Non-fiction Friday: History Books
Renowned historian David McCullough once addressed the graduating seniors of Wesleyan University and said, “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” If you’re looking for titles that explores the past to help understand the present, here is a list of recently published history books you can borrow now.
This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving
by David J. Silverman
What it’s about: the complex 50-year alliance between the Wampanoag tribe and European colonizers that ended with King Philip’s War, a three-year conflict that almost completely annihilated the Wampanoag.
Why you might like it: This impassioned narrative centers the Wampanoag people’s experiences, offering insights into why the alliance was brokered and how the tribe persisted in the face of devastation.
Don’t miss: profiles of Wampanoag activists, including Frank James (1923-2001), who established the National Day of Mourning in 1970.
The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era
by Gareth Russell
What it is: an extensively researched, evocatively detailed account of the Titanic‘s fateful voyage as experienced by six first-class passengers.
Featuring: Lucy Leslie, Countess of Rothes, who rowed a lifeboat full of passengers to safety; Jewish American immigrant Ida Strauss, who chose to die with her husband rather than board a lifeboat without him.
Don’t miss: Author Gareth Russell’s debunking of many of the popular conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the ship’s sinking.
Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
by Jessica McDiarmid
What it is: a heart-wrenching exposé on British Columbia’s Highway 16, known as the “Highway of Tears” because of the disappearances or murders of many Indigenous girls and women in the area.
Why it matters: Journalist Jessica McDiarmid’s “powerful must-read” (Booklist) illuminates how these unsolved and under-reported crimes are a microcosm of the systemic forces that continue to fail vulnerable Indigenous populations throughout Canada.
Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, the Berlin Wall, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth
by Iain MacGregor
What it’s about: how Cold War tensions spurred the construction of Checkpoint Charlie, the border crossing separating East and West Germany that became a powerful symbol of the era.
Why you might like it: This dramatic, well-researched account was published to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
What sets it apart: never-before-seen interviews with border guards, intelligence operatives, and escapees.
Broke: Hardship & Resilience in a City of Broken Promises
by Jodie Adams Kirshner, foreword by Michael Eric Dyson
What it is: an eye-opening portrait of Detroit, Michigan following the city’s 2013 bankruptcy filing.
What’s inside: profiles of seven Detroit citizens trying to make a better life while facing poverty, urban blight, and government negligence.
Try this next: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (and Detroit native) Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy similarly surveys the lives of everyday citizens navigating the Motor City’s tumultuous changes.