Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher KnowltonThe California Gold Rush started in 1848, but the 1870s saw an even more impressive path to riches -- raising beef to feed the appetites of the East Coast cities. In Cattle Kingdom, business journalist and investment manager Christopher Knowlton paints the financial landscape of cattle ranching enterprises, creating a complex picture of the 19th-century West while bringing to life some of its more colorful characters. Whether you're fascinated by unusual business history or generally enjoy reading about the period, you'll be intrigued by this "vastly informative" (Library Journal) book.
The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny
by Michael Wallis
"WESTWARD HO! FOR OREGON AND CALIFORNIA!"
In the eerily warm spring of 1846, George Donner placed this advertisement in a local newspaper as he and a restless caravan prepared for what they hoped would be the most rewarding journey of a lifetime. But in eagerly pursuing what would a century later become known as the "American dream," this optimistic-yet-motley crew of emigrants was met with a chilling nightmare; in the following months, their jingoistic excitement would be replaced by desperate cries for help that would fall silent in the deadly snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
We know these early pioneers as the Donner Party, a name that has elicited horror since the late 1840s. Now, celebrated historian Michael Wallis―beloved for his myth-busting portraits of legendary American figures―continues his life’s work of parsing fact from fiction to tell the true story of one of the most embroidered sagas in Western history.
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLeanIn this well-researched biographical study, acclaimed historian Nancy MacLean offers a sobering analysis of the radical Libertarians' rise to political power in the U.S. Focusing on the late James Buchanan, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, she explores his plan to inject his views into the operations of every branch of government. Funded in part by multibillionaire Charles Koch, Buchanan's ideas have been carried out by like-minded political operatives. In a starred review, Booklist calls Democracy in Chains the "best explanation to date" of the origins of America's current political rift.
We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy PearlmanIn the Syrian civil war following the 2011 Arab Spring democracy movement protests, millions of ordinary people were displaced and became refugees. In We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled, political science professor Wendy Pearlman provides an oral history of the refugees' experiences. The book presents these accounts thematically in order to show how the Syrian regime's actions affected Syrian citizens. For additional personal insights into the Syrian civil war, pick up Janine Di Giovanni's The Morning They Came for Us or Alia Malek's The Home That Was Our Country.
Meet Me in Atlantis: Across Three Continents in Search of the Legendary Sunken City by Mark AdamsWas Atlantis a real place? Examining this question, bestselling author Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, visited several countries to examine sites that could be the location of the island that sank beneath the waves. Traveling to Greece, Spain, Malta, Morocco, and other places, he documents his investigations, surveys the research of scientists and amateur explorers, and studies the clues left by the Greek philosopher Plato (who told us all that we know about Atlantis). Though Adams may not come up with a definitive answer, curious readers will enjoy this "fun, enthusiastic exploration" (Kirkus Reviews).
Sextant: A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans by David BarrieIn Sextant, British scholar David Barrie recounts his experience as a young man who learned to use a sextant (a navigational aid invented in the 18th century) as he sailed across the Atlantic. Relating the history of the sextant along with his personal reminiscences, he also provides an engaging chronicle of the exploration and early mapping of the world. Relating the exploits of James Cook, George Vancouver, William Bligh, Ernest Shackleton, and others, Barrie fills his book with the challenges -- and romance -- of the sea.
Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean“What does it mean that we have been going to space for 50 years and have decided to stop?” In Leaving Orbit, Margaret Lazarus Dean, an English professor and lifelong fan of space flight, details the final three missions of NASA's space shuttle in 2011. Emphasizing the human elements of the program, she recounts her trips to Cape Kennedy to witness these launches, drawing on the poetic as well as the technical to characterize NASA's culture and politics. Dean's compelling elegy to American space exploration is a must-read for those fascinated by the final frontier.
Marco Polo: The Journey That Changed the World by John ManThe 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo reported details of his amazing journeys to a fellow prisoner in Genoa, and some have wondered about his narrative's veracity. In this history (originally titled Xanadu but renamed Marco Polo to accompany the 2014 Netflix series by that name), historian John Man relates how he retraced Marco's steps and adds materials from his research to depict the Italian in the summer court of Kublai Khan. Man's conclusion: Marco may have embroidered his accounts, as some believe, but he really did go to China.
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