Berkin, Carol. Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. Knopf. Feb. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780307592781. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385351621. BIOGRAPHY
How many readers know that Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome, married a Baltimore beauty named Elizabeth Patterson, which so angered Napoleon that he insisted Jerome renounce her or lose all his powers? As reported by Berkin, Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College, Jerome promptly threw over his pregnant wife, who returned to Baltimore sadder but wiser, disdaining apology and eventually returning to Europe to dominate society for three decades. A fresh story; with a four-city tour to Baltimore, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC.
Goudsouzian, Aram. Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear. Farrar. Feb. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780374192204. $28. HISTORY
Launched on June 5, 1966, James Meredith’s march from Memphis. TN, to Jackson, MS, to promote black voter registration was only briefly disrupted by his being shot and subsequently hospitalized the next day. Major Civil Rights leaders flew in to continue the march, which encountered considerable community and police resistance and proved a turning point when Stokely Carmichael first raised the Black Power chant that signaled the next phase of the movement. University of Memphis history professor Goudsouzian has been praised for his books about Bill Russell and Sidney Poitier.
Huckelbridge, Dane. Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062241399. $25.99. SOCIAL HISTORY/BEVERAGES
Bourbon is distinctively American, so its history says barrels’ worth about our own. It’s the only liquor produced from corn, that New World grain discovered by Old World explorer Christopher Columbus; and it was first brewed in backwoods Appalachia. It’s now more popular than ever. Huckelbridge, a cofounder of the international arts and culture magazine GUTFIRE!, has hit upon a good story. With a 50,000-copy first printing.
Jager, Eric. Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris. Little, Brown. Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780316224512. $29; ebk. ISBN 9780316224536. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316251051. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. HISTORY
Having built his reputation with books like The Last Duel, the story of a key trial by combat in late 1300s France, UCLA medievalist Jager is primed to break out with this reads-like-a-novel crime history. In November 1407, a group of masked men murdered Louis of Orleans, who had often ruled in place of his mad brother, King Charles, and Paris provost Guillaume de Tignonville was called upon to calm the suddenly destabilized kingdom by finding the culprits. Adding to the appeal: King Charles VI, Henry V, and Joan of Arc have walk-on roles. With a 25,000-copy first printing.
Judis, John B. Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict. Farrar. Feb. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780374161095. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781429949101. HISTORY
Senior editor at the New Republic, Judis argues that as the leading world power since the close of World War II, America bears partial responsibility for the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East. He then traces faults in U.S. foreign policy back to the Truman administration. Knowledgeable readers will appreciate.
Kennan, George F. The Kennan Diaries. Norton. Feb. 2014. 736p. ed. by Frank Costigliola. ISBN 9780393073270. $39.95. DIARIES
Talk about rich primary sources. Here is a volume culled from 8,000 pages’ worth of diary entries from Kennan, U.S. Cold War diplomat extraordinaire and the man who crafted the resounding idea of containment. The entries, which soar over 90 years of U.S. history (Kennan lived to be 101), include personal memoir and political observation, philosophy, poetry, and ethics. A history-in-the-making feel here for all smart readers.
Levingston, Steven. Little Demon in the City of Light. Doubleday. Feb. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780385536035. $26.95. HISTORY
Currently Nonfiction Book Editor of the Washington Post, Levingston had a long career as a foreign correspondent, which included time in Paris that should add real atmosphere to this book. In 1889, court official Alexandre-Toussaint Gouffé left his Parisian lair for an assignation with Gabrielle Bompard and was promptly murdered by Gabrielle and her lover. The debate at the time: was Gabrielle a “little demon” guilty of a heinous crime or compelled to act under hypnosis? Unexpected stuff.
Perry, Douglas. Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero. Viking. Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780670025886. $27.95. BIOGRAPHY
Eliot Ness famously led the team of Prohibition Bureau agents known as the Untouchables and challenged Al Capone, but the rest of his life is likely a blank to most readers. Award-winning editor/writer Perry (The Girls of Murder City) depicts Ness’s personal and professional ups and downs while examining Ness’s legacy, including law enforcement innovations still with us today.
Sestanovich, Stephen. Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama. Knopf. Feb. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780307268174. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385349666. HISTORY/FOREIGN POLICY
Ambassador-at-large for the former Soviet Union during the Clinton administration, senior staff member at the National Security Council and the State Department during the Reagan administration, and a senior legislative assistant to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Sestanovich has seen U.S. foreign policy up close. That adds authority to this history, which shows how this country alternates between “maximalist” foreign policy and periods of retrenchment.
Whitelock, Anna. The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Feb. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780374239787. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781429949163. HISTORY
Tudor expert Whitelock (her thesis for her doctoral degree from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, concerned the court of Mary I) isn’t offering a salacious history of court intrigue. Instead, she artfully shows the importance of the ladies in waiting who shared the queen’s bedchamber, guarding her clothes, her jewelry, and her very body. For the queen’s body was the state, and threats against her well-being were threats against England. Already lots of interest.