Fall '08/Winter '09 Reading Group List
“The late Halberstam's last work examines the causes, course, and lasting effects of the Korean War. While focusing on the bravery of the fighting men on both sides of the conflict, he shows the effect of poor strategic thinking by military and civilian leaders and provides vivid accounts of daily battles on the field and in the world capitals where the fighting is directed. A dense historical context offers a better understanding of the forces and events that shaped the war and its aftermath.”
— John Pollock, Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT
David Halberstam's magisterial and thrilling The Best and the Brightest was the defining book about the Vietnam conflict. More than three decades later, Halberstam used his unrivaled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another pivotal moment in our history: the Korean War. Halberstam considered The Coldest Winter his most accomplished work, the culmination of forty-five years of writing about America's postwar foreign policy.
Halberstam gives us a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu River and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures--Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway. At the same time, Halberstam provides us with his trademark highly evocative narrative journalism, chronicling the crucial battles with reportage of the highest order. As ever, Halberstam was concerned with the extraordinary courage and resolve of people asked to bear an extraordinary burden.
The Coldest Winter is contemporary history in its most literary and luminescent form, providing crucial perspective on every war America has been involved in since. It is a book that Halberstam first decided to write more than thirty years ago and that took him nearly ten years to complete. It stands as a lasting testament to one of the greatest journalists and historians of our time, and to the fighting men whose heroism it chronicles.
About the Author
David Halberstam (1934-2007) was the author of twenty-two books, including fifteen bestsellers. Born in New York City, Halberstam spent much of the 1960s as a reporter for the New York Times, covering the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. His Vietnam reporting earned him both a George C. Polk Award and a 1964 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. Vanity Fair dubbed Halberstam "the Moses of American journalism," and the subjects of his books reflect his passion and range: war, foreign policy, history, and sports.
The Best and the Brightest (1962), his sixth book, a critique of the Kennedy administration's Vietnam policy, became a #1 bestseller. His next book, The Powers that Be, a study of four American media companies, was hailed by the New York Times as a "prodigy of research." Many of Halberstam's books explored themes in professional sports, including bestsellers The Teammates, a portrait of the friendship between baseball players Ted Williams, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr, and The Education of a Coach, a profile of New England Patriots' Coach Bill Belichick.
"I could hardly put this book down. Meticulously and thoroughly researched, it is splendidly compelling reading. The Coldest Winter is a superb conjoining of all the factors of this tragic war: the military tactics and strategy of both sides; the international diplomacy; the internal politics; the personalities of the various players. A great work."—Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.), co-author of We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young
"Halberstam is at his very best."—The Wall Street Journal
"An instant classic look at the people, power and politicsthat created a dangerous stage...and then acted on it."—Chicago Sun-Times
"He is a peerless reporter of events and facts--with a signature human touch."—The Seattle Times
"In a grand gesture of reclamation and remembrance. Mr. Halberstam has brought the war back home."—The New York Times
"His most operatic war story."—The New York Times Book Review