MY TEN FAVORITE WORKS OF NON FICTION
(About half way through writing this, I became aware that these books are all about war and politics)
Douglas Southall Freeman….. ROBERT E. LEE….. And his equally extraordinary three volume work – LEE’S LIEUTENANTS: A STUDY IN COMMAND……..MANASSAS TO MALVERNE HILL, CEDAR MOUNTAIN TO CHANCELLORSVILLE, and GETTYSBURG TO APPOMATTOX. Just about the entire Civil War from The Army of Northern Virginia’s point of view. This is a magnificent series of volumes, and you’ll be a better human being having read them.
Neil Sheehan…..A BRIGHT SHINING LIE…..The one volume that explains America’s involvement in Vietnam so much better than all the rest. Sheehan covered Vietnam as a war correspondent and wrote with a rare intimacy of the characters on both sides.
Winston Churchill…..THE SECOND WORLD WAR…..Of the thousands of books written about the war, Churchill’s perspective is unique, as is his ability as a writer.
William Shirer…..THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH…..The Germans are notorious record keepers, and their massive chronicle of Nazi Germany’s birth, its criminal war machine, and its ultimate end were captured by the Allies before they could be destroyed. Shirer had unique access to the mountains of material, and his thousand page volume is probably the most complete record of a major nation’s rise and fall ever compiled.
Bruce Catton…..THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC…..This is a three volume work:
MR. LINCOLN’S ARMY, GLORY ROAD and A STILLNESS AT APPOMATTOX. Lincoln’s problem was that his Generals did not want to fight their West Point schoolmates, who were now commanding the Confederate Army. Catton’s chronicle is an intimate and perceptive look at the Civil War from the Union’s point of view.
Norman Mailer…..MIAMI AND THE SEIGE OF CHICAGO…..1968 and the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The republican love-fest in Miami, and the conflagration that took place in Chicago. How did it happen? Who was to blame? Mailer’s book is exhausting and deeply satisfying. He was born to write this chronicle. I’ve read it three times, learning something new each time. Mailer’s talent as a story teller is unique.
David Halberstam…..THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST…..The brilliant men who involved America in Vietnam, and kept her there. Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, George Ball, William Westmorland, and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. How is it possible? The handwriting was on the wall, and it was ignored. Halberstam’s book is a revelation.
Robert Caro…..THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON/THE PATH TO POWER…..This is the first volume of three about LBJ, and probably the most intimate chronicle of Johnson’s life and career, from the Texas hill country to the Halls of Congress. A unique look at a fascinating man.
Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward…..ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN…..Two young newspaper reporters who brought down a Presidency. It’s been too many years since I read this. Time to read it again. We all know the story, but how many of us have read the book. Why did Nixon do it? It made no sense. The senior writers on the Washington Post all wanted a piece of this, once the story developed, but Bradley stuck with “The Boys”. A fabulous story.
James McPherson……THE BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM….. If the three volume sets, listed above by Freeman and Catton, seem like too exhausting a chore, and you were looking for a single volume that explains the Civil War, from the perspective of both sides, McPherson’s chronicle fully integrates political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades, from the outbreak of the war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. A solid piece of Nineteenth century history.
© 2020 Shaun Costello
HAS AMERICA SIMPLY BEEN A LIE ALL ALONG?
Do you suppose that America is simply an enormous lie that we all bought into? The Home of the Brave was carefully presented to us, when we were all too young to know the difference, by the brush of Norman Rockwell and the lens of Frank Capra. Were we hoodwinked? The twentieth century saw America emerge as an imperialist, expansionist, unstoppable juggernaut, swallowing little countries one after another. Building the canal and annexing Panama. Faking the explosion of The Maine in Havana harbor to start a phony war with Spain, out of which America gobbled up Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. America, in spite of popular belief, did not win World War Two, the Russians did. After that war, the newly formed CIA went to work deposing elected heads of state in Iran, and throughout Central and South America, and replacing them with dictatorial strong men friendly to ever-expanding America, and willing to cash in on the CIA’s seemingly limitless payroll. Then America replaced France in Southeast Asia, defoliating tiny countries who wound up kicking the crap out of us. The American demonizing of Communism became a world wide joke. The USSR would die of its own faulty reality, not of anything America and its CIA could conjure. And George Bush decided to invade Iraq in a felonious war the would forever change the balance of power in the Middle East, and create the largest refugee crisis since World War Two. We Americans are an arrogant bunch, sweeping our many sins under the carpet while marching the path of self righteousness. We never forgave African Americans their freedom, espousing our fair mindedness in between lynchings, both public and private. And now America has Donald Trump, an openly misogynistic, racist, white supremacist buffoon, moving into the White House. Maybe we’ve finally gotten exactly what we deserve. These feelings have been festering inside me since Black Tuesday. They simply won’t go away. Has it all been a lie all Along? I’m just asking.