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By Mark Davis
The nation founders, the Lone Star State thrives
Topic - John M. Taylor
"Battle Cry of Freedom," by Princeton's James M. McPherson, won a Pulitzer Prize for the author in 1989 and remains the best single-volume history of the American Civil War. If it had any shortcoming, it was the author's limited treatment of the war at sea. This brisk volume attempts to meet that perceived shortcoming.
Virtually every adult in the Western world is by now aware of the barbarities committed by Hitler's Germany. A smaller number recognize that Stalin also was guilty of many atrocities. What Yale professor Timothy Snyder has now provided is a detailed recounting of the massive bloodletting in the lands between Germany and the Soviet Union before and during World War II.
To write the "biography" of a city of nearly 5 million is a challenging literary task. When the city in question is Berlin, and the time frame that of World War II, the challenge is even greater.
"The ball was almost over, the candles had shortened, the musicians, drunk or asleep, no longer made use of their instruments. The crowd had dispersed, everyone was unmasked, rouge and powder flowed down the painted faces [offering] the disgusting spectacle of dilapidated stylishness." So wrote a French nobleman of the years before the French Revolution. A similar description might apply to the years leading up to World War I, the subject of an attractively written, extensively illustrated work by British historian Miranda Carter.
Few barons of the Gilded Age offer so remarkable a story as press mogul Joseph Pulitzer. Born in Hungary in 1847 to middle-class Jewish parents, Joseph opted initially for a military career, but was repeatedly rejected because of his poor eyesight. At 17, he made his way to the United States, where he served briefly in the Union Army, which by 1864 was not fussy about eyesight. But the end of the war found him a tall, scrawny youth who spoke little English and had no money and no employment prospects.
In the corrupt years of the Gilded Age, the lobbyists who had proliferated in Washington after the Civil War came in for scathing criticism.
British military historian Terry Brighton has written a biographical triptych of George Patton, Bernard Montgomery and Erwin Rommel, three of World War II's most colorful commanders.
Winston Churchill once called the American Civil War the noblest and least avoidable of the great wars up to that time. Now, distinguished British historian John Keegan has turned his attention to North America's most studied conflict.
The most damaging series of art forgeries in recent decades were pulled off by a pair of improbable Englishmen, John Drewe and John Myatt, whose operations are engagingly told by two investigative reporters, Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo, in "Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art."
For an American president to be remembered, exciting things — good or bad — must occur on his "watch." The title of Harlow Giles Unger's new biography, "The Last Founding Father," is a bit pretentious.
Roland John Wiley's book is fine for the specialist, but not necessarily the best choice for your next air flight.