Jung Chang, Orlando Figes, Dan Jones, Edmund Morris, & Alan Taylor: Barbara’s History Picks, Oct. 2019, Pt. 4 | Prepub Alert

Spanning history from the Crusades to 20th-century China with award-winning authors.

Chang, Jung. Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China. Knopf. Oct. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9780451493507. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780451493514. Downloadable. HISTORY
Author of the internationally best-selling Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Chang tells the stories of the three daughters of the wealthy Soong family of Shanghai, who powerfully influenced the history of China through the men in their lives. Ai-ling was Sun Yat-sen’s mistress before marrying Chiang Kai-shek’s prime minister. Ching-ling became Sun’s second wife and eventually, as an ally of Mao, an honorary president of Communist China. And May-ling became the wife of Chiang Kai-shek and the first lady of Nationalist China for more than two decades. With a 60,000-copy first printing.

Figes, Orlando. The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture. Metropolitan: Holt. Oct. 2019. 688p. ISBN 9781627792141. $37.50; ebk. ISBN 9781627792158. HISTORY
Winner of Wolfson, W.H. Smith, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize honors, Figes offers his usual unusual take by telling the history of 19th-century European history and particularly its artistic glory through an intriguing love triangle: the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev; the Spanish prima donna Pauline Viardot, with whom Turgenev had a long affair; and her husband, Louis Viardot, an art critic, theater manager, and republican activist. Their paths crossed with the likes of Delacroix, Berlioz, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, the Schumanns, Hugo, Flaubert, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky, which should make for rich reading. 

Jones, Dan. Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands. Viking. Oct. 2019. 448p. ISBN 9780525428312. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780698186446. Downloadable. HISTORY
The New York Times best-selling author of books like The Templars and The Plantagenets, the author/presenter of Netflix’s popular Secrets of Great British Castles, and a talking head on the official HBO film about the history behind Game of Thrones, Jones is clearly one of our go-to guys for the medieval era. His exploration of the crusades starts with Christian-Muslim relations in the 700s, well before the 1099 invasion of Jerusalem; expands to embrace Spain, North Africa, southern France, and the Baltic states; tells events not just through kings, popes, and soldiers but through Arab-Sicilian poets, Byzantine princesses, Sunni scholars, and more; and looks at consequences today. 

Morris, Edmund. Edison. Random. Oct. 2019. 736p. ISBN 9780812993110. $38; ebk. ISBN 9780679644651.CD/downloadable. HISTORY
Pulitzer Prize–winning, New York Times best-selling biographer Morris rescues from haloed history the inventor of the lightbulb (and so much more) by taking seven years to wend his way through the five-million-page archive of papers preserved under a bombproof concrete shell at the inventor’s laboratory in West Orange, NJ, plus thousands of audio and film supplemental records and artifacts.

Taylor, Alan. Thomas Jefferson’s Education. Norton. Oct. 2019. 448p. ISBN 9780393652420. $29.95. HISTORY
Thomas Jefferson Professor of History at the University of Virginia, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor shows how that university originated in Thomas Jefferson’s concern that the booming North was overtaking the South commercially. In 1819, he proposed building a school that would educate sons of the planter elite to create a renewed Virginia free slavery—and former slaves. But those sons saw their honor grounded in owning others, and Taylor argues that it was the women of the South—including his granddaughters—who truly carried out Jefferson’s educational legacy. 

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @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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