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Well-Researched Works for History Buffs: The Revenant, Frederick the Great, and 1491

25 Jul

Do you open a book to the notes and bibliography and marvel at the 150+ pages of thorough research?  Will this assure you that this massive compendium holds all wonderful magic you crave?  18th century Prussian battles? 15th century pre-Columbian Americas?  Yes please!  How about we add a novel with its own short, but concise, bibliography that entices the reader with a fictionalized recreation of a story shrouded in myth but rooted in fact?  Sign me up!

The Revenant
by Michael Punke
Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans changed my life.  I was seven and it was revelatory; a work of fiction with an historical backdrop.  That being said, when I saw trailers for Alexandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant I was all in. Based on a true story?  Oh yeah!  But, wait, there’s a book!  How did I get so lucky?  Michael Punke delivers a page-turning tale of revenge and survival in a brutal frontier landscape.  Set in 1823, Punke recounts a fictionalized version of the tale of Hugh Glass, a very real fur-trapper who was left for dead after a grizzly attack in the wilderness.  Because Michael Punke researched his subject masterfully, the reader easily finds themselves absorbed in an authentic feeling epic, complete with Hugh Glass’ surprising back story of piracy and his life among the Pawnee Native Americans.  Have you already seen the movie?  Don’t worry, this book has a few surprises for you.  Besides being available in print, HPL resident card holders can also borrow it as an ebook from eLibraryNJ or as an ebook from eBCCLS.

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia
by Tim Blanning
Do you love court intrigue?  Do you love 18th-century European battles?  How exactly does a middling kingdom in central Europe rise to first-rate power in the course of one man’s 46 year reign?  Tim Blanning delivers the authoritative English-language compendium of Frederick the Great in a biography that elucidates the enigmatic King of Prussia through meticulous research that includes a vast array of personal letters.  Complete with detailed maps of battle-lines and marvelous illustrated depictions of the illustrious King’s statues, palaces, and portraits.  Wonderfully accessible, the author instructs readers while keeping them enticed in this top-down analysis of Frederick the Great.  You can borrow it in print from HPL or as an ebook from eBCCLS.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
by Charles C. Mann
While Charles C. Mann promises a lot with this title, he certainly delivered with precision an invigorating and revelatory history of the people of the pre-Columbus Americas.  Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus provided me with a re-education in a subject that most people, myself included, have a tenuous grasp of.  Mann expertly uses archaeology, science, and great writing to compel the reader to question everything they thought they knew about Native American history in the tens of thousands of years before Europeans “discovered” the Americas.  One of my favorite discoveries was finding out that Charles C. Mann wrote a second book, 1493, that I will be suggesting in the future.  You can borrow 1491 in print from HPL or as an ebook from eBCCLS.

Written By:
Adam Cricco
Library Assistant

Believe It?: Bluff, The Great Swindle, and The Confidence Game

3 Jul

If you love to be fooled, or just admire a good scam, I have a handful of books that might appeal to you.

By Michael Kardos
Bluff by Michael Kardos is set in various locales in New Jersey (Rahway, Highlands, Atlantic City, and more), but that’s just incidental to the story. The plot involves Natalie Webb, a prestidigitator magician (as opposed to the big trick guys like David Blaine, Penn and Teller, etc.) who is not quite making ends meet. After a disastrous performance, she finds herself in need of some cash, and decides to write an article about the art of cheating at cards. In looking for a good subject for her story, she finds herself using her magic skills to assist in a major poker scam.

You don’t have to know about poker to follow the action. Turns out the art of cheating at cards is more than a mere mechanical skill set. It involves a lot of psychology as well. Things don’t go as planned. Trouble ensues.

The suspense and fast pace make this a good summer read.  You can borrow it in print from the Hoboken Public Library or our resident patrons can check it out from Hoopla.

Great Swindle
by Pierre Lemaitre
Great Swindle
If you are in the mood for bigger scams with a historical background, you may enjoy The Great Swindle, by Pierre Lemaitre.

The story involves Albert and Edouard, damaged veterans of World War I who find their country’s gratitude for their service to be wanting. They devise a scheme to take money for war memorials that will never be constructed.

Meanwhile, their former Lieutenant who was responsible for their terrible injuries is running a scam of his own.

It is fascinating to see how these three lives intersect and you’ll be racing to the finish to learn what happens. It was also fascinating to learn about the historical precedent for one of these scams. My only quibble with this excellent book was a little too convenient coincidence that is involved toward the end of the novel.

The Confidence Game
by Maria Konnikova
The Confidence Game
Finally, if you prefer non-fiction, Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It…Every Time is an insightful look at the psychology of the confidence game. Spoiler alert: we like to believe great stories. Konnikova dissects the art and psychology of the con game, and claims that we all can be fooled. In this age of alternative facts, this book gives some great context for understanding how a con works.  The Confidence Game is available as an ebook and digital audiobook from eBCCLS.

Written by
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

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