2014 is a landmark year for history buffs, with two major anniversaries on the horizon this spring: the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act and, of course, the WWI centennial. As usual, publishers are bringing out multiple titles on both topics. The real trend this season, though, is the infiltration of spy narratives into history books.

This subgenre, first emerging after the death of Osama bin Laden, continues in the contemporary military history realm. This season’s forecast is loaded with memoirs from deep within the special operations of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Perhaps the most notable comes from the trendsetter himself: Mark Owen, whose first book provided the eyewitness account of the mission that killed bin Laden. His latest memoir, No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy SEAL (co-written with Kevin Maurer), is more a retrospective pulling stories from Owen’s 13-year career as SEAL.

Spycraft gets attention from Pulitzer Prize winner Kai Bird. The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames offers a life of the CIA agent who comes closest to being the American James Bond, as well as an insightful history of 20th-century conflict in the Middle East.The role of women during wartime continues to attract interest, evidenced by Karen Abbott’s new book that reveals an exciting story of female spies in unexpected places. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy carves out four stories of women working undercover in the Civil War from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

Abbott’s is not the only big Civil War title this season. Michael Korda approaches the era more traditionally with a biography of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee. Harper Collins has a lot banking on this one with a first printing of 150,000. Judging by Korda’s bestselling biographies Hero and Ike, readers can expect a well-rounded and highly readable portrait.

Walter Borneman, author of The Admirals, re-examines the pivotal first weeks of the American Revolution beyond Paul Revere, with the stories of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Benjamin Franklin, and Patrick Henry in American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution.

Those looking for a heavy dose of intellectual history will welcome the third volume in historian David Brion Davis’s magisterial study of the intellectual, cultural, and moral realities of slavery in the West, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation.. The most ambitious book comes from NBCC Award–winner Simon Schama, The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 B.C.–1492 A.D.; accompanied by a PBS documentary series, the book attempts to synthesize 2,500 years of cultural history.

David I. Kertzer is whistleblower of the group with his exposé, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, which makes a convincing case for the existence of a secret alliance between the Italian dictator and the Vatican beginning in 1922.

In Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art, critically acclaimed journalist Carl Hoffman chronicles his investigation into the disappearance of Michael C. Rockefeller in 1961 with his own adventure into the remote lands of New Guinea.

Like Hoffman, historian Elizabeth A. Fenn incorporates her travelogue into a fresh interpretation of North America before the arrival of Europeans in Encounters at the Heart of the Land: A History of the Mandan People. This blending of genre is an exciting development for history books.

PW’s Top 10: History & Military History

No Hero : The Evolution of a Navy SEAL. Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer. Dutton, May 20

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. Kai Bird. Crown, May 12

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Women Undercover in the Civil War. Karen Abbott. Harper, July 1

Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee. Michael Korda. Harper, May 13

American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution. Walter R. Borneman. Little, Brown, May 6

The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation. David Brion Davis. Knopf, Feb. 4

The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000 B.C.–1492 A.D. Simon Schama. Ecco, Mar. 18

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. David I. Kertzer. Random House, Jan. 28

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art. Carl Hoffman. Morrow, Mar. 9

Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Elizabeth A. Fenn. Hill and Wang, Mar. 11

History & Military History Listings


Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone (May 6, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0345538031) is a gripping narrative of the rivalry between the Wright Brothers and Glenn Hammond Curtiss, and a fresh look at the astounding and dangerous early days of flight.

Basic Books

A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire by Geoffrey Wawro (Apr. 29, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0465028351) reveals how a once mighty empire collapsed in the trenches of Serbia and the Eastern Front. 25,000-copy announced first printing.

Midnight’s Descendants: A History of South Asia Since Partition by John Keay (Mar. 11, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0465021802) narrates South Asia’s recent history, from the aftermath of the 1947 partition to the region’s present-day efforts to transcend its turbulent past. 15,000-copy announced first printing.

Bloomsbury USA

The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act by Clay Risen (Apr. 1, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1608198245). On the 50th anniversary of the law, New York Times editor Clay Risen unfolds the historic struggle—waged on the streets and in Congress—to bring the Civil Rights Act into law.

Chicago Review

(dist. by IPG)

The Admiral and the Ambassador: One Man’s Obsessive Search for the Body of John Paul Jones by Scott Martelle (May 1, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1613747308). Part history, part biography, and part detective story, Martelle chronicles the tireless search by Horace Porter—Civil War hero, aide to then Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and U.S. ambassador to France—for the body of Navy hero John Paul Jones.


The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird (May 12, hardcover, $32.50, ISBN 978-0393088632) tells of the making of a CIA officer, an insightful history of 20th-century conflict in the Middle East, and an hour-by-hour account of the Beirut Embassy bombing.

Da Capo Press

Last Stand at Khe Sanh: The U.S. Marines’ Finest Hour in Vietnam by Gregg Jones (Apr. 1, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0306821394). A fast-paced account of the siege of Khe Sanh, told through the eyes of the men who lived it. 30,000-copy announced first printing.


No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy SEAL by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer (May 20, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0525954521). Following his bestselling account of the bin Laden mission No Easy Day, former Navy SEAL Owen tells the dramatic stories from his career.


Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark (Mar. 4, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0062218292) uncovers a pivotal moment in American history when the Eastern establishment turned sights on the West Coast, turning America into a global power. 75,000-copy announced first printing.

Congo: The Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck (Mar. 25, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0062200112) a rich epic in the tradition of Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore, offers the story of one of the world’s most devastated countries. 25,000-copy announced first printing.

The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 B.C.–1492 A.D. by Simon Schama (Mar. 18, hardcover, $39.99, ISBN 978-0060539184). In the first of two volumes of this illustrated cultural history, Schama details the story of the Jewish people, tracing their experience across three millennia. 100,000-copy announced first printing.

Faber and Faber

The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and Its Arabs by Andrew Hussey (Mar. 18, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0865479210) reveals the role played by the countries of the Magreb in shaping French history, and explores the challenge being mounted by today’s dispossessed heirs to the colonial project to stake a claim on France’s future.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict by John B. Judis (Feb. 4, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0374161095) looks at the relationship between the United States and Israel.

War! What Is It Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots by Ian Morris (Apr. 15, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0374286002) provocatively explores how war has changed society—for the better.

Grove/Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly

Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty by Elizabeth Mitchell (July 2, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0802122575) relates the story behind the building of the Statue of Liberty, the product of French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, an artist, entrepreneur, and inventor, who fought to create this wonder of the modern world.

Harvard Univ. Press

The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s by Werner Sollors (Apr. 28, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0674052437). In Germany the end of WWII evokes images of obliterated cities, hungry refugees, and ghostly monuments to Nazi crimes. Drawing on diaries, photographs, essays, reports, fiction, and film, Werner Sollors makes visceral the sorrow and anger, guilt and pride, despondency and resilience of a defeated people.


John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan (May 6, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0061915413). The author of Lincoln returns with an illuminating biography of one of the most overlooked presidents in American history—a leader whose progressive values helped shape the course of the nation. 75,000-copy announced first printing.

Dark Invasion 1915: Germany’s Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America by Howard Blum (Feb. 11, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062307552). A gritty true-life tale of German espionage and terror on American soil during WWI, and the NYPD inspector who helped uncover the plot—the basis for the film to be produced by and starring Bradley Cooper. 50,000-copy announced first printing.

Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee by Michael Korda (May 13, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0062116291). A vivid and admiring portrait of Lee as a brilliant general who disliked slavery and disagreed with secession, yet refused command of the Union Army in 1861 because he could not “draw his sword” against his beloved Virginia. 150,000-copy announced first printing.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott (July 1, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0062092892). The bestselling author of Sin in the Second City tells the story of four women who became spies during the Civil War. 50,000-copy announced first printing.


Reagan at Reykjavik: The Weekend That Ended the Cold War by Ken Adelman (May 6, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062310194). A firsthand account of the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Iceland by Reagan’s arms control director. 35,000-copy announced first printing.

Henry Holt

A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III by Janice Hadlow (May 6, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0805096569). The surprising yet heartbreaking story of King George III’s radical pursuit of happiness in his private life with Queen Charlotte and their 15 children.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Todd S. Purdum (Apr. 1, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0805096729). Vanity Fair’s Washington correspondent recounts the political battle to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Hill and Wang

Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn (Mar. 11, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0809042395) changes readers’ understanding of North America before and after the arrival of Europeans, as historian Fenn traces the rise and fall of the Plains Mandans as newcomers encroached on their domains.

The History Press/Spellmount

(dist. by IPG)

Wellington and Waterloo: The Duke, the Battle and Posterity, 1815–2015 by R.E. Foster (May 1, hardcover, $32.95, ISBN 978-0752488776) chronicles how perceptions of the Battle of Waterloo and the duke of Wellington’s reputation have changed over two centuries.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941–1942 by Nigel Hamilton (May 13, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0547775241) takes a closeup look at how F.D.R. took masterful command and control of WWII, from wresting key decisions away from Churchill and his own generals, to launching the first successful trial landing in North Africa. 50,000-copy announced first printing.

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Ford Motor Company, and Their Epic Quest to Arm an America at War by A.J. Baime (June 3, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0547719283). The story of the dramatic transformation of Detroit from “motortown” to the “arsenal of democracy,” featuring Edsel Ford, who rebelled against his pacifist father, Henry Ford, to build the industrial miracle at Willow Run. 35,000-copy announced first printing.


Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm (Mar. 11, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0307596871) seamlessly weaves together the life and written words, the moral struggles, political intrigue, and bloody vengeance that enmeshed Seneca the Younger in the twisted imperial family and the paranoid regime of Nero.

The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis (Feb. 4, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0307269096) is the long-awaited conclusion to the magisterial history of slavery and emancipation in Western culture that has been nearly 50 years in the making. 35,000-copy announced first printing.

Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha (Apr. 15, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0385532297). The first volume of this biography follows Mohandas Gandhi from his birth in 1869 through his upbringing in Gujarat, his two years as a student in London, and his two decades as a lawyer and community organizer in South Africa. 35,000-copy announced first printing.

Little, Brown

American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution by Walter R. Borneman (May 6, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0316221023) relates the American Revolution’s first weeks and how a decade of discontent erupted into an armed rebellion that forged the American nation, from the author of the bestseller The Admirals. 50,000-copy announced first printing.

Metropolitan Books

Revolutionary Russia, 1891–1991: A History by Orlando Figes (Apr. 8, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0805091311). From the author of A People’s Tragedy, an original reading of the Russian Revolution, examining it not as a single event but as a 100-year cycle of violence in pursuit of utopian dreams.


Sextant: A Young Man’s Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans by David Barrie (May 13, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062279347). In the tradition of Dava Sobel’s Longitude comes sailing expert David Barrie’s compelling and dramatic tale of invention and discovery about one of the most important navigational instruments and the mariners who used it to explore, conquer, and map the world. 50,000-copy announced first printing.

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman (Mar. 18, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0062116154). The critically acclaimed author of The Lunatic Express recounts his journey to explore the mystery surrounding the 1961 disappearance of Michael C. Rockefeller in New Guinea. 100,000-copy announced first printing.

American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant by Ann Scott Tyson (Mar. 25, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062114983). Lawrence of Arabia meets Sebastian Junger’s War in this story of heroism and heartbreak in Afghanistan by a veteran war correspondent. : 100,000-copy announced first printing.

Lords of the Sky: How Fighter Pilots Changed War Forever, from the Red Baron to the F-16 by Dan Hampton (Feb. 18, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062262011). A retired USAF F-16 pilot and author of Viper Pilot presents a popular history of combat aviation. 75,000-copy announced first printing.

W.W. Norton

The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds (May 12, hardcover, $32.50, ISBN 978-0393088632) assesses the impact of the Great War across the 20th century.

The Scorpion’s Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War by James Oakes (May 19, hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 978-0393239935) offers an in-depth look at political attitudes toward slavery on the brink of the Civil War


(dist. by Random House)

Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II by Jeffrey Cox (Mar. 25, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1780967264) looks at the Java Sea Campaign of 1941–1942 which heralded a wave of Japanese naval victories in the Pacific but eventually sowed the seeds of Japan’s eventual change in fortunes.

Oxford Univ. Press

Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age by Alex Wright (June 2, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0199931415). Otlet, a librarian, sought to create a global network for the instantaneous exchange of knowledge through a universal bibliography of all published information—more than 75 years ago.

Palgrave Macmillan

What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life by Marc Leepson (June 24, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1137278289) hails the author of the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the anthem’s 200th anniversary.

Defending the City of God: A Medieval Queen, the First Crusades, and the Quest for Peace in Jerusalem by Sharan Newman (Apr. 29, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1137278654) offers a history of medieval Jerusalem, where Templar knights, Muslim peasants, Turkish caliphs, Jewish merchants, and native Christians, along with the children of the first crusaders, blended cultures while struggling to survive in a land constantly at war.


Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris (Feb. 27, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1594204302) features the wartime experiences of five of Hollywood’s legendary directors, who all put their stamp on the war and were changed by it.

A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism by Patrick Allitt (Mar. 20, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1594204661). A provocative history of the environmental movement in America suggests that its rise to political and social prominence produced a culture of alarmism that has often distorted the facts.

Prometheus Books

Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues: Incredible True Tales of Mischief and Mayhem by Paul Martin (Mar. 4, paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1616149277) serves up concise, colorful biographies of 30 of America’s outrageous characters.


War and Gold: A Five-Hundred-Year History of Empires, Adventures, and Debt by Kwasi Kwarteng (May 13, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-1586487683). For the past five centuries, nations have gone in search of precious commodities—often with disastrous and unanticipated financial and political consequences. 20,000-copy announced first printing.

American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church by Alex Beam (Apr. 22, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1610393133). The compelling story of the dramatic weeks in 1844 leading to the murder of America’s most influential religious prophet, Joseph Smith—a pivotal moment in the history of Mormonism. 30,000-copy announced first printing.

Random House

Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell (May 6, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1400069729). A revisionist biography of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who played a critical yet overlooked role in forming national boundaries of the U.S. and who proved the embodiment of a newly emerging American character.

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer (Feb., hardcover, $32, ISBN 978-0812993462). National Book Award–finalist Kertzer exposes the fractious, co-dependent relationship between Pope Pius XI and Mussolini.


(dist. by Perseus)

Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts—from FDR to Obama by Mel Ayton (Apr. 14, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1621572077) reveals the many attempts to slay American leaders. 30,000-copy announced first printing.

Rowman & Littlefield

Africa and the World: How Events in Africa Shape the World by Tukufu Zuberi (June, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1442216419). Sociologist, educator, writer, and filmmaker Zuberi assesses African history from WWII and the end of colonialism to the Cold War and such modern events as Black Hawk Down or the Somali pirate hijacking; accompanies the documentary African Independence.

Schaffner Press

(dist. by IPG)

Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years by Ron Capps (May, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1936182589). A veteran of five wars, Capps—who served as a senior military intelligence officer in Afghanistan and Iraq—provides a wrenching account of his experiences and his struggle with PTSD.


Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring by Peter Duffy (July 22, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1451667950). The never-before-told tale of the German-American who spearheaded a covert mission to infiltrate New York’s Nazi underground in the days leading up to WWII.

Simon & Schuster

The Explorers: A Story of Fearless Outcasts, Blundering Geniuses, and Impossible Success by Martin Dugard (June 3, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1451677577). The coauthor, with Bill O’Reilly, of Killing Lincoln writes a riveting account of one of history’s greatest adventures—the search for the source of the Nile—and a study of the seven character traits all great explorers share.

St. Martin’s

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport (June 3, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1250020208) brings the four daughters of the last czar to life in their own words, illuminating the opulence of their doomed world and their courage as they faced a terrible end.

St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne

Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned by Alvin Townley (Feb. 4, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1250006530). The story of the indomitable POWs who endured “Alcatraz,” the Hanoi prison where North Vietnam locked its most dangerous and subversive prisoners, and their wives, who launched an extraordinary campaign that sparked the POW/MIA movement.

Univ. of California

Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up by Mary Beard (June 20, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0520277168) draws on a wide range of Roman writing—from essays on rhetoric to a surviving Roman joke book—to track down the giggles, smirks, and guffaws of ancient Romans.


The Third Horseman: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century by William Rosen (May 15, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-0670025893) researches a wide array of disciplines, from military history and feudal law to agricultural economics and climatology to trace the succession of traumas that caused the great famine in northern Europe.

Yale Univ.

The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself by Andrew Pettegree (Mar. 25, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0300179088) tracks the history of news in 10 countries over the course of four centuries, from medieval pilgrim tales to the birth of the newspaper.

Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten Victims by Paul Begg (Mar. 25, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0300117202). Five cases have been examined at length in Ripper literature, but other contemporary murders and attacks bearing strong resemblance to the gruesome Ripper slayings have received scant attention. These unsolved cases are the focus of this intriguing book.