U.S. Perspectives: History Previews, Nov. 2021, Pt. 2

Patriots, Loyalists, King George III, and jazz-age madam Polly Adler. 

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Applegate, Debby. Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age. Doubleday. Nov. 2021. 560p. ISBN 9780385534758. $32.50. Downloadable. BIOGRAPHY

To refresh our understanding of America during the Roaring Twenties, Pulitzer Prize winner Applegate (The Most Famous Man in America) chronicles the life of Pearl Adler. Polly, as she was known, was a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who achievedcover of Brands's OUr First Civil War remarkable success in America—as madam of a series of Manhattan brothels where the rich, the notorious, and the cultivated, from politicians to writers to gangsters, routinely gathered. Expect Gatsby-style promotion.

Brands, H.W. Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution. Doubleday. Nov. 2021. 496p. ISBN 9780385546515. $32.50. lrg. prnt. Downloadable. HISTORY

On the eve of the American Revolution, well-placed men like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin opted to fight the British while others, like Franklin’s son William, refused to do so and were soon called traitors for not having betrayed the crown. Says two-time Pulitzer finalist Brands, this clash between Patriots and Loyalists constituted our first civil war, with the loyalists batted aside as insignificant after the fighting. But they weren’t.

Graff, Garrett M. Watergate: A New History. Avid: S. & S. Nov. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9781982139162. $30. CD. HISTORY

Watergate reshaped the nation, and Graff—a veteran journalist, former editor of Politico, and New York Times best-selling author (The Only Plane in the Sky)—is here to tell its story in full. Starting not with the June 17, 1972, break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC, but with the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, Graff sweeps through events that eventually ended Richard Nixon’s presidency. Along the way, he offers new information, never-told stories, and a wide cast of characters. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

Gross, Robert A. The Transcendentalists and Their World. Farrar. Nov. 2021. 864p. ISBN 9780374279325. $40. HISTORY

Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts—these influential writers and thinkers were all associated with American Transcendentalism, and all lived in Concord, MA. Gross reconstructs the community and its spirit in a book that reveals not a peaceful, leafy-green village but a place of intellectual ferment in a rapidly changing America. Gross’s Bancroft Prize–winning The Minutemen and Their World, first published in 1976, will be reissued simultaneously with this book. With a 20,000-copy first printing.

Roberts, Andrew. The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III. Viking. Nov. 2021. 560p. ISBN 9781984879264. $40. Downloadable.

Vainglorious, incompetent, deranged—that is the view Americans have had of George III since the American Revolution. Roberts argues that this perception was shaped by the writings of revolutionaries like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, who had a vested interest in making the king look bad. Having worked his way through hundreds of thousands of pages of never-before-published correspondence, Roberts comes up with another view: George III was a gentle and likely enlightened monarch who battled mental illness as he was undermined by bad ministers and capable enemies. From leading Churchill biographer Roberts, winner of the Wolfson Prize.

Samet, Elizabeth D. Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness. Farrar. Nov. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780374219925. $28. HISTORY

Americans tend to look at World War II as a “good war” that defined the country’s preeminence and presumably exceptional role in the world. Author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize–winning Soldier's Heart, West Point professor Samet has a different take, drawing on examples from literature and film to show that in the immediate postwar period Americans were more ambivalent about the war—and war generally. Later, World War II mythology escalated to the resplendent role of the military hero in post-Vietnam period, which, says Samet, gets in the way of our dealing with more recent military conflicts. With a 20,000-copy first printing.

Stahr, Walter. Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln’s Vital Rival. S. & S. Nov. 2021. 832p. ISBN 9781501199233. $35. BIOGRAPHY

In 1860, Salmon P. Chase lost the Republican Party’s presidential nomination to Abraham Lincoln but proved to be a “vital rival.” In the 1840s, he had laid the groundwork for the party itself by forming and leading antislavery parties, and as Secretary of the Treasury he urged the president to pursue emancipation and the rights of Black Americans. From the author of the New York Times best-selling Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man and a two-time winner of the Seward Award for Excellence in Civil War Biography.

Warren, James A. Year of The Hawk: America’s Descent into Vietnam, 1965. Scribner. Nov. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781982122942. $28.

A former acquisitions editor at Columbia University Press and former visiting scholar in the American Studies Department at Brown University, Warren (God, War, and Providence) looks closely at the year America definitively entered the fighting in Vietnam. In 1965, the first U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, an air campaign against North Vietnam was launched, and a major ground offensive targeted the Communist insurgency in the south. And then nothing worked as planned. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

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