The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain's Greatest Dynasty by Tracy BormanAccording to historian Tracy Borman, the private lives of the Tudors weren't so private -- at least, in the modern sense of "privacy." In this thoroughly researched book, drawing on contemporary journals and correspondence as well as official documents, Borman traces the monarchs' personal lives from Henry VII to Elizabeth I. No royal personage passed a single moment unattended -- even when using the chamber pot. Though the dynasty has been portrayed in reams of nonfiction and fiction, The Private Lives of the Tudors offers the first up-close and personal account of these rulers. For an intriguing and more general depiction of 16th-century English life, try Ian Mortimer's Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England.
Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Transformed America by Jonathan ChaitJust as President Barack Obama leaves office, journalist Jonathan Chait provides an assessment of his presidency. Covering Obama's economic and foreign policies; his actions on health care, environmental protection, and education; and his leadership in financial reforms, Chait provides well-researched details about each area. He discusses initiatives in which Obama was unsuccessful, while giving him an overall positive rating. The book's title, Audacity, refers to Obama's firmness, clear vision, and willingness to maneuver strategically to accomplish his aims. While some immediate responses to Obama's achievements and Chait's evaluation may be negative, Kirkus Reviews calls this a "well-organized, clearly written case that will be valuable to future historians in their assessments."
The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J. EvansBetween 1815 and 1914, Europe saw significant changes in every area: science and the arts, politics and culture, industrialization, and views on individual liberty. In The Pursuit of Power, award-winning historian Richard Evans explores European developments during the 19th century, finding special significance in the quest for power by individuals in all social classes, by business leaders, and, of course, by governments. This thematically organized, accessible entry in the Penguin History of Europe series will please history buffs, especially those intrigued by the rise of modernism.
How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David FranceBased on the Oscar-winning documentary of the same name, How to Survive a Plague details the battle to address and finally tame the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and '90s. While governments ignored the devastating effects of the disease, religious leaders blamed its victims, and the death toll mounted, activists refused to wait for public policy to catch up. Organizing on several fronts, gay and lesbian people and their supporters pushed their life-saving agenda forward, changing public opinion as they went. Profiling important figures in the movement (both behind the scenes and out front), journalist David France, who directed the documentary film, serves up a gripping historical tale.
The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family by William J. MannAward-winning author William J. Mann shines his spotlight on the Roosevelt clan, arguing that a few members of this illustrious American family were willing to sacrifice their own close relatives to further their political ambitions. Mann draws on previously unavailable documents to develop revised portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, his niece Eleanor and cousin Franklin Roosevelt, and less well-known family members. While The Wars of the Roosevelts doesn't slight the Roosevelts' impressive achievements nor neglect their flaws, this ultimately sympathetic group portrait offers complexity and nuance, especially highlighting those who didn't conform to the dominant hard-charging, high-achieving pattern. For another intriguing study of intra-Roosevelt animosity, pick up Marc Peyser's Hissing Cousins, a dual biography of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
African Americans in History
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. BaptistIn The Half Has Never Been Told, Cornell University historian Edward Baptist minutely examines the institution of slavery, demonstrating how it enabled the United States to become a global economic power through the production of cotton. Drawing on narratives of enslaved people, plantation records, and the words of slave owners, politicians, and escaped slaves, Baptist compellingly details the system of enslavement as well as the economic and social benefits it supplied to the industrializing North -- in addition to the South's plantation economy. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews credits Baptist's "staggering scholarship" with significantly improving our appreciation of slavery's role in U.S. history.
A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama's America by Jacqueline JonesBuilding on biographical sketches of six people of color to illustrate the devastating effects of the notion of "race," acclaimed historian Jacqueline Jones points out that race has no scientific basis and isn't a static concept. Despite the arbitrary and shifting definitions of race, however, people of color have consistently been denied social and economic rights that are automatically extended to white people. Jones' thought-provoking analysis eloquently demonstrates that, though race is a myth, it's a powerful one. She concludes by showing how the relative position of people of color in American society has declined even more since 2008.
America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March Toward Civil War by Joseph KellyWhile America's Longest Siege portrays the two years (1863-65) during which the Union Army besieged the city of Charleston, South Carolina, the book's main focus is the 200-year history of slavery that led up to the Civil War. Presenting Charleston as a microcosm in the Southern debates over slavery, historian Joseph Kelly provides a "finely detailed" (Library Journal) depiction of the controversy, which included arguments in favor of abolition in addition to moral justifications of slavery -- for example, its "civilizing" effects on Africans. Kelly presents an eye-opening reminder of the slaveocracy's economic and political greed.
Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle... by Jonathan RiederIn the late 1950s, when the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. became prominent in efforts to end Jim Crow laws in the South, he was regarded by some as too young and inexperienced to lead such an ambitious movement. A document that he published in 1963 changed that perception. Responding to charges by white clergy in Birmingham, Alabama that he was a violent extremist, King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" laid out his Gospel-inspired reasoning for opposing segregation. In Gospel of Freedom, published 50 years later, author Jonathan Rieder reprints and analyzes King's letter, showing how it has inspired courage in many others since 1963. Booklist, in a starred review, calls this "a must-read" for anyone interested in King's legacy.
First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School by Alison StewartIn First Class, broadcast journalist Alison Stewart relates the over 140 years' history of America's first public high school for African Americans. Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. was for many years an outstanding preparatory school whose famous graduates included author Jean Toomer, scholars Anna J. Cooper and Carter G. Woodson, and jazz musicians James Reese Europe and Billy Taylor. However, since public schools were integrated, Dunbar has become like many other inner-city schools, with a high drop-out rate and unmotivated students. Stewart candidly reports Dunbar's contemporary problems in contrast with its stellar early years, accompanying an uplifting history with a sobering reminder of the burdens of racial discrimination on the current generation.
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