History and Current Events
Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster... by H.W. BrandsWhat it is: a fascinating peek into how the ideological tensions of post-American Revolution politicians led to the Civil War; a revealing examination of how bygone rifts continue to resonate in contemporary American politics.
Who it's for: chock-full of duels, debates, scandals, and betrayals, this riveting, character-driven popular history will appeal to readers of Douglas Brinkley and Stephen E. Ambrose.
An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere by Mikita BrottmanWhat it's about: In 2006, newlywed Rey O. Rivera was found dead in a locked office in Baltimore's historic Belvedere building. The police ruled his death a suicide, but his loved ones cried foul play.
What happened next: Psychoanalyst and Belvedere resident Mikita Brottman began an obsessive decade-long investigation into the incident...and unearthed a possible conspiracy.
Why you might like it: This page-turning true crime account is both creepy and compelling.
The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul... by Andrew DelbancoWhat it's about: This sweeping and accessible chronicle reveals how the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 ultimately drove the United States to war, forcing a divided America to confront the myth of benevolent slavery and its own hypocrisy as a newly "free" country.
Want a taste? "Even free black people in the North -- including those who had never been enslaved -- found their lives infused with terror of being seized and deported."
American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts by Chris McGrealWhat it is: a compassionate, deftly researched examination of the medical establishment and pharmaceutical industry's culpability in America's staggering opioid crisis.
About the author: Guardian reporter Chris McGreal pulls no punches in his urgent and incisive debut.
Did you know? In 1908, physician Hamilton Wright, the United States' first opium commissioner, described Americans as "the greatest drug fiends in the world."
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London by Judith FlandersWhat it's about: Offering striking imagery and a strong sense of place, this colorful social history vividly recreates the London that Charles Dickens occupied: squalid, overpopulated, pungent, and loud.
Read it for: Judith Flanders' insights on how the rapidly transforming London informed Dickens' work (including how the meaning of the word "Dickensian" changed over time).
Reviewers say: "This is a superb portrait of an exciting, thriving, and dangerous city" (Booklist).
How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth GoodmanWhat it's about: historian and BBC presenter Ruth Goodman's charming and lighthearted efforts to recreate Victorian daily routines.
Living history: Goodman brushed her teeth with soot, laundered clothes by hand, performed 19th-century calisthenics, ate pigs feet and suet pudding, and mastered wearing a corset.
Don't miss: Goodman making condoms out of sheep's guts.
Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese OneillWhat it is: an irreverent, lough-out-loud "guide" to proper Victorian womanhood.
Chapters include: "Getting Dressed: How to Properly Hide Your Shame;" "Running a Proper Household: The Gentle Art of Dictatorship"
Featuring: 200 images from the era's publications and public service flyers, accompanied by Therese Oneill's tongue-in-cheek captions.
The Wicked Boy: An Infamous Murder in Victorian London by Kate SummerscaleWhat it is: a surprising "whydunit" that doggedly investigates the case of Nattie and Robert Coombes, who were charged with the 1895 murder of their mother when they were only 12 and 13 years old.
Book buzz: The Wicked Boy won the 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime Book.
Reviewers say: "a tragedy that reads like a Dickens novel, including the remarkable payoff at the end" (Publishers Weekly).
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