William Seward received welcome attention from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in her landmark study of Lincoln and the men he appointed to his cabinet, Team of Rivals. But decades after the last major biography of Seward, the one-time presidential aspirant and Secretary of State deserved another thorough examination, which Walter Stahr offers in Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man (Simon & Schuster, $32.50). Stahr, who had a career in law and finance before turning full time to writing biographies (his first book was about another behind-the-scenes power, John Jay), unearthed a trove of documents that enabled him to challenge some of the conventional wisdom about Seward’s role in several of Lincoln’s most important decisions regarding treatment of the South during the Civil War—and more.
Jewish sports heroes? You betcha! From boxers like Barney Ross, who dominated the professional ranks in the 1920s and ‘30s, to playground basketball stars who went on to be pros, like Red Holzman and Doph Schayes, to Sid Luckman who originated the position of the modern dropback quarterback, Jews have had an enormous impact on American sports. In Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame (Twelve, $26.99), Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy have compiled fifty biographical portraits that entertain, enlighten, and educate. The range of subjects is diverse, and so are the contributors. They include Simon Schama, David Brooks, Jane Leavy, Sholom Auslander, and David Remn
While the year 1776 is widely celebrated for sparking U.S. independence, Kevin Phillips argues in his persuasive, engrossing new book that the events of the previous year were what gave greater impetus to the American Revolution. He shows compellingly in 1775: A Good Year for Revolution (Viking, $36) how much of the momentum for the break with Britain came months before the formal Declaration of Independence, as militias were organized and armed, royal governors were expelled, and territorial control was consolidated in Patriot hands. By the time the British sought in 1776 to reassert their authority, their grip had been irrecoverably weakened, and they found themselves unable to regain the upper hand. This richly detailed history by a noted political commentator and bestselling author offers fresh insight into America’s origins and the run-up to revolution.