History and Current Events
Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II by Svetlana AlexievichWhat it is: Translated into English for the first time since its original 1985 publication, Last Witnesses collects wrenching firsthand accounts from 101 Russians who survived the horrors of World War II as children.
Is it for you? Rife with disturbing testimonies, Last Witnesses is "an excellent book but not for the faint of heart" (Kirkus Reviews).
Author alert: Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich is the Nobel Prize-winning author of Voices from Chernobyl.
Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment by Linda HirshmanWhat it is: a 50-year chronicle of the ongoing fight to end sexual harassment, culminating in the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017 and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018.
Why you might like it: Lawyer Linda Hirshman pulls no punches in this illuminating and incisive history, discussing the unheralded women of color who have been crucial to the fight and the men in power who have been detrimental to it.
Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O'Neill with Dan PiepenbringWhat it is: a provocative rejoinder to Vincent Bugliosi's 1974 true crime classic Helter Skelter.
Read it for: Tom O'Neill and Dan Piepenbring's deep dive into alternative theories behind the Tate-LaBianca murders, including the possibility that Charles Manson was a subject in the CIA's LSD experiments.
What's inside: interviews with over 500 witnesses; redacted and never-before-seen police reports, FBI documents, and CIA files.
Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram by Isha SesayWhat it's about: Two years after Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls, CNN International correspondent Isha Sesay accompanied 21 recently freed survivors back home, developing a rapport with four of the girls and their families.
What sets it apart: Peabody Award winner Sesay draws from her own childhood in Sierra Leone to provide an empathetic and richly contextualized portrait of contemporary West African gender politics.
When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt by Kara CooneyWhat it is: a sweeping yet accessible survey of six queens who ruled in times of crisis throughout ancient Egypt's 3,000 year history.
Starring: "big three" queens Cleopatra, Nefertiti, and Hatshepsut, as well as the little-known Merneith, Neferusobek, and Tawosret.
Reviewers say: This evocative history "will enchant those wishing to imagine what ancient Egyptian court life was like" (Publishers Weekly).
The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer and the New-York Historical SocietyWhat it is: a chronological and illustrated object history of the Civil War, featuring 50 New-York Historical Society artifacts curated by Abraham Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer.
Objects include: a child slave's shackles, a Confederate POW newspaper, a Union soldier's footlocker; a Zouave uniform; a recruitment petition for black troops; a draft wheel; prison art.
Did you know? The Civil War in 50 Objects is the American companion to the British Museum's A History of the World in 100 Objects, written by Neil MacGregor.
Rome: A History in Seven Sackings by Matthew KnealeWhat it's about: how 2,000 years of the Eternal City's history have been shaped by invading forces, from the chariot-riding Gauls in 387 B.C.E. to the Nazi occupation during WWII.
Want a taste? "The city has changed so greatly that there have been many Romes, each of which would be largely unrecognizable to Romans of other times."
Read it for: lively pacing and a suspenseful tone.
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim MarshallWhat it's about: how the physical characteristics of a region (including topography, climate, and natural resources) impact international affairs.
Topics include: the Himalayas' significance in keeping China and India from warring with each other; how colonial powers' map-making efforts have resulted in nebulous regional borders; the division of the Koreas.
Try this next: Robert D. Kaplan's The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.
A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William SitwellWhat it's about: First published in the U.K., this quirky and insightful Brit-centric culinary history traces the origins and cultural significance of 100 dishes, from ancient Egyptian breads (complete with instructive wall paintings) to celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's signature meat fruit.
Is it for you? Given the vast breadth of time periods covered, not every recipe in this chatty volume is instructive or practical for modern cooking.
Recipes include: "peas soope" (1669); salad dressing (1699); kedgeree (1845); roly-poly jam pudding (1861); peach melba (1903).
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