History

The devil in the white city : murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America book cover

The devil in the white city : murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America

Erik Larson

364.1523 /Larson
Nonfiction, History, True Crime

"Larson's ambitious, engrossing tale of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 focuses primarily on two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect who was the driving force behind the fair, and Henry H. Holmes, a sadistic serial killer working under the cover of the busy fair. After the 1889 French Exposition Universel wowed the world with the Eiffel Tower and high attendance numbers, interest began to grow in the U.S. for a similar fair. Chicago and New York were the top contenders for the location, and in February 1890, Chicagoans were overjoyed to hear they had won the honor. Burnham and his partner, John Root, the leading architects in Chicago, were tapped for the job, and they in turn called on Frederick Law Olmstead, Louis Sullivan, and Richard M. Hunt to help them build the world's greatest fair. They faced overwhelming obstacles: inhospitable weather, bureaucracy, illness, and even death. Unbeknownst to any of them, Holmes, a charismatic, handsome doctor, had arrived in the city and built a complex with apartments, a drugstore, and a vault, which he used to trap his victims until they suffocated. When the White City opened for business in May 1893, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to it, although a plummeting economy and several accidents did nothing to help business. A shocking murder concludes the ultimately successful fair, and that's before Holmes claims his final victims in the cruelest act of his career. A magnificent book."--

Candice's picture

Erik Larson does an absolutely amazing job of telling the story of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who operated during the World's Fair in Chicago, 1896. Not only that, but this is a fantastic story of the city itself, particularly some of the early architects and their works. Will make you want to go visit some of the buildings. -Candice

The Triumph of Christianity : How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World book cover

The Triumph of Christianity : How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Bart D. Ehrman

270.1 /Ehrman
History, Religion

In The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, a master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, shows how a religion whose first believers were twenty or so illiterate day laborers in a remote part of the empire became the official religion of Rome, converting some thirty million people in just four centuries. The Triumph of Christianity combines deep knowledge and meticulous research in an eye-opening, immensely readable narrative that upends the way we think about the single most important cultural transformation our world has ever seen - one that revolutionized art, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.

Candice's picture

For those nights where you find yourself wondering why the Christian belief system ended up eclipsing so many others. Full of fantastic history. -Candice

The Road to Jonestown : Jim Jones and Peoples Temple book cover

The Road to Jonestown : Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

Jeff Guinn

289.9 /Guinn
Biographies, History, Religion

A portrait of the cult leader behind the Jonestown Massacre examines his personal life, from his extramarital affairs and drug use to his fraudulent faith healing practices and his decision to move his followers to Guyana, sharing new details about the events leading to the 1978 tragedy.

Candice's picture

Guinn does a masterful job of drawing in the many elements of Jones' life that, in hindsight, all played some part in making him the person he came to be. I was surprised to find that, at the end of the book, some sort of sense was made of the awful situation. -Candice

The best we could do : an illustrated memoir book cover

The best we could do : an illustrated memoir

Thi Bui

BIOGRAPHY Bui, Thi
Graphic Novels, Memoir, Biographies, History

The author describes her experiences as a young Vietnamese immigrant, highlighting her family's move from their war-torn home to the United States in graphic novel format.

Casey's picture

Combining genealogy, auto-biography, history and graphic novel, Thi Bui's memoir is haunting and beautiful. -Casey

The life and the adventures of a haunted convict book cover

The life and the adventures of a haunted convict

Austin Reed

BIOGRAPHY Reed, Austin
History

The earliest known prison memoir by an African American writer—recently discovered and authenticated by a team of Yale scholars—sheds light on the longstanding connection between race and incarceration in America. In 2009, scholars at Yale University came across a startling manuscript: the memoir of Austin Reed, a free black man born in the 1820s who spent most of his early life ricocheting between forced labor in prison and forced labor as an indentured servant. Lost for more than one hundred and fifty years, the handwritten document is the first known prison memoir written by an African American. Corroborated by prison records and other documentary sources, Reed’s text gives a gripping first-person account of an antebellum Northern life lived outside slavery that nonetheless bore, in its day-to-day details, unsettling resemblances to that very institution. Now, for the first time, we can hear Austin Reed’s story as he meant to tell it.

Melody's picture

This book is a remarkable find. Perfect for history buffs, rare manuscript nerds, and African American prison researchers, this book was written by an African American man born free in the 1820s but living much of his life in confinement. Reed was a natural storyteller and his memoir reads like a novel. He documents his experiences both in prison and as a free man, the cruelties of the whip and other 19th Century torture tactics as well as adventures and opportunities he encountered while living free. -Melody

Leonardo da Vinci book cover

Leonardo da Vinci

Walter Isaacson

BIOGRAPHY Leonardo
Biographies, History, Nonfiction

Acclaimed biographer Isaacson (Steve Jobs; The Innovators) delves into the 15th and 16th centuries to examine the insatiable energy of Leonardo da Vinci (1452â€"1519). Primarily relying on da Vinci's notebooks (more than 7,200 pages) for his research, as they help to understand da Vinci as a person, the author argues early and often that his subject was not the most brilliant man who ever lived, simply the most curious one. For example, in his journals, da Vinci reminds himself to "describe the tongue of the woodpecker." The illegitimate son of a wealthy notary in Vinci, a town outside Florence, Italy, da Vinci had a fascination with science and art from a young age. This melding of subjects was a main component of Renaissance life. This book examines da Vinci's birth, young adulthood, sexuality, works (e.g., The Last Supper, The Mona Lisa), and contemporaries such as Michelangelo and Cesare Borgia (on whom Machiavelli's The Prince was based). Lastly, Isaacson explores the polymath's enduring impact.

Candice's picture

A thorough and illuminating look at the consummate Renaissance genius. There are many biographies about Leonardo, and books that are about the things he did, but this one goes deep and gives an amazing amount of insight into how and what he thought, and the events that shaped him -Candice

One summer : America, 1927 book cover

One summer : America, 1927

Bill Bryson

973.91 /Bryson
Nonfiction, History

Bryson examines closely the events and personalities of the summer of 1927 when America's story was one of brawling adventure, reckless optimism and delirious energy.

Anne M's picture

What it must have been like to read the newspaper everyday this summer! This is a fascinating read and you can tell that Bryson had a great time researching this book. -Anne M

Caught in the revolution : Petrograd, Russia, 1917--a world on the edge book cover

Caught in the revolution : Petrograd, Russia, 1917--a world on the edge

Helen Rappaport

947.0841 /Rappaport
Nonfiction, History

"Caught in the Revolution is Helen Rappaport's masterful telling of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution through eye-witness accounts left by foreign nationals who saw the drama unfold. Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin's Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St. Petersburg) was in turmoil--felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt. There, the foreign visitors who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their windows. Among this disparate group were journalists, diplomats, businessmen, bankers, governesses, volunteer nurses and expatriate socialites. Many kept diaries and wrote letters home: from an English nurse who had already survived the sinking of the Titanic; to the black valet of the US Ambassador, far from his native Deep South; to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who had come to Petrograd to inspect the indomitable Women's Death Battalion led by Maria Bochkareva. Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action--to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to an assortment of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a 'red madhouse'"--

Anne M's picture

This book tells the story of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd from the perspective of people who found themselves in absolutely the wrong place at absolutely the wrong time—foreigners. Embassy officials, journalists, tourists, businessmen, servants, and ex-pats from Great Britain, France, and the United States lend their memoirs, letters, diaries, and newspaper articles to tell their story as Tsarist Russia fell into what seems like complete chaos. It makes for a pretty intense read as events unfold and become more unpredictable to those living through it. However, it is also clear that although they were living through the events, they were not of the events. Many of the reporters, embassy officials, bankers, and socialites seem to not understand what they are experiencing and why. And they got to leave. -Anne M

The Black Count : glory, revolution, betrayal, and the real Count of Monte Cristo book cover

The Black Count : glory, revolution, betrayal, and the real Count of Monte Cristo

Tom Reiss

BIOGRAPHY Dumas, Thomas Alexandre
Nonfiction, History

Explores the life and career of Thomas Alexandre Dumas, a man almost unknown today, but whose swashbuckling exploits appear in The three musketeers and whose trials and triumphs inspired The count of Monte Cristo.

Jason's picture

Added by Jason

The millionaire and the bard : Henry Folger's obsessive hunt for Shakespeare's first folio book cover

The millionaire and the bard : Henry Folger's obsessive hunt for Shakespeare's first folio

Andrea E. Mays

822.33 /Z/Mays
Nonfiction, History

"Today it is the most valuable book in the world. Recently one sold for over five million dollars. It is the book that rescued the name of William Shakespeare and half of his plays from oblivion. The Millionaire and the Bard tells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio, and of the American industrialist whose thrilling pursuit of the book became a lifelong obsession." --

Jason's picture

Added by Jason