Category: Recent picks

Recent History Picks

Every month is a reminder that history reading lets us travel through multiple dimensions, a space heightened through time, shedding light on both the most exhausted and uncharted grounds.

Syndetics book coverSunken cities : Egypt’s lost worlds : the BP exhibition / edited by Franck Goddio and Aurélia Masson-Berghoff.
“This book showcases a spectacular collection of artefacts, coupled with a retelling of the history by world-renowned experts in the subject (including the sites’ long-term excavator), bringing the reader face-to-face with this vibrant ancient society.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFear drive my feet / Peter Ryan.
“At age eighteen, Peter Ryan was an intelligence operative, patrolling isolated regions of New Guinea during World War II. Isolated, with Japanese forces closing in, he endured the hardships of the jungle without adequate supplies, a radio, or even a proper map. Ryan’s gripping account has become a classic memoir of the war in the Pacific, rarely out of print in forty years.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGhost empire / Richard Fidler.
“In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard’s passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire – centred around the legendary Constantinople – we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art of time travel : historians and their craft / Tom Griffiths.
“No matter how practised we are at history, it always humbles us. No matter how often we visit the past, it always surprises us. The art of time travel is to maintain critical poise and grace in this dizzy space.’ In this landmark book, eminent historian and award-winning author Tom Griffiths explores the craft of discipline and imagination that is history.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe drone eats with me : a Gaza diary / Atef Abu Saif.
“An unforgettable rendering of everyday civilian life shattered by the realities of twenty-first-century warfare. Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza lasted 51 days, killed 2,145 Palestinians (578 of them children), injured over 11,000 people, and demolished more than 17,000 homes. Atef Abu Saif, a young father and novelist, puts an indelibly human face on these statistics, providing a rare window into the texture of a community and the realities of a conflict that is too often obscured by politics.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEggs or anarchy : the remarkable story of the man tasked with the impossible : to feed a nation at war / William Sitwell.
Eggs or Anarchy is one of the great, British stories of the Second World War yet to be told in full. It reveals the heroic tale of how Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, really fed Britain. A grammar school-educated genius, he was a fish out of water in Churchill’s cabinet and the PM himself doubted Woolton would survive due to the unstinting criticism he faced from colleagues, the press and public.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCan you tolerate this? : personal essays / Ashleigh Young.
“In this spirited and singular book, Young roams freely from preoccupation to preoccupation Hamilton’s 90s music scene, family histories, a boy with a rare skeletal disease, a stone-collecting French postman, a desire for impossible physical transformation ¿ trying to find some measure of clarity amid uncertainty. How to bear each moment of experience: the inconsequential as much as the shattering? Her search takes us through poignant, funny and raw territories.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGeneration revolution : on the front line between tradition and change in the Middle East / Rachel Aspden.
“In 2003, Rachel Aspden arrived in Egypt as a 23-year-old trainee journalist. She found a country on the brink of change. The new generation were stifled; caught between a dictatorship with nothing to offer them and autocratic parents still clinging to tradition and obedience after a lifetime of fear. Following the stories of four young Egyptians, Aspden unravels the complex forces shaping the lives of young people caught between tradition and modernity.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlack square : adventures in the post-Soviet world / Sophie Pinkham.
Black Square is a multidimensional portrait of a period of tumultuous change, and of a generation that came of age after the fall of the USSR, only to see protestors shot on Kiev’s main square, Crimea annexed by Russia, and a bitter war in eastern Ukraine. We meet a charismatic doctor fighting the AIDS epidemic even as he struggles with his own drug addiction; an iconoclastic artist with a penchant for public nudity; and a Russian-Jewish clarinettist agitating for Ukrainian liberation.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCalifornia comeback : how a “failed state” became a model for the nation / Narda Zacchino, with Christopher Scheer.
“In the most economically important state in the country–and the 7th largest economy in the world–a political revolution of historic importance has occurred which has not been sufficiently covered by the media. In the state where the Reagan Revolution was born, there has recently occurred a remarkable progressive revolution under the leadership of another governor, four-term Democrat Jerry Brown.”  (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Hidden – Recent History Picks for August

Much is about what lays hidden under the surface in this month’s picks. Whether it be the beauty amid the grit, strategy under adversity, violence disguised by calm, or the tensions behind a façade, these reads promise compelling depths of meaning.

Syndetics book coverBad history : how we got the past wrong / Emma Marriott.
“Much of what we know about historical events is based on generally accepted ‘facts’: St Patrick was Irish; Roman gladiators would fight to the death; the Wild West was full of danger. Each entry in this informative book will discuss the case for and against these commonly accepted truths, and corrects what you thought you knew about history.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fall of heaven : the Pahlavis and the final days of imperial Iran / Andrew Scott Cooper.
“An immersive, gripping account of the rise and fall of Iran’s glamorous Pahlavi dynasty, written with the cooperation of the late Shah’s widow, Empress Farah, Iranian revolutionaries and US officials from the Carter administration. The Fall of Heaven recreates in stunning detail the dramatic and final days of one of the world’s most legendary ruling families, the unseating of which helped set the stage for the current state of the Middle East.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAngela Merkel : Europe’s most influential leader / Matthew Qvortrup.
“With the storytelling gifts of a novelist, Matt Qvortrup gives readers unprecedented, personal insight into Frau Merkel’s upbringing under communism. This is the story–told for the first time in English–of how Merkel and her staff of mostly female advisors repeatedly outsmarted the old boys network of conservative male politicians in Germany, turning her country into a more liberal and more prosperous place.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLucie Aubrac : the French resistance heroine who outwitted the Gestapo / Siân Rees.
“In May 1943, a young Frenchwoman called Lucie Aubrac engineered the escape of her husband, Raymond, from the clutches of Klaus Barbie, the feared Gestapo chief later known as the “Butcher of Lyon.” Spirited out of France with Raymond by the RAF, Lucie arrived in London a heroine. Siân Rees’s penetrating, even-handed account offers a thrilling portrait of a brave, resourceful woman who went to extraordinary lengths for love and country.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAncient worlds : an epic history of east & west / Michale Scott.
“Acclaimed historian and TV presenter Michael Scott guides us through an epic story spanning ten centuries to create a bold new reading of the classical era for our globalised world. Scott challenges our traditionally western-focused perception of the past, connecting Greco-Roman civilisation to the great rulers and empires that swept across Central Asia to India and China resulting in a truly global vision of ancient history.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRio de Janeiro : extreme city / Luiz Eduardo Soares ; translated by Anthony Doyle.
“Luiz Eduardo Soares tells the story of Rio through the everyday lives of its people: gangsters and police, activists, politicians and struggling migrant workers, each with their own version of the city. Taking us on a journey into Rio’s intricate world of favelas, beaches and corridors of power, Soares reveals one of the most extraordinary cities in the world in all its seething, agonistic beauty.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe view from the corner shop : the diary of a wartime shop assistant / Kathleen Hey ; edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson.
“Kathleen Hey spent the war years helping her sister run a grocery shop in the Yorkshire town of Dewsbury. From July 1941 to July 1946 she kept a diary for the Mass-Observation project, recording the thoughts and concerns of the people who used the shop. What makes Kathleen’s account such a compelling read is the immediacy of her writing. People were pulling together on the surface, but there are plenty of tensions underneath.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCrusade and jihad : origins, history and aftermath / Malcolm Lambert.
“Malcolm Lambert investigates the histories of Christianity and Islam to trace the origins and development of crusade and jihad. In a narrative that brims with larger than life characters – among them, Richard Lionheart, Nur al-Din, Saladin, Baybars and Ghengiz Khan – he describes the fiercely fought struggles to control the sacred places of the Middle East between the seventh and thirteenth centuries.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFor king and another country : Indian soldiers on the Western Front, 1914-18 / Shrabani Basu.
“Over a million Indian soldiers fought in the First World War, the largest force from the colonies and dominions. Their contribution, however, has been largely forgotten. Shrabani Basu delves into archives in Britain and narratives buried in villages in India and Pakistan to recreate the War through the eyes of the Indians who fought it. Above all, it is the great story of how the War changed India and led, ultimately, to the call for independence.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverZero hour : 100 years on : views from the parapet of the Somme / Jolyon Fenwick.
“The first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, was the most devastating event of the First World War for the British army. 14 panoramas show the Somme’s major sites as they look today. Zero Hour is simultaneously a celebration of the renewing power of nature, and a powerful and unconventional reminder of the horrors of the past.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Big Ideas – Recent History Picks for July

Epic histories are offered in this month’s round-up, encompassing the revolutions in China and Russia and the turbulent change of the Middle East. The latter two regions inspire a multi-vocal approach that embraces subjectivity and variation in perspective.

Syndetics book coverThe cultural revolution : a people’s history, 1962-1976 / Frank Dikötter.
“Acclaimed by the Daily Mail as ‘definitive and harrowing’ , this is the final volume of ‘The People’s Trilogy’. After the economic disaster of the Great Leap Forward that claimed tens of millions of lives between 1958 and 1962, an ageing Mao launched an ambitious scheme to shore up his reputation and eliminate those he viewed as a threat to his legacy. The stated goal of the Cultural Revolution was to purge the country of bourgeois, capitalist elements he claimed were threatening genuine communist ideology.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSoutheast Asia : an introductory history / Milton Osborne.
“While giving due regard to the early history of the region, Osborne concentrates on the changes that have taken place since the 18th century: the impact of colonial rule, economic transformations of the 19th and 20th centuries, the emergence and triumph of the independence movements, the impact of social change, and the pivotal roles played by religion, ethnic minorities, and immigrant groups. He also provides an introduction to the art of the region and a comprehensive guide to literature about Southeast Asia.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOnce in a great city : a Detroit story / David Maraniss.
“It’s 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America. [...] Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities and competition from abroad to explain Detroit’s collapse, one could see the signs of a city’s ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHistorically inevitable? : turning points of the Russian Revolution / edited by Tony Brenton.
“Marx held that the progression of society from capitalism to communism was ‘historically inevitable’. In Russia in 1917, it seemed that Marx’s theory was being born out in reality. But was the Russian Revolution really inevitable? This collection of fourteen contributions from the world’s leading Russian scholars attempts to answer the question by looking back at the key turning points of the revolution.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe history book.
“Travel back in time with the latest instalment in the bestselling Big Ideas series. The History Book charts world history from the dawn of civilisation to the modern culture we live in today. From the origins of homo-sapiens to the release of Nelson Mandela, from the French Revolution to the Space Race, The History Book is a stunning exploration of the human timeline up to and including modern Islam, the world wide web, and the global financial crisis.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDefending the motherland : the Soviet women who fought Hitler’s aces / Lyuba Vinogradova ; with an introducation by Antony Beevor ; translated from the Russian by Arch Tait.
“Battling not just fearsome Aces of the Luftwaffe but also patronising prejudice from their own leaders, women such as Lilya Litvyak and Ekaterina Budanova are brought to life by the diaries and recollections of those who knew them, and who watched them live, love, fight and die.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShifting sands : the unraveling of the old order in the Middle East / edited by Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson.
Shifting Sands brings together fifteen impassioned and informed voices to talk about a region with unlimited potential, and yet which can feel, as one writer puts it, “as though the world around me is on fire.” This collection has as its framing event the Sykes-Picot agreement, which marks its centenary this year. [...] For all those who are wearied by the debates surrounding the Middle East ‘often at best ill-informed and at worst, defeatist propaganda’ this intelligent, reasoned perspective on life in the Middle East is a breath of fresh air.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAssholes : a theory of Donald Trump / by Aaron James.
“Make America Great Again? Donald Trump is an asshole is a fact widely agreed upon–even by his supporters, who actually like that about him. But his startling political rise makes the question of just what sort of asshole he is, and how his assholedom may help to explain his success, one not just of philosophical interest but of almost existential urgency. [...] You will never think about Donald Trump and his Art of the Deal the same way after reading this book. And, like it or not, think about him we must.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Modi effect : inside Narendra Modi’s campaign to transform India / Lance Price.
“Political parties in Britain, Australia and North America pride themselves on the sophistication of their election strategies, but Modi’s campaign was a master-class in modern electioneering. His team created an election machine that broke new ground in the use of social media, the Internet, mobile phones and digital technologies. [...] These pioneering techniques brought millions of young people to the ballot box as Modi trounced the governing Congress Party led by the Gandhi dynasty.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSaved to remember : Raoul Wallenberg, Budapest 1944 and after / Frank Vajda.
“Frank Vajda, a major figure in Australian neurology, was a boy in Budapest, Hungary, during the Second World War. He witnessed the attempt by Hitler’s Nazis and a fascist Hungarian militia to murder him, his family and the rest of the Jews of this nation. Frank survived in the care of his courageous and ever-resourceful mother. Vajda vividly and matter-of-factly conveys what life was like for Jews trying to stay alive in a world where the law of the land, backed up by brute soldierly force, suddenly determined that they were to be killed, and how they hid, bluffed, and fought to avoid that fate.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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)

The Fight for Change – Recent History picks for April

Compare the slow decay of Shekhawati’s abandoned mansions, with the continuing turbulent change of the Arab Spring in Jack Shenker’s The Egyptians, or the global waves explained in 1956: The World in Revolt, The New Deal and Jurgen Kocka’s Capitalism, of which the ramifications have irreversibly altered life for us all.

Syndetics book coverThe cowshed : memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution / Ji Xianlin ; translated from the Chinese by Chenxin Jiang.
“The Chinese Cultural Revolution began in 1966 and led to a ten-year-long reign of Maoist terror throughout China, in which millions died or were sent to labor camps in the country or subjected to other forms of extreme discipline and humiliation. Ji Xianlin was one of them. The Cowshed is Ji’s harrowing account of his imprisonment in 1968 on the campus of Peking University and his subsequent disillusionment with the cult of Mao.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe morning they came for us : dispatches from Syria / Janine di Giovanni.
“In May of 2012, Janine di Giovanni travelled to Syria, marking the beginning of a long relationship with the country, as she began reporting from both sides of the conflict, witnessing its descent into one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. The Morning They Came for Us is an unflinching account of a nation on the brink of disintegration, charting an apocalyptic but at times tender story of life in a jihadist war – and an unforgettable testament to human resilience in the face of devastating, unimaginable horrors.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAbandoned India : the mansions of Shekhawati / photographs by Kip Scott ; foreword by Lal Singh Shekhawat.
“A rare and evocative photographic portrait of India, and specifically Shekhawati’s ‘abandoned’ mansions, and its desert towns. This exquisitely produced book features a selection of Scott’s work made throughout the region of Shekhawati in Rajasthan, India. Here we glimpse courtyards, living spaces, frescoes, vast interiors, both lovingly restored and bordering on ruin. Scott’s images capture the complex nature of change, of sublime beauty and decay, mirroring an India that will seduce the reader.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Egyptians : a radical story / Jack Shenker.
“From award-winning journalist Jack Shenker, The Egyptians is the essential book about Egypt and radical politics In early 2011, Cairo’s Tahrir Square briefly commanded the attention of the world. Half a decade later, the international media has largely moved on from Egypt’s explosive cycles of revolution and counter-revolution – but the Arab World’s most populous nation remains as volatile as ever, its turmoil intimately bound up with forms of authoritarian power and grassroots resistance that stretch right across the globe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe London County Council bomb damage maps, 1939-1945 / Laurence Ward.
“The aerial bombardment of London during the Second World War is one of the most significant events in the city’s modern history. Between 1939 and 1945, London and its environs experienced destruction on a huge and deadly scale, with air raids and rocket attacks reducing entire buildings and streets to rubble. This landmark publication represents an invaluable graphic representation of one of the most dramatic and affecting episodes in the history of London.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Age of Genius : the seventeenth century and the birth of the modern mind / A.C. Grayling.
The Age of Genius explores the eventful intertwining of outward event and inner intellectual life to tell, in all its richness and depth, the story of the 17th century in Europe. It was a time of creativity unparalleled in history before or since, from science to the arts, from philosophy to politics. [...] a fundamentally new way of perceiving the world emerged as reason rose to prominence over tradition, and the rights of the individual took center stage in philosophy and politics, a paradigmatic shift that would define Western thought for centuries to come.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCapitalism : a short history / Jürgen Kocka ; translated by Jeremiah Riemer.
“In this book, one of the world’s most renowned historians provides a concise and comprehensive history of capitalism within a global perspective from its medieval origins to the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. From early commercial capitalism in the Arab world, China, and Europe, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialization, to today’s globalized financial capitalism, Jürgen Kocka offers an unmatched account of capitalism, one that weighs its great achievements against its great costs, crises, and failures.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe New Deal : a global history / Kiran Klaus Patel.
“By avoiding the distortions of American exceptionalism, Kiran Klaus Patel shows how America’s reaction to the Great Depression connected it to the wider world. Ultimately, Patel argues, the New Deal provided the institutional scaffolding for the construction of American global hegemony in the postwar era, making this history essential for understanding both the New Deal and America’s rise to global leadership.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUntil we are free : my fight for human rights in Iran / Shirin Ebadi.
“Dr Shirin Ebadi, Iranian human rights lawyer and activist, tells of her fight for reform inside Iran, and the devastating backlash she faced after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Having fought tirelessly for democracy, equality before the law and freedom of speech, Ebadi became a global voice of inspiration. Yet, inside her own country, her life has been plagued by surveillance, intimidation and violence. An illuminating depiction of life in Iran today as well as the account of Ebadi’s personal struggle to uphold her work and keep her family together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover1956, the world in revolt / Simon Hall.
“1956 was one of the most remarkable years of the twentieth century. All across the globe, ordinary people spoke out, filled the streets and city squares, and took up arms in an attempt to win their freedom. In response to these unprecedented challenges to their authority, those in power fought back, in a desperate bid to shore up their position. It was an epic contest, and one which made 1956 – like 1789 and 1848 – a year that changed our world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent History Picks for March

Promising highlights from this month’s offer include City of Thorns, a personal look into the world’s largest refugee camp and Native, an insight into the complexities of a life led by an Israeli-Palestinian.

Syndetics book coverRepublic of spin : an inside history of the American presidency / David Greenberg.
“We now have, and have had for some time, according to Greenberg, the image-is-everything presidency. Spin, he argues, is here to stay; it is neither our savior nor a sinister force eating away at our democratic soul. This revealing account of politics as image in U.S. presidential culture should be read by any student of the American presidency and American politics.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBad news : last journalists in a dictatorship / Anjan Sundaram.
“Sundaram’s memoir seeks to expose the rotten dictatorship beneath the surface of the apparently stable, “democratic” postgenocide government of Rwanda. This nonfiction version of George Orwell’s 1984 is essential for anyone paying attention to African politics. (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn Palestine / Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé ; edited by Frank Barat.
“Ilan Pappé and Noam Chomsky, two leading voices in the struggle to liberate Palestine, discuss the road ahead for Palestinians and how the international community can pressure the United States and Israel to end their human rights abuses against the people of Palestine. On Palestine is the sequel to their acclaimed book, Gaza in crisis.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMidnight in broad daylight : A Japanese American family caught between two worlds / Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
“This is an epic chronicle of the Fukuharas, a Japanese family living in the Pacific Northwest in the early 20th century who moved to their mother’s ancestral home in Hiroshima during the Great Depression, only to have two of the children return to the United States, while others were conscripted in military service. Sakamoto’s scrupulously researched story employs material gathered through interviews with surviving Fukuhara family members to show how the war in the Pacific affected both the Japanese and Japanese Americans.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lovers : Afghanistan’s Romeo & Juliet : the true story of how they defied their families and escaped an honor killing / Rod Nordland.
“Growing up on neighboring farms in the Bamiyan Valley, Zakia and Ali fell in love as teens. Ali asked Zakia’s father, Zaman, for Zakia’s hand in marriage, but because they were from different tribes, Zaman refused. Nordland offers a stark, eye-opening look at the deplorable state of women’s rights in Afghanistan through the travails of a brave, determined young couple.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCity of thorns : nine lives in the world’s largest refugee camp / Ben Rawlence.
“The saga of Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, the City of Thorns of the title, reveals the sort of intersection between humanity’s greatest nightmares and triumphs that seems to belong more to fiction than to the real world. [...] Rawlence has written a book that just might change the world or, at the very least, awaken readers to one criminally forgotten corner of it. A tour de force.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNative : dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian life / Sayed Kashua ; translated form the Hebrew by Ralph Mandel.
“This startling and insightful collection of Kashua’s (Second Person Singular) popular weekly columns for the Hebrew-language newspaper Haaretz narrates the sobering reality of life as an Israeli-Palestinian. Whether recounting the insults encountered by his children, shaming from friends and critics alike, Kafkaesque encounters with the civil justice system, or his dreams of escape, Kashua maintains a light satiric tone and steady compassion even as the essays slide into disillusionment. [It] is bound to open the eyes and awaken the sympathies of a new swath of loyal readers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover100 documents that changed the world : from the Magna Carta to WikiLeaks / Scott Christianson.
“The documents included here have changed the course of history by rewriting laws, granting freedoms and laying out constitutions. As well as official charters and presidential proclamations, there are also the hand-written documents that have gone on to shape the way we think, the scrawled notes that mark breakthroughs in the worlds of science and technology, and the annotated manuscripts that have become literary landmarks.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

History Redrawn – Recent History Picks for February

Two books this month show the fascinating stories that arise at the intersection between words and pictures. Renowned illustrator E.H. Shepard gives a first hand account of WWI through his sketchbook and Ted Danforth works through the complex entanglements between East and West through spontaneous watercolours which exemplify constant change and the ‘redrawing of history’. Also of note, a new persperctive on the work and life of Te Whiti o Rongomai at Parihaka, and a story of the heroism of two women embroiled in WWII events in the Philippines.

Syndetics book coverThe hundred-year walk : an Armenian odyssey / Dawn Anahid MacKeen.
“An epic tale of one man’s courage in the face of genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to tell his story. In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. [...] The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fortunes of Africa : a 5000-year history of wealth, greed, and endeavour / Martin Meredith.
“Africa has been coveted for its riches ever since the era of the Pharaohs. [...] In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe longest trail : writings on American Indian history, culture, and politics / Alvin M. Josephy, Jr 
“Alvin Josephy Jr.’s groundbreaking, popular books and essays advocated for a fair and true historical assessment of Native Americans, and set the course for modern Native American studies. This collection, which includes magazine articles, speeches, a white paper, and introductions and chapters of books, gives a generous and reasoned view of five hundred years of Indian history in North America from first settlements in the East to the long trek of the Nez Perce Indians in the Northwest.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBuenos Aires : the biography of a city / James Gardner.
“In Buenos Aires, Art and culture critic James Gardner offers a colorful biography of the “Paris of the South”, from its origins and time as a colonial city, through its Golden age, the rise of Peron, and the Falklands War, to the present day. With entertaining asides about art, architecture, literature, food and dance, as well as local customs and colorful personalities, this is a rich and unique historical narrative of Buenos Aires.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShepard’s war : E.H. Shepard : the man who drew Winnie-the-Pooh / compiled by James Campbell ; foreword by Minette Shepard.
Shepard is most widely known for his illustrations of the Winnie-the-Pooh series and The Wind in the Willows, and these drawings have become classics in their own right, iconic in the minds of children and adults everywhere. With over a hundred pieces of original artwork [...] this is a unique insight into the life of an incredibly talented yet humble man and a rare visual journey into the Great War.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Eastern question : a geopolitical history in 108 maps & drawings / by Ted Danforth.
“In the 19th century, the term the ‘Eastern Question’ referred to the problem posed by the impending dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the fall of which in the second decade of the 20th engendered the modern ‘muddle’ of the Middle East in the 21st. The drawings are historical political cartoons; the maps ground the reader in the geography of time and place. Painting with a broad brush, the author sketches in the story with short texts that explain the drawings as much as the drawings illustrate the texts.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHidden Britain : secret tunnels, lost chambers and unknown passageways / Alvin Nicholas.
“This extraordinary book is a treasure chest of antiquities, gripping true stories, romantic legends, and little-known curiosities. [...] Thoroughly researched and with more than 200 entries, this beautifully illustrated and highly readable book takes readers on a guided tour of a long-neglected subject. History enthusiasts, incurable romantics, and the plain curious apply within.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTe Whiti o Rongomai and the resistance of Parihaka / Danny Keenan.
“This is an account of the life and times of Te Whiti o Rongomai set against the politics and Crown policies of the nineteenth century. The book discusses the struggles Te Whiti had, as understood by some of his living relatives, against native policy of the time, and it gives insights into the motivations of Te Whiti and his actions. It explores the community at Parihaka, its resistance and the consequences of this and looks at Maori and government actions and responses up to the present day.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLife and death in the Andes : on the trail of bandits, heroes, and revolutionaries / Kim MacQuarrie.
“Unique portraits of legendary characters along South America’s mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day, told by a master traveler and observer. [...] Deeply observed and beautifully written, Life and Death in the Andes shows us this land as no one has before.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAngels of the underground : the American women who resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II / Theresa Kaminski.
Angels of the Underground tells the story of two American women known only as Miss U and High Pockets. [...] Kaminksi highlights how women have always been active participants in war, whether or not they wear a military uniform. An impressive work of scholarship grounded in archival research and personal interviews, this is also a stunning story of courage and heroism in wartime.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent History Picks for January

This month, summer-friendly reading that will take you wandering through the wilderness of Claxton, where Mark Cocker’s seasonal nature diary springs with vivid detail. In another diary, experience a candid day in the life of Anne McEntegart, who headed a busy farm in the turbulent years of World War II in her support of the war effort. Both make sense of their human world through the subtle rhythms of nature.

Syndetics book coverClaxton : field notes from a small planet / Mark Cocker ; illustrated by Jonathan Gibbs.
“In 2001 Mark Cocker moved to Claxton, a small village in Norfolk. In a series of daily writings spanning the course of a year he explores his relationship to the landscape he lives in, to nature and to all the living things around him – the birds, plants, trees, mammals, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, bush crickets, grasshoppers, ants and bumblebees. Passionate, astonishing and inspiring, this book is a celebration of the wonder that lies in our everyday experience.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe milk lady at New Park Farm : the wartime diary of Anne McEntegart June 1943 – February 1945 / Anne McEntegart.
“Anne McEntegart wanted to support the War Effort. Her Royal Air Force officer husband was working abroad and her only child was in Canada, evacuated for safety. Aged thirty-eight, Anne left London, and her life as the wife of an officer, to work on the land and deliver milk for Walter Gossling at New Park Farm, just outside the village of Brockenhurst, in the New Forest.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverIraq : a history / John Robertson.
“In this insightful analysis, highly-respected expert John Robertson canvases the entirety of Iraq’s rich history, from the seminal advances of its Neolithic inhabitants to the aftermath of the American-led invasion and Iraq today. Grounded in extensive research, this balanced account of a country and its people explores the greatness and grandeur of Iraq’s achievements, the brutality and magnificence of its ancient empires, its contributions to the emergence of the world’senduring monotheistic faiths, and the role the great Arab caliphs of Baghdad played in the medieval cultural flowering that contributed so much to the European Renaissance and the eventual rise of the West.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSamuel Pepys : plague, fire, revolution / edited by Margarette Lincoln.
“Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) lived through one of the most exciting and troubled periods in English history.[...] Published to coincide with an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK, this engaging portrait explores the public and personal worlds of Pepys, not only a famous diarist whose description of the Fire of London is unequaled but also an energetic and talented man who rose from modest beginnings to become the greatest naval administrator of the age.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe forest people / Colin Turnbull.
“For three years, Colin Turnbull lived with an isolated group of Pygmies deep in the forest of the African Congo, experiencing their daily life first-hand. He attended their hunting parties and initiation ceremonies, witnessed their music and their rituals, observed their quarrels and love affairs. He documented them as an anthropologist but was accepted among them as a friend. A ground-breaking work in its time, The Forest People made him one of the most famous intellectuals of the 1960s and 1970s. It remains a transporting account of an earthly paradise and of a legendary and fascinating people.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverElizabeth : Renaissance prince / Lisa Hilton.
“With new research out of France, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, Hilton’s fresh interpretation is of a queen who saw herself primarily as a Renaissance prince and used Machiavellian statecraft to secure that position. [...] It’s a fascinating journey that shows how a marginalized newly crowned queen, whose European contemporaries considered her to be the illegitimate ruler of a pariah nation, ultimately adapted to become England’s first recognizably modern head of state.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe love of strangers : what six Muslim students learned in Jane Austen’s London / Nile Green.
“In July 1815, six Iranian students arrived in London under the escort of their chaperone, Captain Joseph D’Arcy. Their mission was to master the modern sciences behind the rapid rise of Europe. Over the next four years, they lived both the low life and high life of Regency London, from being down and out after their abandonment by D’Arcy to charming their way into society and landing on the gossip pages. The Love of Strangers tells the story of their search for love and learning in Jane Austen’s England.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFighters in the shadows : a new history of the French resistance / Robert Gildea.
“The French Resistance has an iconic status in the struggle to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe, but its story is entangled in myths. [...] Robert Gildea’s penetrating history of resistance in France during World War II sweeps aside “the French Resistance” of a thousand clichés, showing that much more was at stake than freeing a single nation from Nazi tyranny.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rift : a new Africa breaks free / Alex Perry.
“A vivid, powerful and controversial look at how the world gets Africa wrong, and how a resurgent Africa is forcing it to think again. Africa has long been misunderstood–and abused–by outsiders. Correspondent Alex Perry traveled the continent for most of a decade, meeting with entrepreneurs and warlords, professors and cocaine smugglers, presidents and jihadis. Beginning with a devastating investigation into a largely unreported war crime-in 2011, when the US and the major aid agencies helped cause a famine in which 250,000 Somalis died-he finds Africa at a moment of furious self-assertion.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPower wars : inside Obama’s post-9/11 presidency / Charlie Savage.
“Barack Obama campaigned on a promise of change from George W. Bush’s “global war on terror.” Yet from indefinite detention and drone strikes to surveillance and military tribunals, Obama ended up continuing-and in some cases expanding-many policies he inherited. What happened? In Power Wars, Charlie Savage looks inside the Obama administration’s national security legal and policy team in a way that no one has before.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Changing Places – Recent History Picks for December

This month’s picks show us that history is not about a static obsession with the past. In vivid portrayals of modern day Cuba, rapidly growing Asian America, the fiercely modern communications through which the Arab Spring gained steam and one couple’s disorienting move from inner-city New York to the deep South, these titles all examine radical change, using the past as a way to make sense of the dynamic present and future.

Syndetics book coverEmbracing Cuba / Byron Motley ; foreword by Dr. Mariela Castro-Espín.
Forgoing the political imagery that has dominated American media, Motley highlights the many ways in which Cubans retain and nourish their zest for life despite the scarcity of every day. Through his vivid photographs, readers discover the real Cuba: its heart-stopping architecture and infectious energy, its cars seemingly teleported from the past, its love of baseball so fierce as to be nearly religious, the joy of community, and the unexpected juxtapositions of life in the last bastion of communism in the Western world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe making of Asian America : a history / Erika Lee. 
“In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInferno in Chechnya : Russian-Chechen wars, the Al Qaeda myth, and the Boston Marathon bombings / Brian Glyn Williams.
“In 2013, the United States suffered its worst terrorist bombing since 9/11 at the annual running of the Boston Marathon. When the culprits turned out to be U.S. residents of Chechen descent, Americans were shocked and confused. Why would members of an obscure Russian minority group consider America their enemy? Inferno in Chechnya is the first book to answer this riddle by tracing the roots of the Boston attack to the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHistory of the world in maps : the rise and fall of empires, countries and cities.
“From Babylonian tablets to Google Maps, the world has evolved rapidly, along with the ways in which we see it. In this time, cartography has not only kept pace with these changes, but has often driven them. In this beautiful book, over 70 maps give a visual representation of the history of the world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCrossing the river : a life in Brazil / Amy Ragsdale.
“Elegantly written and vibrant in detail, Crossing the River tells a global story through a personal memoir, examining life without the trappings of modern American culture, and revealing surprising truths about identity, family, and love.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe march of folly : from Troy to Vietnam / Barbara W. Tuchman.
“Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Barbara W. Tuchman, grapples with her boldest subject: the pervasive presence, through the ages, of failure, mismanagement, and delusion in government. Tuchman’s incomparable talent for animating the people, places, and events of history is on spectacular display. (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe new Arabs : how the millennial generation is changing the Middle East / Juan Cole. 
“Renowned blogger and Middle East expert Juan Cole takes us “inside the youth movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, showing us how activists used technology and social media to amplify their message and connect with like-minded citizens” ( The New York Times ) in this “rousing study of the Arab Spring” ( Publishers Weekly, starred review).” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe end of tsarist Russia : the march to World War I and revolution / Dominic Lieven.
“World War I and the Russian Revolution together shaped the twentieth century in profound ways … Dominic Lieven connects for the first time the two events, providing both a history of the First World War’s origins from a Russian perspective and an international history of why the revolution happened. By placing the crisis of empire at its core, Lieven links World War I to the sweep of twentieth-century global history.”– Publisher’s description.

Syndetics book coverUnderground in Berlin : a young woman’s extraordinary tale of survival in the heart of Nazi Germany / Marie Jalowicz Simon.
“In 1941, Marie Jalowicz Simon, a nineteen-year-old Berliner, made an extraordinary decision. All around her, Jews were being rounded up for deportation, forced labor, and extermination. Marie took off her yellow star, turned her back on the Jewish community, and vanished into the city. In the years that followed, Marie lived under an assumed identity, forced to accept shelter wherever she found it. Only her quick-witted determination and the most hair-raising strokes of luck allowed her to survive.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDispatches from Pluto : lost and found in the Mississippi Delta / Richard Grant.
“Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Residual Impact – Recent History Picks for November

In this month’s picks the story of the return of an American prisoner of the North Korean War intersects with a North Korean woman’s harrowing escape from the modern day regime to Canada. These stories reveal the devastating power of struggles that have gone unnoticed; voices unheard that are starting to confront the residual traumas that affect the present day.

Syndetics book cover30-second ancient China : the 50 most important achievements of a timeless civilization, each explained in half a minute / editor, Yijie Zhuang ; contributors, Qin Cao [and others].
“In the West, the story of Ancient China is less familiar to us than that of Ancient Egypt or Rome, but it is no less absorbing, and its rollcall of achievements is easily as impressive. [...] 30-Second Ancient China becomes the perfect introduction to one of the great ancient civilizations.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe crime and the silence : confronting the massacre of Jews in wartime Jedwabne / Anna Bikont ; translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles.
“A monumental work of nonfiction on a wartime atrocity, its sixty-year denial, and the impact of its truth Jan Gross’s hugely controversial Neighbors was a historian’s disclosure of the events in the small Polish town of Jedwabne on July 10, 1941, when the citizens rounded up the Jewish population and burned them alive in a barn. The massacre was a shocking secret that had been suppressed for more than sixty years, and it provoked the most important public debate in Poland since 1989.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe war came home with him : a daughter’s memoir / Catherine Madison.
“During his years as a POW in North Korea, “Doc” Boysen endured hardships he never intended to pass along, especially to his family. Men who refused to eat starved; his children would clean their plates. Men who were weak died; his children would develop character. They would also learn to fear their father, the hero. In a memoir at once harrowing and painfully poignant, Catherine Madison tells the stories of two survivors of one man’s war: a father who withstood a prison camp’s unspeakable inhumanity and a daughter who withstood the residual cruelty that came home with him.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hidden people of North Korea : everyday life in the hermit kingdom / Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh.
“Drawing on decades of experience, noted experts Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh explore a world few outsiders can imagine. In vivid detail, the authors describe how the secretive and authoritarian government of Kim Jong-un shapes every aspect of its citizens’ lives, how the command socialist economy has utterly failed, and how ordinary individuals struggle to survive through small-scale capitalism.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKatrina : after the flood / Gary Rivlin. Katrina: After the Flood
“Ten years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana–on August 29, 2005–journalist Gary Rivlin traces the storm’s immediate damage, the city of New Orleans’s efforts to rebuild itself, and the storm’s lasting effects not just on the city’s geography and infrastructure–but on the psychic, racial, and social fabric of one of this nation’s great cities.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfghan modern : the history of a global nation / Robert D. Crews.
“Rugged, remote, riven by tribal rivalries and religious violence, Afghanistan seems to many a country frozen in time and forsaken by the world. Afghan Modern presents a bold challenge to these misperceptions, revealing how Afghans, over the course of their history, have engaged and connected with a wider world and come to share in our modern globalized age. Always a mobile people, Afghan travelers, traders, pilgrims, scholars, and artists have ventured abroad for centuries, their cosmopolitan sensibilities providing a compass for navigating a constantly changing world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStars between the Sun and Moon : one woman’s life in North Korea and escape to freedom / Lucia Jang and Susan McClelland.
“Born in the 1970s, Lucia Jang grew up in a common, rural North Korean household–her parents worked hard, she bowed to a photo of Kim Il-Sung every night, and the family scraped by on rationed rice and a small garden. However, there is nothing common about Jang. [...] With so few accounts by North Korean women and those from its rural areas, Jang’s fascinating memoir helps us understand the lives of those many others who have no way to make their voices known.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSapiens : a brief history of humankind / Yuval Noah Harari.
“One hundred thousand years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. [...] How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Professor Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical–and sometimes devastating–breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific Revolutions.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRywka’s diary : the writings of a Jewish girl from the Lodz Ghetto, found at Auschwitz in 1945 and published seventy years later / Rywka Lipszyc ; edited by Anita Friedman ; translated from the Polish by Malgorzata Markoff ; with annotations by Ewa Wiatr.
“Moving and illuminating, told by a brave young girl whose strong and charismatic voice speaks for millions, Rywka’s Diary is an extraordinary addition to the history of the Holocaust and World War II.”  (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe crossing : my journey to the shattered heart of Syria / Samar Yazbek ; translated by Nashwa Gowanlock and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.
“Samar Yazbek was well known in her native Syria as a writer and a journalist but, in 2011, she fell foul of the Assad regime and was forced to flee. Since then, determined to bear witness to the suffering of her people, she bravely revisited her homeland by squeezing through a hole in the fence on the Turkish border. From the first innocent demonstrations for democracy, through the beginnings of the Free Syrian Army, to the arrival of ISIS, she offers remarkable snapshots of soldiers, children, ordinary men and women simply trying to stay alive…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)


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