Building Red America
by Thomas B. Edsall (Basic)
A longtime Washington Post reporter assesses the distinctive qualities of the current GOP ascendancy. The recent trend toward realignment is unique, he argues, in that it has arisen more as a result of deliberate strategy than through organic historical contingency.
Blessed Among Nations
by Eric Rauchway (Hill and Wang)
America’s rise to preeminence, the author argues, was the product of a perfect storm of foreign investment, luck, and global instability, and we forget at our peril the fickle nature of such forces. With hegemony comes responsibility, he suggests, responsibility that the U.S. may presently be all too willing to shirk.
There Goes My Everything
by Jason Sokol (Knopf)
A young historian provides a fascinating and remarkably empathetic assessment of how white southerners experienced the civil-rights movement. Sokol’s book offers more evidence (as if more were needed) supporting I. F. Stone’s contention that history is tragedy and not melodrama.
Democracy in Iran
by Ali Gheissari and Vali Nasr (Oxford)
A book tracing the tradition of democracy in Iran, from the country’s first constitution, in 1906, to the electoral system that survives in spite of the mullahs today. Although the current regime may seem to be growing ever more illiberal, the authors argue, the continued strengthening of Iranian civil society could portend a more democratic future.
by Daniel Mendelsohn (HarperCollins)
A New York Review of Books critic recounts his search across three continents for people with knowledge of his relatives who perished in the Holocaust.
by Charles Townshend (Ivan R. Dee)
This gripping new volume presents a dispassionate and definitive reconstruction of the Easter Rising, painstakingly sifting legend from fact, with the help of, among hundreds of other sources, eyewitness accounts recently released by the Irish government.
The Conquest of Nature
by David Blackbourn (Norton)
A natural history of Germany from the mid-eighteenth century to the present, revealing the extent to which landscape is destiny (but not necessarily in the way the Nazis insisted it was).
by Charles Ponce de Leon (Hill and Wang)
A brief new life of Elvis Presley emphasizes his conservative political values and inability to adjust to changing times (the King’s surface chameleon tendencies notwithstanding).
Madame Chiang Kai-Shek
by Laura Tyson Li (Atlantic Monthly)
The first biography of the Wellesley-educated charmer portrays her as a tragically complex Scarlett O’Hara figure, at once outspoken and submissive, devoutly religious and coldly calculating, triumphantly Chinese and alien to her compatriots.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE
The Perfect $100,000 House
by Karrie Jacobs (Viking)
The founding editor of Dwell magazine embarks on an epic and moderately successful cross-country search for a reasonably priced home. Although Jacobs’s journey is a cheerful one, it also reveals the inescapably darker truth that affordable comfort is remarkably hard to come by in the candy store of American consumption.