A history book recommendation: The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior by Robert O’Neill

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2hcBoD6.
Written from the vantage point of a warrior who was there, “The Operator” is an interesting and insightful book about some of the most historic moments in modern American military history.
Book description from Google Books:
New York Times Bestseller A stirringly evocative, thought-provoking, and often jaw-dropping account, The Operator ranges across SEAL Team Operator Robert O’Neill’s awe-inspiring four-hundred-mission career, which included his involvement in attempts to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell and abducted-by-Somali-pirates Captain Richard Phillips and which culminated in those famous three shots that dispatched the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.In these pages, O’Neill describes his idyllic childhood in Butte, Montana; his impulsive decision to join the SEALs; the arduous evaluation and training process; and the even tougher gauntlet he had to run to join the SEALs’ most elite unit. After officially becoming a SEAL, O’Neill would spend more than a decade in the most intense counterterror effort in US history. For extended periods, not a night passed without him and his small team recording multiple enemy kills—and though he was lucky enough to survive, several of the SEALs he’d trained with and fought beside never made it home. The Operator describes the nonstop action of O’Neill’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, evokes the black humor of years-long combat, brings to vivid life the lethal efficiency of the military’s most selective units, and reveals firsthand details of the most celebrated terrorist takedown in history.
The book is rated 4.34/5 at goodreads.com, from 2852 ratings. See 574 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2hcBw5y.
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A history book recommendation: The Leavers: A Novel by Lisa Ko

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2iDVBSB.
…Ko’s depictions of the nuances of child-parent love in birth and adoptive families, as well as the long-term emotional costs of a family’s rupture, are authentic. She avoids the clichéd happy reunions of adoption narratives in favor of an astute study of the agony of separation…
Book description from Google Books:
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION “There was a time I would have called Lisa Ko’s novel beautifully written, ambitious, and moving, and all of that is true, but it’s more than that now: if you want to understand a forgotten and essential part of the world we live in, The Leavers is required reading.” –Ann Patchett,  author of Commonwealth Lisa Ko’s powerful debut, The Leavers, is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.   One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon–and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.  With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.  Told from the perspective of both Daniel–as he grows into a directionless young man–and Polly, Ko’s novel gives us one of fiction’s most singular mothers. Loving and selfish, determined and frightened, Polly is forced to make one heartwrenching choice after another.  Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.      Lisa Ko’s fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, Apogee Journal, Narrative, Copper Nickel, the Asian Pacific American Journal, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, and Blue Mountain Center, among others. She was born in New York City, where she now lives. Visit her at lisa-ko.com.  
The book is rated 3.85/5 at goodreads.com, from 6923 ratings. See 1037 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2hccmUM.
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A history book recommendation: Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden

A critic review (source LA Times) can be read at: http://lat.ms/2xMTFga.
Bowden revisits the historic battle with the same character-driven, grunt-level reporting style that made “Black Hawk Down” a bestseller. He lends a sympathetic ear to surviving soldiers on both sides…
Book description from Google Books:
New York Times Bestseller “An extraordinary feat of journalism . . . full of emotion and color.”—Karl Marlantes, Wall Street Journal The first battle book from Mark Bowden since his #1 New York Times bestseller Black Hawk Down, Hue 1968 is the story of the centerpiece of the Tet Offensive and a turning point in the American War in Vietnam. In the early hours of January 31, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched over one hundred attacks across South Vietnam in what would become known as the Tet Offensive. The lynchpin of Tet was the capture of Hue, Vietnam?s intellectual and cultural capital, by 10,000 National Liberation Front troops who descended from hidden camps and surged across the city of 140,000. Within hours the entire city was in their hands save for two small military outposts. American commanders refused to believe the size and scope of the Front?s presence, ordering small companies of marines against thousands of entrenched enemy troops. After several futile and deadly days, Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Cheatham would finally come up with a strategy to retake the city, block by block and building by building, in some of the most intense urban combat since World War II. With unprecedented access to war archives in the U.S. and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple viewpoints. Played out over 24 days and ultimately costing 10,000 lives, the Battle of Hue was by far the bloodiest of the entire war. When it ended, the American debate was never again about winning, only about how to leave. Hue 1968 is a gripping and moving account of this pivotal moment.
The book is rated 4.44/5 at goodreads.com, from 1615 ratings. See 290 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2yvHoQQ.
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A history book recommendation: Isadora: A Novel by Amelia Gray

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2izqbwV.
Gray is a gutsy, utterly original writer, and this is the finest work she’s done so far. Isadora is a masterful portrait of one of America’s greatest artists…
Book description from Google Books:
Using the scaffolding of Isadora Duncan’s life and the stuff of her spirit, Amelia Gray delivers an incredibly imaginative portrait of the artistIn 1913, the restless world sat on the brink of unimaginable suffering. But for one woman, the darkness of a new era had already made itself at home. Isadora Duncan would come to be known as the mother of modern dance, but in the spring of 1913 she was a grieving mother, after a freak accident in Paris resulted in the drowning death of her two young children.The accident cracked Isadora’s life in two: on one side, the brilliant young talent who captivated audiences the world over; on the other, a heartbroken mother spinning dangerously on the edge of sanity.Isadora is a shocking and visceral portrait of an artist and woman drawn to the brink of destruction by the cruelty of life. In her breakout novel, Amelia Gray offers a relentless portrayal of a legendary artist churning through prewar Europe. Isadora seeks to obliterate the mannered portrait of a dancer and to introduce the reader to a woman who lived and loved without limits, even in the darkest days of her life.
The book is rated 3.37/5 at goodreads.com, from 231 ratings. See 73 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h7jC4g.
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A history book recommendation: Music of the Ghosts: A Novel by Vaddey Ratner

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h6uoHX.
Once again a writer, a female one, finds no other way to end a woman’s story without giving her a prince charming and a child to help her find her way to renewed hope, identify and resilience. Given Ratner’s personal experience of escape from the Cambodian genocide, such a critique may seem unkind.
Book description from Google Books:
An astonishing and powerful new novel from PEN/Hemingway finalist Vaddey Ratner.Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago. In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, immerses herself in long-buried memories and prepares to learn her father’s fate. Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit with great trepidation. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end. A love story for things lost and things restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is an unforgettable journey through the embattled geography of the heart and its hidden chambers where love can be reborn.
The book is rated 3.83/5 at goodreads.com, from 423 ratings. See 131 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h6uz65.
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A history book recommendation: He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h64vIk.
Bass unearths the heretofore undocumented story of Caliph Washington and his trek through the depths of Jim Crow justice. The complex lives that populate his jailhouse journey from segregation through civil rights braid the movement’s gains and limitations into a red thread tracing the current crisis of race and criminal justice.
Book description from Google Books:
Caliph Washington didn’t pull the trigger but, as Officer James “Cowboy” Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the “lightning” of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass’s account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington’s saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables–most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate’s life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington’s execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.Other details make Washington’s story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass’s account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington’s native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.By rescuing Washington’s unknown life trajectory–along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington’s bride upon his release–Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.
The book is rated 3.92/5 at goodreads.com, from 50 ratings. See 20 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h9dWqh.
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A history book recommendation: A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2zE8nbQ.
A Talent for Murder is the first in a series and has been optioned for TV: it’s not difficult to see why. Wilson not only knows his subject but he deftly moves this Agatha Christie tale away from mere literary ventriloquism and into darker, more psychological territory.
Book description from Google Books:
‘I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.’ Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, boards a train, preoccupied and flustered in the knowledge that her husband Archie is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events. Her rescuer is no guardian angel; rather, he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind. Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her genius for murder to kill on his behalf.  ‘Wilson not only knows his subject but he deftly moves the tale away from mere literary ventriloquism and into darker territory. Great fun, too’ Observer   ‘The queen of crime is the central character in this audacious mystery, which reinvents the story of her mysterious disappearance with thrilling results’ Guardian ‘A thoroughly clever entertainment and a fitting homage to the great author, but it has a chilling melancholy all its own’ The Tablet What readers are saying about A Talent for Murder:  ‘The initial premise of the story is pure genius, and when the reader realises by the end of chapter one whose head they are inside, goose bumps are guaranteed to occur’ Greg, Goodreads, 4 stars   ‘A darkly twisting tale of murder and manipulation’ Erin Britton, NetGalley, 4 stars   ‘This is a must-read for crime fiction fans, and Agatha Christie fans especially who will discover a new side to the Queen of Crime herself!’ Vincent, Goodreads, 5 stars   ‘I enjoy Agatha Christie and this book did not disappoint. I devoured this book in two days’ Annie, Goodreads, 4 stars   ‘Great mystery and action novel featuring Agatha Christie as you’ve never seen her before. Part biography/part thrill ride this is one novel I didn’t want to end’ Nikkia Neil, NetGalley, 5 stars   ‘An intriguing homage that stirs the imagination of the amateur sleuth in all of us … A Talent for Murder is one novel that definitely deserves attention and praise’ Elspeth G. Perkin, Goodreads, 4 stars   ‘This was a really good read especially for fans of Agatha Christie and even those who have never read her books’ Teresa, Goodreads, 4 stars   ‘So, so enjoyable! Great for book club discussion due to the “real” mystery behind it’ Kaylee Mitchell, Goodreads, 5 stars   ‘A fun read for Christie fans’Roman Clodia, NetGalley, 4 stars ‘I’ll admit to being totally drawn along by this novel; I couldn’t wait to keep reading and find out how it would all turn out.  I really would recommend this book as an interesting account of Christie’s missing eleven days; you will be entertained’ Kate Baty, 4 stars, NetGalley   ‘An exciting novel, a must for all Christie fans! Did you see what was happening? Did you spot the red herrings? The obvious clues. No? I didn’t and that is probably what makes this a very clever novel’ Joanne D’arcy, NetGalley, 5 stars   ‘A very enjoyable read, in the tradition of Christie herself, well researched and inventive … plenty of unexpected plot twists to keep you on your toes. What fun!’ Lisa Friel, NetGalley, 4 stars   ‘Unusual and entertaining’ Tina Stringer, NetGalley 4 stars ‘Entertaining, feasible plotting and an authentic narrative make this a highly enjoyable read’ J Graham, NetGalley, 4 stars
The book is rated 3.45/5 at goodreads.com, from 381 ratings. See 131 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zE8B2G.
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A history book recommendation: The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2zyMJWp.
Descent is a slim book, but it packs plenty of surprises per page. Perry veers from mild satire to sobering analysis to confessional candor, all while hopping between issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology.
Book description from Google Books:
What does it mean to be male in the 21st Century? Award-winning artist Grayson Perry explores what masculinity is: from sex to power, from fashion to career prospects, and what it could become–with illustrations throughout. In this witty and necessary new book, artist Grayson Perry trains his keen eye on the world of men to ask, what sort of man would make the world a better place? What would happen if we rethought the macho, outdated version of manhood, and embraced a different ideal? In the current atmosphere of bullying, intolerance and misogyny, demonstrated in the recent Trump versus Clinton presidential campaign, The Descent of Man is a timely and essential addition to current conversations around gender. Apart from gaining vast new wardrobe options, the real benefit might be that a newly fitted masculinity will allow men to have better relationships–and that’s happiness, right? Grayson Perry admits he’s not immune from the stereotypes himself–yet his thoughts on everything from power to physical appearance, from emotions to a brand new Manifesto for Men, are shot through with honesty, tenderness, and the belief that, for everyone to benefit, updating masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. They have nothing to lose but their hang-ups.
The book is rated 4.05/5 at goodreads.com, from 1382 ratings. See 201 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iMNBiq.
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A history book recommendation: The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h5ce9y.
…fast-paced narrative history depicted with irresistible verve, bloody battle scenes and moments of laugh-out-loud wit.
Book description from Google Books:
An instant New York Times bestseller, this major new history of the knights Templar is “a fresh, muscular and compelling history of the ultimate military-religious crusading order, combining sensible scholarship with narrative swagger” – Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem   A faltering war in the middle east. A band of elite warriors determined to fight to the death to protect Christianity’s holiest sites. A global financial network unaccountable to any government. A sinister plot founded on a web of lies.Jerusalem 1119. A small group of knights seeking a purpose in the violent aftermath of the First Crusade decides to set up a new order. These are the first Knights Templar, a band of elite warriors prepared to give their lives to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next two hundred years, the Templars would become the most powerful religious order of the medieval world. Their legend has inspired fervent speculation ever since.  In this groundbreaking narrative history, Dan Jones tells the true story of the Templars for the first time in a generation, drawing on extensive original sources to build a gripping account of these Christian holy warriors whose heroism and alleged depravity have been shrouded in myth. The Templars were protected by the pope and sworn to strict vows of celibacy. They fought the forces of Islam in hand-to-hand combat on the sun-baked hills where Jesus lived and died, finding their nemesis in Saladin, who vowed to drive all Christians from the lands of Islam. Experts at channeling money across borders, they established the medieval world’s largest and most innovative banking network and waged private wars against anyone who threatened their interests. A vindictive King of France set his sights on their fortune. He instructed his lawyers to mount a damning case against them, built on deliberate lies and false testimony. Then on Friday October 13, 1307, hundreds of brothers were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and the order was disbanded amid lurid accusations of sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Pope in secret proceedings and publicly humiliated. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Dan Jones goes back to the sources tobring their dramatic tale, so relevant to our own times, in a book that is at once authoritative and compulsively readable.
The book is rated 3.84/5 at goodreads.com, from 255 ratings. See 48 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h5ci9i.
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A history book recommendation: Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2zxs8lr.
The context in which “Miss Burma” is set is not part of a common well of knowledge. By resurrecting voices that are seldom heard on a wider stage, Craig’s novel rescues Benny from his own foretelling of oblivion and brings one of Burma’s many lost histories to vivid life.
Book description from Google Books:
A beautiful and poignant story of one family during the most violent and turbulent years of world history, Miss Burma is a powerful novel of love and war, colonialism and ethnicity, and the ties of blood. Miss Burma tells the story of modern-day Burma through the eyes of Benny and Khin, husband and wife, and their daughter Louisa. After attending school in Calcutta, Benny settles in Rangoon, then part of the British Empire, and falls in love with Khin, a woman who is part of a long-persecuted ethnic minority group, the Karen. World War II comes to Southeast Asia, and Benny and Khin must go into hiding in the eastern part of the country during the Japanese Occupation, beginning a journey that will lead them to change the country’s history. After the war, the British authorities make a deal with the Burman nationalists, led by Aung San, whose party gains control of the country. When Aung San is assassinated, his successor ignores the pleas for self-government of the Karen people and other ethnic groups, and in doing so sets off what will become the longest-running civil war in recorded history. Benny and Khin’s eldest child, Louisa, has a danger-filled, tempestuous childhood and reaches prominence as Burma’s first beauty queen soon before the country falls to dictatorship. As Louisa navigates her newfound fame, she is forced to reckon with her family’s past, the West’s ongoing covert dealings in her country, and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people. Based on the story of the author’s mother and grandparents, Miss Burma is a captivating portrait of how modern Burma came to be and of the ordinary people swept up in the struggle for self-determination and freedom.
The book is rated 3.65/5 at goodreads.com, from 454 ratings. See 91 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zx8NRs.
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