The History Hour Book Club
Meets the last Thursday of Every Month at 7 PM
Books Inc. in Burlingame
1375 Burlingame Avenue
New mebers are always welcome.
August 2016 Selection:
On August 19, 1418, a competition concerning Florence's magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore--already under construction for more than a century--was announced: "Whoever desires to make any model or design for the vaulting of the main Dome....shall do so before the end of the month of September." The proposed dome was regarded far and wide as all but impossible to build: not only would it be enormous, but its original and sacrosanct design shunned the flying buttresses that supported cathedrals all over Europe. The dome would literally need to be erected over thin air.
Of the many plans submitted, one stood out--a daring and unorthodox solution to vaulting what is still the largest dome (143 feet in diameter) in the world. It was offered not by a master mason or carpenter, but by a goldsmith and clockmaker named Filippo Brunelleschi, then forty-one, who would dedicate the next twenty-eight years to solving the puzzles of the dome's construction. In the process, he did nothing less than reinvent the field of architecture.
July 2016 Selection: It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure -- garbage removal, clean water, sewers -- necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.
In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories and interconnectedness of the spread of disease, contagion theory, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a riveting history and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.
June 2016 Selection: Focusing on Washington s early years, Bancroft Prize winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Robert Middlekauff penetrates his mystique, revealing his all-too-human fears, values, and passions. Rich in psychological detail regarding Washington s temperament, idiosyncrasies, and experiences, this book shows a self-conscious Washington who grew in confidence and experience as a young soldier, businessman, and Virginia gentleman, and who was transformed into a patriot by the revolutionary ferment of the 1760s and 70s. Middlekauff makes clear that Washington was at the heart of not just the revolution s course and outcome but also the success of the nation it produced.
This vivid, insightful new account of the formative years that shaped a callow George Washington into an extraordinary leader is an indispensable book for truly understanding one of America s great figures.
May 2016 Selection: In the years after World War II, Georgetown s leafy streets were home to an unlikely group of Cold Warriors: a coterie of affluent, well-educated, and connected civilians who helped steer American strategy, for better and worse, from the Marshall Plan through McCarthyism, Watergate, and Vietnam. The Georgetown set included Phil and Kay Graham, husband-and-wife publishers of"The Washington Post"; Joe and Stewart Alsop, odd-couple brothers who were among the country s premier political pundits; Frank Wisner, a driven, manic-depressive lawyer in charge of CIA covert operations; and a host of other diplomats, spies, and scholars. Gregg Herken gives us intimate portraits of these dedicated and talented, if deeply flawed, individuals, who navigated the Cold War years (often over cocktails and dinner) with very real consequences reaching into the present day. Throughout, he illuminates the drama and fascination of that noble, congenial, curious old world, in Joe Alsop s words, bringing this remarkable roster of men and women not only out into the open but vividly to life.
April 2016 Selection: Now in paperback, a meticulously researched historical tour de force about the secret ties among Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, the Duke of Windsor, and Adolf Hitler before, during, and after World War II.
Andrew Morton tells the story of the feckless Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor, his American wife, Wallis Simpson, the bizarre wartime Nazi plot to make him a puppet king after the invasion of Britain, and the attempted cover-up by Churchill, General Eisenhower, and King George VI of the duke's relations with Hitler. From the alleged affair between Simpson and the German foreign minister to the discovery of top secret correspondence about the man dubbed "the traitor king" and the Nazi high command, this is a saga of intrigue, betrayal, and deception suffused with a heady aroma of sex and suspicion.
For the first time, Morton reveals the full story behind the cover-up of those damning letters and diagrams: the daring heist ordered by King George VI, the smooth duplicity of a Soviet spy as well as the bitter rows and recriminations among the British and American diplomats, politicians, and academics. Drawing on FBI documents, exclusive pictures, and material from the German, Russian, and British royal archives, as well as the personal correspondence of Churchill, Eisenhower, and the Windsors themselves, 17 CARNATIONS is a dazzling historical drama, full of adventure, intrigue, and startling revelations, written by a master of the genre.