History and Current Events
The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties by Paul CollierWhat it's about: how regional and class rifts lead to social inequalities -- and how "ethical capitalism" can help bridge these divides.
Is it for you? British economist Paul Collier's evenhanded arguments will be appreciated by readers regardless of their political affiliation.
Further reading: The Inequality Paradox: How Capitalism Can Work for Everyone by Douglas McWilliams.
Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages by Gaston DorrenWhat it is: a brisk and upbeat survey of the world's 20 most widely spoken languages that explores how languages evolve and endure.
What's inside: Concise chapters discuss the selected languages in ascending order by number of speakers and feature charts detailing the tongues' notable hallmarks and idiosyncrasies.
Did you know? The modern Turkish language is incomprehensible from the Turkish of a hundred years ago; Japanese has separate dialects for men and women.
The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch What it's about: the Hickey Plot, a 1776 scheme orchestrated by prominent New York politicians to kidnap and murder George Washington.
Read it for: the thrilling immediacy of the fast-paced prose; the evocative account of a Revolutionary-era New York City in turmoil.
Why it matters: Washington's counterintelligence unit, led by future Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, inspired the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) nearly two centuries later.
The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the... by Eric RutkowWhat it's about: the Pan-American Highway, which has the distinction of being the world's longest road, running from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.
Why you might like it: Riveting and richly detailed, The Longest Line on the Map chronicles the ambitious efforts to foster strong relationships between the Americas and offers a timely counterpoint to isolationist rhetoric.
Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Dewart BellWhat it is: an illuminating oral history of the civil rights movement as told by nine influential female activists whose accomplishments have often gone unrecognized.
Featuring: reflective insights from Kathleen Cleaver, Myrlie Evers, Diane Nash, Gloria Richardson, and others.
Reviewers say: "An important book that should be read in all schools and wherever discussion of social issues takes place" (Library Journal).
100 Amazing Facts About the Negro by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.What it is: an engaging, meticulously researched compendium that updates journalist Joel A. Rogers' groundbreaking 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof.
Why you might like it: Wide-ranging and unique topics are presented in a concise question-and-answer format, perfect for quick reading.
Chapters include: "Who was the first black saint?"; "Who was the first black woman to be a self-made millionaire?"; "What is Juneteenth?"
Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies by Dick GregoryWhat it is: Equal parts humorous and inspiring, this survey of 100 key events in American black history offers provocative insights from comedian and activist Dick Gregory, who participated in many of the events he chronicles.
Is it for you? Readers wary of Gregory's penchant for conspiracy theories will nonetheless find much to ponder in this NAACP Image Award Winner and "excellent conversation starter for book groups" (Library Journal).
Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny SmithWhat it's about: Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X's brief but tumultuous friendship, which was initially strengthened -- though later torn apart -- by their involvement in the Nation of Islam (NOI).
Read it for: the sobering contrast between Ali's ascent in the NOI and Malcolm's fall from it, culminating in the latter's 1965 assassination.
What's inside: previously unseen sources, including FBI records and Malcolm's personal papers.
Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark WhitakerWhat it's about: Pittsburgh's Smoketown community, which from the 1920s-1950s had a "glorious stretch" of black cultural achievement.
Claims to fame: Smoketown boasted America's most widely read black newspaper, two Negro League baseball teams, and the childhood homes of playwright August Wilson and jazz composer Billy Strayhorn.
Reviewers say: "It’s thanks to such a gifted storyteller as Whitaker that this forgotten chapter of American history can finally be told in all its vibrancy and glory" (The New York Times).
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