Also of interest ...

in new works of history

Vermeer’s Hat

by Timothy Brook (Bloomsbury, $28)

When Timothy Brook looks at the paintings of Vermeer, he sees the dawn of global commerce, said Michael Dirda in The Washington Post. In Brook’s fascinating new book, each porcelain dish or beaver-felt hat that appears in a 17th-century Dutch canvas becomes a window into forces that were remaking the world. This was an era of exploration and commercial innovation—all triggered by a cooling globe and the lure of Chinese luxuries. Brook turns that story into an “enthralling intellectual entertainment.”

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

God’s Crucible

by David Levering Lewis (Norton, $30)

David Levering Lewis’ history of Islam in pre-1215 Europe is “remarkably old-fashioned,” said Adam Kirsch in The New York Sun. “Crammed to the margins with names and dates,” it serves as a useful primer on Mohammed and his early followers, as well as the Muslim conquest of Spain. It’s so busy, though, readers almost forget its questionable thesis: that Europe would have been better off had Christian armies not turned back the Muslim advance.

The Mighty Wurlitzer

by Hugh Wilford (Harvard, $28)

A “surprising collection” of well-known American cultural figures was receiving CIA funding in the first two decades of the Cold War, said Nathan Glazer in The New York Times. Hugh Wilford’s “remarkably detailed” account of this secret propaganda effort fleshes out a story that’s been known for about 40 years. Though Wilford isn’t always “in full command” of his material, he deserves credit for bringing all the strands together.

The Cure Within

by Anne Harrington (Norton, $26)

Don’t expect Harvard professor Anne Harrington to tell you whether the mind really has the power to cure illness, said Juliet Lapidos in The New York Observer. Her “admirable” and “highly original” new book mainly explores how various popular ideas about the mind-body connection developed. She is as noncommittal about the credibility of the laughing cure as she is about neuropsychology.

Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?

by James J. Sheehan (Houghton Mifflin, $26)

James Sheehan’s “timely, first-rate” new work reminds us how remarkable it is that once-militaristic Western Europe has endured no major wars since 1945, said Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. Many would argue that European disarmament couldn’t have happened if America hadn’t accepted policing responsibilities. But Sheehan makes a strong case that the shock of World War II ended the continent’s love affair with fighting once and for all.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.