The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew... by Robert S. LevineWhat it's about: During the early years of the Reconstruction era, President Andrew Johnson made promises to Frederick Douglass and other Black leaders that he did not keep, exacerbating tensions that would come to a head during his 1868 impeachment trial.
Why you should read it: This well-researched history offers fresh insights on Johnson's legacy and the failures of Reconstruction by foregrounding the perspectives of the era's Black activists and reformers.
Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy by Nathaniel PhilbrickThen: In the early days of his presidency, George Washington traveled throughout the American colonies in hopes of instilling a sense of unity.
Now: Award-winning author Nathaniel Philbrick (In the Hurricane's Eye) retraced Washington's steps to learn how the journey shaped his presidency and the country.
Who it's for: Inspired by John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America, Philbrick's hopeful and engaging latest will appeal to fans of travelogues that explore national identity.
Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America by Eyal PressWhat it is: a sobering and eye-opening investigation on the toll "morally compromised" jobs take on the disadvantaged employees who perform them -- and the lengths to which the privileged will go to ignore the plight of exploited workers.
Featuring: interviews with drone operators, prison guards, offshore oil workers, slaughterhouse employees, and more.
Reviewers say: "This deeply reported and eloquently argued account is a must-read" (Publishers Weekly).
The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of... by Roxane Van IperinStarring: sisters and Dutch resistance members Lien and Janny Brilleslijper, who sheltered dozens of Jewish refugees until their arrest and deportation to Auschwitz (and later Bergen-Belsen) in 1944.
Don't miss: the Brilleslijpers befriending Margot and Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen.
Try this next: For another moving account of Jewish women's resistance efforts during World War II, read Lucy Adlington's The Dressmakers of Auschwitz.
The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War by Craig WhitlockWhat it's about: In this haunting and richly detailed chronicle, investigative journalist Craig Whitlock explores the failures of the nearly 20-year-long war in Afghanistan -- the longest in American history.
What's inside: interviews with more than 1,000 people involved in the conflict, including diplomats, U.S. military personnel, and Afghan leaders; primary sources including official and previously unseen documents.
Book buzz: The Afghanistan Papers is a timely expansion of three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Whitlock's reportage for the Washington Post.
Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption by Rafia ZakariaWhat it is: an impassioned exploration of how mainstream Western feminism perpetuates racist and colonialist perspectives and silences women of color.
Read it for: a thought-provoking call for change that incorporates historical and contemporary perspectives on the movement.
Further reading: White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad; White Feminism by Koa Beck.
Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf BackderfMay 4, 1970: National Guardsmen deployed to quell an anti-war protest at Kent State University killed four students and wounded nine others, sending shockwaves through a divided nation.
Why you should read it: Published in 2020 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the shootings, this sobering graphic history from Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Derf Backderf (My Friend Dahmer) offers a well-researched corrective to an often misunderstood event.
Art alert: Bold black-and-white illustrations vividly depict the tragedy.
The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth by Josh LevinStarring: notorious Chicago swindler Linda Taylor, whose exploits earned her the moniker "welfare queen," a term popularized by Ronald Reagan during his 1976 presidential campaign.
Read it for: a nuanced blend of biography, history, and true crime that humanizes the woman behind the stereotype.
Awards buzz: Slate editor Josh Levin's compelling debut won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2019.
Reaganland: America's Right Turn, 1976-1980 by Rick PerlsteinWhat it is: the sweeping conclusion to historian Rick Perlstein's four-volume saga detailing the origins of modern conservatism.
What it's about: how the missteps of Jimmy Carter's administration led to Ronald Reagan's rise as a major political player, culminating in Reagan's ascension to the presidency in 1980.
Reviewers say: "an insightful and entertaining analysis of a watershed era in American politics" (Publishers Weekly).
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann ThompsonSeptember 9, 1971: More than 1,000 prisoners at Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York took over the prison to protest their mistreatment, leading to a four-day standoff that became the bloodiest prison uprising in United States history.
Why it matters: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Heather Ann Thompson's comprehensive and meticulously researched account reveals the misinformation, state negligence, and politically-driven cover-ups that dominated the aftermath of the event.
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