From England’s Medieval Queens to the Young Barack Obama: History/Biography Previews, Dec. 2020, Pt. 2 | Prepub Alert

Eleanor of Aquitaine, World War II titles, Lady Bird Johnson, and a photographic study of Barack Obama entertain history and biography readers in the winter months. 

Katz, David. Barack Before Obama: Life Before the Presidency. Ecco. Dec. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780063028746. $39.99. PHOTOESSAY
Among the first employees of Barack Obama’s campaign for the Senate (eventually a cover of Katz's Barack Before ObamaWhite House adviser and one of Obama's golf partners), Katz spent months photographing his new boss, eventually accumulating more than 90,000 images. Here’s a sampling that captures the fresh excitement of the candidate and the time. With a 200,000-copy first printing.

Maurer, Kevin. Rock Force: The American Paratroopers Who Took Back Corregidor and Exacted MacArthur’s Revenge on Japan. Dutton Caliber. Dec. 2020. 304p. ISBN 978152744762. $28. Downloadable. HISTORY
An award-winning journalist and the No. 1 New York Times best-selling coauthor of No Easy Day, Maurer relies on first-hand accounts and interviews with survivors to detail how Gen. Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his promise to return to the Philippines during World War I. His strategy: relying on the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, a highly trained veteran airborne unit, to recapture Corregidor.

Pappalardo, Joe. Inferno: The True Story of a B-17 Gunner’s Heroism and the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History. St. Martin’s. Dec. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781250264237. $28.99. HISTORY
Among the 472 individuals awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, Maynard Harrison Smith seemed a hapless soldier, derisively nicknamed Snuffy and on KP duty for an infraction after winning his medal. Yet he single-handedly saved much of the crew of his bullet-shattered B-17 during an ill-starred mission. A former associate editor of Smithsonian Air & Space, Pappalardo tells his story in the context of the brutal air war against the Germans. With a 60,000-copy first printing.

Sweig, Julia. Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight: Lady Bird Johnson in the White House. Random. Dec. 2020. 560p. ISBN 9780812995909. $32. Downloadable. BIOGRAPHY
An award-winning author/journalist who is currently nonresident senior research fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin, Sweig offers a thoroughgoing and revisionist view of the quiet Lady Bird Johnson, here presented as a true power behind the throne.

Weir, Alison. Queens of the Crusades: England’s Medieval Queens. Ballantine. Dec. 2020. 592p. ISBN 9781101966693. $30. BIOGRAPHY
The mega-best-selling author of both history and historical fiction, Weir here reintroduces us to the first five Plantagenet queens—Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile—members of the royal family that ruled England and France for three centuries, starting in the 1100s. Second in the “England’s Medieval Queens” series.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Book Review; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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