If you’re looking for a compelling story to start off the new year, why not opt for a true tale?
Amazon recently announced its list of the best history books of 2014, and it’s filled with in-depth stories that shaped the United States, from the founding of the first west coast colony in 1810 to what really happened in Benghazi in 2012.
Go ahead — dive headfirst into the past.
1. “Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard: The latest addition to O’Reilly’s series of books explaining famous murders explores the death of General George S. Patton, Jr, who died mysteriously shortly after World War II. O’Reilly examines the circumstances around his death, which many suspect wasn’t an accident.
2. “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson: What makes an entrepreneur disruptive? Where does creativity come from? Isaacson analyses the personalities throughout history that led the digital revolution, all the way from mathematicians in the 1840s to modern standouts, such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
3. “In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette” by Hampton Sides: In 1879, the USS Jeanette left San Francisco headed for the unexplored North Pole with captain George Washington de Long at the helm. However, the ship quickly became trapped in ice, forcing the crew to abandon it two years in and continue their treacherous arctic journey on foot.
4. “Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson” by S. C. Gwynne: This book takes an in-depth look at the life and career of Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate Civil War general who is often considered one of the greatest American military figures of all time. More than just his military accomplishments, Gwynne also dives into Jackson’s personal life, explaining his rise to power in the South.
5. “Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David” by Lawrence Wright: Wright gives a play-by-play account of the 13-day conference at Camp David between President Jimmy Carter, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and Eygptian president Anwar Sadat in 1978. During the meeting, the three leaders created and signed the first peace treaty in the Middle East, which is still in use today.
6. “A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal” by Ben Macintyre and John Le Carre: During the Cold War, Kim Philby rose to prominence in Britain as the head of counterintelligence against the Soviet Union. However, Philby was secretly working for the Soviets, transmitting everything he learned back to Moscow, a secret unbeknownst to even his closest friends.
7. “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China” by Evan Osnos: As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Osnos has a firsthand look at everyday life in China, including political and economic upheaval as the Communist Party struggles to stay in control. In this account, Osnos chronicles the lives of China’s everyday citizens through this period of growth and stress.
8. “Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence” by Karen Armstrong: As worldwide violence mounts and religious self-identification slows in the US, Armstrong examines the links between the two, and the effects violence has had on different faiths over time.
9. “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi” by Mitchell Zuckoff and Annex Security Team: On September 11, 2012 a team of six American security operators fought to protect the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station attacked by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya. Though the attack made national headlines, details of the night were fuzzy — until now, as the team tells their story to set the record straight.
10. “Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II” by Vicki Croke: When Billy Williams moved to colonial Burma in 1920, he almost immediately forged a bond with the elephant population, treating their injuries and teaching them to interact with humans. Eventually, he trained the creatures to operate as “war elephants,” carrying supplies and sneaking refugees out of Burma.
11. “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War” by Karen Abbott: Abbott tells the true stories of four women who went undercover during the Civil War as spies for the Confederacy. The book also includes 39 photographs and three maps to further illustrate these women’s wartime journeys.
12. “Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival” by Peter Stark: In 1810 — six years after Lewis and Clark started their journey — John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson set out to settle America’s first colony on the west coast. Throughout their three-year journey, the explorers faced both adventure and hardship, and eventually established the path that would become the Oregon Trail.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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