History and Current Events
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay (editor) What it is: a searing collection of new and previously published first-person accounts written by a diverse group of sexual assault survivors.
Featuring: essays written by actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz.
Further reading: Kate Harding's meticulously researched Asking For It, which offers suggestions for how society can combat sexual violence and rape culture.
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace JohnsonWhat it's about: In June 2009, American student Edwin Rist stole 299 rare bird skins from Hertfordshire, England's Natural History Museum, removing their feathers to sell to fly-fishing enthusiasts.
Don't miss: This astonishing true crime caper features an unexpected twist worthy of a courtroom drama.
Reviewers say: "Johnson's flair for telling an engrossing story is, like the beautiful birds he describes, exquisite" (Kirkus Reviews).
Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found by Gilbert KingWhat it's about: In 1957, mentally impaired teenager Jesse Daniels was falsely accused of raping a prominent woman in Okahumpka, Florida. His commitment to a mental hospital without a trial spawned a 20-year investigation into police corruption, privilege, and racism.
About the author: Gilbert King is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Devil in the Grove, which recounts Thurgood Marshall's 1951 civil rights case about the wrongful accusations of rape leveraged against four black men.
See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary by Lorrie MooreWhat it is: a collection of musings -- 66 in total -- written by fiction author Lorrie Moore (Bark: Stories) from 1983-2017 and covering art, culture, and politics.
Topics include: the work of Margaret Atwood and Nora Ephron; the O.J. Simpson verdict; the 1992 presidential debates.
Is it for you? Creative writing instructor Moore's sharp commentary will appeal to aspiring authors.
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence WrightWhat it is: a balanced and insightful exploration of the history, culture, politics, and stereotypes of Texas and its people.
About the author: Longtime Texas resident Lawrence Wright won the Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower, a history of pre-9/11 al-Qaeda.
Want a taste? "There's an element of performance involved with being 'Texan.' The boots, the pickup trucks, the guns, the attitude -- they're all part of the stereotype, but they're also a masquerade."
The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics by Stephen CossWhat it's about: This sweeping colonial history links the Boston smallpox epidemic of 1721 to the democratization of the press, exploring the impact of these fevers -- medical and political -- on a nascent America.
Why you might like it: Ambitious yet accessible, The Fever of 1721 features anecdotes about famous players in early American history, including a teenage Benjamin Franklin.
The Next Pandemic: On the Front Lines Against Humankind's Gravest Dangers by Ali S. KhanWhat it's about: Written with verve by a self-described "disease detective," this enthralling medical history turns an investigative eye toward the causes of infectious disease outbreaks -- whether naturally occurring or engineered as bioterrorism -- and what we can do to prevent their return.
Read it for: a vivid, page-turning narrative palatable to both science enthusiasts and general readers.
Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital by David OshinskyWhat it is: a lively 300-year chronicle of the iconic New York City hospital, from its origins as a pest house for yellow fever and cholera patients to its enduring status as a refuge for the marginalized.
Notable patients: Sylvia Plath, Charlie Parker, Mark David Chapman.
Did you know? Bellevue is the oldest public hospital in the United States and admits over 600,000 patients annually.
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia ShahWhat it is: a grim yet absorbing exploration of global pandemics' origins and the modern pathogens that may trigger future outbreaks.
Author alert: Sonia Shah is the author of The Fever, a global history of malaria.
Reviewers say: "Shah is back and in rare form. And this time it's personal" (Booklist).
The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease by Meredith WadmanWhat it's about: The development of the first polio, rubella, and rabies vaccines in the 1960s and '70s paved the way for political scheming, ethical quandaries, and destructive rivalries, as scientists on the forefront of discovery sought to make newer, better vaccines -- often at the expense of their human test subjects.
For fans of: Readers drawn to surveys of medical ethics like Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will find much to ponder here.
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