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Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization - Nicholson Baker A chronicle of obscure but important incidents leading up to World War II "incorporating meticulous research and well-documented sources, including newspaper and magazine articles, radio speeches, memoirs, and diaries, the book juxtaposes hundreds of related moments of decision, brutality, suffering and mercy." The point being, according to Baker, that the pacifists failed, but they were right and the war was wrong. It's a bold contention, considering how resoundingly that war has been ruled good.

"What is a good war?" he asks. "Did waging it help anyone who needed help? Those were the basic questions that I hoped to answer when I began writing." Baker finds that the end does not entirely justify the means of this war, given the evidence that other and less violent options might have provided a comparable outcome with less damage done, and in any case those options were worth trying first.

A fascinating look at behind-the-scenes dealings and personalities, and a compelling examination of the less flattering, and sometimes damning, aspects of allied leaders.