History

The great Halifax explosion : a World War I story of treachery, tragedy, and extraordinary heroism book cover

The great Halifax explosion : a World War I story of treachery, tragedy, and extraordinary heroism

John U. Bacon

971.603 /Bacon
History

The astonishing true story of history’s largest manmade explosion before the atomic bomb, and its world-changing aftermath, from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author John U. Bacon December 1917: the freighter Mont-Blanc steamed out of New York Harbor packed with a staggering load of explosives intended to break the ghastly stalemate on the Western Front. The floating powder keg bobbed up the Eastern seaboard for four days, avoiding rocky shores and German U-boats. But after reaching the safety of Halifax Harbour, a collision sparked a fire on deck, the panicked crew fled, and the burning ghost ship drifted toward the city. At 9:04 a.m. a cataclysm unlike anything the world had ever seen erupted. This is the unforgettable story told in John U. Bacon’s The Great Halifax Explosion: a ticktock account of the hours preceding the disaster, the fateful decisions that led to doom, the human faces of the blast’s 11,000 casualties, and the aftermath. The blast dominated global headlines, transformed Canada and the United States from adversaries to allies, and, years later, gave J. Robert Oppenheimer his best case study in the power of a weapon of mass destruction. Mesmerizing and inspiring, Bacon’s deeply researched narrative brings to life the tragedy, bravery, and surprising afterlife of one of the most dramatic events of modern times.

Anne M's picture

Although this is an incredibly terrible and tragic event (from the explosion itself to the tsunami, the blizzard, and the thaw that caused flooding), Bacon highlights the best moments of neighbors helping neighbors, fellow countrymen helping fellow countrymen, and the international response. This event may have brought the United States and Canada closer through their gestures of aid and thankfulness. For fans of Erik Larson, this is a riveting read. -Anne M

Death in Florence : the Medici, Savonarola, and the battle for the soul of a renaissance city book cover

Death in Florence : the Medici, Savonarola, and the battle for the soul of a renaissance city

Paul Strathern

945.51 /Strathern
History

"By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances between the major Italian powers. However, in the form of Savonarola, an unprepossessing provincial monk, Lorenzo found his nemesis. Filled with Old Testament fury and prophecies of doom, Savonarola's sermons reverberated among a disenfranchised population, who preferred medieval Biblical certainties to the philosophical interrogations and intoxicating surface glitter of the Renaissance. Savonarola's aim was to establish a 'City of God' for his followers, a new kind of democratic state, the likes of which the world had never seen before. The battle between these two men would be a fight to the death, a series of sensational events--invasions, trials by fire, the 'Bonfire of the Vanities', terrible executions and mysterious deaths--featuring a cast of the most important and charismatic Renaissance figures." --

Candice's picture

A detailed, and engrossing, recounting of the period of time in Florence, Italy, when the Medici family's control was faltering, and a preacher named Savonarola was beginning to exert power through his foreboding sermons. It didn't go well. -Candice

America's favorite holidays : candid histories book cover

America's favorite holidays : candid histories

Bruce David Forbes

394.26973 /Forbes
History

"America's Favorite Holidays explores how five of America's culturally dominant holidays--Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving--came to be what they are today, combinations of seasonal and religious celebrations heavily influenced by modern popular culture. Distilling information from a wide range of sources, Bruce David Forbes reveals the often surprising history behind the traditions of each holiday. The book offers a comprehensive look at the Christian origins of these holidays and also touches on Passover, the religions of ancient Rome, Celtic practices, Mexico's Day of the Dead, and American civil religion. America's Favorite Holidays answers our curiosity about the origins of our holidays and the many ways in which religion and culture mix"--Provided by publisher.

Candice's picture

I love this book, I wish it had more holidays in it! It tells the history behind several of the most popular days of celebration--where and when they started, how they spread, how they've changed. -Candice

The man from the train : the solving of a century-old serial killer mystery book cover

The man from the train : the solving of a century-old serial killer mystery

Bill James

364.1523 /James
True Crime, History

"Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station. When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these crimes, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the analytical acumen he brings to baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery. They learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal, and in turn, uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in American history. Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, The Man From the Train is a groundbreaking approach to true crime that will convince skeptics, delight aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history"--

Candice's picture

Lots of people know about the axe-murders in Villisca, Iowa, but the crime has never been solved...until now? Bill James lays out all the evidence he's found for a serial killer operating at that time. -Candice

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