Abby Kelley Foster arrived in Springfield, Illinois, with the fate of the nation on her mind. Her fame as an abolitionist speaker had spread west and she knew that her first speech would make headlines. One of the residents reading those headlines would be none other than the likely next president of the United States. Abraham Lincoln, lawyer and presidential candidate, knew his chances of winning were good. All he had to do was stay above the fray of the slavery debate and appear the voice of reason until the people cast their votes.
As his rival President James Buchanan's term ends and his political power crumbles, he gathers his advisers at the White House to make one last move that might derail Lincoln’s campaign, steal the election and throw America into chaos.
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Papillon is a story about survival set in a penal colony in French Guiana. Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Papillon refuses to give up and turns his focus to his only option – escape. The writing is only matched by the action-packed story and inspiring feats of endurance and human spirit amidst the horrors of the prison system. I found this book particularly inspiring during the 2020 pandemic as my thoughts often turned to wanting to escape myself.
I am lucky to have lived a few lives – I am a lawyer, was a television consultant and analyst, and am now an author. But that’s nothing compared to this book’s protagonist, a man who was a medal of honor winner, then a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, then a monk, and finally the Pope. Creatively told and excellently written, this book inspires me to think that anything, any path is possible.
Back to Japan. Pachinko tells the story of a Korean woman living in Japan who eschews what is expected of her and instead takes the rockier path. It reminded me of how often women have to push against the tide of tradition to forge a story not yet written for them by their fathers. Beautifully written, this book transported me to another world and had me living the inner workings of a life very different from my own.
When you want a novel that has the trappings of an action movie but feels elevated and takes its time, this book is it. Inspired by real-life events the story lays out a fictional scenario that nevertheless feels highly plausible (much like my own alternative history novel, The Day Lincoln Lost). The book has been wildly popular since its publication and it’s easy to see why once you pick up this page-turner.
We think you will like The World Turned Upside Down: Medieval Japanese Society, Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan, and The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific if you like this list.
From David's list on the best books on global history before the modern era.
A marvelously coherent and stimulating introduction to the turbulent politics and social and economic life of Japan between revolutionary changes in 1185 and the early sixteenth century, with much to say about cultural life as well. Souyri is as interested in the lives of peasants and traders as in that of shoguns and samurai.
From Antony's list on the best books on a hidden Japan and the real samurai.
At the moment Yasuke - the Black Samurai is very prominent in the samurai enthusiast community, and rightly so, he was an African samurai who made his way up the ranks. However, not much is known about his story, so while it is fascinating, there is too little documentation to delve further. This is not the case with William Adams, a Londoner who made his way to Japan, who not only became a samurai but then also became a banner-man (Hatamoto) and leader of a small state. We have so much historical documentation about him and his story is captivating.
While he only arrived at the end of the wars, he was still around at one of the most important times of Japanese history. He never made it back home, but this was one Englishman who made his mark on Japanese culture. Something I hope to do.
From Naoko's list on the best books on Japanese history from the outside looking in.
Many British, Australians, Canadians, Dutch, and Americans have written about their appalling treatment by the Japanese as POWs during World War II. Urquhart's account is one of the more compelling, all the more so because he waited for more than 60 years to tell this harrowing, anecdote-rich story.