Welcome to our picks for October’s People & Places. Highlights this month include: a ‘Birdseye’ view of the origins of refrigeration; the enigma that was Alan Turing; a comic look at the underwhelming attractions of the British Isles and a book set to ruin our ability to poke fun at Australia’s criminal past.
Anyone who has reached into the frosty recesses of the freezer to put her paw on on a packet of frozen peas or a ready-made meal should throw up a prayer of thanksgiving to Clarence Birdseye. This humble fur-trapper working in the wilds of Northern Canada in the early part of the twentieth century invented the freezing process still associated with his name. This was not his only innovation, nor his only field of interest – he was also a noted explorer. He is described in the publisher’s notes as “a tinkerer in the classic Yankee mode,” and “one of a group of men who relied on native intelligence more than education and who’s principal laboratories were garages and basements”. His biography is a most interesting and unusual read.
Also featured in this month’s picks are more marvellous women, including Marie Curie and her daughters and Helena Rubinstein. Happy reading !!
Before I forget / Jacqueline Fahey.
“Jacqueline Fahey brought the curtain down at the end of her first memoir, Something for the Birds, after her marriage to Fraser McDonald. In Before I Forget she continues the story from this happy-ever-after moment, charting her life since 1960.”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).
Marie Curie and her daughters : the private lives of science’s first family / Shelley Emling.
“Freelance writer Emling (The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World) tells the story of science icon Marie Sklodowska Curie, a name familiar to most readers from elementary school days. The only person to have received Nobel prizes in two different sciences, Curie remains a hero to many. Emling writes here of Curie’s later years and of her relationships with her daughters, topics not previously as well documented as the flashier (not to mention more radioactive) aspects of her life and scientific research. Curie’s trips to the United States and her relationship with magazine editor and socialite Missy Meloney, who started a fund to buy radium for Curie, are covered here in both personal and professional terms. Emling presents a Curie defined not only by her scientific activities but also by her personality and by her relationships with family and friends after she gained international recognition. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in the history of Western science, scientific biographies, and women in science, as well as those who regard Marie Curie as a hero”.-Eric D. Albright, Tufts Univ. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library
Birdseye : the adventures of a curious man / Mark Kurlansky.
“Although frozen foods made Birds Eye a household name, few were familiar with Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956), developer of the fast-freezing process that became a multibillion-dollar international industry. In the first biography of the eccentric Brooklyn-born inventor, award-winning food author Kurlansky (’Cod’ and ‘Salt”) brings Birdseye to life as he outlines the twists and turns of his unusual career. In a 1945 interview Birdseye stated that G.A. Henty’s 1891 novel Redskin and Cowboy “first influenced him to live the outdoor life.” Yearning for adventure, he dropped out of Amherst College in 1908 and worked in the southwest as a U.S. Biological Survey naturalist, collected ticks in Montana to research Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and became interested in food preservation in the frozen wilderness of Labrador”. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.” (Publisher Weekly)
Alan Turing : the enigma / Andrew Hodges. Alan Turing: The Enigma
“It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades–all before his suicide at age forty-one. This classic biography of the founder of computer science, reissued on the centenary of his birth with a substantial new preface by the author, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life. A gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution, Andrew Hodges’s acclaimed book captures both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life.”(Abridged summary from www.globabooksinprint.com).
The kings’ mistresses : the liberated lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and her sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin / Elizabeth C. Goldsmith.
“This title presents the adventures of two, privileged sisters raised in the court of the French King Louis XIV, who fled their husbands and children to travel throughout Europe, gaining notoriety for their escapades as gamblers, cross-dressers, mistresses to various kings, and pioneering women writers. Elizabeth Goldsmith has written a vibrant biography of two pioneering free spirits, feminists long before the term existed, who refused to be constrained by the morals, mores, and hypocrisies of their age.” (Abridged summary from Amazon.co.uk).
Diaries / George Orwell ; edited by Peter Davison ; introduction by Christopher Hitchens.
“Collecting a dozen of Orwell’s personal diaries from the Depression until his final days, this selection offers a glimpse of the great writer observing the world around him. Early entries include accounts of Orwell’s immersive investigations into the hardscrabble routines of coal miners, hop-pickers, and the working poor, and later entries chronicle the first years of WWII. But the majority of his observations and, one senses, the rhythms of his days involve notes and tabulations of more quotidian activities of the agricultural sort: planting crops, milking goats, watching the weather, and, perhaps most significant, counting his hens’ eggs. Although it’s perhaps tempting to probe such material for a new perspective, its real merit may be in allowing readers a close and factual (if only rarely emotionally intimate) view of Orwell’s life, mostly free of biographical narration. As Christopher Hitchens notes in his introduction, Orwell’s determination to seek elusive but verifiable truth, however minor, is on constant display throughout. Thickly annotated, this selection will be appreciated by historical researchers as well as curious browsers”.–Driscoll, Brendan Copyright
Helena Rubinstein : the woman who invented beauty / Michèle Fitoussi.
“Helena Rubinstein was an extraordinary pioneering woman who gave her name to a cosmetics empire and revolutionised modern beauty. She understood women. She understood beauty. And she started a revolution. Helena Rubinstein was born into a poor Polish family at the end of the nineteenth century; by the time of her death in 1965 she had built a cosmetics empire that spanned the world. When Rubinstein opened her first salon in Melbourne, her scientific approach to beauty was an instant sensation. Women just couldn’t get enough of her innovative advice on skincare, and her beauty products were constantly sold out. Having conquered Australia, Rubinstein went on to open salons in Europe and America, at a time when women were barely seen in business, let alone running their own multinational companies. For this visionary entrepreneur lived and breathed her work and nobody – lover, husband or child – was allowed to get in the way of business success. Helena Rubinstein was a total original, and her legacy can still be seen today in the methods used to market and manufacture cosmetics. This is her amazing life story”.(Summary from Amazon.co.uk).
Dear Lupin– / Charlie and Roger Mortimer.
“Roger Mortimer’s generous letters to his son are packed with anecdotes and sharp observations, with a unique analogy for each and every scrape Charlie Mortimer got himself into. This title includes 150 letters written to his son as he left school, and lived in places such as South America, Africa, Weston-super-Mare and eventually London.These letters form a memoir of their relationship, and an affectionate portrait of a time gone by.” (Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com.)
Paris : a love story : a memoir / Kati Marton.
“Saturated with sadness, regret, and Hemingway, Marton’s (Wallenberg: The Incredible True Story) memoir of widowhood after the death of husband Richard Holbrooke recalls how Paris offered her the peace and salve she needed to assuage a broken heart. A refugee from Hungary with her family in 1957, Paris was where Marton attended university during the tumultuous late 1960s; as a foreign correspondent with ABC News in the 1970s, the city served as a base for her work, and was also where she and anchorman Peter Jennings conducted their love affair before marrying in 1979. Fleeing that marriage in 1993 after two children (Jennings is described as cold and manipulative), Marton found a warm, willing relationship with Holbrooke, then U.S. ambassador to Germany, with Paris as the meeting place in their busy lives.” Agent, Amanda Urban. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved(Publisher Weekly)
Travel stories & guides
From Secret Milan to the Indian Coast and ‘Flamenco’ Spain, these new travel books will guide you around the world and back again to New Zealand.
Have mother, will travel : a mother and daughter discover themselves, each other, and the world / Claire and Mia Fontaine.
“Told in alternating voices, a travelogue capturing the changing relationship between a mother and her adult daughter follows their sixteen-city, twelve-country tour during which their adventures and mishaps brought them closer together.” (Library Catalogue)
Secret Milan / Massimo Polidoro.
“Discover a canal lock designed by Leonardo da Vinci as well as the secrets of his Last Supper, find out where Mussolini’s hidden bunker lies, marry beneath frescoes by Tiepolo, visit artists’ houses usually closed to the public, see exceptional private collections, admire the sculpture of a young girl shaving her pudenda, look for the boxers carved on the roof terraces of the cathedral… An indispensable guide for those wishing to discover another facet of the city.” (Book jacket)
Walking home : travels with a troubadour on the Pennine Way / Simon Armitage.
“In summer 2010 Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be walking home, towards theYorkshire village where he was born. Travelling as a ‘modern troubadour’ without a penny in his pocket, he stopped along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms… It’s a story about Britain’s remote and overlooked interior – the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It’s about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them. … Contemplative, moving and droll, it is a unique narrative from one of our most beloved writers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Only in Spain / Nellie Bennett.
“A sparky, witty and thoroughly enjoyable memoir of a girl who fell in love with flamenco dance and with Spain. A foot-stamping, full-on firecracker of a travel memoir, crackling with energy, dance, gypsies, love, food and the occasional donkey. Nellie Bennett fell in love with flamenco one hot summer day in a Sydney dance studio. Longing to get closer to the authentic experience, she packed her suede dance shoes and a set of castanets and travelled to the other side of the world, to Seville, to learn flamenco. What she didn’t realise is that flamenco is not a dance, it’s a way of life. In Spain, she fell in love three times – the first time with a smokey-eyed flamenco dance teacher, the second time, with a wild and tempestuous gypsy; and the third with a tall, dark handsome Basque chef – not realising that, all along, it’s really Spain she’s fallen in love with. A witty, passionate story of romance and discovery.” (Syndetics)
Hong Konged : one modern American family’s (mis)adventures in the gateway to China / Paul Hanstedt.
“In this alternately hilarious and heartrending memoir, acclaimed writer and editor Paul Hanstedt recounts the true story of his family’s recent sojourn to Hong Kong. Hanstedt and his wife and three children–aged 9, 6, and 3–lived in Hong Kong for a year, a year beset by culture clash, vicious bullies, hospital visits, M&Ms, and the worst traffic jam you’ve ever seen.
Through the eyes of the earnest if sometimes clueless Hanstedt family, you’ll discover a world you’ve never known before. But in the end,Hong Kongedis about place and family and what it is that makes us human–no matter who we are or where we live.” (Syndetics)
Following fish : travels around the Indian coast / Samanth Subramanian.
“In a coastline as long and diverse as India’s, fish inhabit the heart of many worlds – food of course, but also culture, commerce, sport, history and society. Journeying along the edges of the peninsula, Samanth Subramanian delivers a kaleidoscope of extraordinary stories…. Pulsating with pleasure, adventure and discovery, and tempered by nostalgia and loss, “Following Fish” reveals a series of unknown Indias in a book as revealing of the subcontinent as any three times its length.” (Amazon.co.uk)
Crap days out / Gareth Rubin ; with contributions by Jon Parker.
“From Land’s End to John O’Groats, this Sceptred Isle is riddled with what are laughably referred to as ‘attractions’. Rubbish tourism is a proud British tradition, and from Stonehenge to Madam Tussaud’s, Shakespeare’s birthplace to the Harry Potter Tour, and model villages to a museum dedicated to pencils, Crap Days Out is the quintessential collection of places that will ruin a perfectly good bank holiday.” – (adapted from Publisher’s description)
Bonjour! Is this Italy? : a hapless biker’s guide to Europe / Kevin Turner.
“Bonjour – Is This Italy? offers a unique and often hilarious insight into the challenges and excitement afforded by a lone motorcycle journey though Europe. In his quest to escape the frantic nature of London life, Kevin Turner heads south across France, crossing the Alps into Italy, and onto Rome, before returning via Germany – and the treacherous Nürburgring. Throughout, the author provides valuable advice to those considering a similar journey, noting the best and most scenic routes, where to stay, and what to see. This is interspersed with a raft of comic anecdotes that demonstrate exactly what NOT to do when lost on a motorbike in Europe.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The oldest post office in the world : and other Scottish oddities / Hamish Brown.
“Scotland has been called a small country with a big story and among its varied riches must be the extraordinary number of surprising, curious, unexpected, odd places that occur from Muckle Flugga to the Mull of Galloway. Nobody knows its length and breadth better than author, lecturer and photographer Hamish Brown and from his decades of wandering he has stitched together this – first -collection of sites and sights to intrigue visitors.” – (adapted from Book jacket summary)
The old ways : a journey on foot / Robert Macfarlane.
“In The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes criss-crossing the British landscape and its waters, and connecting them to the continents beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and ritual, and of songlines and their singers. Above all this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move…” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Antarctica : a biography / David Day.
“Antarctica: A Biography draws upon libraries and archives from around the world to provide the first, large-scale history of Antarctica. On one level, it is the story of explorers battling the elements in the most hostile place on earth as they strive for personal triumph, commercial gain and national glory. On a deeper level, it is the story of nations seeking to incorporate the Antarctic into their national narratives and to claim its frozen wastes as their own.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Chronicles of Old London : exploring England’s historic capital / [Kevin Jackson].
“Another in Museyon’s “Chronicles” series (Chronicles of Old New York), in this book London writer Jackson provides 30 stories of the city, starting with Boudicca’s revolt around 60 C.E. and ending with Prince William’s marriage in the present day. …. In addition to the historical sketches, the volume presents nine walking tours with maps, photographs, and descriptions of sights along the way. …The numerous detailed neighborhood maps in the walking tours section will be especially useful. Verdict: A helpful and pleasant read for travelers looking for historical background and a few walking tours for a London trip. Interesting and fun to read, the book mixes light history with contemporary details.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)
We have some great new history books this month: 150-year-old letters by a young German settler give exciting look at Wellington’s past; the “sexy” lives of the Tudors; American Empire looks at the United States in the last half of the 20th century; and more. Enjoy!
An indescribable beauty : letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand, 1859 & 1862 / Friedrich August Krull.
“The translated letters of Friedrich Krull from Wellington back home to Germany in 1859, at the behest of German naturalist and historian Ernst Boll. Krull details people, landscapes and birds of early Wellington, Wairarapa, Kapiti and surrounds. Included are reports on meetings with Te Rauparaha’s son and nephew as well as other prominent Māori leaders. The book is illustrated with paintings and photographs from the time”–Publisher information.
In bed with the Tudors : the sex lives of a dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I / Amy Licence.
“Illegitimate children, adulterous queens, impotent kings, and a whole dynasty resting on their shoulders. Sex and childbirth were quite literally a matter of life or death for the Tudors – Elizabeth of York died in childbirth, two of Henry VIII’s queens were beheaded for infidelity, and Elizabeth I’s elective virginity signalled the demise of a dynasty. Amy Licence guides the reader through the births of Elizabeth of York’s two sons, Arthur and Henry, Catherine of Aragon’s subsequent marriages to both of these men, Henry VIII’s other five wives and his mistresses, and the sex lives of his daughters. This book details the experiences of all these women, from fertility, conception and pregnancy through to the delivery chamber, on to maternal and infant mortality. Each woman’s story is a blend of specific personal circumstances, set against their historical moment. For some the joys were brief, for others it was a question that ultimately determined their fates”–Cover.
The Queen’s agent : Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I / John Cooper.
Elizabeth I came to the throne at a time of insecurity and unrest. Rivals threatened her reign; England was a Protestant island, isolated in a sea of Catholic countries. Spain plotted an invasion, but Elizabeth’s Secretary, Francis Walsingham, was prepared to do whatever it took to protect her. He ran a network of agents in England and Europe who provided him with information about invasions or assassination plots. He recruited likely young men and ‘turned’ others. He encouraged Elizabeth to make war against the Catholic Irish rebels, with extreme brutality and oversaw the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.The Queen’s Agent is a story of secret agents, cryptic codes and ingenious plots, set in a turbulent period of England’s history. It is also the story of a man devoted to his queen, sacrificing his every waking hour to save the threatened English state. (Global Books In Print)
The road not taken : how Britain narrowly missed a revolution / Frank McLynn.
Britain has not been successfully invaded since 1066; nor, in nearly 1,000 years, has it known a true revolution – one that brings radical, systemic and enduring change. The contrast with her European neighbours – with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Russia – is dramatic. All have been convulsed by external warfare, revolution and civil war – all have experienced fundamental change to their ruling elites or their social and economic structures. In “The Road Not Taken” Frank McLynn investigates the seven occasions when England came closest to revolution: the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the Jack Cade rising of 1450, the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, the English Civil War of the 1640s, the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6, the Chartist Movement of 1838-48 and the General Strike of 1926. (Syndetics summary)
American empire : the rise of a global power, the democratic revolution at home, 1945-2000 / Joshua B. Freeman.
“Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center history professor Freeman examines a postwar dominant America, and it couldn’t come at a better moment, when its citizens are rethinking its global influence. Covering the glory years of 1945-2000, Freeman is at his best when he turns his critical eye on America’s turbulent internal affairs, delving into Truman’s contested Fair Deal reforms, the McCarthy communist witch-hunts, Eisenhower’s cautious civil rights record, LBJ’s ambitious Great Society programs, Nixon’s Watergate disgrace, the return of “corporate capitalism” and Reagan conservatism. Freeman deals with the Clinton administration’s economic policies, which, he says, gave many Americans a higher standard of living, and global conflicts, followed by the Republican victory in 2000. Though at its peak, America’s power exceeded that of the Roman and British empires in cultural, economic, military, and political terms, the nation’s postwar dreams were never completely fulfilled, says Freeman. “And the 21st century’s “prolonged warfare, fearfulness, and economic troubles… owe more than a little to decisions made in the earlier epoch.” Freeman’s epic survey provides a fuller understanding of America’s postwar achievements and challenges, without the bias, drama, or despair of other books on these important issues. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)
The kissing sailor : the mystery behind the photo that ended World War II / Lawrence Verria & George Galdorisi ; foreword by David Hartman.
“It’s an iconic image, a sailor kissing a nurse in New York City’s Times Square. Photographed on August 14, 1945, by legendary photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt and published in Life, it captures a historic moment, the end of WWII. It’s a safe bet that most of the book’s potential readers have seen the photograph, but who are the people in it? That’s the mystery Verria and Galdorisi attempt to solve in this fascinating piece of detective work. Over the years, there have been numerous theories, and numerous people have come forward saying they are the sailor or the nurse. Verria and Galdorisi offer what they hope is undeniable proof of the unnamed couple’s true identities. They make a persuasive case, assessing the validity of some of the claimants’ stories, using various investigative techniques, including some very clever photographic comparisons, to zoom in on two specific persons who seem to fit the bill. Ultimately, you either accept the authors’ conclusions or you don’t, but you can’t deny that the book provides an intriguing and unique perspective on one of the twentieth century’s most memorable moments.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)
Convicts : New Zealand’s hidden criminal past / Matthew Wright.
“New Zealand’s Pakeha origin as a bolt-hole for convicts escaping Australia, a place where former convicts joined whaling and sealing gangs, and where sea captains thumbed their noses at the law, has been quietly forgotten. It has become a hidden part of our past, buried under the convenient fiction that the Treaty of Waitangi is the sole pivot of New Zealand’s colonial story. In Convicts: New Zealand’s Hidden Criminal Past, noted historian Matthew Wright challenges that notion. Our early nineteenth-century Pakeha past is, at least in part, a story of convicts who had found their way past the edge of the law, an age of heroic tales of survival, scurrilous deeds, cannibalism and piracy.Matthew Wright is one of New Zealand’s most published historians and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of University College, London. ‘Matthew Wright is one of our most prolific social historians, an assiduous researcher and an engaging writer.’” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)
Shooting Victoria : madness, mayhem, and the rebirth of the British monarchy / Paul Thomas Murphy.
“Queen Victoria’s stature not only attracted throngs of admirers but also seven unstable and incompetent failed assassins, whose attempts led to the creation of England’s detective branch and engendered bursts of popularity for the queen. A Victoriana expert at the University of Colorado, Murphy recounts in a fresh, lively narrative how these deluded subjects managed to channel their mental instability or optimistic naivete into assassination attempts with barely functioning pistols or stout canes, all remaining far removed from the more sophisticated and politically motivated revolutionaries threatening other contemporary European thrones. Instead, they included a depressed hunchback and two poets suffering from head injuries who, rather than gaining notoriety, sank back into obscurity. Murphy deftly weaves their life stories in with the reactions of Victoria and Albert and other notables as the government struggled to define a policy for punishing assassins…” – (adapted from Publisher Weekly summary)
Mexico : democracy interrupted / Jo Tuckman.
“In 2000, Mexico’s long invincible Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost the presidential election to Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). The ensuing changeoverafter 71 years of PRI dominancewas hailed as the beginning of a new era of hope for Mexico. Yet the promises of the PAN victory were not consolidated. In this vivid account of Mexico’s recent history, a journalist with extensive reporting experience investigates the nation’s young democracy, its shortcomings and achievements, and why the PRI is favored to retake the presidency in 2012. Jo Tuckman reports on the murky, terrifying world of Mexico’s drug wars, the counterproductive government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. She describes the reluctance and inability of politicians to seriously tackle rampant corruption, environmental degradation, pervasive poverty, and acute inequality. To make matters worse, the influence of non-elected interest groups has grown and public trust in almost all institutionsincluding the Catholic churchis fading. The pressure valve once presented by emigration is also closing. Even so, there are positive signs: the critical media cannot be easily controlled, and small but determined citizen groups notch up significant, if partial, victories for accountability. While Mexico faces complex challenges that can often seem insurmountable, Tuckman concludes, the unflagging vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)
The daring dozen : 12 Special Forces legends of World War II / Gavin Mortimer.
“In this new book by journalist Gavin Mortimer, The Daring Dozen reveals the 12 legendary special forces commanders of World War II. Prior to World War II the concept of ’special forces’ simply didn’t exist. But thanks to visionary leaders like David Stirling and Charles Hunter, our very concept of how wars can be fought and won have totally changed. But these 12 extraordinary men not only reshaped military policy, they led from the front, accompanying their troops into the heat of battle, from the sands of North Africa to jumping on D-Day and infiltrating behind enemy lines. Each embodies the true essence of courage, what Winston Churchill remarked ‘is esteemed [as] the first of human qualities.’ But Mortimer also offers a skilful analysis of their qualities as a military commander and the true impact their own personal actions, as well as those of their units, had on the eventual outcome of the war.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)
Titans of history / Simon Sebag Montefiore ; with John Bew … [et al.].
“In The Titans of History, Simon Sebag Montefiore brings together a vivid and compelling selection of the lives of the towering figures that, for better of for worse, have changed the course of history. The 14th-century Mongol warlord Tamerlane, who once ordered the building of a pyramid of 70,000 human skulls from those that his army had beheaded, rubs shoulders with Oskar Schindler, the man whose selfless heroism saved over 1,000 Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis. Inbetween these two extremes are those extraordinary figures, like Henry VIII, in whom good and evil were mixed promiscuously. Inspiring and horrifying in equal measure, in The Titans of History, Simon Sebag Montefiore has created an engaging, innovative and authoritative window into the history of the world.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)
Where they stand : the American presidents in the eyes of voters and historians / Robert W. Merry.
“The rating of American presidents is a popular fascination for scholars and citizens alike. Merry believes that professionals’ opinions are, however, sometimes out of sync with those of the people and, specifically, the electorate that installed or repudiated a president. Therefore, he accords the vox populi weight equal to the verdicts of seven polls of historians conducted over past decades. The professors and the voters exhibit no differences over who were the best presidents Washington, Lincoln, and FDR but they diverge over nominees for the near-great category; electorates liked Jackson and Reagan, but historians have been critical. Likewise, the dons praise Wilson and Truman, whereas the people voted their parties out of power. To bridge such discrepancies, Merry combines fluid commentary on what impresses historians and application of his rule for the populace’s standard of approval, rewarding an incumbent with a second term and succession by his party’s nominee. Anything less plunges a president down the scale to average or failure, with near-great Polk as a conspicuous exception. This election-year debate-starter will enjoy shelf life beyond November.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)
New to the New Zealand Collection this month you can read some interesting facts about New Zealand in “60 Million Gingernuts, a book of New Zealand records”. “All the Commissioner’s Men” is another look into the New Zealand high profile murder inquiry into the Crewe murders.
60 million gingernuts : a book of New Zealand records / Peter Janssen.
This book gathers together New Zealand’s most amazing, inspiring and bizarre records. With chapters on nature, history, people, manmade wonders, popular culture, sport, eating and drinking, this extensive book will captivate both young and old, Kiwi and tourist, from quiz teams to high school students. Did you know: New Zealand’s highest bridge is on the railway line from Napier to Gisborne. The bridge crosses the Mohaka River 97 metres above the water; Auckland s Pasifika festival is the country s largest festival with over 200,000 people attending. It is also the largest Pacific festival in the world; New Zealand s most popular biscuit is the Gingernut with Griffin s Gingernuts selling nearly 3 million packets every year. Toffee Pop Originals (2,394,000 packets) and Superwine (2,393,000 packets) are neck and neck for second and third place; New Zealand s coldest temperature was recorded at Ranfurly on 17 July 1903, the thermometer plummeted to a record -25 degrees. The lowest North Island temperature is -13.6 recorded at the Chateau Tongariro. The coldest temperature recorded in the world was -89.6 at Vostok Station in Antarctica in 1983. There are many, many more fascinating records inside this addictive book.(Syndetics summary)
All the commissioner’s men / Chris Birt. The killing of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe at Pukekawa, South Auckland, is indelibly burnt into the memory of anyone resident in New Zealand at that time. Most Kiwis know that an innocent man was arrested and spent almost 10 years in prison for two murders he did not commit The story of Arthur Thomas has been well told. The subsequent condemnation by a Royal Commission of Inquiry of two former detectives is also well documented. What has never been disclosed however is the extent of the malpractice which occurred in that double homicide inquiry. Not even the Thomas Royal Commission got to examine that, for reasons All The Commissioner’s Men explains in great depth. Written by veteran journalist, researcher and author Chris Birt (The Final Chapter – third NZ best seller for three weeks in 2001) this new book reveals, for the first time ever, that more than two detectives were involved n this corrupt investigation, and that key players in that nasty game suppressed crucial witness statements, any one of which would have proved categorically that Arthur Thomas was not the murderer. (Syndetics summary)