Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay DolinWhat it is: a dramatic, demythologizing history of colonial America's "Golden Age" of piracy.
Who it's for: Eric Jay Dolin's lively, well-researched narrative will appeal to both swashbuckling enthusiasts and general readers, though some may be put off by the book's graphic anecdotes of violence.
Don't miss: Dolin's enthusiasm for pop culture's famous pirates.
American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us by Joseph J. EllisWhat would the Founding Fathers think? In this nuanced examination of the "ongoing conversation between past and present," Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph J. Ellis (Founding Brothers) reveals how the often contradictory wisdom of America's Founding Fathers remains relevant in contemporary political discourse.
Further reading: For another incisive study by a Pulitzer Prize winner, try Doris Kearns Goodwin's Leadership in Turbulent Times.
American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera (editor) What it is: a powerful collection of 32 first-person essays written by immigrants or children of immigrants, including Al Madrigal, Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Michelle Kwan, and Roxane Gay.
Want a taste? "We live as citizens of a country that does not always claim us or even see us, and yet we continue to build, to create, and to compel it toward its own promise."
The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben MacintyreWho it's about: disillusioned KGB operative-turned double agent Oleg Gordievsky, whose work on behalf of MI6 helped end the Cold War.
What's inside: propulsive descriptions of Gordievsky's nail-biting schemes; lists of codenames and aliases used during his spycraft.
For fans of: John le Carré (who calls The Spy and the Traitor "the best true spy story I have ever read").
The Library Book by Susan OrleanWhat's the story? In April 1986, a devastating fire engulfed the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, destroying over one million books and leading to the building's seven-year closure. Was it an accident...or arson?
Check it out: This "love letter to libraries everywhere" (Library Journal) offers an immersive blend of true crime, journalistic reportage, history, and biography, culminating in a sweeping tribute to the library as an enduring cultural institution.
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher ClarkWhat it is: a richly detailed and meticulously researched chronicle of the events that precipitated World War I.
Who it's for: World War I buffs who enjoy expansive yet accessible histories.
About the author: Christopher Clark is a history professor at Cambridge University who was knighted in 2015 for his services to Anglo-German relations.
The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World by Greg King and Sue WoolmansWhat it's about: the scandalous and ill-fated romance between vilified Habsburg heir Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, whose status as a lady-in-waiting prior to their marriage made her "unfit" for court life. Was their assassination a setup by rankled royal officials?
What sets it apart: With a focus more on romance than politics, this juicy history features ample descriptions of royal family life and plenty of court intrigue.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate MooreWhat it's about: As World War I escalated, American women tasked with painting watch dials (many used by soldiers) were exposed to the gruesome effects of radiation poisoning.
Why it matters: The surviving workers eventually took their employers to court; the outcome improved labor laws and led to a greater scientific understanding of radiation's harmful effects.
Reviewers say: "written with clarity and a sympathetic voice that brings these figures and their struggles to life" (Library Journal).
A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature of... by Diana PrestonWhat it is: a compelling account of how Germany changed the course of warfare in 1915, utilizing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) to sink the Lusitania, firebomb London, and drop poison gas in trenches, setting the stage for even more powerful WMD deployments in future.
Read it for: historian Diana Preston's vivid prose, which complements the detailed firsthand accounts of the attacks.
The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East by Eugene RoganWhat it is: a fresh and nuanced perspective of the Great War in the Middle East that examines the conflict's impact on the Ottoman Empire, which ultimately dissolved shortly thereafter.
Why it's significant: Oxford historian Eugene Rogan utilizes previously untranslated Arabic and Turkish primary sources (rather than Western accounts) to craft this illuminating history.
Reviewers say: "an extraordinary tale" (The New York Times).
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