New History books: Jan-Feb 2016

My primary historic interest is very much the twentieth century, so there is a bias here.
Nonetheless, here are 12 top reads published in January or February 2016…

If you have any suggestions for any additions, let me know.

(Thumbnail click for Amazon).

The Bitter Taste of Victory: In the Ruins of the Reich
The Bitter Taste of Victory: In the Ruins of the Reich  Lara Feigel
As the Second World War neared its conclusion, Germany was a nation reduced to rubble: 3.6 million German homes had been destroyed leaving 7.5 million people homeless; an apocalyptic landscape of flattened cities and desolate wastelands.

Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949
Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949  David Cesarani
This moving and dramatic account captures the fate of the Jews, the horror and the heroism, in their own words. Resting on decades of scholarship, it is compelling, authoritative, and profoundly disturbing. David Cesarani sadly died in October 2015.

The Romanovs: 1613-1918
The Romanovs: 1613-1918  Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War
Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War  Ian Buruma
A priceless record of an assimilated Jewish family living in England throughout the upheavals of the twentieth century and a moving portrait of a loving couple separated by war. By using their own words, Ian Buruma has created a spellbinding homage to the sustaining power of a family’s love and devotion through very dark days.

In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond
In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond  Robert D. Kaplan
A riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age.

The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe's History
The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe’s History (hardback only)  Peter H. Wilson
In this strikingly ambitious book, Peter H. Wilson explains how the empire worked. It is not a chronological history, but an attempt to convey to readers the Empire’s unique nature, why it was so important and how it changed over its existence.

1956, The World in Revolt
1956: The World in Revolt Simon Hall
Vibrantly and sympathetically told, this is the story of one year – a capsule history of exhilarating triumphs and shattering defeats around the world.

The Button Box: The Story of Women in the 20th Century Told Through the Clothes They Wore
The Button Box: Lifting the Lid on Women’s Lives  Lynn Knight
The Button Box traces the story of women at home and in work from pre-First World War domesticity, through the first clerical girls in silk blouses, to the delights of beading and glamour in the thirties to short skirts and sexual liberation in the sixties.

24 Historic Oddities and Strange Events: Collection
24 Historic Oddities and Strange Events: Collection  Sabine Baring-Gould
This collection presents 24 essays, each of them based on historical evidence, about different events, strange and sometimes unbelievable.

History's People: Personalities and the Past
History’s People: Personalities and the Past  Margaret MacMillan
What difference do individuals make to history? Are we all swept up in the great forces like industrialisation or globalisation that change the world? Clearly not: real people-leaders in particular-and the decisions that they make change our lives irrevocably, whether in deciding to go to war or not, decisive tactical choices made in the heat of battle or changing the economic fortunes of countries.

Spies, Sadists and Sorcerers: The history you weren't taught in school
Spies, Sadists and Sorcerers: The history you weren’t taught in school  Dominic Selwood
A brilliantly fun and informative read. Dominic Selwood has taken the juiciest bits of history from the past two thousand years and put them together in one marvellous volume.

The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria
The Morning They Came for Us  Janine di Giovanni
In May 2012, Janine di Giovanni travelled to Syria, marking the beginning of a long relationship with the country, as she began reporting from both sides of the conflict, witnessing its descent into one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. Drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught up in the fighting, Syria came to consume her every moment, her every emotion.

See also New Historical Fiction, Jan-Feb 2016.

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