Nonfiction Previews, Nov. 2013, Pt. 2: History & Biography, from Red Cloud to JFK to the Warsaw Uprising

Davis, Wes. The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War To Rescue Crete from the Nazis. Crown. Nov. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780307460134. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780307460158. HISTORY
History both crucial and swashbuckling: an odd bunch of British intelligence officers (involved because they made “the obsolete choice of Greek at school”) joined with Cretan resistance fighters and an American avenging his father’s murder to keep German forces from occupying Crete—truly important, for otherwise Germany would have been able to dominate the Middle East. A journalist and former assistant English professor at Yale, Davis worked for two years at excavations on Crete.

Drury, Bob & Tom Clavin. The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend. S. & S. Nov. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781451654660. $30; ebk. ISBN9781451654707. BIOGRAPHY
The authors, who did well with their New York Times best
selling Halsey’s Typhoon and The Last Stand of Fox Company, have a particularly intriguing subject in Oglala Sioux chief Red Cloud—the only Plains Indian to defeat the U. S. Army in war. Among the resources they use to help polish our memory of Red Cloud, now somewhat faded, is an autobiography lost for more than 100 years.

Hansen, Laura & Jodie Elliott Hansen, eds. November 22, 1963: Ordinary and Extraordinary People Recall Their Reactions When They Heard the News…. Thomas Dunne Books: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250037480. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250037473. HISTORY
If you were alive in 1963, how did you react when President John F. Kennedy was shot? People have been asking that question for 50 years. Jodie Elliott Hansen, now a retired nurse and grandmother of ten, even sent out thousands of query letters from 1978 to 1983 to celebrities (Bob Hope, Princess Grace, Michael Crichton) and ordinary citizens alike. Here, with daughter Lauren, director of a charitable fund, she assembles the most telling of these recollections.

Hill, Clint & Lisa McCubbin. Five Days in November. Gallery: S. & S. Nov. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781476731490. $27. BIOGRAPHY
Hill certainly has unshakable memories of the five days surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. As Jacqueline Kennedy’s secret service guard, he leapt onto the car after shots resounded and hung on for the race to the hospital. Here he offers a minute-by-minute insider’s account of unfolding events. Interest is building; note that Hill has also authored the best-selling Mrs. Kennedy and Me.

Lethbridge, Lucy. Servants: A Downstairs of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times. Norton. Nov. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780393241099. $27.95. HISTORY
Not just for Downton fans: here is an account of the servant’s life in Britain from Edwardian times until now, from the grandest estates to the middle-class household happy to show that they can afford help—if only just one maid. In a work called the “best type of history” by the Literary Review, Lethbridge offers an overarching account that takes in social change.

Matthews, Chris. Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked. S. & S. Nov. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781451695991. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781451696011. BIOGRAPHY
The subtitle couldn’t be more telling—or more instructive, given political discourse today. Matthews, Tip O’Neill’s former chief of staff for six years and now seen on the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, portrays a civilized friendship of St. Patrick’s Day lunches and respectful attention between O’Neil and President Reagan even though their politics could not have been more different.

Orfalea, Gregory. Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra’s Dream and the Founding of California. Scribner. Nov. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781451642728. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781451642759. HISTORY
Though little known, Junipero Serra had a huge impact on this country’s development, having led efforts to establish Catholic mission churches throughout California. Orfalea, winner of an Arab American Book Award and a PEN finalist, did research in multiple languages on two continents to tell Serra’s story.

Richie, Alexandra. Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw Uprising. Farrar. Nov. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780374286552. $28. HISTORY
With the Allies starting to win the war and the Red Army in particular driving German troops back west, the underground Polish Home Army decided that the time had come to expel the enemy from Warsaw. Thus was launched the extraordinary Warsaw Uprising, which for reasons detailed here—including lack of Soviet assistance—failed after 63 days and led to truly brutal reprisals. Historian Richie, who currently lives in Warsaw, should write affectingly of this  overwhelmingly tragic event.

Riffenburgh, Beau. Pinkerton’s Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland. Viking. Nov. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780670025466. $32.95. BIOGRAPHY
Riffenburgh, who has a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge, hotfoots it over to America to write about the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency most celebrated agent, James McParland. (McParland was so famous that Arthur Conan Doyle put him in a Sherlock Holmes story.) Having taken on the Molly Maguires, Butch Cassidy, and the Western Federation of Miners, which in a suspect move he implicated in the assassination of Idaho’s former governor, McParland should be quite the fascinating subject.

Tobin, James. The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio To Win the Presidency. S. & S. Nov. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780743265157. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781451698671. BIOGRAPHY
Everyone acknowledges that in his battle with polio Franklin Delano Roosevelt demonstrated a statesman’s true grit. But National Book Critics Circle award winner Tobin goes one step further, arguing that polio was the transformative experience that turned a modest politician into someone capable of world leadership. Get ready to engage.


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.