Around The Block

Around The Block: The Business of a Neighborhood by Tom ShachtmanAROUND THE BLOCK: The Business of a Neighborhood

“A ‘near-classic’ … One of the best descriptions of American business in microcosm to come out of the 1990s [and] the sort of business book that is published too rarely …. Its subject goes to the heart of modern American business — and in the process tells you more about social conflicts, immigration, education and, indeed, America itself than countless loftier works …. Most memorable are the characters …. Mr. Shachtman is wonderful at detailing the obstinacy of small businessmen …. One of the book’s best chapters is on the stout defence put up by a gym and a video store against two national chains that move in across the street …. Another fascinating section looks at the economics of three deli-groceries ….” — The Economist

“To answer such questions as whether small businesses create jobs and how they survive the competition with big business, Shachtman spent a year exploring the assorted enterprises in a square block of Manhattan’s Chelsea. The book is crowded with real people speaking candidly about plans and problems as varied as their occupations, which range from dog grooming to wholesale plumbing supplies. A grand idea, splendidly executed.” — The New Yorker

“Fascinating detail, [a] terrific new book … a lively, insightful chronicle of a year in the business life of a Manhattan block …. AROUND THE BLOCK is a wonderful weave of personal stories and big-picture trends. Mr. Shachtman has mastered the art of the disciplined digression: his side trips into architecture, history and macroeconomics are short and sharply illuminating.” — The New York Times, Business Section

“A complex and detailed [study of] the gradual, almost invisible creation of jobs, wealth and economic growth through the establishment and nurturing of small businesses …. A thoughtful, interesting book ….. Tom Shachtman has written a good and useful book that — unlike so much else these days — gives cause to look to the future with hope.” — Washington Post Book World

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Parade! by Tom ShachtmanThe big Thanksgiving Day parades are a traditional kick-off to the holiday season, but not everyone realizes that parade day is preceded by a full year of planning. This book takes readers “backstage” at the Macy’s parade to see the process of preparation. Dozens of full-color photographs detail float and costume design, dance rehearsals, band practice and, of course, construction and maintenance of the famous giant balloons. The text is brief but accurate and suggests mounting excitement as the parade day approaches. At last, the book provides a grandstand seat for the parade itself. This exuberant and informative look at a familiar holiday ritual belongs in every holiday collection. — Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, Ill.

“Exudes excitement. You can hear the brass bands playing.” Horn Book

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The Day America Crashed

The Day America Crashed by Tom ShachtmanTHE DAY AMERICA CRASHED: A Narrative Account of the Great Stock Market Crash of October 24, 1929.

Something happened on a fall day in 1929 that permanently altered the direction of the nation’s history and scarred the lives of an entire generation of Americans. October 24, “Black Thursday” was not only the day of the stock market crash; it was the day that the Roaring Twenties fell silent, and the nation began its slide into a decade of depression.

This hour-by-hour narrative documentary book, based on the personal recollections of hundreds of individuals, reconstructs the events of the fateful day as they affected the rich and powerful bankers and brokers of Wall Street, the small investors and businessmen, the farmers, and the multitude of white- and blue-collar workers across the country. Into the narrative also are folded capsules that together give a broader snapshot of what life was like in America at that time.

“Shachtman is able to convey the profound and extensive sense of shock that altered the prevailing psychology of the times.” The New York Times

“A sensitive evocation of Black Thursday’s market drama.” Barron’s

“An enlightening account of a dark and almost unbelievable day.” Dallas Morning News

“Absorbing, impressively researched.” Publishers Weekly

“The best of the three [books on the Crash].” Detroit Free Press

“Shachtman manages to make all of this clear, even to those of us who know nothing of how the market operates.” Memphis Commercial Appeal

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The Phony War

The Phony War-1939-1940 by Tom ShachtmanTHE PHONY WAR, 1939-1940.

Between the time that Germany and the Soviet Union carved up Poland between them, in September of 1939, and the invasion of France and the Low Countries by Germany in May of 1940 was a period in which the war fell into a lull, eight months that became known as “the phony war.” This book tells the story of that period. Rather than being a time in which nothing was happening, it was a period that determined the entire later course of the war.

“Tom Shachtman tells the story … with haunting eloquence.” New York Times Book Review

“Superbly told and cleanly written … moves quickly and engagingly … opens with a brilliant sequence in which a series of lavish parties are described.” Baltimore Sun

“An excellent narrative that describes [the period] in brilliant detail.” Charleston Evening Post

“Panoramic popular history … vivid description …. He’s dug into the archives for a view from the top and excerpted autobiographies for the experience of ordinary people.” Publishers Weekly

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The FBI-KGB War by Robert J. Lamphere with Tom ShachtmanTHE FBI-KGB WAR: A Special Agent’s Story, by Robert J. Lamphere and Tom Shachtman.

This is the inside story of the leader of the FBI’s counterintelligence unit during the height of the Cold War, and a personal account of the man who uncovered and broke the Russian atomic-spy ring centered around Julius Rosenberg. It also includes Lamphere’s recollections of earlier espionage cases involving Judith Coplon, Gerhardt Eisler and others, and a special sections about Kim Philby, the Russian double-agent inside of British intelligence who for a time sat at a desk opposite Lamphere at FBI headquarters in Washington.

“This is a lively, fascinating and careful treatment of superpower spying in the atomic age …. Few contributions to this subject are likely to be of greater value.” Wall Street Journal

“With sections as good as le Carré, a fascinating look at the world of espionage and counterespionage.” Kirkus Reviews

“Lamphere’s interesting and highly readable story (put together by Tom Shachtman) forces us to confront the stereotypical image of the FBI held by so many liberals.” The New Republic

“A narrative as riveting as any spy thriller.” Newsday

“Kudos should go to Tom Shachtman, Lamphere’s ‘ghost,’ for a well written, meticulously researched manuscript on a subject of international interest and concern.” San Diego Union

For a glimpse into Bob’s extraordinary life, see The New York Times’ obituary.

The CIA praised THE FBI-KGB WAR as the most important and detailed book ever written on the activities of the KGB and FBI.

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Airlift To America

 Airlift to America: How Barack Obama, Sr., John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours by Tom ShachtmanAIRLIFT TO AMERICA: HOW BARACK OBAMA SR., JOHN F. KENNEDY, TOM MBOYA, AND 800 EAST AFRICAN STUDENTS CHANGED THEIR WORLD AND OURS was published in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press. Reviews from the Washington Post and The Nation echoed pre-pub reviews by Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. The foreword is by the great singer and social activist Harry Belafonte, who along with Jackie Robinson and Sidney Poitier signed the first appeal to the public for support for the airlift, fifty years ago.

“This book fills in a piece of Barack Obama’s background. Quite an important piece, in that the subject is the so-called airlift, between 1959 and ’63, of hundreds of young Africans to the United States, where they studied at colleges and universities …. The idea was to let promising young Africans experience firsthand the freedom and promise of American life. No less an analyst than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. thought the program would advance the cause of civil rights on both continents.” – Washington Post

“Airlift offers an intriguing tidbit of US history and a look back at a brief moment when Many Americans and Africans caught glimpses of a shared and hopeful future.” – The Nation

Kirkus Service lauded the book’s “revealing character sketches” of individual students and their fascinating lives, and summed up the book by saying it offers “a compelling portrait of nation-building abroad and nation-changing at home.”

Publishers Weekly: “A memorable and poignant recounting of a significant endeavor that is still scoring successes around the world, this book is not to be missed by African and American history buffs.”

BookBrowse –Editors Choice — “This thorough, patiently researched, and at times moving account of dedicated young people hungry for an education and those who helped them receive it will appeal to students of American history in the 1960’s in particular, and anyone interested in an important turning-point in the struggle for human rights in the U.S. and in Africa …. I came away with my idealism refreshed. The architects of the student airlifts believed in freedom, human dignity and self-determination; the students they helped believed that through education they could help a nation. By having the courage to act on those beliefs, and the determination to persevere through delay and defeat, they would change the world in ways they could never have imagined.”

AIRLIFT TO AMERICA is the never-before-told and quite heroic story of the 1959-1963 airlifts from East Africa that helped Barack Obama, Sr., father of the president, and Wangari Maathai, future winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, among hundreds of others, to study at American and Canadian colleges and universities. The airlifts and their graduates changed not only the future course of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and other nations of East Africa, but also the course of U.S. race relations. Jack Kennedy’s donation to enable the 1960 airlift became an important issue in that year’s American presidential election, and was a factor in swinging enough African-American votes into his column to give him the victory.

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Decade of Shocks

Decade of Shocks by Tom ShachtmanDECADE OF SHOCKS, Dallas to Watergate, 1963-1974. 

America entered the post-World War II era with a set of assumptions that were both widely held and fundamental to our identity. We believed in the security, decency, and legitimacy of our leaders, in the vigor and continuing health of our economy, in our incomparable military strength, in our limitless resources, and in our innate capacity for peaceful existence among the races. One by one, these assumptions were shattered by the Decade of Shocks.

We found that we can’t win every war, that our cities can burn, that our children can reject what we have built, that the racial divide continues despite efforts to erase it, that terrorists can strike anywhere, and that our leaders may be shot before our eyes – or betray us behind our backs.

Organized around the categories of shocks to the body politic – the assassinations, the riots, the economic swings, the black, youth, and women’s movements, the escalating price of technology – this book provides a vividly detailed account of the years of seismic change, and an analysis that shows how and why America came out of the Decade of Shocks polarized and prey to a crisis mentality.

“Alongside a highly readable, sensitive survey of a tumultuous decade, Shachtman offers an analysis that burrows deep into our national character.” Publishers Weekly

“With perception and detail, Shachtman replays … modern history from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the resignation of President Richard Nixon …. A disquieting but functional view of the United States during the most tumultuous era of our time.” Milwaukee Sentinel

“A vivid, thoughtful and evocative piece of popular history.” Morris Dickstein, Columbia University.

“An impressive work.” Henry Steele Commager.

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The Beachmaster by Tom ShachtmanBEACHMASTER: A STORY OF DANIEL AU FOND, by Tom Shachtman. Illustrated by Jamichael Henterly.

“The sections of the book that stand out are those that illustrate the pleasures and perils of a sea lion’s life …. The description is memorable … the author is able to evoke strong feelings of compassion for the animals [and to make] a clear moral distinction between the violence done to sea creatures by man and the violent struggles among sea creatures…. Readers will finish the novel with an understanding of the crucial difference between sport and survival. Like the ocean itself, the story is full of life.” New York Times Book Review

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Wavebender: A Story of Daniel au Rond by Tom ShachtmanWAVEBENDER: A STORY OF DANIEL AU FOND. Illustrated by Jamichael Henterly.

“A gripping, well-researched novel that explains the day-to-day existence of a sea lion; a nature story full of life and certainly worth reading.” School Library Journal

Shachtman introduced readers to a sea lion named Daniel au Fond in his first book, Beachmaster ; Wavebender is the continuation of his adventures. In an unpretentious, easy-to-read style, Shachtman’s characters describe the struggle of survival in the ocean where reality is harsh and unforgiving. Often the narrative is vividly descriptive. For instance, in one episode Daniel depicts the anguish of a whale harpooned by the bipeds (man). Readers share with Daniel the horror of the incident: the explosion, the cries of agony. Wavebender is a gripping, well-researched novel that explains the day-to-day existence of a sea lion: a nature story full of life and certainly worth reading. –L. R. Little, Penticton Public Library, B.C., Canada, School Library Journal

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Driftwhistler by Tom ShachtmanDRIFTWHISTLER: A STORY OF DANIEL AU FOND, by Tom Shachtman. Illustrated by Jamichael Henterly.

DRIFTWHISTLER is the culmination of a compelling fantasy trilogy, a rousing adventure that is also an eloquent call for a world in which sea mammals and humans share mutual respect.

In BEACHMASTER and WAVEBENDER, Daniel au Fond entered legend by creating a giant icon in the icy north, and by organizing a pod of whales to break up a tidal wave. Now, in his greatest challenge, he must become a “driftwhistler,” able to gather all thirteen tribes of sea mammals, from sea lions to orcas, whales, and polar bears, to brave monsters of the deep, harvest a deadly but valuable black flower, and penetrate the dark secrets of the planet’s past – and hopes for the future – locked in the heart of the long-lost haven of Pacifica.

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