This Week in Books - Dunkirk thrills, Venezuela simmers, and the White House plays musical chairs

Editor on July 28, 2017

A10This Week in Books: Reading Between the Headlines





Dunkirk thrills, Venezuela simmers and the White House plays musical chairs

It was a pivotal event early in World War II, but until now few Americans knew much about the “Miracle of Dunkirk,” where 338,226 Allied soldiers surrounded by German forces in northern France were evacuated to safety. Now, with the Christopher Nolan movie Dunkirk dominating box offices over its opening weekend, plenty of people are learning the story of the 1940 operation. As with most screen adaptations, there’s still more to know. Here are three books to help you dive deeper on the battle and the wider war.

A1The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo: Author Walter Lord interviewed hundreds of survivors for his account of the evacuation and recounts stories of Winston Churchill’s heat-of-battle decisions with urgency. Although the book was first published in 1982, it rocketed to No. 3 on Amazon Charts’ Most Sold nonfiction list this week.  

A2Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Mark Sullivan’s new historical novel is based on the true story of an Italian teenager trying to avoid the war who finds himself in a position to spy on one of Hitler’s commanders. The book, now marking 11 weeks on Amazon Charts, averages 4.8 stars from nearly 6,000 Amazon customers.

A3The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List: Leon Leyson was 10 years old when Germany invaded Poland and an army threatened to wipe out everything he’d ever known. It took one man to save him: Oskar Schindler, the much-lauded hero who rescued some 1,200 Jews from the Nazis. As one of the survivors, Leyson tells a little-known side of the famous story.


Spicer signs off amid White House communications shakeup

A4Sean Spicer is out and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is in at the White House under new communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Spicer’s combative six months as press secretary were marked by testy exchanges with the media and cheeky send-ups on Saturday Night Live by Melissa McCarthy. Dana Perino experienced the pressure-cooker job under President George W. Bush and wrote about it in And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side. With 4.7 stars from more than 2,800 Amazon customers, the book is a solid primer on life behind the podium.

Venezuela on the verge of civil unrest

A7Beset by political and economic strife, Venezuela is a cauldron on the verge of boiling over. Embattled President Nicolás Maduro is moving forward on plans to draft a new constitution, even as his political opponents and demonstrators call for new elections and general strikes. Sadly, strife is nothing new to Venezuela. Former President Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013, handed his country a legacy of division and repression, as detailed in Rory Carroll’s book Comandante: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. It’s helpful background on the ongoing crisis.

O.J. Simpson gets parole and protection

A8“The Juice” still has at least two months to go before he leaves prison in Nevada, but O.J. Simpson will serve that time away from the general population – for his own protection, said his attorney Malcolm LaVergne. The former football star was granted parole last week, having served nine years of a 33-year sentence for a 2007 armed robbery. Simpson previously was acquitted of the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend Ron Goldman. (Jeffrey Toobin expertly dissected that case in his book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson.) After his release, says LaVergne, Simpson just wants to “live a quiet life.”

Boy trips, discovers million-year-old fossil

A9Sometimes our greatest finds are right below our feet. Playing with his brothers on a visit to Las Cruces, N.M., late last year, nine-year-old Jude Sparks tripped and discovered the fossilized bones of an elephant-like creature buried in rocky terrain. It took some sleuthing from Jude’s parents and the help of a biologist at New Mexico State University to identify the beast as a stegomastodon, a creature that lived at least 1.2 million years ago. If that inspires you to go bone hunting, grab a copy of Fossils: A Fully Illustrated, Authoritative and Easy-to-Use Guide. You might make an ancient find of your own.    

A10Twitter makes a splash over Phelps’ ‘race’ against shark
As scandals go, #PhelpsVShark isn’t exactly Watergate, but it sure had social media in a tizzy. For its annual “Shark Week” programming, the Discovery Channel teasingly promoted a race between legendary swimmer Michael Phelps and a great white shark. But the shark ended up being nothing more than a computer simulation, prompting hoots from the Twitterverse. While we can’t tell you how Phelps would really fare against Jaws, someone did lay odds on sharks vs. orcas. In Who Would Win? Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark, author Jerry Pallotta and illustrator Rob Bolster set up the ultimate face-off between marine predators. One in a series of Who Would Win? books, it’s a gnarly, fun read for curious kids that should launch some good debates.

Inside Amazon Charts: Getting caught in the Echo

A11Author Marcus Sakey won a loyal following with his Brilliance book trilogy, about a world split between people with incredible powers and those without. His new book, AFTERLIFE, debuts on Amazon Charts at No. 12 among most-sold fiction. AFTERLIFE follows FBI agents (and secret lovers) Claire and Brody as they pursue a Chicago sniper into a realm beyond our world called the Echo. The story is spooky and mind-bending, but “more than anything it’s a love story,” says Sakey in an interview with Amazon. The book is being adapted into a movie by director Ron Howard, with Sakey writing the script. “I look at films like The Matrix and Inception as role models,” he said. “I have no idea if I can get anywhere close, but those are the kinds of stars I’m navigating by.”

Popular Highlight of the week: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

“The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightning.”

(Highlighted by 3,078 Kindle readers.)

A12The British Library announced a new exhibit, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, opening in October in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the franchise. A new Kindle in Motion version of the book that started it all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, arrives Sept. 5, featuring magical illustrations and animation. It’s like having your very own copy of The Daily Prophet.

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