Three new books offer fresh takes on American history and politics.
American Freak Show: The Completely Fabricated Stories of Our New National Treasures (Hyperion) by Willie Geist, MSNBC personality, collects satirical essays about politics and pop culture, including John Edwards arguing his case before St. Peter and Sarah Palin delivering her inaugural speech in Tampa during a WWE match.
The Mental Floss History of the United States (Harper) by Erik Sass (of the staff of mentalfloss.com) improbably combines deep research with entertaining prose to correct popular myths and misrepresentations — like, those "defenders of freedom" at the Alamo? They were fighting for the right to keep slaves.
Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler (Simon & Schuster) by Gary Kamiya, illustrated by Jeffrey Smith, is part of the Pulp History series, which brings together accomplished writers and artists to create graphic histories like this one about an Allied volunteer force of saboteurs.
Colette Bancroft, Times book editor