The best history books of June

Chris Schluep on June 24, 2019
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The Best History Books of June feature historical figures from the pantheon of history. They also feature historical figures from what might be thought of as the panhandle of history--not at the center of it all but significant nonetheless. And that's just the ones featured below, where you will find true crime, compelling biography, and sweeping WWII history. Be sure to check out the full list. There is a lot of variety in this month's best history books, from the pantheon to the panhandle. 



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Oliver Wendell Holmes: A Life in War, Law, and Ideas by Stephen Budiansky

This new biography draws from previously unpublished letters to compose a complete portrait of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Appointed to the Supreme Court by Teddy Roosevelt, Justice Holmes worked tirelessly to improve the law for all citizens. Budiansky's biography looks at the entirety of Holmes' life, describing how his experiences developed his character and personality, both of which leap off the pages of this fine book.



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The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation by Rich Cohen

This book was selected as one of our top 10 Best Books of June. In 1860, the handsome, charismatic Albert Hicks was the last man hung in New York as a pirate. "Hicks’s final crime was the brutal murder of three men aboard an oyster sloop, " Amazon senior editor Seira Wilson writes in her review. "He killed them, stole their money and valuables, then attempted to sink the ship." She continues that the author Cohen "recounts not only this heinous crime, but the life of a man who in a strange way embodied the soul of America at the time, 'courageous yet grotesque,'" a man who became "an early underworld legend in a city that made a star out of a killer."



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Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan

In May of 1980, five heavily-armed men attempted to rob a bank in southern California. When things went sideways, they found themselves in a shootout with police that seemed to capture the weirdness of the time--these former landscapers-turned-doomsdayers were trying to get money to build a compound, and the amount of destruction that resulted from the shootout and ensuing chase was almost hard to believe. Then came the trial of the three surviving robbers, which Houlahan covers in depth. Compelling action scenes, a riveting trial, and lots of detail and observation make this one a standout in true crime.


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Normandy '44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France by James Holland

James Holland is the author of Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II, which received good attention last year (including from us). That book presented the history of Operation ARGUMENT, which was a round-the-clock allied attack on Germany a few months before D-Day. Normandy '44 employs archives and firsthand accounts to examine the planning behind the OVERLORD campaign and to describe the seventy-six days of fighting that ensued. It was one of the most dramatic military engagements in history, the result of assiduous planning. But as the saying goes, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.


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