An Atlas of Extinct Countries by Gideon DefoeWhat's inside: an irreverent survey of 48 nations that no longer exist, accompanied by illustrated maps and cheeky footnotes.
Featuring: the Great Republic of Rough and Ready, the California town that seceded from the Union in 1850; an extraterritorial maternity ward in Canada, where Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born in 1943.
For fans of: Atlas Obscura and Bill Bryson.
All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya MilesThen: On the eve of being sold in 1852 South Carolina, enslaved nine-year-old Ashley was given an embroidered cloth sack of mementos by her mother, Rose.
Now: Tracing Ashley's sack across the generations, MacArthur Fellow and award-winning historian Tiya Miles offers an engaging, richly detailed family history exploring the lived experiences of slavery and its aftermath.
Did you know? Ashley's sack is currently on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and... by Kate MooreWhat it's about: In 1860, independent-minded housewife and mother of six Elizabeth Packard was committed to an asylum by her husband, enduring three years of abuse alongside other "hysterical" women.
What happened next: Throughout her institutionalization, Packard documented her experiences, becoming a tireless activist for women's rights and mental health reform.
Read it for: a well-researched and page-turning tribute to a feminist trailblazer, written by the bestselling author of The Radium Girls.
Geniuses at War: Bletchley Park, Colossus, and the Dawn of the Digital Age by David A. PriceWhat it is: a richly detailed account of the British codebreakers who invented Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic computer, in an effort to break Germany's Lorenz cipher during World War II.
Who it's for: With a compelling narrative that reads like a novel, this engaging chronicle will appeal to both history buffs and general readers.
Try this next: Sinclair McKay's The Secret Lives of Codebreakers.
The Sacred Band: Three Hundred Theban Lovers Fighting to Save Greek Freedom by James RommWhat it's about: In 4th-century BCE Thebes, an elite military troop comprised of 150 male couples, known as the Sacred Band of Thebes, fought to end Spartan rule in Greece.
Book buzz: Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), this accessible history from Bard College classicist James Romm offers "an eye-opening and immersive portrait of a little-known aspect of ancient history" (Publishers Weekly).
Letters to My White Male Friends by Dax-Devlon RossWhat it is: Black journalist Dax-Devlon Ross' thought-provoking and accessible guide addressing how white men can recognize their complicity in systemic racism.
Is it for you? Though aimed primarily at white middle-aged men, this impassioned call to action will resonate with any readers committed to learning how they can help combat oppressive structures.
Further reading: Emmanuel Acho's Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.
Battle for the Big Top: P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the Death-Defying... by Les StandifordStarring: savvy showmen P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, and John Ringling, whose rivalry in the late-19th and early 20th-century helped shape the American Circus as a popular attraction.
Why you might like it: Boasting larger-than-life personalities and a lively narrative, historian Les Standiford's evocative history is "an entertaining portrait of a bygone American institution" (Publishers Weekly).
When Evil Lived in Laurel: The "White Knights" and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer by Curtis WilkieHow it began: In 1966 Forrest County, MS, local NAACP president Vernon Dahmer was murdered by the White Knights, a sect of the Ku Klux Klan.
What happened next: In an effort to bring the White Knights to justice, local teacher Tom Landrum became an FBI informant, reporting on the organization's activities for four years.
Who it's for: Fans of Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman and Ron Stallworth's memoir of the same name will appreciate this nail-biting true crime tale.
The Plague Year: America in the Time of COVID by Lawrence WrightWhat it is: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright's well-researched and comprehensive chronicle of the first year of COVID-19.
Read it for: a sobering account of how bureaucratic red tape, government malfeasance, and misinformation spurred the disease's spread, featuring interviews with scientists and public health experts.
Did you know? In May 2020, Wright published the eerily prescient pandemic thriller The End of October.
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