From the Opium Wars to Putin’s Russia | History Previews, 2018

Baier, Bret & Catherine Whitney. Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire. Morrow. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780062748362. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062748492. CD. HISTORY
Author of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling Three Days in January and anchor of Fox News Channel’s top-rated Special Report with Bret Baier, Baier chronicles President Ronald Reagan’s three-day Moscow Summit in 1988, during which he spoke to a huge audience at Moscow State University about human rights. For Reagan, it was “a grand historical moment,” and some historians see it as the beginning of the end of the Cold War. With a 350,000-copy first printing.

Childs, Craig. Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America. Pantheon. May 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780307908650. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307908667. HISTORY
It’s commonly acknowledged that sea levels had sunk so low during the Ice Age that a land bridge allowed humans to cross from Asia to North America. Award-winning author Childs (Apocalyptic Planet) here argues that that was not the only way to cross while also showing us what life was like for America’s First People. They encountered mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, bison, and more, and they were both fierce hunters and fiercely hunted. Regular NPR commentator Childs will get a big push on

Christian, David. Origin Story: A Big History of Everything. Little, Brown. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780316392006. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780316392020. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316412476. HISTORY
Director of Macquarie University’s Big History Institute and cofounder of the Big History Project with Bill Gates, Christian originated the field of Big History, which takes the long view instead of parsing the years into little sections stuffed with dates and facts. Christian takes the really long view here, starting with the Big Bang, then shapes his narrative by trends and defining events (which he calls thresholds) to articulate the big questions we’ve asked throughout time—and how we’ve answered them. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Kleiner, Samuel. The Flying Tigers: The Untold Story of the American Pilots Who Waged a Secret War Against Japan Before Pearl Harbor. Viking. May 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780399564130. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780399564147. Downloadable. HISTORY
Here’s a story you might not know. Before America entered World War II, some 300 young American men and women, secretly recruited from the armed services by the government, traveled to Burma under false identities and trained with legendary general Claire Chennault with the idea that they would be supporting Chiang Kai-shek’s China in its battle with Japan. The Flying Tigers, as they were called, were thus in place when Pearl Harbor was bombed and began their first flights 12 days later, helping to keep the Japanese occupied as U.S. troops were built up. From a former Department of Defense adviser.

Krist, Gary. The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles. Crown. May 2018. 432p. ISBN 9780451496386. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780451496409. Downloadable. HISTORY
A best-selling author (e.g., Empire of Sin) whose shelves are stacked with awards (e.g., the Stephen Crane Award), Krist allows us to be there at the creation of Los Angeles, which sprang out of the desert like the Emerald City and has shaped our imaginations since. Key figures here: film director D.W. Griffith, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and immigrant ditch digger William Mulholland, who taught himself engineering and built the aqueduct that brought the city water. Not just for local audiences.

McFaul, Michael. From Cold War to Hot Peace: The Inside Story of Russia and America. Houghton Harcourt. May 2018. 496p. ISBN 9780544716247. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780544716254. HISTORY
Starting out as President Barack Obama’s adviser on Russian affairs, McFaul helped shape a new approach to relations between those two countries. As U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration from 2012 to 2014, he saw that approach flounder as Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency and hardened his stance against the United States. Here, McFaul offers both history and memoir to give us a better understanding of America vis-à-vis Russia today. Edge-of-the-seat nonfiction reading; with a 35,000-copy first printing.

Mead, Corey. The Lost Pilots: The Spectacular Rise and Scandalous Fall of Aviation’s Golden Couple. Flatiron: Macmillan. May 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781250109248. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250109255. BIOGRAPHY
Abandoning an empty marriage, Jessie Miller left Australia for London in the 1920s, then met dashing former Royal Air Force pilot William Lancaster and became his copilot on a groundbreaking flight from London to Melbourne. They fell in love but kept their affair secret (he was still married), enjoying the celebrity glare until the 1929 crash brought their fortunes low. That’s when Jessie decided to earn money by writing a memoir—and then fell in love with her ghostwriter, which led to a terrible crime. Somebody needs to buy this for the movies.

O’Donnell, Patrick. The Unknowns. Atlantic Monthly. May 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780802128331. $27; ebk. 9780802149268. HISTORY
Built in 1921 to hold the remains of one soldier representing the unidentified thousands lost in World War I, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier now includes unknowns from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars as well. Award-winning military historian O’Donnell (Washington’s Immortals) chronicles the story not only of the tomb’s creation but of the eight veterans who served as Body Bearers when the tomb was first dedicated. They ranged from a gunner blinded by gas who still overran five machine-gun nests to an American Indian risking miles of barbed wire to continue fighting.

Philipps, Roland. A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean. Norton. May 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780393608571. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393608588. HISTORY
Philipps has a publishing background but, more important, a connection to the subject of this book: he is the grandson of Roger Makins, the last man from the Foreign Office to see Maclean before he slipped away to the Soviet Union. Billed as the first full biography of this most mysterious member of the Cambridge Five, Philipps’s work draws on recently released material from MI5 archives to portray a man often full of alcoholic rage whose double life included sharing detailing intelligence on the making of the atom bomb with the Soviets.

Platt, Stephen R. Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age. Knopf. May 2018. 592p. ISBN 9780307961730. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780307961747. Downloadable. HISTORY
Launched in 1839, the First Opium War was fought between Britain and China over issues of commerce and sovereignty and had consequences far beyond the opium trade. It would lead to the collapse of the Qing dynasty, which then spurred the rise of nationalism and communism in the following century. Start here and read to understand how China got where it is today. Platt (Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom) is a professor of Chinese history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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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