Vulnerable protagonists – Recent History Picks for September

Power and politics run deep in this month’s selection. Phantom Terror, Deng Xiaoping and American Warlords cover a vast span, chronicling the internal mechanisms of those in charge. While titles like Petals and Bullets, Nagasaki and The Wisdom Seeker focus on the intense personal reserves used to pick up the pieces of these often violent legacies of power.

Syndetics book coverPetals and bullets : Dorothy Morris, New Zealand nurse in the Spanish Civil War / Mark Derby.
“This book is based on the vivid, detailed, and evocative letters New Zealand nurse Dorothy Morris sent from Spain and other European countries. They have been supplemented by wide-ranging research to record a life of outstanding professional dedication, resourcefulness, and courage. […] Dorothy Morris’s remarkable and pioneering work in the fields of military medicine for civilian casualties, and large-scale humanitarian relief projects is told in this book for the first time.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe two-state delusion : Israel and Palestine– a tale of two narratives / Padraig O’Malley.
“Disputes over settlements […] have repeatedly derailed peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Renowned peacemaker Padraig O’Malley argues that the moment for a two-state solution has passed. After examining each issue and speaking with Palestinians and Israelis […] O’Malley concludes that even if such an agreement could be reached, it would be nearly impossible to implement.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Raj at war : a people’s history of India’s Second World War / Yasmin Khan.
“The Second World War was not fought by Britain alone. India produced the largest volunteer army in world history: over 2 million men. […] Yasmin Khan presents the hidden and sometimes overlooked history of India at war, and shows how mobilisation for the war introduced seismic processes of economic, cultural and social change — decisively shaping the international war effort, the unravelling of the empire and India’s own political and economic trajectory.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPromised you a miracle : UK80-82 / Andy Beckett.
“The early 1980s in Britain were a time of hope, and of dread: of Cold War tension and imminent conflict […] Here, Andy Beckett recreates an often misunderstood moment of transition, with all its potential and uncertainty: the first precarious years of Margaret Thatcher’s government. By the end of 1982, the country was changing, leaving the kinder, more sluggish postwar Britain decisively behind, and becoming the country we have lived in ever since: assertive, commercially driven, outward-looking, often harsher than its neighbours.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeng Xiaoping : a revolutionary life / Alexander V. Pantsov, with Steven I. Levine.
“Deng Xiaoping joined the Chinese Communist movement as a youth and rose in its ranks to become an important lieutenant of Mao’s from the 1930s onward. Two years after Mao’s death in 1976, Deng became the de facto leader of the Chinese Communist Party and the prime architect of China’s post-Mao reforms. Abandoning the Maoist socio-economic policies he had long fervently supported, he set in motion changes that would dramatically transform China’s economy, society, and position in the world. Three decades later, we are living with the results.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNagasaki : life after nuclear war / Susan Southard.
“A poignant and complex picture of the second atomic bomb’s enduring physical and psychological tolls. Eyewitness accounts are visceral and haunting… But the book’s biggest achievement is its treatment of the aftershocks in the decades since 1945.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe left side of history : World War II and the unfulfilled promise of communism in Eastern Europe / Kristen Ghodsee.
“Kristen Ghodsee tells the stories of partisans fighting behind the lines in Nazi-allied Bulgaria during World War II: British officer Frank Thompson, brother of the great historian E.P. Thompson, and fourteen-year-old Elena Lagadinova, the youngest female member of the armed anti-fascist resistance. But these people were not merely anti-fascist; they were pro-communist, idealists moved by their socialist principles to fight and sometimes die for a cause they believed to be right.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe wisdom seeker : finding the seed of advantage in the Khmer Rouge / Pisey Leng as told to Jennifer Colford ; foreword by Rob Hamill.
“Pisey Leng miraculously survived the infamous killing fields of Cambodia that claimed the lives of nearly two million people in the late seventies. In the face of unspeakable horrors, a light shined in Pisey that kept her determined to survive […] You’ll gain insight into one of the darkest points in human history. Yet your eyes will be opened to the unlimited power you have to: find serenity and peace during the worst of times.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAmerican warlords : how Roosevelt’s high command led America to victory in World War II / Jonathan W. Jordan.
“In a lifetime shaped by politics, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proved himself a master manipulator of Congress, the press, and the public. But when war in Europe and Asia threatened America’s shores, FDR found himself in a world turned upside down, where his friends became his foes, his enemies his allies.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPhantom terror : political paranoia and the creation of the modern state, 1789-1848 / Adam Zamoyski.
“For the ruling and propertied classes of the late eighteenth century, the years following the French Revolution were characterized by intense anxiety. Monarchs and their courtiers lived in constant fear of rebellion, convinced that their power–and their heads–were at risk. […] In this magisterial history, Zamoyski chronicles the moment when desperate monarchs took the world down the path of revolution, terror, and world war.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)