It’s All Relative
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The sinking of the Lusitania, the assassination of Abraham
Lincoln, and recent national tragedies are all hot topics in the
history books this season. In addition, many of the top titles
pay special attention to the role of family in making history.
The Roosevelt family is no stranger to the history books, especially on the
heels of Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward’s family biography. This time
around, first cousins Eleanor and Alice (Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter) take
center stage—or rather fight for the spotlight—in Marc Peyser and Timothy
Dwyer’s Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and
Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough examines a more con-
genial relationship in his upcoming book, The Wright Brothers, which
tells how a couple of unschooled bicycle mechanics—with little-known con-
tributions from their sister, Katharine—built the first successful airplane.
Less uplifting but more timely is journalist Masha Gessen’s latest, The
Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy, about Tamerlan and
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers behind the Boston Marathon bombing of
Megabestseller Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the
April 2013. And in One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the
Massacre in Norway, a harrowing account of the July 2011 attacks in Oslo
and on the nearby island of Utøya, Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad,
author of The Bookseller of Kabul, examines a recent tragedy in her homeland.
With the 150th anniversary of his assassination in April, there is no short-
age of books on Abraham Lincoln. Richard Wightman Fox’s Lincoln’s Body:
A Cultural History stands out from the bunch for presenting an original
aspect of Lincoln’s legacy, the president’s ungainly, awkward physique.
In The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous
Assassination, Barry Strauss, a leading expert on ancient military history,
offers a dramatic account of the death of Julius that will surprise those who
know about it only from Shakespeare. Fans of medieval history will appreci-
ate Helen Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History, which includes a panoramic
view of 15th-century France, alongside a portrait of a fascinating person.
‘Lusitania’ is a masterful work of historical suspense on the sinking of the
British ocean liner by a German U-boat. That disaster is also one of the three
attacks examined in British historian Diane Preston’s A Higher Form of
Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature
of Warfare. Preston says that these attacks, all launched by the Germans in
1915, marked the dawn of the era of weapons of mass destruction.
Pulitzer winner Joseph J. Ellis returns with The Quartet: Orchestrating the
Second American Revolution, 1783–1789, his ninth book on the Founding
Fathers, in which he proves, yet again, that some topics can’t be exhausted.
SPRING 2015 ADULT