Good Books: Samurai, Sputnik, and Supreme Court

History and thrillers by local authors are big in September.

By: William O'Sullivan

Chevy Chase author Jay Winik tackles The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788–1800. The book looks at our nation’s early years alongside the turmoil within the era’s other major powers, Russia and France. Winik’s last book was April 1865: The Month That Saved America.

Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries That Ignited the Space Age by DC’s Matthew Brzezinski is a lively retelling of the international political and technological tensions of the 1950s.

Michael J. Neufeld, a National Air and Space Museum historian, looks at Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War, a biography of Wernher von Braun, the former Nazi who helped develop the US space program.

US senator Christopher Dodd has compiled letters from his father, Thomas Dodd—who also became a senator—to his mother while he was helping to prosecute Nazi war criminals. The book, full of personal and historical details, is Letters From Nuremberg: My Father’s Narrative of a Quest for Justice. Chapters by the younger Dodd, with coauthor Lary Bloom, provide context and perspective.

New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin looks at the nation’s high court under Chief Justices William Rehnquist and John Roberts in The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. It covers controversial nominations, including that of Harriet Miers, and has a chapter on the 2006–07 term.

Washington Post movie critic Stephen Hunter’s new thriller, The 47th Samurai, is out this month. It marks the return of his sometime hero Bob Lee Swagger. The recent movie Shooter, based on Hunter’s Point of Impact, starred Mark Wahlberg as Swagger.

Attorney Ron Liebman, a partner at Patton Boggs, has written two nonfiction books about the law, Shark Tales and Grand Jury. Now he turns to fiction with Death by Rodrigo, a funny and fast-moving legal thriller.

This piece originally appeared in the September 2007 edition of the magazine.