Britain’s Century, African American Triumph, the Cold War , & More | History Previews, Feb. 2018

Blum, Howard. We Shall Bury You! Harper. Feb. 2018. 496p. ISBN 9780062458247. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062458278. HISTORY
A New York Times best-selling, Edgar Award–winning author who typically investigates significant but little-known corners of U.S. history, Blum relies on recently declassified files to tell a story that starts with brilliant linguist/codebreaker Meredith Gardner learning that a huge network of KGB spies was set to infiltrate American intelligence. FBI supervisor Bob Lampshere then worked with Gardner on a top-secret mission codenamed Venona to find those agents. Their main aim was to protect the atomic bomb—Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were among those caught in their net—and their biggest worry was a mole deep in U.S. intelligence who seemed to know all about Venona. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Cannadine, David. Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800–1906. Viking. Feb. 2018. 576p. ISBN 9780525557890. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780525557906. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. HISTORY
Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University, the general editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and president of the British Academy, eminent historian Cannadine is well positioned to tell the story of Britain’s “Victorious Century.” He portrays an empire stable at home and leading the world politically and economically, yet he also shows the 19th century as a time of uncertainty for Britain, as revolutions in industry and science brought social and political unrest and deep introspection on what the future promised. A big history on a big century but at under 600 pages it’s focused.

Ehrman, Bart D. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. S. & S. Feb. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781501136702. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501136726. CD: S. & S. Audio. HISTORY
Remember the Sadducees? They were just another Jewish sect of the Old Testament era that didn’t make it. So how, in just four centuries, did Christianity grow from being the persuasion of a handful of poor peasants in the desert stretches of the Roman Empire to being its official religion, embraced by some 30 million people? A New York Times best-selling scholar on Christianity explains.

Freeman, Joshua B. Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World. Norton. Feb. 2018. 464p. ISBN 9780393246315. $27.95. HISTORY
A professor of history at Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY, Freeman won the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award for In Transit: The Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933–1966 and the New York Society Library Book Award for Working-Class New York. Clearly, his interest is labor history, but here he expands far beyond New York to chronicle the rise of the factory worldwide and its champions, its critics, and its consequences. Good background for some of today’s heated debates.

Rodota, Joseph. The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address. Morrow. Feb. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780062476623. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062476654. HISTORY
A building complex in Washington, DC’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, the Watergate lent it suffix to numerous scandals after the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters there eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Rodota, a writer and communications manager in the Reagan White House, doesn’t focus on the break-in but instead gives us a social history of the complex. “Tiger hostess” Anna Chennault throwing glamorous parties, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice giving chamber music recitals, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg celebrating New Year’s Eve with Antonin Scalia and their spouses (hard to envision)—it’s all here. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Steil, Benn. The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War. S. & S. Feb. 2018. 624p. ISBN 9781501102370. $35. HISTORY
An award-winning author (The Battle of Bretton Woods) and the senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, Steil focuses on the years 1947–49 as he assays America’s decision to help rebuild Western European economies after World War II with aid that amounted to over $13 billion. Steil shows how tightly the Marshall Plan was bound up with the Cold War’s inception as he chronicles the chilling of postwar U.S.-Soviet relations, from events like the Prague coup and the Berlin blockade to the creation of NATO and the European Union. Steil, who has published primarily with academic presses, here brings his expertise to a larger audience.

Whitaker, Mark. Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance. S. & S. Feb. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9781501122392. $30. HISTORY
Jazz greats Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner; two top Negro League baseball teams; and the most widely read black newspaper in the country—all bragging rights for 1920–50s Pittsburgh, proof that it had a thriving African American community rivaling those of Harlem and Chicago. From the former managing editor of CNN Worldwide.

Wills, Shomari. Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires. Amistad. Feb. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780062437594. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062437549. HISTORY
Based on a proposal Wills developed for Samuel Freedman’s celebrated Book Seminar at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, for which he received University Honors, this book tells the story of the first African American millionaires. Those chronicled range from Mary Ellen Pleasant, whose Gold Rush wealth helped along abolitionist John Brown, to Mississippi school teacher O.W. Gurley, developer of an area in Tulsa that became known as the “the Black Wall Street.” Wills comes naturally by this subject; after emancipation, his great-great-great-grandfather Napoleon Bonaparte Drew became the first black man in Powhatan County, VA, to own property, and Drew’s sons were among Pennsylvania’s first black millionaire families.

Zeitz, Joshua. Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson’s White House. Viking. Feb. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780525428787. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780698191594. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. HISTORY
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, environmental reform—all are part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society legacy. And all are under threat today, which makes this study of the hard work done by LBJ staffers to implement these programs particularly valuable. From Politico contributing editor Zeitz, author of the New York Times best-selling Lincoln’s Boys; interestingly, in terms of time frame, this book picks up where the latest volume of Robert Caro’s magisterial LBJ biography leaves off.

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.

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