Some More “Best of 2012” History Books

Looking for ideas for the history buff and/or book lover on your Santa list? To my earlier collection of history books making the cut for some early “Best of 2012” lists, let’s add the following, selected by the editors of the New York Times Book Review for their 10 Best and 100 Notable lists:

Pat Barker, Toby’s Room (Doubleday)

“This novel, a sequel to ‘Life Class,’ delves further into the lives of an English family torn apart by World War I.” (100 Notable)

Binet, HHhHLaurent Binet, HHhH (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

“This gripping novel examines both the killing of an SS general in Prague in 1942 and Binet’s experience in writing about it.” (100 Notable)

Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Knopf)

“The fourth volume of Caro’s prodigious masterwork… explores, with the author’s signature combination of sweeping drama, psychological insight and painstaking research, Johnson’s humiliating years as vice president, when he was excluded from the inner circle of the Kennedy White House and stripped of power.” (10 Best)

Lizzie Collingham, The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food (Penguin)

“Collingham argues that food needs contributed to the war’s origins, strategy, outcome and aftermath.” (100 Notable)

Laurent Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (Metropolitan/Holt)

“Foreign meddling, the lack of a democratic tradition, a humiliating American occupation and cold-war support of a brutal dictator all figure in a scholar’s well-written analysis.” (100 Notable)

Kathryn Harrison, Enchantments (Random House)

“Harrison’s splendid and surprising novel of late imperial Russia centers on Rasputin’s daughter Masha and the hemophiliac ­czarevitch Alyosha.” (100 Notable)

Linda Hirshman, Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution (HarperCollins)

“Written with knowing finesse, this expansive history of gay rights from the early 20th century to the present draws on archives and interviews.” (100 Notable)

Hume, BelzoniIvor Noël Hume, Belzoni: The Giant Archeologists Love to Hate (Univ. of Virginia Press)

“The fascinating tale of the 19th-century Italian monk, a ‘notorious tomb robber,’ who gathered archaeological treasures in Egypt while crunching bones underfoot.” (100 Notable)

Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party: From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (Oxford Univ. Press)

“Pragmatic Republicanism was hardier than we remember, Kabaservice argues.” (100 Notable)

Jon Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (Random House)

“This readable and well-researched life celebrates Jefferson’s skills as a practical politician, unafraid to wield power even when it conflicted with his small-government views.” (100 Notable)

Toni Morrison, Home (Knopf)

“A black Korean War veteran, discharged from an integrated Army into a segregated homeland, makes a reluctant journey back to Georgia in a novel engaged with themes that have long haunted Morrison.” (100 Notable)

Paul Thomas Murphy, Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy (Pegasus)

“An uninhibited and learned account of the attempts on the life of Queen Victoria, which only increased her popularity.” (100 Notable)

David Nasaw, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (Penguin)

“…sprawling, arresting account of a banker-cum-speculator-cum-moviemaker-cum-ambassador-cum-dynastic founder.” (10 Best)

Tom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (Crown)

“The first Alexandre Dumas, a mixed-race general of the French Revolution, is the subject of this imaginative biography.” (100 Notable)

William Souder, On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (Crown)

“An absorbing biography of the pioneering environmental writer on the 50th anniversary of ‘Silent Spring.'” (100 Notable)

Stott, Darwin's GhostsRebecca Stott, Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution (Spiegel & Grau)

“Stott’s lively, original history of evolutionary ideas flows easily across continents and centuries.” (100 Notable)

Geoffrey C. Ward, A Disposition to Be Rich: How a Small-Town Preacher’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States (Knopf)

“The author’s ancestor was the bane of Ulysses S. Grant.” (100 Notable)

John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (Free Press)

“A tension between humanitarianism and righteousness has shaped America’s rules of warfare.” (100 Notable)

Also selected were these repeats from my earlier list:

Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 (Doubleday)

“An overwhelming and convincing account of the Soviet push to colonize Eastern Europe after World War II.” (100 Notable)

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (Henry Holt)

“…makes the seemingly worn-out story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn newly fascinating and suspenseful.” (10 Best)


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