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Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge
From October 2006 to December 2007, Daniel A. Sjursen—then a U.S. Army lieutenant—led a light scout platoon across Baghdad. The experiences of Ghost Rider platoon provide a soldier’s-eye view of the incredible complexities of warfare, peacekeeping, and counterinsurgency in one of the world’s most ancient cities.
Sjursen reflects broadly and critically on the prevailing narrative of the surge as savior of America’s longest war, on the overall military strategy in Iraq, and on U.S. relations with ordinary Iraqis. At a time when just a handful of U.S. senators and representatives have a family member in combat, Sjursen also writes movingly on questions of America’s patterns of national service. Who now serves and why? What connection does America’s professional army have to the broader society and culture? What is the price we pay for abandoning the model of the citizen soldier?
With the bloody emergence of ISIS in 2014, Iraq and its beleaguered, battle-scarred people are again much in the news. Unlike other books on the U.S. war in Iraq, Ghost Riders of Baghdad is part battlefield chronicle, part critique of American military strategy and policy, and part appreciation of Iraq and its people. At once a military memoir, history, and cultural commentary, Ghost Riders of Bahdad delivers a compelling story and a deep appreciation of both those who serve and the civilians they strive to protect. Sjursen provides a riveting addition to our understanding of modern warfare and its human costs.
The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John
In the spring of 1565, a massive fleet of Ottoman ships descended on Malta, a small island centrally located between North Africa and Sicily, home and headquarters of the crusading Knights of St. John and their charismatic Grand Master, Jean de Valette. The Knights had been expelled from Rhodes by the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, and now stood as the last bastion against a Muslim invasion of Sicily, southern Italy, and beyond. The siege force of Turks, Arabs, and Barbary corsairs from across the Muslim world outnumbered the defenders of Malta many times over, and its arrival began a long hot summer of bloody combat, often hand to hand, embroiling knights and mercenaries, civilians and slaves, in a desperate struggle for this pivotal point in the Mediterranean.
Bruce Ware Allen’s The Great Siege of Malta describes the siege’s geopolitical context, explains its strategies and tactics, and reveals how the all-too-human personalities of both Muslim and Christian leaders shaped the course of events. The siege of Malta was the Ottoman empire’s high-water mark in the war between the Christian West and the Muslim East for control of the Mediterranean. Drawing on copious research and new source material, Allen stirringly recreates the two factions’ heroism and chivalry, while simultaneously tracing the barbarism, severity, and indifference to suffering of sixteenth-century warfare.
The Great Siege of Malta is a fresh, vivid retelling of one of the most famous battles of the early modern world—a battle whose echoes are still felt today.
Master Potter in the Garden
If you mention Guy Wolff to a serious gardener, that gardener will almost certainly admit to either owning a Guy Wolff flowerpot or coveting one. Wolff's pots--some small and perfect for a sunny windowsill, others massive and just right for a favorite outdoor spot--are widely considered to be the epitome of gardenware. Their classical proportions, simple decoration, and the marks of Wolff's hands all combine to make plants look their best. His pots possess an honesty and liveliness that machine-made flowerpots lack.
Wolff is probably the best-known potter working in the United States today. In gardening circles, he is a highly revered horticultural icon; gardeners flock to his lectures and demonstrations. His work also appeals to lovers of design and fine arts: visit the personal gardens of landscape designers, and you will see Guy Wolff pots. Step inside the gates of estate gardens, and you will see Guy Wolff pots. Yet he is a potter's potter. He's a big ware thrower, a skill few have today. He thinks deeply about what he calls the architecture of pots and the importance of handmade objects in our lives.
Whether you are a longtime collector of Wolff's pots, anxious to buy your first one, or simply intrigued by the beauty and practicality of hand-crafted goods in our fast-paced era, you'll want to add this richly illustrated book to your library.
Roman triremes of the Mediterranean. The treasure fleet of the Spanish Main. Great ocean liners of the Atlantic. Stories of disasters at sea fire the imagination as little else can, whether the subject is a historical wreck—the Titanic or the Bismark—or the recent capsizing of a Mediterranean cruise ship. Shipwrecks also make for a new and very different understanding of world history. A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks explores the ages-long, immensely hazardous, persistently romantic, and still-ongoing process of moving people and goods across far-flung maritime worlds.
Telling the stories of ships and the people who made and sailed them, from the earliest ancient-Nile craft to the Exxon Valdez, A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks argues that the gradual integration of localized and separate maritime regions into fewer, larger, and more interdependent regions offers a unique window on world history. Stewart Gordon draws a number of provocative conclusions from his study, among them that the European “Age of Exploration” as a singular event is simply a myth—many cultures, east and west, explored far-flung maritime worlds over the millennia—and that technologies of shipbuilding and navigation have been among the main drivers of science and technology throughout history. Finally, A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks shows in a series of compelling narratives that the development of institutions and technologies that made terrifying oceans familiar, and turned unknown seas into sea-lanes, profoundly matters in our modern world.
Part Falstaff, part King Lear, but all American, Howard Elman was a fifty-something workingman when he burst onto the literary scene in The Dogs of March, the first novel of the Darby Chronicles. Now in this, its seventh installment, the Darby constable is an eighty-something widower who wants to do “a great thing” before he motors off into the sunset.
Maybe Howard achieves this goal, but he manages it in strange, wonderful, and dangerous ways. On his quest he’s aided, abetted, hindered, and befuddled by his middle-aged children, his hundred-year-old hermit friend Cooty Patterson, a voice in his head, and the person he loves most, his grandson, Birch Latour. At 24, Birch has returned to Darby with his friends to take over the stewardship of the Salmon Trust and to launch a video game, Darby Doomsday. At stake is the fate of Darby. And the world? Maybe.
Howard Elman’s Farewell begins as a coming of (old) age story, morphs into a murder mystery, expands into a family saga, and in the end might just follow Howard Elman into the spirit world.
This is a novel for people who like New England fiction with humor, pathos, and just a touch of magical realism.
In his nearly two terms as president, Barack Obama has solidified his status as something black people haven’t had for fifty years: a folk hero. The 1960s delivered Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, forever twinned as larger-than-life outsiders and truth tellers who took on racism and died in the process. Obama is different: Not an outsider but president, head of the most powerful state in the world; a centrist Democrat, not the face of a movement. Yet he is every bit a folk hero, doing battle with the beast of a system created to keep people like him on the margins. He is unique among presidents and entirely unique among black people, who never expected to have a president so soon.
In I Heart Obama, journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan offers an unapologetic appreciation of our highest-ranking “First” and what he means to black Americans. In the process, she explores the critiques of those in the black community who charge that he has not done enough, been present enough, been black enough to motivate real change in America. Racial antipathy cloaked as political antipathy has been the major conflict in Obama’s presidency. His impossible task as an individual and as a president is nothing less than this: to reform the entire racist culture of the country he leads. Black people know he can’t do it, but will support his effort anyway, as they have supported the efforts of many others. Obama’s is a noble and singular story we will tell for generations. I Heart Obama looks at the story so far.
The Epic Voyages of the Polar Adventurer Fram
In the golden age of polar exploration (from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s), many an expedition set out to answer the big question—was the Arctic a continent, an open ocean beyond a barrier of ice, or an ocean covered with ice? No one knew, for the ice had kept its secret well; ships trying to penetrate it all failed, often catastrophically. Norway’s charismatic scientist-explorer Fridtjof Nansen, convinced that it was a frozen ocean, intended to prove it in a novel if risky way: by building a ship capable of withstanding the ice, joining others on an expedition, then drifting wherever it took them, on a relentless one-way journey into discovery and fame . . . or oblivion.
Ice Ship is the story of that extraordinary ship, the Fram, from conception to construction, through twenty years of three epic expeditions, to its final resting place as a museum. It is also the story of the extraordinary men who steered the Fram over the course of 84,000 miles: on a three-year, ice-bound drift, finding out what the Arctic really was; in a remarkable four-year exploration of unmapped lands in the vast Canadian Arctic; and on a two–year voyage to Antarctica, where another famous Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, claimed the South Pole.
Ice Ship will appeal to all those fascinated with polar exploration, maritime adventure, and wooden ships, and will captivate readers of such books as The Endurance, In the Heart of the Sea, and The Last Place on Earth. With more than 100 original photographs, the book brings the Fram to life and light.
The Secret History of Monsieur de Beaumarchais, the French Playwright Who Saved the American Revolution
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was an eighteenth-century French inventor, famed playwright, and upstart near-aristocrat in the court of King Louis XVI. In 1776, he conceived an audacious plan to send aid to the American rebels. What's more, he convinced the king to bankroll the project, and singlehandedly carried it out. By war's end, he had supplied Washington's army with most of its weapons and powder, though he was never paid or acknowledged by the United States.
To some, he was a dashing hero--a towering intellect who saved the American Revolution. To others, he was pure rogue--a double-dealing adventurer who stopped at nothing to advance his fame and fortune. In fact, he was both, and more: an advisor to kings, an arms dealer, and author of some of the most enduring works of the stage, including The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville.
Violence Comes to One Small Town
On the afternoon of August 19, 1997, John Harrigan—owner and publisher of the News and Sentinel newspaper in Colebrook, New Hampshire—arrived at his building to find the woman he loved lying dead in the parking lot. Lawyer Vickie Bunnell had been shot and killed by an itinerant carpenter wielding an assault rifle. By then, three more people were already dead or dying. More mayhem was to ensue in an afternoon of plot twists too improbable for a novel. The roots of the incident stretch back twenty-five years, with tendrils deep in the history of New England’s North Country.
These bloody events shocked America and made headlines across the world. Hundreds of local citizens became unwilling players in the drama—friends and colleagues of the dead, men and women who were themselves real or potential targets, along with their neighbors in law enforcement—but the town and its inhabitants were never passive victims. From the first shot fired that day, they remained courageously determined to survive. This is the story of that town, those people, and that day. In the Evil Day is a moving portrait of small-town life and familiar characters forever changed by sudden violence.
The Russian-Chechen Wars, the Al Qaeda Myth, and the Boston Marathon Bombings
In 2013, the United States suffered its worst terrorist bombing since 9/11 at the annual running of the Boston Marathon. When the culprits turned out to be U.S. residents of Chechen descent, Americans were shocked and confused. Why would members of an obscure Russian minority group consider America their enemy? Inferno in Chechnya is the first book to answer this riddle by tracing the roots of the Boston attack to the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia.
Brian Glyn Williams describes the tragic history of the bombers’ war-devastated homeland—including tsarist conquest and two bloody wars with post-Soviet Russia that would lead to the rise of Vladimir Putin—showing how the conflict there influenced the rise of Europe’s deadliest homegrown terrorist network. He provides a historical account of the Chechens’ terror campaign in Russia, documents their growing links to Al Qaeda and radical Islam, and describes the plight of the Chechen diaspora that ultimately sent two Chechens to Boston.
Inferno in Chechnya delivers a fascinating and deeply tragic story that has much to say about the historical and ethnic roots of modern terrorism.