Annal: 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2007.

Book:Legacy of Ashes

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

Tim Weiner

For the last sixty years, the CIA has managed to maintain a formidable reputation in spite of its terrible record, burying its blunders in top-secret archives. Its mission was to know the world. When it did not succeed, it set out to change the world. Its failures have handed us, in the words of President Eisenhower, “a legacy of ashes.”

Now Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tim Weiner offers the first definitive history of the CIA—and everything is on the record. Legacy of Ashes is based on more than 50,000 documents, primarily from the archives of the CIA itself, and hundreds of interviews with CIA veterans, including ten Directors of Central Intelligence. It takes the CIA from its creation after World War II, through its battles in the cold war and the war on terror, to its near-collapse after 9/ll.

Tim Weiner’s past work on the CIA and American intelligence was hailed as “impressively reported” and “immensely…[more]

Book:The First Total War

The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It

David A. Bell

World War I has been called “the war to end all wars,” the first time combatants were mobilized on a massive scale to ruthlessly destroy an enemy. But as David Bell argues in this tour de force of interpretive history, the Great War was not, in fact, the first total war. For this, we need to travel back to the era of muskets and sailing ships, to the age of Napoleon. According to Bell, it was then that warfare was transformed into the hideous spectacle that seems ever present today. Indeed, nearly every modern aspect of war took root in that time: conscription, unconditional surrender, total disregard for the rules of combat, mobilization of civilians, guerrilla warfare, and the perverse notion of war fought for the sake of peace. The revolutionaries were leading “the last crusade for universal liberty.” A war for such stakes could only be apocalyptic—and terribly bloody.

With a historian’s keen insight and a journalist’s flair for detail, Bell brings this period to life while keeping an eye on our own “war of liberation” in Iraq. The parallels are astonishing, making this vivid narrative history as timely and important as it is unforgettable.

Book:The Greatest Battle

The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow that Changed the Course of World War II

Andrew Nagorski

The Battle for Moscow was the deadliest battle of World War II—and the deadliest battle of all time. Between September 30, 1941 and April 20, 1942, seven million German and Soviet troops took part in the battle, and 2.5 million of them were killed, taken prisoner, missing or severely wounded. As German troops approached Moscow, half of the city’s population fled, while others looted stores, staged strikes and attacked those who were escaping. In the end, the German drive fell short, but Stalin’s regime was so embarrassed by how close they came, by the mistakes the Soviet dictator made that allowed them to do so, and the behavior of many of its own citizens, that the battle was given short shrift in their history books.

Both Hitler and Stalin (briefly allied and now newly at war) intruded themselves into the strategies for their armies. Hitler was so overconfident—even though his generals warned him—that the German army went into battle in the Russian fall with…[more]

Book:Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World

Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World

Margaret MacMillan

In February 1972, Richard Nixon, the first American president ever to visit China, and Mao Tse-tung, the enigmatic Communist dictator, met for an hour in Beijing. Their meeting changed the course of history and ultimately laid the groundwork for the complex relationship between China and the United States that we see today.

That monumental meeting in 1972–during what Nixon called “the week that changed the world”–could have been brought about only by powerful leaders: Nixon himself, a great strategist and a flawed human being, and Mao, willful and ruthless. They were assisted by two brilliant and complex statesmen, Henry Kissinger and Chou En-lai. Surrounding them were fascinating people with unusual roles to play, including the enormously disciplined and unhappy Pat Nixon and a small-time Shanghai actress turned monstrous empress, Jiang Qing. And behind all of them lay the complex history of two countries, two great and equally confident civilizations:…[more]

Book:Troublesome Young Men

Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England

Lynne Olson

A riveting history of the daring politicians who challenged the disastrous policies of the British government on the eve of World War II

On May 7, 1940, the House of Commons began perhaps the most crucial debate in British parliamentary history. On its outcome hung the future of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s government and also of Britain—indeed, perhaps, the world. Troublesome Young Men is Lynne Olson’s fascinating account of how a small group of rebellious Tory MPs defied the Chamberlain government’s defeatist policies that aimed to appease Europe’s tyrants and eventually forced the prime minister’s resignation.

Some historians dismiss the “phony war” that preceded this turning point—from September 1939, when Britain and France declared war on Germany, to May 1940, when Winston Churchill became prime minister—as a time of waiting and inaction, but…[more]

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