The Ghost Mountain Boys

It wasn't the enemy Japanese that caused most of the American casualties during the horrific battle for New Guinea in late 1942, but the nightmarish conditions on the South Pacific island. New Guinea was largely unmapped, hellishly hot, filled with swamps, thick jungle, crocodiles, mountains, and unpredictable natives. As Campbell shows in this eye-opening account, New Guinea "was the perfect incubator for a host of debilitating tropical diseases," including malaria and dysentery. As one Michigan soldier bluntly said, "If I owned New Guinea and I owned hell, I would live in hell and rent out New Guinea." Campbell's narrative follows the brutal experiences of the U.S. Army's 32nd Division, as it marches across this unforgiving landscape and then assaults the Japanese army at the Battle of Buna. Using countless interviews with American troops, as well as diaries and letters, Campbell vividly paints a portrait of suffering, fear, endurance, and ultimate victory. Many of the casualties, Campbell explains, could have been avoided if U.S. commanders like General Douglas MacArthur had properly prepared and equipped the 32nd. U.S. troops suffered a stunning casualty rate of over 90%. The vast majority of these casualties were from tropical diseases, and Campbell criticizes Army brass for not providing the 32nd with jungle warfare training and (incredibly) not even supplying them with insect repellent to deter malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Yet these embattled men achieved the first great U.S. victory of the Pacific War, shattering the "myth of Japanese invincibility" and saving Australia. Campbell's narrative skillfully reveals how right General Sherman was: "War is hell." -

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.