From well-heeled suffragettes to the undercover ‘Contractor’, real fashion victims and ‘What Happened’ by Hillary Rodham Clinton, there is a mix of book on politics, spies and victims in this month’s non-fiction picks.
The contractor : 6 true tales of counter terrorism / as told to Mark Abernethy.
“‘I fix things. I can build you a house or remodel your bathroom. I can also make bad situations – and bad people – disappear.’ Meet Mike. Runs a building site, drives a ute, likes a beer, loves his nail-gun. But Mike is hiding in plain sight. When the Pentagon call him in as ‘Big Unit’, he’s another kind of contractor – one as handy with a Colt M4 as he is with a Skilsaw, a man as accustomed to danger, death, and pain as he is to a hammer and nails. In six action-packed true stories we follow a man who left foreign intelligence for a life ‘on the tools’, only to discover there’s too many dangerous scenarios and terrible people still out there.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The anatomy of a traitor : a history of espionage and betrayal / Michael Smith.
“In this compelling investigation, Michael Smith explores the critical moment in a spy’s life: that split-second decision to embrace a double life; to cheat and hide and hurt; to risk disgrace – even death – without any guarantee of being rewarded or even recognised. Through in-depth insider knowledge, Michael Smith also uncovers new and unknown cases, including ISIS, President Trump’s links with Russia and Edward Snowden’s role as a whistleblower to offer compelling psychological portrait of these men and women, homing unerringly on the fault-lines and shady corners of their characters, their weaknesses and their strengths, the lies they tell other people, and the lies they always end up telling themselves.” (Syndetics summary)
Agent M : the lives and spies of MI5’s Maxwell Knight / Henry Hemming.
“Maxwell Knight was perhaps the greatest spymaster in history, rumored to be the real-life inspiration for the James Bond character “M.” He did more than anyone in his era to combat the rising threat of fascism in Britain during World War II, in spite of his own history inside this movement. He was also truly eccentric–a thrice-married jazz aficionado who kept a menagerie of exotic pets–and almost totally unqualified for espionage. Yet he had a gift for turning practically anyone into a fearless secret agent. Knight’s work revolutionized British intelligence, pioneering the use of female agents, among other accomplishments. Drawing on original sources, Agent M reveals not only the story of one of the world’s greatest intelligence operators, but the sacrifices and courage required to confront fascism during a nation’s darkest time.” (Syndetics summary)
Game of thorns : the inside story of Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign and Donald Trump’s winning strategy / Doug Wead.
“This first authoritative account of the precipitous fall of Hillary Clinton and the rise of Donald Trump describes how the scandals of a lifetime finally reached critical mass for both candidates, though with differing results. It shows how, during the last few days of the campaign, some on Clinton’s staff saw the ghostly fog of defeat creeping up on them but were helpless to act, frozen by the self-denial.” (Syndetics summary)
Fashion victims : the dangers of dress past and present / Alison Matthews David.
“From insidious murder weapons to blaze-igniting crinolines, clothing has been the cause of death, disease and madness throughout history, by accident and design. Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally ‘drop-dead gorgeous’ gowns. Fabulously gory and gruesome, Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women’s, men’s and children’s dress, in myth and reality.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Gilded suffragists : the New York socialites who fought for women’s right to vote / Johanna Neuman.
“In the early twentieth century over two hundred of New York’s most glamorous socialites joined the suffrage movement. Their names–Astor, Belmont, Rockefeller, Tiffany, Vanderbilt, Whitney and the like–carried enormous public value. These women were the media darlings of their day because of the extravagance of their costume balls and the opulence of the French couture clothes, and they leveraged their social celebrity for political power, turning women’s right to vote into a fashionable cause… In the end, as Neuman says, when change was in the air, these women helped push women’s suffrage over the finish line.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Democracy and its crisis / A. C. Grayling.
“Prompted by the EU referendum in the UK and the presidential election in the USA, A. C. Grayling investigates why the institutions of representative democracy seem unable to hold up against forces they were designed to manage, and why, crucially, it matters. With the advent of authoritarian leaders and the simultaneous rise of populism, representative democracy appears to be caught between a rock and a hard place, yet it is this space that it must occupy, says Grayling, if a civilized society, that looks after all its people, is to flourish.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
What happened / Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Asia’s reckoning : China, Japan, and the fate of U.S. power in the Pacific century / Richard McGregor.
“Richard McGregor’s Asia’s Reckoning is a compelling account of the widening geopolitical cracks in a region that has flourished under an American security umbrella for more than half a century. The toxic rivalry between China and Japan, two Asian giants consumed with endless history wars and ruled by entrenched political dynasties, is threatening to upend the peace underwritten by Pax Americana since World War II. Combined with Donald Trump’s disdain for America’s old alliances and China’s own regional ambitions, east Asia is entering a new era of instability and conflict… (adapted from Syndetics summary)
A farewell to ice : a report from the Arctic / Peter Wadhams.
“Peter Wadhams has been studying ice first-hand since 1970, completing 50 trips to the world’s poles and observing for himself the changes over the course of nearly five decades. His conclusions are stark: the ice caps are melting. Following the hottest summer on record, sea ice in September 2016 was the thinnest in recorded history. There is now the probability that within a few years the North Pole will be ice-free for the first time in 10,000 years. A sobering but urgent and engaging book, A Farewell to Ice shows us ice’s role on our planet, its history, and the true dimensions of the current global crisis, offering readers concrete advice about what they can do, and what must be done.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)