2009
durham

Church and State collided in Henry VIII’s England, and Durham Cathedral was caught in the middle. Steve Donoghue returns to his Tudor beat to review Geoffrey Moorhouse’s The Last Divine Office.

Glory at Half Price

July 1st, 2009
satchel

Larry Tye has written a book about the greatest, longest baseball career to date; Brad Jones benches the Babe and tallies up Satchel.

Who the Hell is Lili St. Cyr?

July 1st, 2009
stripping

Carl Van Doren called her “the princess who takes off her pants,” but who was Gypsy Rose Lee, really? Kindly let Michael Adams entertain you in looking at two recent biographies.

Bejabbers!

July 1st, 2009
sutro-tunnel

That famous vein of gold (well, mostly silver) made American millionaires, awful tragedies, and Mark Twain. Eli Wanamaker’s literary quarry is Dennis Drabelle’s Mile-High Fever.

Miss Hamilton Disposes

July 1st, 2009
Miss Hamilton Disposes

No one had ever written about love – in its infinite and profane variety – the way the Roman poet Catullus did; its explication by a scholarly schoolmistress might seem paradoxical – but Edith Hamilton knew something about love herself.

‘… to ourselves and our posterity …’

July 1st, 2009
convention

Richard Beeman, in his Plain, Honest Men, reminds us that the Founding Fathers weren’t demigods. Thomas J. Daly measures their feet of clay.

Ten Questions for Sarah Ruden

May 1st, 2009
sarahruden

Sarah Ruden, the latest and greatest translator of Vergil’s Aeneid, offers a funny and fascinating glimpse inside the classicist’s world in this Open Letters interview.

Uncle Livy

May 1st, 2009
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Steve Donoghue’s “Year with the Romans” turns its eye upon Titus Livius, who either wrote poetical history or historical poetry, depending on who you ask.

Second Glance: ‘Do Not, Future People, Bring Up a Child the Wrong Way’

May 1st, 2009
kalevala

The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, was compiled in the early 19th century from a much older oral tradition—can it possibly have anything to teach the modern reader? Sean Hughes has some surprising answers.