The Best History Books of July

H2It's a real grab bag in the Best History Books of July. There's a sports book, a book on Isis, a book on historical dates, a book on the War of 1812, an oral history in translation from a Nobel Prize winner... you get my drift. Here are three books from the list. As always, you can see the full list here.

 

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American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse - Here's the story of a couple who in 2012 and 2013 burned more than 70 buildings in a poor Virginia county. Amazon Senior Editor Adrian Liang described the book this way: "Hesse’s spare but memorable prose sketches the true story of a once-prosperous county now in sharp economic decline, its derelict buildings easy targets for Smith and Bundick. But Accomack County’s plunging fortunes is the simplistic explanation for the arson epidemic, and Hesse pushes that aside to plumb the complicated personal relationships, the tight-knit community, and the stories told in small towns that can shape a person’s destiny just as surely as one’s actions."
 

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The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich - This wasn't a difficult pick for this list. I first heard about this book when Alexievich was given the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. Here in the States, she's probably best known for her book Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War, although I see she's got a lot of Amazon customer support for some of her other books. Alexievich pursues her unique work through the tireless collection of oral histories, adding countless voices to the record. By the way, this isn't' the only book on women at war in the Best Histories of July. Clare Mulley's The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry is also on our list.
 

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The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record by John Eisenberg - I'm stepping off base here, but to summarize the importance of The Streak I'm going to quote Robert De Niro's character, Lorenzo, from the movie "A Bronx Tale": "He's wrong, it don't take much strength to pull a trigger but try getting up every morning day after day and work for a living, let's see him try that, then we'll see who the real tough guy is, the working man is the tough guy, your father's the tough guy!" The two players featured in The Streak are Cal Ripken Jr. and "Ironhorse" Lou Gehrig, and one passed the other for the record of most consecutive games played in baseball. The author Jeff Pearlman provided a more on-base summary of the book, which goes like this: "What makes The Streak such a superb baseball book is the gorgeous weaving of two gripping narratives into one. Cal Ripken, Jr. is fascinating. Lou Gehrig is fascinating. Together, with John Eisenberg's deft touch, the reader is gifted with a saga for the ages."
 
You can see the full list here.
 
 

 

 
 

 

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