Kaplan, Eric. Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation. Dutton. Oct. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780525954392. $20. PHILOSOPHY
Candidate for a PhD in philosophy at Berkeley, as well as co-executive producer of and writer for the hit TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Kaplan has the tools to make accessible some big philosophical questions: how are our beliefs grounded, how do we know what’s real, and what does believing in Santa do to us, anyway? With sources from Wittgenstein to Monty Python’s cheese shop sketch; and you thought philosophy wasn’t cool.
Makos, Adam. Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Brotherhood, and Sacrifice. Ballantine. Oct. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780804176583. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780804176590. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
Old-line white New Englander Tom Hudner won the first Medal of Honor of the Korean War for crash landing his plane behind enemy lines in an effort to rescue his friend and fellow wingman Jesse Brown, a black sharecropper’s son, who was trapped in his plane’s fiery wreckage after being shot down. Hudner eventually had to abandon his effort, but in 2013, at age 89, he returned to North Korea to search for Brown’s remains. That journey got considerable media coverage, and Makos is the New York Times best-selling author of A Higher Call, so expect demand.
Moynahan, Brian. Leningrad: Siege and Symphony: The Story of the Great City Terrorized by Stalin, Starved by Hitler, Immortalized by Shostakovich. Atlantic Monthly. Oct. 2014. 496p. ISBN 9780802123169. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780802191908. HISTORY
On August 9, 1942, nearly a year after the Germans began the horrendous Siege of Leningrad, Shostakovich’s immense and heartrending Seventh Symphony was performed in the city by musicians pulled from frontline units and military bands (fewer than a fifth of the city’s orchestra members still survived). The musicians were so hungry that they got dizzy during rehearsal and thought they might faint at the actual performance. Moynahan, former European editor of the London Sunday Times, focuses on the symphony’s composition to illustrate the increasingly repressive Soviet atmosphere in the years leading to the siege and what the siege itself was like for a city where beauty still mattered. Distinctive history.
Panetta, Leon with Jim Newton. Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace. Penguin Pr. Oct. 2014. 512p. ISBN 9781594205965. $36. CD: Penguin Audio. AUTOBIOGRAPHY
After a career in the U.S. House of Representatives, Panetta served as director of the Office of Management and Budget (1993–94) and as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff (1994–97). Then, after what only looked like retirement, he returned to government service as CIA director (2009–11)—yes, he led the effort to find and kill Osama bin Laden—and as secretary of defense (2011–13). Clearly not just an autobiography but an overview of key historical events and the conduct of the U.S. government in the past decades.
Tobar, Héctor. Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. Farrar. Oct. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780374280604; ebk. ISBN 9780374709204. CD: Macmillan Audio. $26. HISTORY
We know about the rescue efforts, but what happened underground when the San José mine collapsed outside of Copiapó, Chile, in August 2010, trapping 33 miners for an astonishing 69 days? Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tobar, also the author of striking novels like The Barbarian Nurseries, gained exclusive access to the miners and delivers this detailed account. Look for an echapbook (ISBN 9780374921422), to be posted on Edelweiss and also free on websites like Amazon.com and BN.com.
United States Military Academy. The West Point History of the Civil War. S. & S. Oct. 2014. 352p. 9781476782621. $45. HISTORY
Here’s your chance to obtain a cadet’s-eye view of the Civil War. West Point continually updates its distinctive text on warfare, The West Point History of Warfare, in use since 1847. This volume is the first evidence of the latest update, a complete rewrite, and launches a new series of military histories authorized by West Point. With hundreds of tactical maps created by West Point cartographers and hundreds of images, many created for this volume or selected from West Point archives.