Editor, biographer, and storyteller Michael Korda has a very particular set of skills, and they are all masterfully employed in Alone: Britain, Churchill and Dunkirk, Defeat into Victory (Liveright, $29.95). Merging history with memoir, Korda expertly weaves the events of May 1940 with the dramatic effect they had on his family. The rise of Winston Churchill, the German war machine marching across Europe, and the unprecedented, inspiring rescue of allied soldiers at Dunkirk are all here, humanized by the author’s own memories of his famous movie-industry family and his escape from London as a child. Compellingly and comprehensively written, peppered with pictures and maps, Korda’s book takes an immense, seminal, and now mythic event and makes it live again from both a global and a personal perspective.
The fifteenth book from acclaimed journalist Marvin Kalb, entitled The Year I Was Peter the Great (Brookings, $24.99), is a memoir focused on one tumultuous year, 1956. Kalb was then a twenty-six-year-old Russian-speaking graduate student assisting the American ambassador as a translator at the U.S embassy in Moscow. As Khrushchev’s shocking, year-long campaign of de-Stalinization unfolded, Kalb was there as an eyewitness, meeting Russians of all types, assessing their attitudes and opinions, and watching them size up their American visitor too. This is a fascinating and highly entertaining story about a momentous year in Russian history—one especially relevant in the era of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.