Nonfiction Previews, Jan. 2013, Pt. 3: Eight History Titles from Taylor Branch, David Graeber, Simon Garfield, & More

Branch, Taylor. The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. S. & S. Jan. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781451678970. $26. HISTORY
Pulitzer Prize winner Branch is author of the best sellers Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954‚ 63; Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963‚ 65; and At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965‚ 1968. Here he draws on all three volumes to sum up key moments of America in the King years in one neat volume.

Garfield, Simon. On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Jan. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9781592407798. $27.50. REF
Having triumphed with Just My Type, an illuminating guide to type fonts that made many best sellers and best books lists, Garfield returns with a study of cartography that ranges from the medieval Mappa Mundi to Google Maps as he shows how maps both reflect and shape human history and human nature. Including over 100 maps and illustrations and thoroughly Americanized, with new sections added by Britisher Garfield for his stateside audience; get it.

Graeber, David. Inventing Democracy: An Idea, a History, a Movement. Speigel & Grau: Random. Jan. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780812993561. $26; eISBN 9780679646006. Downloadable: Random. HISTORY/POLITICAL SCIENCE
Since Graeber is not just a distinguished anthropologist who teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, but a radical who has helped organize left-wing demonstrations from Republican National Convention protests in Philadelphia and New York to Occupy Wall Street and also authored the best-selling Debt, an alternative view of the rise of markets, you know what to expect from his chronicle of democracy.

Levine, Bruce. The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South. Random. Jan. 2013. 446p. ISBN 9781400067039. $30. HISTORY
An award-winning author (Confederate Emancipation) and J.G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Levine sees the Civil War as also a revolution‚ one that changed the social, political, and economic institutions of the South, which had picked up arms to defend the status quo.

Oakes, James. Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861‚ 1865. Norton. Jan. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780393065312. $27.95. HISTORY
Lincoln Prize winner for The Radical and the Republican and a history professor at CUNY’s Graduate Center, Oakes tosses out the idea that the Civil War was fought to preserve the Union, instead arguing that the core reason was always emancipation. Here he chronicles how the freeing of the slaves was effected in both the loyal border states and the rebellious South, especially as the Union army passed through. See also David Von Drehle’s Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year (Holt, Dec. 2011) for a like-minded read.

Stewart, Christopher S. Jungleland: A True Story of Adventure, Obsession, and the Deadly Search for the Lost White City. Harper: HarperCollins. Jan. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780061802546. $26.99. HISTORY/ADVENTURE
Reputedly hidden deep within Honduras’s Mosquito Coast, one of the largest stretches of uncharted tropical tangle on Earth, the glorious Ciudad Blanca (“White City”) has been sought by adventurers from the conquistadores to American Theodore Morde, who claimed to have found it in 1939 and then died mysteriously. Reason enough for Stewart, deputy editor of the New York Observer, to hop into a dugout to seek what’s really there in the jungle while pondering the history and mythology of past efforts. Billed as a real-life Indiana Jones story, which would be cool.

Turse, Nick. Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Metropolitan: Holt. Jan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780805086911. $28. HISTORY
An award-winning journalist (e.g., the Ridenhour Prize, a Radcliffe Institute fellowship), Turse digs deep into long-suppressed investigations conducted by Washington itself to show that throughout the Vietnam War the My Lai massacre was not the exception but the rule. The book’s title says it all.

Weiss, Helga. Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Her Life in a Concentration Camp. Norton. Jan. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9780393077971. $24.95. HISTORY/MEMOIR
Weiss first witnessed Nazi brutality in 1939 as an 11-year-old in her hometown, Prague; by 1941, she began keeping a diary in school exercise books and continued when she was sent to Terezín (Theresienstadt) with her parents. Her uncle, who worked in Terezín’s records department, saved her diary when she was sent to Auschwitz‚ from which she emerged among only 100 survivors of the 15,000 children who had arrived from Terezín. Translated for the first time, with rights sold to 15 countries. Chilling.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.