We do not normally associate Hitler and Mussolini’s violent and aggressive regimes with “soft power.” But the two dictators were would-be intellectuals—Adolf Hitler a failed painter inebriated with the music of Wagner, and Mussolini a onetime schoolteacher and novelist. Unlike American philistines, they thought literature and the arts were important, and wanted to weaponize them as adjuncts to military conquest. Benjamin Martin’s illuminating book The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture adds a significant dimension to our understanding of how the Nazi and Fascist empires were constructed.
The Enigma of the Owl: An Illustrated Natural History
by Mike Unwin and David Tipling, with a foreword by Tony Angell
Owls: A Guide to Every Species in the World
by Marianne Taylor
Humans have always noticed owls. One of the earliest examples of Paleolithic art is an owl engraved on the wall of the Chauvet cave in France. Among the peculiarities of owl physiognomy is that owls have both eyes facing forward, unlike most birds. They can also turn their heads 270 degrees (making up for their inability to move their eyes). It has been easy to imagine that these creatures of darkness, mostly experienced as an ominous cry in the night or a disconcerting stare during the day, have personalities, and malign ones at that.
Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City
by Leslie Day, with illustrations by Trudy Smoke, photographs by Beth Bergman, and a foreword by Don Riepe
New York is a particularly “birdy” city (to use the birder’s term). Someone who makes a serious effort to find birds in the city almost every day—there are such people—can find upward of three hundred species in one year without ever leaving the city limits, using only public transportation. The cumulative bird list of Central Park alone includes over 280 species.
Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance
by Robert Gildea
Histoire de la Résistance, 1940–1945
by Olivier Wieviorka
The French Resistance cuts a wide swath in the public imagination, and not only in France. Books and films have planted indelible images of derailed trains and makeshift airstrips at midnight. These images reveal only a tiny part of the fluctuating, diverse, squabbling world of the Resistance. Encompassing its whole range of activities is a challenge.
by Pierre Birnbaum, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer
When Léon Blum became president of the Council of Ministers of France—in effect, prime minister—on June 6, 1936, a world was turned on its head. He was the first socialist ever to occupy that position in France, and the first avowed Jew to head a major modern government anywhere (Benjamin …
The Great Terror of 1793–1794 is often considered the bloodiest episode in the history of Paris, thanks perhaps to Charles Dickens. By careful count, Robespierre’s Revolutionary Tribunal ordered 2,639 people executed in Paris between April 1793 and July 1794.1 But at least seven times that many were killed in …
Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife
by John M. Marzluff, with illustrations by Jack DeLap
In March 2013 John Marzluff, a veteran ecology professor, spent a few days in Yellowstone National Park. As he always does when out of doors, Marzluff counted the birds he found there: twenty-four species. Traveling to New York City afterward, he spent several hours over two days in Manhattan’s green …