July 4 is almost here, and with it comes my personal list of some of my favorite recent reads, as well as a special list of some of my all-time favorite history books in order to remind all of us that it hasn’t always been just about Donald Trump.
If in the past you enjoyed the writings of either Joseph Wambaugh (the Onion Fields) or Robert Daly (Prince of the City), than you won’t be able to put down The Force, by Don Winslow.
In a world that revels in black and white, this book proves it’s still the grays that gives us pause and helps us think.
A different kind of Black and white is at the center of He calls me by lightning – the life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by Jonathan Bass.
This book chronicles the nightmare of being innocent in a Kafka-like world, whose goal is convicting someone, not achieving justice.
No grays here to confound us, so let the nightmare begin!
And speaking of nightmares, I offer the next brilliantly written book with the caveat that it was very difficult to read given the nature of the subject matter.
Not since the powerful the Rape of Nanking: the forgotten Holocaust of World War 2, written and published in 2012 by Iris Chang, did I have to stop again and again to ask myself how any author develops the skill to write so well about a subject so awful.
In the Fact of the Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnivich, we see a brilliant writer weave together her own life and personal nightmare around the life of a complete stranger whose sad life and horrific crimes she literally trips over while a student at Harvard Law School working for an anti-death penalty law firm in Louisiana.
Proceed with caution.
Meanwhile after three books where the good guys and the bad guys often get mixed up beyond recognition, it’s a relief to recommend a book about a true American hero whose background and personal story ought to give us all real pause for thought in the ugly nativist and xenophobic Age of Trump.
An outsider from a despised, feared, and often hated immigrant group at the turn of the last century, the hero of this terrific true story by Stephan Tally was an Italian immigrant named Joseph Petrosino and Tally tells the story of his remarkable life in his new book The Black Hand – the epic war between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History.
Simply put, the telling of a single great American immigrant story reminds all of us in 2017 that terror, terrorists, and terrorism is not new either to America or to the world.
Finally, two political books which tell similar tales of the curses and blessings of running for president and yet end differently are absolutely worth your time and attention.
Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes is the first rough cut at understanding the role the Clinton campaign itself played in grasping defeat from the jaws of victory in 2016.
The Road to Camelot, by two old political friends of mine, the brilliant Tom Oliphant and the great Curtis Wilkie, is the latest, and I think best, cut at understanding the role the Kennedy campaign played in grasping victory from the jaws of defeat in 1960.
And now for some of the best one volume chronicles of our nations conflicts.
The American Revolutionary War comes to life in The Glorious Cause – the American Revolution 1763-1789, by Robert Middlekauff.
The Civil War is given context and nuance in James McPherson’s one volume Battle Cry of Freedom: the Civil War Era.
World War I is best told by Barbara Tuchman in the Guns of August and. In my humble opinion, Word War 2 single volume prize goes to Gerhard Weinberg’s amazing, A world at arms.
You can’t go wrong by reading any or all of the following: A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan; Dispatches by Michael Herr; or The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.