As we close in on the end of of the year, we list our best history books of 2016. Over the course of 2016 we published some incredible stories. Everything from military bravery and historic events to unique little known stories that we felt deserved to be pulled from the depths of history.
Our Best History Books 2016
Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde by John Boessenecker
To most Americans, Frank Hamer is known only as the “villain” of the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. Now, in Texas Ranger, historian John Boessenecker sets out to restore Hamer’s good name and prove that he was, in fact, a classic American hero. But in terms of sheer action and violence, from close-quarters gunfights to Mexican-border ambushes to face-offs with lynch mobs, the WSJ said they were hard-pressed to think of one that rivals John Boessenecker’s excellent “Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde.”
From the horseback days of the Old West through the gangster days of the 1930s, Hamer stood on the frontlines of some of the most important and exciting periods in American history. He participated in the Bandit War of 1915, survived the climactic gunfight in the last blood feud of the Old West, battled the Mexican Revolution’s spillover across the border, protected African Americans from lynch mobs and the Ku Klux Klan, and ran down gangsters, bootleggers, and Communists. When at last his career came to an end, it was only when he ran up against another legendary Texan: Lyndon B. Johnson.
Written by one of the most acclaimed historians of the Old West, Texas Ranger is the first biography to tell the full story of this near-mythic lawman.
Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949 by David Cesarani
Highly recommended by the Guardian, David Cesarani’s Final Solution is a magisterial work of history that chronicles the fate of Europe’s Jews. Based on decades of scholarship, documentation newly available from the opening of Soviet archives, declassification of western intelligence service records, as well as diaries and reports written in the camps, Cesarani provides a sweeping reappraisal challenging accepted explanations for the anti-Jewish politics of Nazi Germany and the inevitability of the Final Solution. The persecution of the Jews, as Cesarani sees it, was not always the Nazis’ central preoccupation, nor was it inevitable. He shows how, in German-occupied countries, it unfolded erratically, often due to local initiatives.
For Cesarani, war was critical to the Jewish fate. Military failure denied the Germans opportunities to expel Jews into a distant territory and created a crisis of resources that led to the starvation of the ghettos and intensified anti-Jewish measures. Looking at the historical record, he disputes the iconic role of railways and deportation trains. From prisoner diaries, he exposes the extent of sexual violence and abuse of Jewish women and follows the journey of some Jewish prisoners to displaced persons camps. David Cesarani’s Final Solution is the new standard chronicle of the fate of a heroic people caught in the hell that was Hitler’s Germany.
Game 7: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner
Every little kid who’s ever taken the mound in Little League dreams of someday getting the ball for Game Seven of the World Series. Ron Darling got to live that dream – only it didn’t go exactly as planned. In New York Times bestselling Game 7, 1986, the award-winning baseball analyst looks back at what might have been a signature moment in his career, and reflects on the ways professional athletes must sometimes shoulder a personal disappointment as his team finds a way to win. Published to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 1986 New York Mets championship season, Darling’s book will break down one of baseball’s great “forgotten” games – a game that stands as a thrilling, telling and tantalizing exclamation point to one of the best-remember seasons in Major League Baseball history.
Working once again with New York Times best-selling collaborator Daniel Paisner, who teamed with the former All-Star pitcher on his acclaimed 2009 memoir Game 7, 1986, Darling offers a book for the thinking baseball fan, a chance to reflect on what it means to compete at the game’s highest level, with everything on the line. Read The New Yorker Review here.
Guy Burgess was the most important, complex, and fascinating of “The Cambridge Spies”—Maclean, Philby, Blunt—brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers. Read the review written by Peter Stothard at the WSJ here.
In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess’s chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.
Through interviews with more than a hundred people who knew Burgess personally, many of whom have never spoken about him before, and the discovery of hitherto secret files, Stalin’s Englishman brilliantly unravels the many lives of Guy Burgess in all their intriguing, chilling, colorful, tragi-comic wonder.
Victoria: A Novel of a Young Queen by Daisy Goodwin
Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin—creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria and author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter—brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.
Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.
Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.
“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”
On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner and David Fisher
A New York Times Bestseller and winner of the GoodReads.com Choice Awards for History and Biography. Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner first crossed paths as actors on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Little did they know that their next roles as Spock and Captain Kirk, in a new science fiction television series, would shape their lives in ways no one could have anticipated. In seventy-nine television episodes of Star Trek and six feature films, they grew to know each other more than most friends could ever imagine.
Over the course of half a century, Shatner and Nimoy saw each other through personal and professional highs and lows. In this powerfully emotional book, Shatner tells the story of a man who was his friend for five decades, recounting anecdotes and untold stories of their lives on and off set, as well as gathering stories from others who knew Nimoy well, to present a full picture of a rich life.
As much a biography of Nimoy as a story of their friendship, Leonard is a uniquely heartfelt book written by one legendary actor in celebration of another.