The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months that Changed the World by A.J. BaimeWhat it is: a thoroughly researched biography of President Harry S. Truman that focuses on the first 120 days of his term.
What sets it apart: Author A.J. Baime chronicles this period in minute detail, painting a vivid portrait of an effective leader. Many people, including Truman himself, thought he was unprepared for the job, but he faced major world events with decisiveness.
Key events: Truman's negotiations with Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill; the decision to use nuclear bombs on Japan in August 1945.
The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir by Maude Julien; translated by Adriana HunterWhat it's about: the cruel childhood of author Maude Julien, who was raised by sadistic survivalist parents in isolated and deprived circumstances, from age three to age 16. This disturbing memoir relates the abuses Julien suffered and the path to freedom offered by a sympathetic music teacher.
Why you might want to read it: Julien's love for animals and her years of therapy helped her to become an empathetic and loving adult, which is apparent as she relates her story.
The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France's Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando by Paul KixFeaturing: Robert de la Rochefoucauld, a scion of the historic and wealthy French family. During the German Occupation of France in World War II, he responded to General Charles de Gaulle's call for the French people to resist, by joining Prime Minister Winston Churchill's secret agents in the Special Operations Executive.
Why you might like it: Filled with real-life derring-do, including hair-raising escapes and spectacular acts of sabotage, this slice of World War II history will appeal to espionage buffs and those who admire the anti-Nazi resistance, especially in France.
Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality by Jaron LanierWhat it is: the autobiography of interdisciplinary scientist Jaron Lanier, who invented the term "virtual reality" and gave us new ways to understand the human mind's relationship to the universe.
Why you should read it: You'll enjoy Lanier's account of his life and the far-out ideas he's developed. Geeks, nerds, and technophobes will all appreciate this thought-provoking book.
President McKinley: Architect of the American Century by Robert W. MerryWhat it is: A comprehensive and detailed political biography of William McKinley that analyzes McKinley's role in post-Civil War American politics as well as his presidency.
Topics of note: Cut short by an assassin's bullet, McKinley's presidency was overshadowed by that of his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. However, Merry argues that McKinley initiated America's development into an imperial power.
Further reading: Stephen Kinzer's The True Flag details the growth of U.S. imperialism, starting with Roosevelt's presidency.
Counting Backwards: A Doctor's Notes on Anesthesia by Henry Jay PrzybyloWhat it's about: Anesthesiologist Henry Jay Przybylo recounts his three decades of experience in the specialty. He provides engaging anecdotes as well as musing about the history of anesthesia, which has developed enormously since its 19th-century beginnings but is not yet fully understood.
Why you might like it: Przybylo's enthusiasm for his work draws readers in to this informative book.
Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror by Victor SebestyenWhat's it is: a biography of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin that details how he masterminded Russia's post-revolutionary Reign of Terror and highlights the dictator's relationships with women. Author Victor Sebestyen demonstrates how Lenin inevitably became the center of a dangerous personality cult.
Why it's significant: Besides offering a groundbreaking portrait of Lenin, Sebestyen emphasizes links between Russia's revolutionary history and the present day.
Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi by Thomas WeberWhat it is: a revisionist biography of Adolf Hitler by an award-winning historian, who portrays him as an awkward, small-time Bavarian loner who found his calling in demagoguery.
What sets it apart: Author Thomas Weber shows the young Hitler between 1918 and 1926, teaching himself how to rise from failure and become a political manipulator par excellence.
Further reading: Peter Range Ross' 1924; Volker Ullrich's Hitler.
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