Helen's Picks

Helen, our floor manager, has worked at Quail Ridge Books & Music for 15+ years. She grew up in Raleigh.  Helen enjoys reading history books and biographies.

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802127006
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - June 6th, 2017

This is a monumental book! 608 pages of soldiers' stories, generals' denials, and politicians' lies. First Bowden gives Ho Chi Minh's remarkable back story - his time in exile as a pastry chef in New York City, his letters to President Wilson and President Truman that were not read, and finally his rise to power. Then Bowden puts you on the streets of Hue with the soldiers at the front. They drop to the ground - shot in the head, shot in the throat, shot in the back. Bowden dedicates the book to Gene Roberts, the New York Times reporter who sent out an honest, first hand account of the battle. Brutal and heartbreaking history.

The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance Cover Image
By Anders Rydell, Henning Koch (Translator)
ISBN: 9780735221222
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking - February 7th, 2017

The Nazis burned millions of books but stole even more!  After the war Russia claimed many of these books and so did the Library of Congress!  Today a handful of heroic librarians are combing through their collections looking for signs of stolen books so they can return them to their original collections or relatives of their owners.  There are amazing stories here - a 2-volume Gutenberg Bible smuggled across the English channel, a little book returned to the granddaughter of a holocaust victim. This book will convince you forever that books are a powerful force in the world.

Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062419095
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow - July 25th, 2017

The author puts you aboard an aircraft with one of these soldiers who volunteered to go behind enemy lines just days before D-Day without parachute training.  This was his first jump!  You hear the pilot read Eisenhower's message to the troops.  Then Henderson describes the jerk of the cord and how the soldier floated down into Nazi territory. Fabulous stories of courage by Jewish German U.S. soldiers!

A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393254419
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 1st, 2016

Two young men sign on to Commander Peary's final expedition to the North Pole.  Then they try to find a vast continent of snowy peaks and valleys that Peary had written about earlier.  After three brutal years in the North, they discover that the continent is not what it appeared to be.  Peary was not above lying about discoveries in order to fund raise for his next venture.  Did he deceive them and everyone that read his books, including Teddy Roosevelt? One of the most amazing adventure stories I've ever read!

Rogue Heroes: The History of the Sas, Britain's Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101904169
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - October 4th, 2016

This is the story of a secret ragtag band of soldiers in World War II that changed modern combat and led to the creation of today's special forces. Living behind enemy lines, they would come out at night with machine guns mounted on their jeeps and blow up airplanes, tanks, warehouses, roads and bridges. These secret warriors included an aristocrat, a doctor, a navigator, a mechanic, and dozens of enlisted men. They slowly became legendary because of their exploits. Rogue Heroes is full of photos,maps, letters, and, at the end, a regimental roll of honor.

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143110194
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - May 9th, 2017

In this fascinating history, big personalities emerge.  Benedict Arnold, charismatic, arrogant, and reckless, verges on madness in battle.  George Washington, indecisive at first, evolves into a strategic military leader and eventually figures out how to win.  You realize that things like the direction of the wind or when a river freezes or who gets promoted determine victory or defeat. This book includes 100 pages of notes and sources, lots of maps, many portraits, and Benedict Arnold's treasonous coded letter!

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399563133
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - April 4th, 2017

What an adventurous life it was!  Louisa married John Quincy when she was 21 and followed him to diplomatic posts in Germany, Prussia, St. Petersburg and eventually the United States.  You share her struggles through multiple miscarriages, the deaths of two babies and years of separation from her children.  You're there at the high points, such as her presentation to the court of the tzar.  In Washington her parties and balls became legendary.  Full of first person accounts - from Louisa's memoirs and John Quincy's diary - Louisa makes you feel as if you know this woman.   Fabulous history!

PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062346599
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - June 7th, 2016

You read spellbound as young JFK swims miles behind enemy lines in shark infested waters with the life jacket strap of his oldest and most injured crew member clinched in his teeth, leading his sailors to safety on a deserted island.  He goes back out alone in the black sea, treading water for hours hoping to flag down a passing American ship.  JFK was only 25 years old, on his own, having volunteered for combat.  Years later he kept a glass paperweight on his desk in the oval office that contained the coconut that he had carved a message in and sent to his base alerting his commander to his crew's location.  Fabulous history!

Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143128915
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - October 25th, 2016

Clementine and Winston Churchill, both from aristocratic families, had the wedding of the year.  Photos in the papers, people lining the route to the church, and reports of a six hour wedding dress alteration session.  Because Clementine and Winston exchanged over 1,700 letters, we get a fascinating, up close look at their relationship through the years.  Winston was impulsive, defensive and rash.  Clementine was thoughtful, strong and strategic.  During World War I, she organized canteens for munition workers.  During World War II, she volunteered as a fire watcher, sitting on rooftops and calling in fires during air raids.  She and Winston went out in the dark after the bombing stopped and toured the bomb sites with flashlights.  Clementine is an extraordinary love story against the backdrop of tumultuous history.  I loved it!

The World's Largest Man: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062351500
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - May 17th, 2016

Imagine David Sedaris growing up in Mississippi and his father forcing him to hunt a deer.  This is a laugh out loud memoir by the Oxford American humor columnist about a kid who would rather read or go to the library with his mom.  Memorable stories and hilarious dialogue!

The Wright Brothers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476728759
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - May 3rd, 2016

What a fabulous book!  Orville and Wilbur come alive - intelligent, shy, persistent, and hardworking.  McCullough describes the books in their house.  He includes many letters they wrote.  He recounts their set backs and hardships, and, finally, the excitement as the world realizes that man can really fly.  I absolutely loved this book! 

Astoria: Astor and Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Tale of Ambition and Survival on the Early American Frontier Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062218308
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ecco - February 10th, 2015

After John Jacob Astor makes a fortune in New York, he plans Astoria, a trading post on the Pacific coast. His explorers face storms, mutinies, shipwrecks, starvation, murders and insanity, and finally give up. Astor's vision of Pacific Rim trade is put on hold for a couple of centuries. Astonishing history!

The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385343527
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dial Press - December 2nd, 2014

In this powerful, superbly written memoir, Conroy tells the story of his family - the violence, the estrangements, the divorces, the mental breakdowns, and the suicide.  This tumultuous tale is also full of love, reconciliations, and lots of humor.  But most of all, in The Death of Santini, Conroy brilliantly brings his intense, combative father to life.  I stayed up all night reading this book!

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594631900
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - December 3rd, 2013

Full of interesting ideas about influencing people, Pink cites lessons from the last Fuller Brush salesman as well as numerous studies and research including some from UNC-CH. He tells how to write personal, emotional signs. He goes over 6 kinds of pitches. And he tells you to treat everyone as you would treat your grandmother!

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307888778
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Broadway Books - May 14th, 2013

From invisible ink to an actor impersonating General Montgomery, from pigeon spies to imaginary armies, Double Cross is full of amazing stories!  And the biggest surprise comes at the end, a huge deception that led to victory on D-Day.  Fascinating newly revealed secrets of WWII!

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity Cover Image
ISBN: 9781439127728
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - February 12th, 2013

Focusing on the personal relationships between U.S. presidents, it is full of memorable scenes! Eisenhower advises Johnson what to say after the Kennedy assassination, and Johnson sends    Eisenhower a leather bound copy of the speech. Clinton sends Carter to Haiti to negotiate with a dictator to step down, and Carter succeeds 30 minutes before the Marines were set to invade. Nixon sends Clinton a letter on foreign affairs that Clinton thinks is the best analysis he has ever read and rereads the letter once a year. Fabulous behind the scenes history!

The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspape Cover Image
ISBN: 9781613744567
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Chicago Review Press - September 1st, 2012

On July 1, 1893 President Grover Cleveland vanished, and one of the earliest cover-ups in American politics began. NPR reporter Algeo recounts this amazing story with astonishing facts about history, medicine, journalism and even The Wizard of Oz!