Courage – Recent History Picks for June

Highlights from this month include the critically acclaimed Secondhand Time which made Svetlana Alexeivich a Nobel laureate last year. Dogs of Courage by Clare Campbell carries on the theme of bravery in the face of change, acknowledging the most unsung war heroes.

Syndetics book coverSecondhand time : the last of the Soviets / Svetlana Alexievich ; translated by Bela Shayevich.
“Already hailed as a masterpiece across Europe, Secondhand Time is an intimate portrait of a country yearning for meaning after the sudden lurch from Communism to capitalism in the 1990s plunged it into existential crisis. A series of monologues by people across the former Soviet empire, it is Tolstoyan in scope, driven by the idea that history is made not only by major players but also by ordinary people.” — The New York Times (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDogs of courage : when Britain’s pets went to war, 1939-45 / Clare Campbell and Christy Campbell.
Clare Campbell told the fascinating story of what it was like for Britain’s pets when the world was at war. This time, she follows the incredible journey of the dogs who conscripted to fight for their country, with some even returning with medals for their bravery.

Syndetics book coverBitter freedom : Ireland in a revolutionary world / Maurice Walsh.
“Long mythologized but seldom understood, the story of Irish independence and its grinding aftermath in the early part of the twentieth century has been told only within a parochial Anglo-Irish context. Now, in the critically acclaimed Bitter Freedom, Maurice Walsh, with “a novelist’s eye for detailing lives in extremis” (Feargal Keane, Prospect), places revolutionary Ireland within the panorama of nationalist movements born out of World War I.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe first migration : Māori origins 3000BC – AD1450 / Atholl Anderson.
“Thousands of years ago migrants from South China began the journey that took their descendants through the Pacific to the southernmost islands of Polynesia. Atholl Anderson’s synthesis of research and tradition charts this epic journey of New Zealand’s first human inhabitants. Taken from Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History this text weaves together evidence from numerous sources: oral traditions, archaeology, genetics, linguistics, ethnography, historical observations, palaeoecology, climate change and more.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy holiday in North Korea : the funniest/worst place on Earth / Wendy E. Simmons.
“Most people want out of North Korea. Wendy Simmons wanted in. Through poignant, laugh-out-loud essays and 92 never-before-published color photographs of North Korea, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever. Along the way, she bares all while undergoing an inner journey as convoluted as the country itself.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe way to the spring : life and death in Palestine / Ben Ehrenreich.
“Ruled by the Israeli military, set upon and harassed constantly by Israeli settlers who admit unapologetically to wanting to drive them from the land, […] this is a population whose living conditions are unique, and indeed hard to imagine. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIndependence or union : Scotland’s past and Scotland’s present / T.M. Devine.
“There can be no relationship in Europe’s history more creative, significant, vexed and uneasy than that between Scotland and England. […] But as Devine makes clear, it has for the most part been a relationship based on consent, not force, on mutual advantage, rather than antagonism – and it has always held the possibility of a political parting of the ways. With the United Kingdom under a level of scrutiny unmatched since the eighteenth century Independence or Union is the essential guide.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe sister queens : Isabella & Catherine de Valois / Mary McGrigor.
“Isabella de Valois was 3 years old when her father suddenly went mad. […] Isabella’s sister, Catherine de Valois, became the beautiful young bride of Henry V. Like her sister, Catherine was viewed as a bargaining chip in times of political turmoil, yet her passionate love affair with the young Owain Tudor established the entire Tudor dynasty. The Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, exile and conflict in a time when even royal women had to fight for survival.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPaper tiger : inside the real China / Xu Zhiyuan ; translated from the Chinese by Michelle Deeter and Nicky Harman.
“Xu Zhiyuan describes the many stages upon which China’s great transformation is taking place, from Beijing’s Silicon district to a cruise down the Three Gorges; he profiles China’s dissidents, including Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei and Chen Guangcheng; and explores lesser-known stories of scandals that rocked China but which most people outside that country did not hear about. Xu Zhiyuan understands his homeland in a way no foreign correspondent ever could.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe anatomy of the Zulu army : from Shaka to Cetshwayo, 1818-1879 / Ian Knight.
“Forces of the independent Zulu kingdom inflicted a crushing defeat on British imperial forces at Isandlwana in January 1879. The Zulu Army was not, however, a professional force, unlike its British counterpart, but was the mobilized manpower of the Zulu state. […] Knight analyzes the Zulu’s fighting methods, weapons and philosophy, all of which led to the disciplined force that faced the British army in 1879.” (Syndetics summary)