History Picks for January

Another mixed bag of history picks this month: Pineaha Murray, Rasputin, JFK and more. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverA seat at the table of my elders / Pineaha Murray.
“Pineaha Murray is an elder of Ngāti Kurī of the Far North and in this personal account he tells of his ancient forebears’ place in the northern tip of NZ – the Three Kings, Tom Bowling Bay and Parengarenga Harbour. Memories, history, myths and legends unfold and provide a rich personal story and a social history of northern communities”–Publisher information.

Syndetics book coverRasputin : the untold story / Joseph T. Fuhrmann.
“Using material from newly opened Soviet archives, particularly the correspondence of Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, Fuhrmann, an emeritus professor of history at Murray State University in Kentucky, extends the range of his Rasputin: A Life (1990). He shows how an obscure Russian Orthodox monk became a close adviser to the czar and czarina, particularly after he predicted the recovery of their son, Alexis, from a possibly fatal illness in 1909. Alexandra turned to him for advice on Russia’s WWI military campaign, and he influenced the appointment of high officials. This outsize influence, and rumors that Rasputin was pro-German, impelled a cabal of members of the nobility to assassinate him in December 1916. Fuhrman provides graphic details of the murder and weighs the evidence that the British Secret Intelligence Service participated in the plot. Fuhrmann draws a complex portrait of a dissolute alcoholic figure who allegedly raped at least one woman, yet he was seen by his many followers as a starets (charismatic holy man). Fuhrmann does not provide a final appraisal of Rasputin’s significance in the immediate prerevolution period. Still, this vivid, briskly written biography brings to life one of the most colorful and sinister figures in modern Russian history. Illus. Agent: Andrew Lownie, Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverWebs of empire : locating New Zealand’s colonial past / Tony Ballantyne.
“Positions New Zealand within these ‘webs of empire’, connecting Gore and Chicago, Māori and Asia, India and newspapers, whalers and writing. His work breaks open the narrative of colonisation to offer sharp new perspectives on New Zealand history”–Back cover.

Syndetics book coverListening in : the secret White House recordings of John F. Kennedy / John F. Kennedy Library Foundation ; selected and introduced by Ted Widmer ; foreword by Caroline Kennedy.
“Everyone knows Nixon had tape recorders running in the Oval Office, but most Americans aren’t aware that FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower experimented with audio recording and that JFK installed taping systems in 1962 that he could activate to record significant meetings and phone conversations and, occasionally, his own reflections. All 265.5 hours of those tapes (with redactions, however) are now available at the Kennedy Presidential Library. This volume, accompanied by two CDs, gathers several dozen of the most interesting conversations. In addition to obvious subjects Cuba, civil rights, space, and Vietnam the collection also includes many remarks on history, politics, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and other foreign-policy developments. Because the tapes’ quality varies, some transcripts include too many skips and unclears to convey much meaning. Quite helpful, on the other hand, are the book’s illustrations, which range from photographs to contemporaneous documents and handwritten notes. Despite its limitations, Listening In lives up to Widmer’s descriptions, a portrait of a president being president, and the closest to an autobiography we will ever get.–Carroll, Mary Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverFormer people : the final days of the Russian aristocracy / Douglas Smith.
“The wide discrepancy between the Russian peasant class (who made up 80 percent of Russia’s 19th-century population) and the nobility helped precipitate the Russian Revolution and the subsequent methodical elimination of the educated aristocratic class. Independent historian Smith (The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great’s Russia) has meticulously researched the revolutionary and Soviet eras, focusing on two noble families: the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns. Using archival resources and both primary and secondary works, Smith gives us what he calls the first work to detail the nobles’ everyday lives, as well as the consequences to the country of their elimination. By focusing on these two families, Smith brings to life another aspect of Russian and Soviet history in the first half of the 20th century. The profiled families embody what many of the Russian nobles endured, and their choices attest to the resiliency of the human spirit. VERDICT This work will be enjoyed by Russophiles and historians of the tsarist era, as well as those studying this period of Soviet history. Those who enjoy studying the Romanovs will appreciate learning more about the Russian aristocracy as a whole. As such, an important addition to Russian history collections.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Elgin Comm. Coll. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverYou saved me, too : what a Holocaust survivor taught me about living, dying, fighting, loving, and swearing in Yiddish / Susan Kushner Resnick.
“In well-executed, second-person prose, Resnick speaks directly to the elderly Aron Lieb-a virtually family-less Holocaust survivor whom she befriends-as he lies on his deathbed in a nursing home. Short vignettes skip back and forth through time, covering the history of their relationship: Resnick’s struggle with Jewish identity (“I figured as long as I stayed ambivalent about being Jewish, I might not get killed by the Nazis the next time they came”) and Aron’s own history before, during, and after the war. The writing is sentimental and emotional (culminating in “Who saved whom?”) as much as it is honest and informative; in telling Aron’s story, Resnick unapologetically criticizes both the incompetence of elder-care facilities as well as the failure of Jewish communal organizations to help a person who, after a life of hardship, deserves a break. This painful memoir is not easy to read: Resnick displays her artistic skill as she attempts to make sense of Aron’s life in light of her own (“I own the book of your life, but I can’t read it”). The telling of Aron’s story, a true labor of love, is a reminder of both the individuality of each survivor and the reality that their generation is dying and must be remembered. Agent: Alice Martell, Martell Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)