Lit Life When the news gets too hard to digest, I console myself by reading books of history, and these days I have been reading a lot of it. Part of it is a primitive “if you think things are bad now, consider the chaos of 1916” sort of consolation. Then there’s that timeless principle that those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it, an often ignored truth first advanced by the philosopher George Santayana. Here are some recently published history books that have filled up some golden afternoons. Pour a cool drink, find a shady spot and prepare to take some deep breaths along the way: “ Putin: His Downfall and Russia’s Coming Crash ” by Richard Lourie (St. Martin’s Press, 272 pp., $26.99) is a concise, clear-eyed, scary look at the Russian dictator whose greatest pleasure seems to be to humiliate America and other democracies. In this book, Lourie, a man who has spent decades studying and writing about Russia, gives his best shot at explaining what makes Putin tick. Lourie ably covers Putin’s life story — his rise from a street-smart St. Petersburg kid to a KGB official foraging for intelligence in Germany to […]