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The Best Newly Released History Books for Dads

Time to bulk up your summer reading list.

3 book covers: the blues brothers, the unvanquished, and the devil's best trick
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  • Photo Credit: Josep Martins / Unsplash

While beach reading is usually synonymous with light reading, history buffs may not be able to relate. There are so many accounts of the past to read, and just because it’s summer doesn't mean it’s time to slow down! From the Civil War to Mafia spies, these new history books make great gifts for dads and deserve a spot on summer reading lists, wherever the warmer months may take you.

The Unvanquished

The Unvanquished

By Patrick K. O'Donnell

From Gettysburg to Appomattox, there are certain major conflicts that come to mind when thinking about the Civil War. But did you know that espionage and guerilla warfare also played a significant part? This book sheds light on the clandestine operations of Lincoln’s special forces, the Jessie Scouts, who embarked on perilous missions behind enemy lines, as well as the Confederate Secret Service.

Bestselling author Patrick K. O’Donnell argues that these shadowy entities influenced the outcome of the war and helped shape modern U.S. special operations in this “revealing history of the largely unknown role of irregular forces and undercover agents in the Civil War” (Kirkus Reviews).

Burma '44: The Battle That Turned World War II in the East

Burma '44: The Battle That Turned World War II in the East

By James Holland

The battle that changed Britain’s fortunes in the Southeast Asian theater of World War II is also a surprising underdog story. The Defence of the Admin Box was the first decisive victory for British troops against the Japanese, and they managed to pull it off with a rag-tag team that faced off against some of the finest infantry in the Japanese Army. 

In 15 fierce days of fighting, the British would gain vital knowledge about how to overcome their enemy in the Burma campaign and beyond. British historian James Holland brings the gripping story to life.

The Devil's Best Trick

The Devil's Best Trick

By Randall Sullivan

The existence of evil has sparked philosophical and religious debates for thousands of years. This fascinating and unique book examines humanity’s attempts to understand evil through its main spokesperson—the Devil. Breaking down the figure’s literary, religious, and cultural significance, journalist Randall Sullivan delves into historical archives and even travels abroad in search of answers. From Persian sages to the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, The Devil’s Best Trick is “a compelling journey into the heart of darkness with an articulate, capable guide” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers

By Daniel de Visé

Some might say it’s a miracle that The Blues Brothers made it to theaters at all; vastly over budget, the musical action comedy opened to less-than-stellar reviews in 1980. However, today it’s a cult classic, and has even been inducted into the National Film Registry for its cultural significance. 

Daniel de Visé brings us the rich story behind the film, including the childhoods of the filmmakers, the towering rhythm and blues artists who contributed to the soundtrack, and behind-the-scenes anecdotes. The result is “a loving ode to a comedy classic” (Publishers Weekly).

The Lincoln Miracle

The Lincoln Miracle

By Ed Achorn

One of our most beloved presidents was surprisingly controversial among his contemporaries. Several Southern states seceded from the Union and triggered the Civil War in direct response to his election win as an anti-slavery candidate. However, even earlier than that, Lincoln was not favored to win his party’s nomination, nevermind the presidency. His most recent stint in public office was one term in Congress a decade earlier, and he had lost two Senate bids. 

This book chronicles the political upset that occurred in May 1860 when Lincoln prevailed against Senator William Seward, the favorite for the Republican presidential nomination, and the vicious bipartisanship that characterized the era. The Lincoln Miracle was originally published in 2023, and is now newly available in paperback.

cover for the book 'mafia spies' featuring various historical figures

Mafia Spies

By Thomas Maier

The CIA hired gangsters Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana to assassinate Fidel Castro in the 1960s. Not only did they not succeed, but they later turned up dead. How does this clandestine operation tie into the FBI, Sinatra's Rat Pack, and the JFK assassination? 

Thomas Maier unravels the complex web using recently declassified files in this “enormously fun” book that is “a standout in the field of spy nonfiction” (Booklist, starred review). Mafia Spies was originally published in 2019, but an updated edition has been released just in time for the mini-series adaptation coming to Paramount+ this summer.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2024

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2024

By Sarah Janssen

As far back as 1868, The World Almanac has been educating Americans on U.S. history and government, world geography, business, and more. Fully updated through the end of 2023, this essential reference book will answer all of your most pertinent questions on sports, pop culture, science and technology, and many more questions you didn’t even think to ask. Even the American Library Association has given its stamp of approval: “For the most information in one source, The World Almanac remains the champion.”

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Featured image: Josep Martins / Unsplash