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 Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution

by Richard Beeman

(Random House)

This timely book offers a thoughtful history of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which produced one of the most astounding and important documents in history. The book’s central theme reveals a truth too often forgotten: that the key to finding enough common ground to unite and move forward lies in compromise. Giving the major players their due, Beeman demonstrates that, as one reviewer wrote, “compromisers may not make great heroes but they do make great democracies.” Reviewed in the summer issue.

 

D-Day: The Battle for Normandy

by Antony Beevor

(Viking)

In one thick and dense yet readable volume, a British historian re-creates a nearly minute-by-minute account of the invasion that was the beginning of the end of World War II.

 

The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy’s Art

during World War II

by Ilaria Dagnini Brey

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This portrait of unlikely heroes (art scholars and such) relates a great story of World War II: that American military forces could fight to win while at the same time minimizing damage done to the world’s cultural treasures.

 

The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

by Douglas Brinkley

(Harper)

Our “naturalist president” bestrides the earth in this colossal biography focusing on TR’s crusade to preserve the wonders of our natural world in national parks. Reviewers from coast to coast compared the book to the man himself: brash, bold, brilliant, and flawed. Adapted for a feature article in the fall issue.

 

Woodrow Wilson: A Biography

by John Milton Cooper Jr.

(Knopf)

A visionary in foreign affairs and a bigot at home, Woodrow Wilson was a quiet revolutionary who espoused both internationalism and new federal regulatory activity—initiatives that only came into their own with the New Deal and the end of World War II. This weighty biography is the best look at Wilson in more than two decades.

 

Zeitoun

by Dave Eggers

(McSweeney’s)

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a decent chap named Abdulrahman Zeitoun set out to rescue neighbors and feed stranded pets. Of Syrian birth, swarthy complexion, and Muslim faith, he was seized at gunpoint by members of Homeland Security, locked in a Guantanamo-like cage, and held incommunicado for weeks in a real-life nightmare out of Kafka. It’s a gripping tale of an American tragedy within a natural disaster.

 

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers

by Thomas Fleming

(Smithsonian)

Behind every one of America’s early leaders was at least one woman, and the Founding Mothers were as varied as their various husbands, sons, and lovers. One interesting common theme in this collective biography: how many of the men in question were jilted before finding true love. Adapted for a feature article in the fall issue.

 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life

by Lori D. Ginzberg

(Hill & Wang)

If she hadn’t lived, someone would have had to invent her. Often glossed over as simply one militant champion of women’s suffrage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a woman of parts: an intellectual first and foremost, an abolitionist who could sound like a racist, and a champion of equal rights who could match any snob in hauteur.

 

Abigail Adams

by Woody Holton

(Free Press)

We’ve long guessed that she was a woman to be reckoned with in her own right—not just as John’s wife—and this full biography does her justice, allowing her voice to “radiate off the page,” as one reviewer wrote. Ahead of her time, she advocated equal education for women and even plotted ways to circumvent laws and customs that hobbled her sex.

 

The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election

by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson

(Viking)

No matter how recent the campaign and how fully it was covered, these two veteran reporters shed new light on its events and players in this definitive chronicle. Proffering precious nuggets of fact and insight gleaned from first-hand glimpses and confidential memos, they have written a comprehensive and exciting account of how the inevitable turned turtle and the unexpected became fact.

 

1959: The Year Everything Changed

by Fred Kaplan

(Wiley)