History Picks for August

Dickens, Austen, Nixon. Sound like an odd mixture? Well, they’re all in our picks of the recent history books this month. Plus a couple of Kiwi themed histories and the wise words of the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverA guide to Dickens’ London / Daniel Tyler.
“To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, a generously illustrated guide to the city that was perhaps the greatest of his characters. From Newgate Prison to Covent Garden and from his childhood home in Camden to his place of burial in Westminster Abbey, this guide traces the influence of the capital on the life and work of one of Britain’s best-loved and well-known authors. Featuring more than 40 sites, places of worship and of business, streets and bridges, this comprehensive companion not only locates and illustrates locations from works such as Great Expectations and Little Dorrit but demonstrates how the architecture and landscape of the city influenced Dickens’ work throughout his life. Each site is illustrated with substantial quotations from Dickens’ own writing about the city he loved.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverA century of wisdom : lessons from the life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor / Caroline Stoessinger.
“Renowned pianist, music teacher, and Holocaust survivor Herz-Sommer shares intimate memories, harrowing experiences, and valuable life lessons. Recognized as the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor at 107, her legacy and her wisdom extend far beyond the years she spent at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Fellow musician and documentarian Stoessinger became acquainted with Herz-Sommer while working on a film about her life. From countless hours and interviews conducted over the course of several years, she has mined a treasure trove of insight and reflection. Herz-Sommer’s life is a tribute to the purity of artistic endeavor under the most devastating circumstances, and her refusal to be bitterly defined or essentially reshaped by tragedy is a testament to moral and spiritual courage. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, it becomes increasingly important to capture and communicate their individual stories.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverAll roads lead to Austen : a yearlong journey with Jane / Amy Elizabeth Smith ; illustrations by Lucia Mancilla Prieto.
“In this humorous memoir, devoted Austen fan Smith, a writing and literature teacher, sets out to discover whether Austen’s magic translates for readers in six Latin American countries (Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina), where she organizes book clubs to discuss Spanish translations of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Though Smith continuously calls attention to her limited Spanish language skills, she skillfully highlights how and why certain Spanish words are apt for describing Austen’s world and characters. Austen’s work provides a touchstone for surprising discussions about class, gender, and race, as well as history and literature. Smith’s account reads like an educational travel blog, full of colorful characters, overviews of the history and the traditions of each culture, as well as reflections on her own preconceived assumptions and stereotypes. This enjoyable book should appeal to fans of literature and travel, especially those interested in Latin America.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverWatergate : the hidden history : Nixon, the Mafia, and the CIA / Lamar Waldron.
“One vast conspiracy begets another in this meticulous but unconvincing theory of the Watergate scandal. Historian Waldron argues that Vice President Richard Nixon was the “driving force” behind joint CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro in 1959-1960. Waldrop further says that, as president, Nixon instigated the Watergate break-ins, undertaken by his “Plumbers” unit of old CIA Cuba hands, mainly to find a dossier that he feared could expose those earlier schemes. The author presents an exhaustive, lucid chronicle of Cuba and Watergate machinations and decades of Nixon sleaze: dirty campaign tricks, quid-pro-quo Mafia bribes, burglaries, and other felonies by his White House staff. But Waldron’s central claims about Nixon’s involvement in Castro-assassination plots and his Watergate motives are shaky and based largely on stray, ambiguous comments by marginal figures, “associate”-tracing through degrees of separation, and much rank speculation, all backed by confusing source notes. (Much of the book is a rehash of his similarly massive and implausible Legacy of Fear, which argued that the Mafia assassinated President Kennedy.) Readers will learn a lot from Waldron about America’s Cuba policy and Nixon’s many misdeeds, but the author’s search for a narrow logic behind Nixon’s omnidirectional paranoia and criminality distorts more than it clarifies.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe making of New Zealanders / Ron Palenski.
“The Making of New Zealanders is an account of how transplanted Britons and others turned themselves into New Zealanders, a distinct group of people with their own songs and sports, symbols and opinions, political traditions and sense of self. Looking at the arrival of steamships and the telegraph, at ‘God’s Own’ and the kiwi, rugby and votes for women, Ron Palenski identifies the nineteenth-century origins of the sense of New Zealandness. He argues that events earlier held to be breakthroughs in the development of a national identity – the federation of Australia in 1901, the Boer War of 1899-1902, the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 – were in fact outward affirmations of a New Zealand identity that had already taken shape.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverHuia histories of Māori : ngā Tāhuhu Kōrero / edited by Danny Keenan.
“This comprehensive history of Aotearoa New Zealand written entirely from Maori viewpoints using Maori customary structures takes a fresh look at what Maori history is and how it is different from that formerly portrayed. As a postcolonial history, it provides a range of fresh views on events in the past. Written by sixteen Maori scholars, including two Knights of the Realm, all specialists in their fields, the book covers histories of descent, the land, people, and autonomy and includes writing on customary law, ancestral law, the natural world, Maori urban protest, customary language, health, politics and cultural expression. The book is richly illustrated with over 100 photographs.” (Global Books In Print)