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.
Embracing 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)
The 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)
Inferno 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)
History 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)
Crossing 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)
The 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)
The 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)
The 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.
Underground 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)
Dispatches 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)