Malala Yousafzai, Dick Cheney and More: Fall's Top History and Politics Books
Whether you're a seasoned history buff or you're dipping into nonfiction for the first time, this fall's history and politics lineup has something for you. From new works by big-name politicos to a buzzed-about memoir by the Pakistani schoolgirl whose bravery made headlines last year, we've got the lowdown on the most talked-about titles to add to your reading list this season.
A young girl's courage
Bright, articulate and passionate about girls' rights, Malala Yousafzai has always raised her voice to stir change. So, when she nearly died last year after being shot by a Taliban gunman, the world was outraged. Malala healed—and, despite continued threats, never faltered, bravely posing for photographs from her hospital bed and later speaking out at the U.N. On the one-year anniversary of the shooting that nearly took her life, the 16-year-old schoolgirl will release a book, “I Am Malala,” one of the season's most anticipated nonfiction titles (see our fall nonfiction roundup for more). A companion audiobook version read by “The Good Wife” actress Archie Punjabi is also on the way.
A historian reflects on JFK's death
His assassination defined a generation and forever changed U.S. history: On November 22, as the nation observes the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, a raft of new titles recalling the man, the event and the era will have hit shelves. Among the most discussed books are “Five Days in November,” by Clint Hill, Kennedy’s former bodyguard, as well as historian Thurston Clarke's “JFK's Last Hundred Days.” Beginning with the loss of his prematurely born son, the book reflects on JFK's personal and political lives, offering a rare glimpse into his relationship with first lady Jackie O. and charting his growth in office. Also: Don't miss "Camelot's Court," a book on the Kennedy White House by renowned Kennedy historian Robert Dallek ("An Unfinished Life").
Recalling a rich--and lost--era
When Pamela Hicks was coming of age, the world was a different place: Western empires were still intact and British lords and ladies lived glamorous lives. In her colorful memoir, “Daughter of Empire,” Hicks remembers her parents, Lord Louis Mountbatten—Britain's last viceroy of India and first earl of Burma--and the beautiful socialite Edwina Ashley. Her parents' marriage was strained; Lady Mountbatten had an affair with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten turned a blind eye. Still, Hicks—who was also a lady-in-waiting to the Queen—describes a happy youth, offering a vivid, fascinating window into a bygone time and place.
A shocking view into American nuclear weapons
In “Fast Food Nation,” Eric Schlosser sketched a damning portrait of the U.S. food industry. Scarier still, in “Command and Control,” the investigative journalist pulls back the curtain on America's nuclear arsenal, using declassified government documents and interviews with key experts to detail the accidents, near-misses and other close calls in the U.S. nuclear weapons program's history. This inside look is a chilling but vitally important read.
A worthy follow-up to “Game Change”
Veteran political journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann return to the fore with “Double Down,” their investigation of last year's presidential election. Political junkies looking for the definitive postmortem on the Obama versus Romney throw-down should add this to their lists. (Also worth checking out: our roundup of the best books on last year’s race.)
Teddy Roosevelt, Taft and the battle for America
Two big presidential biographies are on the way this fall: "Team of Rivals" author Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit,” about presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft, and A. Scott Berg’s book about Taft’s successor, “Wilson.” In the annals of history, Roosevelt and Wilson are often listed as two of the greats (Taft wasn’t so lucky); Roosevelt famously governed under the maxim, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” while the lesser-known Wilson successfully guided America out of the First World War. Here, two of the most expert biographers around deliver arresting portraits of each man and the challenges they faced.
A true-life Navy SEAL thriller
They’re the fittest, fastest soldiers in the land, and their accounts continue to grip us. This fall, among the books coming out about the Navy SEALS, Patrick Robinson’s “Honor and Betrayal” tells the story of the three SEALS who captured the “Butcher of Fallujah” and were later tried for his alleged torture. Ahmed Hashim Abed allegedly masterminded the murders of four U.S. contractors in 2004. Robinson delves inside his apprehension and recounts the furor that later ensued when the SEALS were accused of prisoner abuse. Also due out this fall: “The Trident,” SEAL Lt. Jason Redman’s moving memoir about surviving life-threatening injuries he sustained while serving in Iraq.
An unlikely political pair
In his latest book, "Tip and the Gipper," "Jack Kennedy" author Chris Matthews--host of MSNBC's "Hardball"--takes readers inside the unique friendship of former president Ronald Reagan and longtime Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who overcame their opposing political views to achieve political change. Reagan and O’Neill held vastly different philosophies, occupying both ends of a very wide political spectrum. Still, they managed to find common ground—a lesson today’s politicians could do well to (re)learn. On the books from TV personalities front, “Morning Joe” cohost Joe Scarborough also has one on the way: In “The Right Path,” the conservative commentator and former congressman offers his analysis of the rise and fall of the Republican party, examining the Republican presidencies from Eisenhower to Reagan.
Inside a thwarted subway terror plot
It’s many New Yorkers’ worst nightmare: a terror plot targeting our vulnerable subways. In September 2009, that nightmare could've come true if not for the dramatic arrest of 24-year-old would-be jihadist Najibullah Zazi. In their chilling, exhilarating book “Enemies Within,” journalists Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman delve into Zazi’s plot and the ultra-secret NYPD counterterrorism squad that aborted it—a unit comprised of plainclothes officers dispatched throughout the city to penetrate religious communities, schools and neighborhoods to gather intelligence. On an altogether different note, for those seeking other New York-centric reads this fall, look for former mayor David Dinkins’s memoir, “A Mayor’s Life.”
A Chinese activist's arrest
One of the most best-loved contemporary artists of our time, Chinese-born sculptor Ai Weiwei has seen no shortage of controversy: Highly critical of the Chinese government, he was arrested in 2011 and illegally detained for 81 days. Drawing upon rare interviews with the artist/activist, in “Hanging Man,” the Daily Telegraph’s Barnaby Martin writes of Ai Weiwei’s life and work, crafting a story that will resonate with art fans, human rights watchers and history junkies alike.
Social media through the ages
Think the folks behind Facebook and Twitter were among the first bigwigs in the social media game? Think again. In his fun new book, “Writing on the Wall,” Economist digital editor Tom Standage takes readers on a tour of social media throughout history, from papyrus-writ screeds and pamphlets to graffiti and Internet posts.
A politician’s health battle
Before undergoing a heart transplant, Dick Cheney survived five heart attacks. Now, the typically private former vice president is offering readers an unusually candid account of his personal medical journey in “Heart,” the story of his 35-year struggle with cardiac disease.
Crafting the American presidency
Picture this: It’s your first day on the job as the head of a brand-new startup. You’ve got a lot to figure out—how to organize your staff, get people paid, grow your brand from the ground up—and no one's had the job before you. Now, imagine that job is president of the United States and you’ll start to understand what George Washington faced when he became America's first-ever commander-in-chief. In “Mr. President,” journalist and historian Harlow Giles Unger takes a fresh perspective on the American presidency, revealing how new guy Washington laid the groundwork for the future of our nation’s highest office.
All about our favorite royal
With her beauty, brains and style, Kate Middleton is everything royal watchers ever dreamed of in a duchess. Now, Mail on Sunday correspondent Katie Nicholl takes readers inside the life of the world’s most watched new mum, beginning with her schooldays in Berkshire, U.K. and going all the way through her courtship with her college sweetheart, the Duke of Cambridge, their history-making nuptials and, yes, the recent birth of their first child, Prince George Alexander Louis.
Abuse under the Libyan dictator
An international bestseller being released in the U.S. for the first time, “Gaddafi’s Harem” tells the tale of "Soraya," a teenage girl forced into sexual servitude in the house of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. In searing detail, Le Monde journalist Annick Cojean details Soraya’s harrowing story, pulling back the curtain on yet another horror of the Gaddafi regime. One more difficult, yet important, read.