January’s Best History & Current Events Books

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
Uncovering a little-known subplot of American history, thriller author and TV host Meltzer and TV producer and historian Mensch explore the group of hand-picked bodyguards selected in 1776 to protect General George Washington at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Unbeknownst to Washington, several of those soldiers were involved in a treasonous plot to assassinate him—thus ending the war before it began in earnest, and changing the course of history. Meltzer and Mensch draw on impressively exhaustive research to introduce a rogue’s gallery of would-be traitors, telling the story of how Washington unmasked the conspiracy and defeated the plot—all while conducting the masterful direction of the war for American independence. This is truth as riveting as any piece of historical fiction.

Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace, by Laurence Leamer
Leamer links the story of Donald Trump’s transformation from New York real estate scion to president of the United States to the so-called “Winter White House” in Palm Beach, Florida, detailing battles with snobby residents and his creation of a property that doubles as a private fiefdom. Arguing that understanding Trump, the president, requires understanding Trump, the King of Palm Beach, Leamer follows the man from the time he managed to buy a property currently valued at half a billion dollars using just $3,000 of his own money, through his struggles against the old money residents that blackballed him, and reveals how Trump spearheaded an unlikely integration of the country club circuit for his own selfish reasons. As Trump continues to be the only president to have openly sold access to his office through a property, this is essential reading.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer
While Dee Brown’s classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was powerfully transformative in how we view our tangled, bloody history with Native Americans, Treuer argues that the book pushed a false narrative that suggested Indian culture ended with the infamous massacre. Instead, Treuer details how Native American cultures and the people who live them has continued, albeit in new and often creative ways, as tribes adjusted and reacted to the prejudicial and often radically unfair policies inflicted on them. Instead of simply ending at Wounded Knee, Treuer argues that Native American culture went underground, but continued to be celebrated, passed on, and very much alive. If you are Native, of course, this is all known—but for many, it will be a book that will change how you view American history.

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, by Cliff Sims
Sims was a close adviser to President Trump, both before the election and in the White House in his official role as Special Assistant to the President—and he took notes. A lot of notes. Here, he offers a rare insider glimpse behind the scenes of the Trump White House, detailing what he sees as their triumphs and their disasters. It’s a fascinating peek into the modern mechanisms of power and politics, as Sims describes the famous and infamous personalities of the administration, including Steve Bannon, John Kelley, and Kellyanne Conway. With a refreshing ability to admit his own mistakes, Sims offers a frank account of what it’s actually like to work for and with President Donald Trump.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff
Now in paperback: the political must-read of 2018 offers an incendiary insider’s look at the Trump White House, and anyone who wants in on the national conversation has to put it on their TBR. Wolff, who was given unprecedented access to the West Wing and Trump’s administration, spills all the tea in the world as he details administrative dysfunction, political backbiting, and, of course, the larger-than-life personality of our 45th President. Controversial in both its content and Wolff’s methods, the book is packed with juicy gossip and eye-popping quotes—including the now-infamous utterances that saw Steve Bannon fall out of favor with Trump and the Alt-Right. Even a year later, it’s all solid gold for political junkies.

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