This month’s picks deal with more than a few losses. Whether it’s the ruins of Aude de Tocqueville’s Atlas of Lost Cities, the Italian army brought to heel by an Ethiopian army to slow European colonialism in The Battle of Adwa, or the collapse of France in World War 2 in Case Red, you’re sure to find someone or something not coming out on top.
The Balfour declaration : empire, the mandate and resistance in Palestine / Bernard Regan.
“On November 2, 1917, the British government, represented by Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, declared that they were in favor of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” A hundred years after its signing, Bernard Regan recasts the history of the Balfour Declaration as one of the major events in the story of the Middle East. Offering new insights into the imperial rivalries between Britain, Germany and the Ottomans, Regan exposes British policy in the region as part of a larger geopolitical game.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Directorate S : the C.I.A. and America’s secret wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan / Steve Coll.
“Resuming the narrative of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, bestselling author Steve Coll tells for the first time the epic and enthralling story of America’s intelligence, military, and diplomatic efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11. This is the definitive explanation of how America came to be so badly ensnared in an elaborate, factional, and seemingly interminable conflict in South Asia.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Case red : the collapse of France, 1940 / Robert Forczyk.
“The drama of the final three weeks of military operations in France in June 1940 has never effectively been captured on paper, but this is a story that needs to be told since it had great impact on the course of World War II and inter-Allied relations. This book will also address the initial German exploitation of France and how the windfall of captured military equipment, fuel and industrial resources enhanced the Third Reich’s ability to attack its next foe–the Soviet Union.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
1947 : where now begins / Elisabeth Åsbrink ; translated from the Swedish by Fiona Graham.
“The year 1947 marks a turning point in the twentieth century. Peace with Germany becomes a tool to fortify the West against the threats of the Cold War. The CIA is created, Israel is about to be born, Simone de Beauvoir experiences the love of her life, an ill George Orwell is writing his last book, and Christian Dior creates the hyper-feminine New Look as women are forced out of jobs and back into the home. In the midst of it all, a ten-year-old Hungarian-Jewish boy resides in a refugee camp for children of parents murdered by the Nazis. This year he has to make the decision of a lifetime, one that will determine his own fate and that of his daughter yet to be born, Elisabeth.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
A dictionary of family history : the genealogists’ ABC / Jonathan Scott.
“Part encyclopedia, part dictionary, part almanac – Jonathan Scott’s Dictionary of Family History doesn’t claim to be exhaustive, but it is practical, easy to use, entertaining and genuinely informative. It is the kind of book you can dip into or use as a starting point for deeper study, and it is the essential companion for experienced family historians and for anyone who is approaching this fascinating subject for the first time. This concise, clear and wide-ranging compendium of helpful, sometimes surprising information is a valuable reference tool for everyone in the field.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Atlas of lost cities : a travel guide to abandoned and forsaken destinations / Aude de Tocqueville ; illustrations, Karin Doering-Froger.
“Like humans, cities are mortal. They are born, they thrive, and they eventually die. In Atlas of Lost Cities, Aude de Tocqueville tells the compelling narrative of the rise and fall of such notable places as Pompeii, Teotihuacán, and Angkor. Beautiful, original artwork shows the location of the lost cities and depicts how they looked when they thrived.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
The Battle of Adwa : African Victory in the Age of Empire
“In 1896, a well-disciplined and massive Ethiopian army did the unthinkable-it routed an invading Italian force and brought Italy’s war of conquest in Africa to an end. In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia had successfully defended its independence and cast doubt on the assumption that all Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans.” (Syndetics summary)
A river in darkness : one man’s escape from North Korea / Masaji Ishikawa ; translated by Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown.
“Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
SS-Major Horst Kopkow : from the Gestapo to British intelligence / Stephen Tyas.
“On 27 May 1942, SS General Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated by British-trained Czech agents who had parachuted into Czechoslovakia. He died of his wounds on 4 June 1942. Two days later, Gestapo Captain Horst Kopkow’s department was given fresh directions. From 6 June 1942 until the end of the war, Kopkow was responsible for the fight against Soviet and British parachute agents dropped anywhere in German territories. By 1944 almost 150 British agents had been caught, deported, and almost all had been murdered without trial by December. Kopkow was directly involved in these murders. Arrested by British forces after the war, Kopkow was extensively interrogated, but for the next 20 years, Kopkow was a consultant for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)