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John Kelly Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Great Mortality (2005)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Graves Are Walking (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
Never Surrender (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Saving Stalin (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

John Kelly
John Kelly specializes in narrative history. With “The Graves Are Walking”, he got wide praise by literary reviewers, history scholars, statesmen, and international activists, including Bill Clinton. With “The Great Mortality”, he’s established himself as a major writer of deeply researched, highly lauded, and narratively compelling popular histories.

He has been a featured speaker at the Smithsonian Institution, New York University, Bard College, The University of British Columbia, Fordham University, Baylor University, Albion College, the State University at Albany, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, as well as numerous C-SPAN, NPR, and History Channel appearances.

“The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time” is a non-fiction book that was released in 2005. The Great Plague is one of the most compelling events in all of human history, even more so today, when the notion of plague, be it either human or animal, has loomed larger as a contemporary public concern.

The plague which devastated Europe and Asia during the 14th century has been of neverending interest to both general and scholarly readers. A lot of the books on the plague rely just on statistics to tell the story: how farm output and trade declined and how many people died as a result of the plague.

However statistics alone cannot convey what it was really like to sit in Avignon or Siena and hear about a thousand people two towns over are dying each day. Or to live in a society where the bloods of sentiment and blood and law have gone and lost all meaning, where anybody can rape, murder, or plunder anybody else without fear of consequence. Or to have to pick between your own life and your duty to a mortally ill spouse or child.

In “The Great Mortality”, John Kelly lends this air of intimacy and immediacy to his telling of the plague’s journey while it travels from the steppes of Russia, across Europe, and into England, killing some 75 million people, which was a third of the known population, before it vanished.

“The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People” is a non-fiction book that was released in 2012. A magisterial account of one of the worst disasters to hit mankind: the Great Irish Potato Famine, conveyed as a lyrical narrative history.

Compelling in its details, deeply researched, and stunning in its conclusions about the appalling choices behind a tragedy of pretty epic proportions, John’s retelling of the horrible tale of Ireland’s great hunger is going to resonate as history which speaks to our times.

It all began in the year 1845 and before it was over a million women, men, and children would end up dead and another two million fled the country. Measured in terms of mortality, the Great Irish Potato Famine was the worst disaster in the nineteenth century, claiming twice as many lives as the American Civil War put together. It was a perfect storm of political greed, bacterial infection, and religious intolerance sparked this catastrophe.

However even more extraordinary than its scope were its political underpinnings, and this book provides fresh analysis and material on the role which Britain’s nation building policies played in exacerbating such devastation by attempting to use this famine to reshape Irish character and society. Anti-relief sentiment, religious dogma, and political and racial ideology all combined to result in a nearly inconceivable disaster of human suffering.

The book is ultimately a triumph over perceived destiny: for fifty million Americans of Irish heritage, this saga of a broken people fleeing the crushing starvation and remaking themselves in a new land is quite an inspiring tale of revival.

Based on extensive research and written with a novelistic flair, this book paints a word portrait which is both panoramic and intimate. It is one which captures the drama of individual lives that are caught up in an unimaginable tragedy, while also imparting a new comprehension of the famine’s consequences and causes.

This is a compelling account of the Black Death, and does a solid job of accounting for the plague’s spread and origins, and the conditions that ultimately allowed it to have such devastating impact on 14th century society. John puts a vivid and human face on such an unimaginable nightmare.

“Never Surrender: Winston Churchill and Britain’s Decision to Fight Nazi Germany in the Fateful Summer of 1940” is a non-fiction book that was released in 2015. The critical six months of 1940 when Winston Churchill debated whether or not the British would fight Hitler.

April of 1940, in London. It was a place of great conflict and fear. Everybody was on edge; as civilization itself seemed to be imperiled. The Germans are marching. They’ve already taken France, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Poland, and Belgium. They are now menacing Britain. Should Britain negotiate with Germany?

There are members of the War Cabinet that yell, bicker, lose their control, and are quite simply divided. Churchill, who leads the faction to fight, and Lord Halifax, the one cautioning prudence is the way to survive, try usurping each other by any means possible. Their country’s on the line. And, in this book, we feel we’re alongside both of these imperfect and complex guys, determining the British Empire’s fate.

Drawing on the War Cabinet papers, other government documents, newspaper accounts, private diaries, and memoirs, John Kelly tells the story about the summer of 1940, the months of the “Supreme Question” about whether or not the British were to surrender.

Impressive in scope and attentive to detail, John takes the reader from the battlefield to Parliament, to the government ministries, to the desperate Anglo-French conference in London and Paris, to the British high command, to the American embassy in London, and to life with ordinary Britons. He brings to life one of the most heroic moments of the whole twentieth century and intimately portrays some of its biggest players: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, Lord Halifax, Joe Kennedy, Hitler, as well as others.

This is a wonderful grand narrative of a vital period of World War II history and the women and men that shaped it.

Book Series In Order » Authors » John Kelly

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