Historical Book Group Previous Book Selections

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution
Nathaniel Philbrick
Presents an account of the complicated middle years of the American Revolution that shares lesser-known insights into the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.


Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
Robert Kurson
Recounts the 1991 discovery of a sunken German U-boat by two recreational scuba divers, tracing how they devoted the following six years to researching the identities of the submarine and its crew, correcting historical texts, and breaking new grounds in the world of diving along the way.


Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David
Lawrence Wright
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 presents a day-by-day account of the 1978 Camp David conference, when President Jimmy Carter convinced Israel and Egypt to sign a peace treaty—the first treaty in the modern Middle East, and one which endures to this day.


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Daniel James Brown
Traces the story of an American rowing team from the University of Washington that defeated elite rivals at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics, sharing the experiences of such contributors as their enigmatic coach, a visionary boat builder, and a homeless teen rower.


Amelia Earhart: Beyond the Grave
W.C. Jameson
Based on the latest research and findings, depicts the life and experiences of the celebrated and pioneering female aviator and speculates about what really happened to her during her 1928 solo flight over the Atlantic.


The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story
Lily Koppel
Describes what lives were like for a group of military wives, including Annie Glenn, Rene Carpenter, Betty Grissom and Louise Shepherd, who were thrust into the spotlight when their husbands became Mercury Seven astronauts and made them stars.


Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson
The #1 New York Times best-selling author of In the Garden of Beasts presents a 100th-anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania that discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat, and architect Theodate Pope Riddle.


Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman
Mary Hamilton
This first-hand account of a woman pioneer trying to make a life for herself in the untamed American South of the late 19th century describes how she cared for her children while surviving floods, tornadoes, fires and wild animals.


Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire
Shane White
A prominent historian brings to life the story of a man who defied every convention of his time by becoming Wall Street's first black millionaire in pre-Civil War New York, marrying a white woman, owning railroad stock on trains he was not legally allowed to ride, and outsmarting his contemporaries.


Sultana: Surviving Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History
Alan Huffman
An account of the tragic sinking of the Civil War steamboat describes how it was carrying an overload of paroled Union soldiers, the boiler explosions that ended the lives of more than 1,700 passengers, and the experiences of its survivors.


Assassination Vacation
Sarah Vowell
A tour of key historic sites in America where incidents of political violence have occurred reveals lesser-known points of interest pertaining to each and shares information about how history has been shaped by popular culture and tourism.


Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers who Transformed a Nation
Julie M. Fenster
The New York Times best-selling author of The Case of Abraham Lincoln explains how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled era of American exploration—and in doing so, forged a great nation.


Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America
Jay Atkinson
Presents the story of Hannah Duston, who was captured by Abenaki Indians and escaped, killing ten of the Indians in the process, set against the background of King William's War in seventeenth-century Massachusetts.


The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean
Philip Caputo
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Rumor of War traces his 2011 road trip from the southernmost to the northernmost points of the United States to experience firsthand the country's vast diversity and political tensions in the face of a historic economic recession.


The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception
Robin Gaby Fisher
Traces the falsified story about denounced September 11 survivor Tania Head, describing her interviews with the co-author and the discovery that she was not in America at the time of the attacks, in an account that offers insider analysis of human morality and need.


The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
George Packer
Paints a picture of the last 30 years of life in America by following several citizens, including the son of tobacco farmers in the rural south, a Washington insider who denies his idealism for riches, and Silicon Valley billionaire.


A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown
Julia Scheeves
Documents the tragic story of the 1978 mass murder-suicide at Jonestown, drawing on such newly released sources as diaries, unsent letters and audiotapes of charismatic leader Jim Jones to identify the beliefs that inspired his followers and the addiction and mental illness that influenced Jones's activities.


Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock
David Margolick
Looks at the lives of the two women at the center of a famous historic photograph taken during the Little Rock school desegregation crisis in 1957--one, a black girl being harrassed by a mob; the other, a white teen at the center of the mob--in a book that discusses how each dealt with the fallout from that fateful day.


All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
Stephen Kinzer
Traces the events leading to the 1953 coup in Iran, noting the reasons behind the U.S.'s covert operations under the joint authority of Eisenhower and Churchill, the orchestrations of prime minister Mossadegh and CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, and the coup's ongoing consequences.


In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of it's Survivors
Doug Stanton
The nation's worst naval disaster is vividly chronicled, exposing extreme heroism in the face of persistent shark attacks and hypothermia in the aftermath of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine during the final days of World War II.


Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Bill Dedman
A cousin of Huguette Clark and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist trace the life of the reclusive American heiress against a backdrop of the now-infamous W. A. Clark family and include coverage of the internet sensation and elder-abuse investigation that occurred at the end of her life.


American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
Jon Meacham
A thought-provoking study of Andrew Jackson chronicles the life and career of a self-made man who went on to become a military hero and seventh president of the United States, critically analyzing Jackson's seminal role during a turbulent era in history, the political crises and personal upheaval that surrounded him, and his legacy for the modern presidency.


Liberty's Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty
Elizabeth Mitchell
Describes the story of the young French artist and entrepreneur who set off for America after the Franco-Prussian War and how he envisioned, creatively funded and built the Statue of Liberty.


Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution
Nathaniel Philbrick
The best-selling author of Mayflower presents a book inspired by the Boston battle that ignited the American Revolution, tracing the experiences of Patriot leader Dr. Joseph Warren, a newly recruited George Washington and British General William Howe.


Run, Don't Walk: The Curious and Courageous Life Inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Adele Levine
In her six years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Adele Levine rehabilitated soldiers admitted in worse and worse shape. As body armor and advanced trauma care helped save the lives—if not the limbs—of American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, Walter Reed quickly became the world leader in amputee rehabilitation. But no matter the injury, physical therapy began the moment the soldiers emerged from surgery.


Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family's Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue, and Redemption
Vinh Chung
Through a series of miraculous events, a Chinese family, living in communist Vietnam, joins the ranks of "boat people" and overcomes oppressive struggles to raise its children in the foreign culture of America.


Pat and Dick: The Nixons, an Intimate Portrait of a Marriage
Will Swift
A nuanced study of the partnership between the 37th President and his wife argues that the couple endured political and intimate disappointments throughout their 53-year marriage but ultimately shared genuine affection and compromises, in an account based on recently released wartime letters and close associate interviews.


Last Men Out: The True Story of America's Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam
Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
A moment-by-moment account of the operation by U.S. marines to rescue thousands of American troops and allies in the final 24 hours of the Vietnam War focuses on the stories of 11 young Marines who were the last to leave, in a dramatic story based on first-hand testimonies and recently declassified information.


Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA and Battle Over a Forbidden Book
Peter Finn
Draws on unique access to classified CIA files to document the role of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago in promoting American Cold War agendas in the 1950s, revealing how the CIA helped publish the Soviet-banned book in Russian to an enthusiastic black-market audience.


No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War
David Kaiser
An acclaimed historian reveals how Roosevelt and his cabinet engineered America's entry into--and ultimate victory in--World War II.


One Summer: America, 1927
Bill Bryson
The award-winning author of A Short History of Nearly Everything recounts the story of a pivotal cultural year in the United States when mainstream pursuits and historical events were marked by contributions by such figures as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth and Al Capone.


Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and the White House Dinner that Shocked a Nation
Deborah Davis
Traces the story of the 1901 White House dinner shared by the slave-turned-African-American-political-leader and the 26th President, documenting the ensuing scandal and the ways in which the event reflected period politics and race relations.


The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend
Glenn Frankel
Traces the making of the influential 1950s film inspired by the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, sharing lesser-known aspects of Parker's 1836 abduction by the Comanche and her heartbreaking return to white culture, in an account that also explores how the movie reflects period ambiguities.


Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America
Ernest Freeburg
A history of the culture of invention as epitomized by Thomas Edison demonstrates how America's lead in the electric light revolution of the late-19th century transformed the country, explaining how electric light served as a catalyst for a profound shift from rural to urban-dominated culture and prompted the migration of millions of workers to urban centers while shifting priorities to science, technology and patent law.


Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence
Carol Berkin
A thought-provoking study of the vital part played by women during the Revolutionary War details their diverse roles raising funds, disseminating propaganda, managing businesses and homes, and serving as nurses, spies, warriors, and saboteurs, profiling such figures as Phillis Wheatley, Dicey Langston, Margaret Corbin, and Abigail Adams.


Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776
Jon Butler
Multinational, profit-driven, materialistic, politically self-conscious, power-hungry, religiously plural: America three hundred years ago - and today. Here are Britain's mainland American colonies after 1680, in the process of becoming the first modern society - a society the earliest colonists never imagined, a "new order of the ages" that anticipated the American revolution, Jon Butler's panoramic view of the colonies in this epoch transforms our customary picture of pre-Revolutionary America.



First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley
Keith Koeneman
Chronicles the life of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, making deft use of unprecedented access to key players in the Daley administration, as well as Chicago's business and cultural leaders.



Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
Annie Jacobsen
Presents a history of the most famous secret military installation in the world, assembled from interviews with the people who served there and formerly classified information.



Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin
Hampton Sides
From the best-selling author of Ghost Soldiers comes a taut, intense narrative about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the largest manhunt in American history.



Rin, Tin, Tin: The Life and the Legend
Susan Orlean
A New Yorker staff writer and author of The Orchid Thief chronicles the rise of the iconic German shepherd character while sharing the stories of the real WWI dog and the canine performer in the 1950s television show, in an account that also explores Rin Tin Tin's relevance in the military and popular culture.


Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of WWII
Michael Zuckoff
In 1945, a sightseeing trip over "Shangri-La" turned deadly when the plane crashed, leaving only three survivors who, battling for their survival, were caught between man-eating headhunters and the enemy Japanese, in this real-life adventure drawn from personal interviews, declassified Army documents and personal photos and mementos.


Mount Rushmore: An Icon Reconsidered
Jesse Larner
Documents the conception and history of Mount Rushmore, which has become an icon of democracy, freedom, and hope, by bringing to light the many intricate stories behind this monument, including how the land on which Rushmore stands was commandeered from the Lakota Sioux in 1877 and how the sculpture's creator, a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, witnessed the fulfillment of white racial destiny across the American West.


To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
Adam Hochschild
An epic chronicle of the first World War places an emphasis on the moral dilemmas raised by the war's critics, citing the achievements and associations of famous detractors while exploring how the war's lessons have particular relevance in today's world.


I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford
Richard Snow
A lively account of Henry Ford's invention of the Model-T places his innovations against a backdrop of a steam-powered world and offers insight into his innate mechanical talents and pioneering work in internal combustion, describing his indelible impact on American culture and the perplexing subsequent changes in his personality.


Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and Murder of a President
Candice Millard
A dramatic narrative account of the 20th President's political career offers insight into his distinguished background as an impoverished wunderkind scholar and Civil War hero, his battles against the corrupt establishment and Alexander Graham Bell's failed attempt to save him from an assassin's bullet.


First Family: Abigail and John Adams
Joseph J. Ellis
The Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author of Founding Brothers presents a narrative profile of the second president and his wife that traces their more than 50-year partnership in such areas as civic and foreign affairs.


The Wordy Shipmates: The Exploration of the Puritans and Their Journey to America
Sarah Vowell
A cultural profile of Puritan life covers a wide range of topics, from their covenant communities and deep-rooted ideologies to their beliefs about church and state and their perspectives on other faiths, in an account that also evaluates their legacy in today's world.


1491: New Revelations of the America's Before Columbus
Charles C. Mann
A groundbreaking analysis of America prior to the European arrival in 1492 describes how the latest research of archaeologists and anthropologists has transformed long-held myths about the Americas, revealing that not only was the population of the hemisphere greater than previously known but that the cultures were far older and more advanced.


Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
Jed Horne
Hurricane Katrina shredded one of the great cities of the South, and as levees failed and the federal relief effort proved lethally incompetent, a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe. As an editor of New Orleans’ daily newspaper, the Pulitzer Prize—winning Times-Picayune, Jed Horne has had a front-row seat to the unfolding drama of the city’s collapse into chaos and its continuing struggle to survive.


No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL
Mark Owen
Examines the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden, details the selection and training process for one of the most elite units in the military, and describes previously unreported missions that illustrate the life and work of a SEAL and the evolution of the team after the events of September 11.


The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War
James Mann
In The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan, New York Times bestselling author James Mann directs his keen analysis to Ronald Reagan’s role in ending the Cold War. Drawing on new interviews and previously unavailable documents, Mann offers a fresh and compelling narrative—a new history assessing what Reagan did, and did not do, to help bring America’s four-decade conflict with the Soviet Union to a close.


Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today
Tom Brokaw
The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead.


The Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness and a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression
Ted Gup
An inspiring account of America at its worst-and Americans at their best-woven from the stories of Depression- era families who were helped by gifts from the author's generous and secretive grandfather.


In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
Erik Larson
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.


A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.


King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War
Catrine Clay
Known among their families as Georgie, Willy, and Nicky, they were, respectively, the royal cousins George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas II of Russia—the first two grandsons of Queen Victoria, the latter her grandson by marriage. In 1914, on the eve of world war, they controlled the destiny of Europe and the fates of millions of their subjects. The outcome and their personal endings are well known—Nicky shot with his family by the Bolsheviks, Willy in exile in Holland, Georgie still atop his throne. Largely untold, however, is the family saga that played such a pivotal role in bringing the world to the precipice.


A Kingdom Strange: A Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke
James Horn
In 1587, John White and 117 men, women, and children landed off the coast of North Carolina on Roanoke Island, hoping to carve a colony from fearsome wilderness. A mere month later, facing quickly diminishing supplies and a fierce native population, White sailed back to England in desperation. He persuaded the wealthy Sir Walter Raleigh, the expedition’s sponsor, to rescue the imperiled colonists, but by the time White returned with aid the colonists of Roanoke were nowhere to be found. He never saw his friends or family again.In this gripping account based on new archival material, colonial historian James Horn tells for the first time the complete story of what happened to the Roanoke colonists and their descendants. A compellingly original examination of one of the great unsolved mysteries of American history.


Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution
Mark Urban
From Lexington Green in 1775 to Yorktown in 1781, one regiment marched thousands of miles and fought a dozen battles to uphold British rule in America: the Royal Welch Fusiliers. With a wealth of previously unused primary accounts, Mark Urban reveals the inner life of the regiment - and, through it, of the British army as a whole - as it fought one of the pivotal campaigns of world history.


Presidential Inaugurations: An Informal History from Washington's to George W. Bush's Gala
Paul F. Boller Jr.
Highlighting inaugural moments from 1789 to 2001, Presidential Inaugurations illuminates the new life of the president from the moment he is elected to the moment he takes office.



Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life
Beverly Lowry
In Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life, Beverly Lowry goes beyond the familiar tales to create a portrait of Tubman in lively imagined vignettes that, as Lowry writes, “catch her on the fly” and portray her life as she herself might have presented it. Lowry offers readers an intimate look at Tubman’s early life firsthand: her birth as Araminta Ross in 1822 in Dorchester, Maryland; the harsh treatment she experienced growing up—including being struck with a two-pound iron when she was twelve years old; and her triumphant escape from slavery as a young woman and rebirth as Harriet Tubman. We travel with Tubman along the treacherous route of the Underground Railroad and hear of her friendships with Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and other abolitionists. We accompany her to the battlefields of the Civil War, where she worked as a nurse and a cook and earned the name General Tubman, join her on slave-freeing raids in the heart of the Confederacy, and share her horror and sorrow as she witnesses the massacre of Colonel Shaw and the black soldiers of the 54th Regiment at Fort Wagner.


The President is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman who Dared Expose the Truth
Matthew Algeo
On July 1, 1893, President Grover Cleveland vanished. He boarded a friend’s yacht, sailed into the calm blue waters of Long Island Sound, and--poof!--disappeared. He would not be heard from again for five days. What happened during those five days, and in the days and weeks that followed, was so incredible that, even when the truth was finally revealed, many Americans simply would not believe it. The President Is a Sick Man details an extraordinary but almost unknown chapter in American history: Grover Cleveland’s secret cancer surgery and the brazen political cover-up by a politician whose most memorable quote was "Tell the truth.”


Rocket Boys
Homer Hickam
The New York Times bestselling memoir that inspired the film October Sky, Rocket Boys is a uniquely American memoir—a powerful, luminous story of coming of age at the dawn of the 1960s, of a mother's love and a father's fears, of a group of young men who dreamed of launching rockets into outer space . . . and who made those dreams come true.


Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia
Francis Wheen
The 1970s were a theme park of mass paranoia. Strange Days Indeed tells the story of the decade when a distinctive “paranoid style” emerged and seemed to infect all areas of both private and public life, from high politics to pop culture. The sense of paranoia that had long fuelled the conspiracy theories of fringe political groups then somehow became the norm for millions of ordinary people. And to make it even trickier, a certain amount of that paranoia was justified. Watergate showed that the governments really were doing illegal things and then trying to cover them up.


Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies
Ginger Strand
Ginger Strand reveals the hidden history of America's most iconic natural wonder, Niagara Falls, illuminating what it says about our history, our relationship with the environment, and ourselves.


Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
Mildred Armstrong Kalish
Little Heathens offers a loving but realistic portrait of a “hearty-handshake Methodist” family that gave its members a remarkable legacy of kinship, kindness, and remembered pleasures. Recounted in a luminous narrative filled with tenderness and humor, Kalish’s memoir of her childhood shows how the right stuff can make even the bleakest of times seem like “quite a romp.”


Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America
Eric Rauchway
When President William McKinley was murdered at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on September 6, 1901, Americans were bereaved and frightened. Rumor ran rampant: A wild-eyed foreign anarchist with an unpronounceable name had killed the commander-in-chief. Eric Rauchway's brilliant Murdering McKinley restages Leon Czolgosz's hastily conducted trial and then traverses America with Dr. Vernon Briggs, a Boston alienist who sets out to discover why Czolgosz rose up to kill his president.


To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett
Mark Lee Gardner
To Hell on a Fast Horse re-creates the thrilling manhunt for the Wild West's most iconic outlaw. It is also the first dual biography of the Kid and Garrett, each a larger-than-life figure who would not have become legendary without the other. Drawing on voluminous primary sources and a wealth of published scholarship, Mark Lee Gardner digs beneath the myth to take a fresh look at these two men, their relationship, and their epic ride to immortality.


Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theater Disaster 1903
Anthony P. Hatch
At a Christmas week matinee December 30, 1903, more than 600 people, mostly women and children, perished in less than 30 minutes in a five-week-old theater that was advertised as being "Absolutely Fireproof" and one of the most luxurious playhouses ever built in America — the epitome of Twentieth Century luxury, comfort and safety.


Unfamiliar Fishes
Sarah Vowell
Many think of 1776 as the defining year of American history, when we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self- government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as defining, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded first Cuba, then the Philippines, becoming an international superpower practically overnight.


Baptism by Fire
Mark K. Updegrove
In this fascinating narrative, presidential historian Mark Updegrove looks at eight U.S. presidents who inherited unprecedented crises immediately upon assuming the reigns of power.


The Legend of John Wilkes Booth: Myth, Memory, and a Mummy
C. Wyatt Evans
A deformed thumb, a neck scar from a stage accident, and a broken left leg, the result of a dramatic leap. These were the telltale markings that for decades identified a sideshow attraction as the supposed body of John Wilkes Booth. They persuaded onlookers that Lincoln's assassin was not killed in 1865 but survived the assault on Garrett's barn to live on as a fugitive for thirty years afterwards. As Wyatt Evans shows, some popular stories, no matter how weird and improbable, simply refuse to die.


The Liberty Bell
Gary B. Nash
Each year, more than two million visitors line up near Philadelphia-s Independence Hall and wait to gaze upon a flawed mass of metal forged more than two and a half centuries ago. Since its original casting in England in 1751, the Liberty Bell has survived a precarious journey on the road to becoming a symbol of the American identity, and in this masterful work, Gary B. Nash reveals how and why this voiceless bell continues to speak such volumes about our nation.


A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest
Hobson Woodward
In 1609, aspiring writer William Strachey set sail aboard the Sea Venture, bound for the New World. Caught in a hurricane, the ship separated from its fleet and wrecked on uninhabited Bermuda, a bountiful island paradise its passengers would inhabit for nearly a year before reaching their intended destination, the famine-stricken colony of Jamestown. Strachey's meticulous account of the wreck, the castaways' time on Bermuda, and their arrival in a devastated Jamestown was read by his contemporaries and remains among the most vivid writings of the early colonial period. Following the life of this ordinary man, Hobson Woodward tells one of the neglected but defining stories of America's founding.


The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings.


Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Doris Kearns Goodwin's classic life of Lyndon Johnson, who presided over the Great Society, the Vietnam War, and the tumultuous 1960s, is a monument in political biography. From the moment the author, then a young woman from Harvard, first encountered President Johnson at a White House dance in the spring of 1967, she became fascinated by the man - his character, his enormous energy and drive, and how he wielded them into his endless pursuit of power. As a member of his White House staff, she soon became his personal confidante, and in the years before his death he revealed himself to her as he did to no other. Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream takes us through the vast landscape of Johnson's political and personal life: from his childhood, dominated by an indulgent mother and a hell-raising politico father, through his early political victories and the ideals that inspired them; from the Washington system that trained him, through his election as Vice President and the transitional year, 1964, when JFK's assassination brought him to the highest office in the land; from remarkable talents that brought him triumph, to the inner demons that tormented him and the flaws that engendered his ultimate tragedy.


Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People
William L. Iggiagruk Hensley
As a young man growing up on the shores of Kotzebue Sound, twenty-nine miles north of the Arctic Circle, William L. Iggiagruk Hensley learned to live the way his ancestors had for thousands of years. Like a sponge, he absorbed the old stories and sayings, the threads of wisdom passed down through the generations. Though Hensley eventually left Alaska behind to pursue his education in the Lower 48, he carried with him the hardiness, the good humor, and the tenacity that had helped his people flourish on the wild tundra.


In 1971, after years of Hensley's tireless lobbying, the United States conveyed forty-four million acres and earmarked nearly $1 billion for use by Alaska's native peoples. The law insured that all the American Indians of Alaska would be compensated for the incursion of the U.S. government upon their way of life. Unlike their relatives to the south, the Alaskan peoples would be able to take charge of their economic and political destiny in the twentieth century and beyond.


The landmark decision did not come overnight. Neither was it the work of any one man. But it was Hensley who gave voice to the cause and made it real. Fifty Miles from Tomorrow is not only the memoir of one man; it is a testament to the resilience of the Alaskan -- and American -- spirit.


Tallgrass
Sandra Dallas
An essential American novel from Sandra Dallas. During World War II, a family finds life turned upside down when the government opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes (and suspicions) turn to the newcomers, the interlopers, the strangers.
This is Tallgrass as Rennie Stroud has never seen it before. She has just turned thirteen and, until this time, life has pretty much been what her father told her it should be: predictable and fair. But now the winds of change are coming and, with them, a shift in her perspective. And Rennie will discover secrets that can destroy even the most sacred things.Part thriller, part historical novel, Tallgrass is a riveting exploration of the darkest--and best--parts of the human heart.


Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America
Linda Lawrence Hunt
In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby dares to cross 3500 miles of the American continent to win a $10,000 wager. On foot. A mother of eight living children, she attempts to save her family's homestead in Eastern Washington after the 1893 depression had ravaged the American economy. Fearing homelessness and family poverty, Helga responds to a wager from a mysterious sponsor, casts off the cultural corsets of Victorian femininity and gambles her family's future by striking out with her eldest daughter, Clara, to try to be the first women to travel unescorted across the country. Linda Hunt recreates Helga Estby's story in Bold Spirit: her culture and time, her abiding love of America, her resilient faith, and her challenge to Victorian constraints as she lived on the transitional edge of a new century of possibilities and of changing beliefs about women.


The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
Timothy Egan
On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno that jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in the blink of an eye. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men  —  college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps  —  to fight the fire. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.


Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen. The robber barons fought Roosevelt and Pinchot’s rangers, but the Big Burn saved the forests even as it destroyed them: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion permanently in their favor and became the creation myth that drove the Forest Service, with consequences still felt in the way our national lands are protected  —  or not —  today.


What Would the Founder's Do?: Our Questions, Their Answers
Richard Brookhiser
Richard Brookhiser uses his vast knowledge of the Founders and of modern politics to apply their view to today's issues. What Would the Founders Do? sheds new light on the disagreements and debates that have shaped our country from the beginning. Now, more than ever, we need these creators of America - inspiring, argumentative, amusing, know-it-alls - to help us work through the issues that threaten to divide us.


The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations
Ira Berlin
Four great migrations defined the history of black people in America: the violent removal of Africans to the east coast of North America known as the Middle Passage; the relocation of one million slaves to the interior of the antebellum South; the movement of more than six million blacks to the industrial cities of the north and west a century later; and since the late 1960s, the arrival of black immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Europe. These epic migra­tions have made and remade African American life.


Ira Berlin's magisterial new account of these passages evokes both the terrible price and the moving triumphs of a people forcibly and then willingly migrating to America. In effect, Berlin rewrites the master narrative of African America, challenging the traditional presentation of a linear path of progress. He finds instead a dynamic of change in which eras of deep rootedness alternate with eras of massive move­ment, tradition giving way to innovation. The culture of black America is constantly evolving, affected by (and affecting) places as far away from one another as Biloxi, Chicago, Kingston, and Lagos. Certain to gar­ner widespread media attention, The Making of African America is a bold new account of a long and crucial chapter of American history.


Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War
Nina Silber
Daughters of the Union casts a spotlight on some of the most overlooked and least understood participants in the American Civil War: the women of the North. Unlike their Confederate counterparts, who were often caught in the midst of the conflict, most Northern women remained far from the dangers of battle. Nonetheless, they enlisted in the Union cause on their home ground, and the experience transformed their lives.


End of Barbary Terror: America's 1815 War against the Pirates of North Africa
Frederick C. Leiner
Drawing upon numerous ship logs, journals, love letters, and government documents, Frederick C. Leiner paints a vivid picture of the world of naval officers and diplomats in the early nineteenth century, as he recreates a remarkable and little known episode from the early American republic. Leiner first describes Madison's initial efforts at diplomacy, sending Mordecai Noah to negotiate, reasoning that the Jewish Noah would fare better with the Islamic leader. But when the ruler refused to ransom the Americans - Madison declared war and sent a fleet to North Africa. Decatur's squadron dealt quick blows to the Barbary navy, dramatically fighting and capturing two ships. Decatur then sailed to Algiers. He refused to go ashore to negotiate - indeed, he refused to negotiate on any essential point. The ruler of Algiers signed the treaty in twenty-four hours. The United States would never pay tribute to the Barbary world again, and the captive Americans were set free - although in a sad, ironic twist, they never arrived home, their ship being lost at sea in heavy weather.


Virtue, Valor, and Vanity: The Founding Fathers and the Pursuit of Fame
Eric Burns
Their ambitions, intrigues, and jealousies shaped the birth of our nation, but they overcame their foibles and imperfections to throw off the chains of tyranny and form a more perfect union. We think of them now as faces on money or statues on pedestals, and, as Burns shows here in luminous prose, that's exactly what they wanted to be. They all possessed astonishing brilliance, expansive egos, and more than just a little vanity. In this fresh perspective, Burns brings the Founding Fathers down off their pedestals to reveal the flesh-and-blood men - vain and modest, sensitive and stubborn, brilliant and ambitious - who overcame their faults and squabbles to establish a new nation that would shine as a paragon of governance. For the armchair historian, here is an exciting new look at our country's origins.


Brutal Journey: Cabeza de Vaca and the Epic First Crossing of North America
Paul Schneider
A gripping survival epic, Brutal Journey tells the story of an army of would-be conquerors, bound for glory, who landed in Florida in 1528. But only four of the four hundred would survive: eight years and some five thousand miles later, three Spaniards and a black Moroccan wandered out of the wilderness to the north of the Rio Grande and into Cortess gold-drenched Mexico. The survivors brought nothing back other than their story, but what a tale it was. They had become killers and cannibals, torturers and torture victims, slavers and enslaved. They became faith healers, arms dealers, canoe thieves, spider eaters. They became, in other words, whatever it took to stay alive.


Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children
Dorie McCullough Lawson
A treasury of personal letters from famous Americans to their children features theme-arranged lessons on such topics as love, character, and aging by such individuals as Frederick Douglass, Albert Einstein, Groucho Marx, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Eleanor Roosevelt.


Best of Times: America in the Clinton Years
Haynes Johnson
A social history of the 1990s draws on interviews with some of the decade's most prominent players to re-create some of the best and worst episodes of the era and explores the stories and personalities behind key events of the time.


American Heaven: A Novel
Maxine Chernoff
A novel by the author of Signs of Devotion follows the lives of four very different characters--a young Polish woman, an aging jazz musician, an ailing mobster, and his female helper--who share both a Chicago tenement and a longing for human connection.


Space: A Memoir
Jesse Lee Kercheval
Describing in thoughtful detail what it was like to grow up a girl in 1960s America, the author of The Dogeater uses her childhood proximity to, and her father's involvement with, Cape Canaveral and the space program in Florida as the anchor for her family's struggles and triumphs.


As Seen on T.V.: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950's
Karal Ann Marling
Opening with a photograph of a 1950s Disneyland home designed in the shape of a TV (by those fun-loving futurists at MIT), this book's text and photos consistently maintain a balance between insightful social commentary and critique and sensitive recapturing of the essence of visual broadcast's dawn.


Truman
Roy Jenkins
The founder of the Social Democratic Party of the U.K. profiles Harry S. Truman, with particular emphasis upon his political astuteness and solid accomplishments in international affairs, which succeeded despite the instability of the postwar world.


Ava's Man
Rick Bragg
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author of All Over But the Shoutin' continues his personal history of the Deep South with an evocation of his mother's childhood in the Appalachian foothills during the Great Depression and the inspiring story of the man who raised her.


Disaster! The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906
Dan Kurzman
The George Polk Memorial Award-winning historian investigates the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, bringing to life this horrible natural disaster--registering 8.3 on the Richter scale--and the subsequent fire that raged through the rubble killing ten thousand people.


Up from Slavery
Booker T. Washington
19th-century African American businessman, activist & educator Booker Taliaferro Washington's Up from Slavery is one of the greatest autobiographies ever written. Its mantras of black economic empowerment, land ownership & selfhelp inspired generations of leaders, including Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X & Louis Farrakhan. In rags-to-riches fashion, he recounts ascendance from early life as a mulatto slave in Virginia to 34 years as president of the agriculturally based Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. There he reigned as the most important leader of his people, with slogans like "cast down your buckets," emphasizing vocational merit rather than the academic & political excellence championed by his contemporary W.E.B. DuBois. Tho many considered him accommodating to segregationists, Washington, as stated in his historic Atlanta Compromise speech of 1895, believed that "political agitation alone would not save" & that "property, industry, skill, intelligence & character" would prove necessary to black success. The potency of his beliefs are alive today in the nationalist & conservative camps composing the complex quilt of black American society.


Unsolved Mysteries of American History: An Eye-Opening Journey through 500 Years of Discoveries, Disappearances, and Baffling Events
Paul Aron
In a collection of 30 articles, Unsolved Mysteries of American History takes some of the most notable quandaries of the American past and tries to offer some solid answers, or at least alternate explanations. Paul Aron takes on the serious ("Why did Truman drop the bomb?") as well as the frivolous ("Did Babe Ruth call his shot?").


Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
Joseph J. Ellis
An illuminating analysis of the intertwined careers of the founders of the American republic documents the lives of John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington and explains how their encounters transformed their era and shaped the history of the United States.


Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation
David A. Price
A dramatic retelling of the establishment of the first permanent English settlement in the new world draws on period letters, chronicles, and records to discuss the day-to-day experiences of its men and women, who were sent to find gold but instead encountered brutal hardships, citing the particular contributions of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and Chief Powhatan.


Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World
Dan Koeppel
A gripping biological detective story that uncovers the myth, mystery, and endangered fate of the world’s most humble fruit.


Sleepwalking through History: America in the Reagan Years
Haynes Johnson
In this brilliantly readable book, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist chronicles the Reagan decade, when America fell from dominant world power to struggling debtor nation and when optimism turned to foreboding. In human terms and living case histories, Haynes Johnson captures the drama and tragedy of an era nurtured by greed and a morality that found virtue in not getting caught.


13 Seconds: Look Back at the Kent State Shootings
Philip Caputo
Philip Caputo, author of the classic Vietnam memoir A Rumor of War, returns to the turbulent era of the late 1960s with 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings. Caputo carefully sets the stage for the tragedy--the gunning-down of students on the Kent State, Ohio, campus--as he shows the pressures slowly building: Richard Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia, the militaristic missives of the ultra-leftist Weathermen, and statements such as high-profile California governor Ronald Reagan's declaration about student protests, given three weeks before the shootings.


While important events surge and roil throughout the book like massive currents, Caputo focuses primarily on the smaller stories of the students injured and killed by National Guard bullets.


Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
Timothy Egan
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains during the Depression, going from sod huts to new framed houses to basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out.


Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and Terrifying Battle for New Guinea
James Campbell
During the battle for New Guinea, a unit of American soldiers was assigned the most grueling mission of the entire Pacific campaign: to march over the 10,000-foot Owen Stanley Mountains and to protect the right flank of the Australian army. This is their story.


Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America
Edward Behr
When the Constitution declared on January 16, 1920, that Americans could no longer buy or sell alcoholic drink, it sparked the wildest, booziest years in our nation's history. Everyone saw in Prohibition an unparalleled license to get rich. Here is the full story of those 13 years of temperance, telling how and why it all happened.


The Presidency of William Howard Taft
Paolo Coletta
Theodore Roosevelt selected William Howard Taft to be his successor and gave him vital support during the presidential campaign of 1908. Taft was a conservative of upper-middle-class background with a long career on the bench, and he aspired to a judicial rather than a political career. Roosevelt nevertheless believed that Taft, a close personal friend, was the best man to continue his policies.


Seeking Pleasure in the Old West
David Dary
The men on Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition square-danced to fiddle music. Cowboys' leisure pursuits included singing, storytelling, dominoes, reading, and foot races. U.S. Army soldiers played the newfangled game of baseball and even enjoyed debating and attending concerts. Dary's irresistible narrative recreates card games on Mississippi steamboats, New Orleans balls, frontier campfires and cafe-theatres, Santa Fe saloons, and Wyoming bicycle clubs and mineral spas, and it charts the emergence of a middle class that came to disapprove of prostitution, gambling, drinking, bear-baiting, and buffalo-hunting.


Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America
David Papke
When the American Railway Union went on strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1894, it set into motion a chain of events whose repercussions are still felt today. The strike pitted America's largest industrial union against twenty-four railroads, paralyzed rail traffic in half the country, and in the end was broken up by federal troops and suppressed by the courts, with union leader Eugene Debs incarcerated. But behind the Pullman case lay a conflict of ideologies at a watershed time in our nation's history.


1776
David McCullough
Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history. 1776 is the story of the Revolutionary War during the nation's tumultuous beginning, and those who, at great sacrifice, fought for what we assume to be our rightful heritage and precious ideals. This is narrative history at its best, bringing to life an extraordinary period and a vast array of extraordinary characters on both sides of the conflict. It is also powerful testimony to how much is owed to a rare few in that brave, founding era.


Killer Angels
Michael Shaara

Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War classic about the Battle of Gettysburg begins in July 1863, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia is invading the North. General Robert E. Lee has made a daring and massive move with seventy thousand men in a determined effort to draw out the Union Army of the Potomac and mortally wound it. In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation's history, two armies fight for two conflicting dreams. One dreams of freedom, the other of a way of life. "The Killer Angels is unique, sweeping, unforgettable-a dramatic re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg.


Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
Nathaniel Philbrick
From the perilous ocean crossing to the shared bounty of the first Thanksgiving,the Pilgrim settlement of New England has become enshrined as our most sacred national myth. Yet, as bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick reveals in his spellbinding new book, the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a fifty-five-year epic that is at once tragic, heroic, exhilarating, and profound.


Shiloh Autumn
Bodie Thoene
The most heartfelt book the Thoenes have written, Shiloh Autumn is an authentic and moving portrayal of the human spirit. Based on the lives of Bodie's own grandparents, this touching story mirrors the heartbreak and struggle of Depression-era America.


Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II
Emily Yellin
An exceptionally well-written, exhaustively researched book. During World War II, females were confined to auxiliary roles. Yellin reveals all of the responsibilities held by women, including helping to manufacture aircraft, ships, and other munitions; and, in the process, outproducing all of America's allies and enemies, by far. Readers see war brides who worked hard to maintain the morale of their husbands while surviving long separation, fear, and shortages of virtually everything necessary to support a family. Yellin writes about performers like Betty Grable, who traveled to combat theaters to raise the spirits of soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Our Mothers' War is an important book because the role played by women in World War II has been regularly ignored.


The Things They Carried
Tim O’Brien
The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves.


Among Friends
M.F.K. Fisher
Originally published in 1970, Among Friends provides a fascinating glimpse into the background and development of one of our most delightful and best-loved writers, Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher - the woman who elevated food writing to a literary art. In Among Friends M. F. K. Fisher begins her recollections in Albion, Michigan, but they soon lead her to Whittier, California, where her family moved in 1912, when she was four. The "Friends" of the title range from the hobos who could count on food at the family's back door to the businessmen who advertised in Father's paper-but above all they are the Quakers who were the prominent group in Whittier. Mary Frances Kennedy found them unusual friends indeed: in the more than forty years that she lived in Whittier she was never invited inside a Friend's house.


The Widow of the South
Robert Hicks
Hicks's big historical first novel, based on true events in his hometown, follows the saga of Carrie McGavock, a lonely Confederate wife who finds purpose transforming her Tennessee plantation into a hospital and cemetery during the Civil War. Carrie is mourning the death of several of her children, and, in the absence of her husband, has left the care of her house to her capable Creole slave Mariah. Before the 1864 battle of Franklin, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest commandeers her house as a field hospital. By the end of the battle, 9,000 soldiers have perished, and thousands of Confederates are buried in a field near the McGavock plantation.


James K. Polk
John Seigenthaler
This newest addition to the American Presidents series edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. offers a solid portrait of an unlikable man who achieved extraordinary things. A Tennesseean like Polk, Seigenthaler (founding editorial director of USA Today) agrees with those who rate this dour, partisan, grudge-holding, one-term president a success. Polk took office in 1845 with four aims in mind: to lower the tariff, take federal deposits away from private banks, wrest the Oregon territory from joint possession with Great Britain and make California an American territory. In achieving everything he sought, Polk was more successful than most presidents. National sentiment favored him. He was politically skillful. And by declaring that he'd serve for only one term, Polk freed himself to push ahead without his eyes on re-election.


Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen
Bob Greene
Millions of American soldiers, many of whom had never left their hometowns before, crossed the nation by rail during the years of World War II on their way to training camps and distant theaters of battle. In a little town in Nebraska, countless thousands of them met with extraordinary hospitality--the "miracle" of veteran journalist Bob Greene's title. Greene writes of North Platte, now a quiet town along the interstate, its main street all but dead. It was a quiet town then, too, at the outbreak of the war, but still a hive of activity as its citizens gathered to provide, at their own expense, coffee, sandwiches, books, playing cards, and time to the scared young men who rolled through by the trainload, "telling them that their country cared about them." Greene's pages are full of the voices of those who were there, soldiers and townspeople alike, who took part in what amounted to small acts of heroism, given the shortages and rationing of the time.


A Painted House
John Grisham
Grisham has delivered a quieter, more contemplative story, set in rural Arkansas in 1952. It's harvest time on the Chandler farm, and the family has hired a crew of migrant Mexicans and "hill people" to pick 80 acres of cotton. A certain camaraderie pervades this bucolic dream team. But it's backbreaking work, particularly for the 7-year-old narrator, Luke.
What's more, tensions begin to simmer between the Mexicans and the hill people, one of whom has a penchant for bare-knuckles brawling. This leads to a brutal murder, which young Luke has the bad luck to witness. At this point--with secrets, lies, and at least one knife fight in the offing--the plot begins to take on that familiar, Grisham-style momentum. Still, such matters ultimately take a back seat in A Painted House to the author's evocation of time and place.


Silent Spring
by Rachel Carson
Silent Spring, released in 1962, offered the first shattering look at widespread ecological degradation and touched off an environmental awareness that still exists. Rachel Carson's book focused on the poisons from insecticides, weed killers, and other common products as well as the use of sprays in agriculture, a practice that led to dangerous chemicals to the food source. Carson argued that those chemicals were more dangerous than radiation and that for the first time in history, humans were exposed to chemicals that stayed in their systems from birth to death. Presented with thorough documentation, the book opened more than a few eyes about the dangers of the modern world and stands today as a landmark work.


Here’s the Deal ; The Making and Breaking of a Great American City
Ross Miller
For those who believe the success of cities stands at the bedrock of the health of the country or at least those interested in the historical, political and financial aspects of that argument, Here's the Deal is necessary reading. Ross Miller, a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut and nephew of playwright Arthur Miller, traces the politics of city revitalization in Chicago from the 1950s to the 1990s. Any book about Chicago politics is, by definition, rife with power making and brokering, and this work is no exception, focusing on the story of a gutted block in the city and the deals between politicians and developers to resuscitate it.


Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties
Marion Meade
The four 1920s women writers Meade focuses on were legends in their own time--and what a time it was. Encapsulating the razzle-dazzle and optimism of the Jazz Age, Meade covers each year of the wild and woolly decade, beginning with Dorothy Parker's firing from Vanity Fair, and embracing Zelda Fitzgerald and her wild drinking and dancing in fountains alongside her husband, F. Scott. Across town on West Nineteenth Street, Edna St. Vincent Millay's fingers flew over the keyboard of a featherweight Corona No. 3 (a gift from her married lover, James Lawyer), turning out "Renascence," the poem that would make her famous.


The Firekeeper
Robert Moss
In Moss's vibrant docu-novel, the American colonial frontier is aflame during the 1700s as imperial rivalry pits colonists against British and French armies and their Indian allies. This follow-up to Fire Along the Sky tells the fictionalized story of the real-life Sir William Johnson, an Irish immigrant who settled in New York's Mohawk Valley to earn his fortune and became the only white chief (the "Firekeeper") of the Iroquois of the Six Nations...Surrounding Johnson are such colorful historical figures as Ben Franklin, George Washington and the hapless General Braddock, all carefully woven into the narrative.


A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785 to 1812
Laurel Ulrich
This book is a model of social history at its best. An exegesis of Ballard's diary, it recounts the life and times of this obscure Maine housewife and midwife. Using passages from the diary as a starting point for each chapter division, Ulrich, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, demonstrates how the seemingly trivial details of Ballard's daily life reflect and relate to prominent themes in the history of the early republic: the role of women in the economic life of the community, the nature of marriage and sexual relations, the scope of medical knowledge and practice.


Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation
Peter L. Bernstein
First proposed in 1808 and completed 17 years later, the Erie Canal was the first great feat of macroengineering undertaken by the infant American republic. As economic consultant Bernstein shows in his eloquent account, the canal—stretching 363 miles from the Hudson River to Lake Erie—reshaped not only the economic landscape of the eastern seaboard but the political and social landscape as well. Bernstein vividly relates the political battles fought over the high-priced project and the work of surveyors, engineers and laborers.


Shaman
Noah Gordon
Gordon offers two fictionalized generations of doctoring on the Illinois frontier from 1839 to 1865, covering such medical history as the advent of hygiene and anesthesia. Rob J. Cole, political agitator in Scotland facing banishment to Australia, decides to migrate to the US. Disillusioned with the politics of charity and intrigued with Indians, he heads west, stopping in Illinois at Holden's Crossing. Rob finds his Indians in the Sauks, who have fled the reservation and are now starving nearby. He treats and feeds them, becoming their "white shaman", and eventually Makwa-Ikwa, their healer, goes to work with him.


Annotations from amazon.com and goodreads.com

Return to Historical Book Group

Return to Library Book Discussions