Though today’s Congress seems combative, all the filibusters and name-calling are nothing compared to when Congressmen actually stabbed and shot one another. From the infamous caning of Charles Sumner to endless duel challenges, historian Joanne Freeman shows that these frayed tensions were practically destined to erupt into Civil War. Remembering the Congress of the past solely as hallowed halls and dignified men is dangerous, she argues, as the real history reveals uncomfortable yet necessary truths about a union on the brink of collapse. Written with wit, flair, and a hint of cheek, Freeman presents these Congressmen as petty, triumphant, stoic, and vengeful—or, as she puts it more simply, human.
In this intense, compelling, and unsettling account of Americans at war, Chris Chivers explores the recent history of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq not from the vantage of senior officers and civilian policymakers, but from the perspectives of those in the lower and middle ranks who’ve done the bulk of the fighting. Although The Fighters focuses on six individuals from different military branches who served in different places and at different times, the accounts capture what many other troops have gone through. As a former Marine and experienced journalist with the New York Times, Chivers himself is particularly well-qualified to tell this story. He writes about military affairs with the authority and informed eye for detail of a veteran and with the clarity and punch of a talented wordsmith.
Drawing on storytelling skills hone over his many years as a New York Times journalist, Steve Weisman has written one of the best books in years about the Jewish experience in the United States.The Chosen Wars essentially recounts how Judaism in America was transformed from Old World religious traditions into the modern-day Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox branches. This history was nothing if not fractious. But one of the strengths of the book is how Weisman connects the religious transformation of Judaism to the history of America, portraying the Jewish evolution here as a distinctly American phenomenon. What makes the book not only important but entertaining is the presence in it of many illuminating anecdotes and vivid profiles of key rabbis, activists, and other Jewish figures.