A small selection from a great diversity of fascinating books this month. On the light-hearted side, weaving through stories of national identity and culture, Louise Fili and Helen Russell unpack the idiosyncrasies of Italian and Danish life in Italianissimo and The Year of Living Danishly. From Eric Bogosian’s Operation Nemesis to Stephen Dando-Collins’ Operation Chowhound, chilling tactics and unsettling missions punctuate crucial periods in the 20th century.
Italianissimo : the quintessential guide to what Italians do best / by Louise Fili & Lise Apatoff.
“What is it about Italy that inspires passion, fascination, and utter devotion? This quirky guide to the Italian way of life, with its fifty witty mini-essays on iconic Italian subjects, will answer that question as well as entertain and delight both real and armchair travellers [...] This is a new kind of guidebook overflowing with enlightening and hilarious miscellaneous information, filled with luscious graphics and unforgettable photographs that will decode and enrich all trips to Italy-both real and imaginary.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The year of living Danishly : uncovering the secrets of the world’s happiest country / Helen Russell.
“When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries. What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness. [...]” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Beale Street dynasty : sex, song, and the struggle for the soul of Memphis / Preston Lauterbach.
“Following the Civil War, Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, thrived as a cauldron of sex and song, violence and passion. But out of this turmoil emerged a center of black progress, optimism, and cultural ferment. Preston Lauterbach tells this vivid, fascinating story through the multigenerational saga of a family whose ambition, race pride, and moral complexity indelibly shaped the city that would loom so large in American life. [...]” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The upstairs wife : an intimate history of Pakistan / Rafia Zakaria.
“For a brief moment on December 27, 2007, life came to a standstill in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, the country’s former prime minister and the first woman ever to lead a Muslim country, had been assassinated at a political rally just outside Islamabad. Back in Karachi–Bhutto’s birthplace and Pakistan’s other great metropolis–Rafia Zakaria’s family was suffering through a crisis of its own: her Uncle Sohail, the man who had brought shame upon the family, was near death. In that moment these twin catastrophes–one political and public, the other secret and intensely personal–briefly converged. Zakaria uses that moment to begin her intimate exploration of the country of her birth. [...]” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The tragedy of liberation : a history of the Chinese revolution, 1945-1957 / Frank Dikötter.
“The Chinese Communist party refers to its victory in 1949 as a ‘liberation.’ In China the story of liberation and the revolution that followed is not one of peace, liberty, and justice. It is first and foremost a story of calculated terror and systematic violence.” [...] The Tragedy of Liberation bears witness to a shocking, largely untold history, giving voice at last to the millions who were lost and casting new light on the foundations of one of the most powerful regimes of the twenty-first century.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
When Paris went dark : the City of Light under German occupation, 1940-1944 / Ronald C. Rosbottom.
“On June 14, 1940, German tanks entered a silent and nearly deserted Paris. Eight days later, France accepted a humiliating defeat and foreign occupation. Subsequently, an eerie sense of normalcy settled over the City of Light. WHEN PARIS WENT DARK evokes with stunning precision the detail of daily life in a city under occupation, and the brave people who fought against the darkness. Relying on a range of resources—memoirs, diaries, letters, archives, interviews, personal histories, flyers and posters, fiction, photographs, film and historical studies—Rosbottom has forged a groundbreaking book that will forever influence how we understand those dark years in the City of Light.” (adapted from Amazon.com summary)
Operation Chowhound : the most risky, most glorious US bomber mission of WWII / Stephen Dando-Collins.
“Beginning with a crazy plan hatched by a suspect prince, and an even crazier reliance on the word of the Nazis, Operation Chowhound was devised. Between May 1 and May 8, 1945, 2,268 military units flown by the USAAF, dropped food to 3.5 million starving Dutch civilians in German-occupied Holland. [...] In this gripping narrative, author Stephen Dando-Collins takes the reader into the rooms where Operation Chowhound was born, into the aircraft flying the mission, and onto the ground in the Netherlands with the civilians who so desperately needed help.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Operation Nemesis : the assassination plot that avenged the Armenian genocide / Eric Bogosian.
“A masterful account of the assassins who hunted down the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. [...] Eric Bogosian goes beyond simply telling the story of this cadre of Armenian assassins by setting the killings in the context of Ottoman and Armenian history, as well as showing in vivid color the era’s history, rife with political fighting and massacres. Casting fresh light on one of the great crimes of the twentieth century and one of history’s most remarkable acts of vengeance, Bogosian draws upon years of research and newly uncovered evidence. Operation Nemesis is the result–both a riveting read and a profound examination of evil, revenge, and the costs of violence.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Goodbye, Antoura : a memoir of the Armenian genocide / Karnig Panian ; foreword by Vartan Gregorian ; translated by Simon Beugekian ; edited by Aram Goudsouzian ; introduction and afterword by Keith David Watenpaugh.
“When World War I began, Karnig Panian was only five years old, living among his fellow Armenians in the Anatolian village of Gurin. Four years later, American aid workers found him at an orphanage in Antoura, Lebanon. He was among nearly 1,000 Armenian and 400 Kurdish children who had been abandoned by the Turkish administrators, left to survive at the orphanage without adult care. [...] Panian’s memoir is a full-throated story of loss, resistance, and survival, but told without bitterness or sentimentality. His story shows us how even young children recognize injustice and can organize against it, how they can form a sense of identity that they will fight to maintain. [...]” (Publisher’s website)
Islam and Nazi Germany’s war / David Motadel.
“In the most crucial phase of the Second World War, German troops, fighting in regions as far apart as the Sahara and the Caucasus, confronted the Allies across lands largely populated by Muslims. Nazi officials saw Islam as a powerful force with the same enemies as Germany: the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Jews. Islam and Nazi Germany’s War is the first comprehensive account of Berlin’s remarkably ambitious attempts to build an alliance with the Islamic world. [...]” (adapted from Syndetics summary)