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History Matters: New Reads

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History Matters: New Reads

History is the study of change over time, and it covers all aspects of human society. Political, social, economic, scientific, technological, medical, cultural, intellectual, religious and military developments are all part of history.

Looking back at history can provide a crucial perspective for understanding (and solving) current and future problems. It also helps build empathy through studying the lives and struggles of others.

Take your historical knowledge to the next level with this new batch of books available with your Livingston Library card.

fever in the heartland

A Fever In The Heartland : The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot To Take Over America, And The Woman Who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan

 A historical thriller that tells the riveting story of the Klan’s rise to power in the 1920s, the cunning con man who drove that rise, and the woman who stopped them. The Roaring Twenties — the Jazz Age — has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson. Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.

All The Knowledge In The World : The Extraordinary History Of The Encyclopedia by Simon Garfield

The encyclopedia once shaped our understanding of the world. Created by thousands of scholars and the most obsessive of editors, a good set conveyed a sense of absolute wisdom on its reader. Garfield guides us on an utterly delightful journey, from Ancient Greece to Wikipedia, from modest single-volumes to the 11,000-volume Chinese manuscript that was too big to print. He looks at how Encyclopedia Britannica came to dominate the industry, how it spawned hundreds of competitors, and how an army of ingenious door-to-door salesmen sold their wares to guilt-ridden parents. He reveals how encyclopedias have reflected our changing attitudes towards sexuality, race, and technology, and exposes how these ultimate bastions of trust were often riddled with errors and prejudice. 

America Redux : Visual Stories From Our Dynamic History by Ariel Aberg-Riger

This book explores the themes that create our shared sense of American identity and interrogates the myths we’ve been telling ourselves for centuries. With iconic American catchphrases as chapter titles, these twenty-one visual stories illuminate the astonishing, unexpected, sometimes darker sides of history that reverberate in our society to this very day–from the role of celebrity in immigration policy to the influence of one small group of white women on education to the effects of “progress” on housing and the environment, to the inspiring force of collective action and mutual aid across decades and among diverse groups.

American Journey : On The Road With Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and John Burroughs by Wes Davis

The epic road trips-and surprising friendship-of John Burroughs, nineteenth-century naturalist, and Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, inventors of the modern age.

Code Name Blue Wren : The True Story Of America’s Most Dangerous Female Spy–And The Sister She Betrayed by Jim Popkin

Like spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen before her, Ana Montes blindsided her colleagues with brazen acts of treason. For nearly 17 years, Montes succeeded in two high-stress jobs. By day, she was one of the government’s top Cuba experts, a buttoned-down GS-14 with shockingly easy access to classified documents. By night, she was on the clock for Fidel Castro, listening to coded messages over shortwave radio, passing US secrets to handlers in local restaurants, and slipping into Havana wearing a wig. Investigative journalist Popkin weaves the tale of two sisters who chose two very different paths, plus the unsung heroes who had to fight to bring Ana to justice.

declassification engine

The Declassification Engine : What History Reveals About America’s Top Secrets by Matthew James Connelly

A captivating study of US state secrecy that examines how officials use it to hoard power and prevent meaningful public oversight.  Using the latest techniques in data science, historian Connelly analyzes the millions of state documents both accessible to the public and still under review to unearth not only what the government does not want us to know, but what it says about the very authority we bequeath to our leaders. By culling this research and carefully studying a series of pivotal moments in recent history from Pearl Harbor to drone strikes, Connelly sheds light on the drivers of state secrecy-especially consolidating power or hiding incompetence-and how the classification of documents has become untenable. What results is an astonishing study of power: of the greed that develops out of its possession, of the negligence that it protects, and of what we lose as citizens when it remains unchecked.

Empress Of The Nile:The Daredevil Archaeologist Who Saved Egypt’s Ancient Temples From Destruction by Lynne Olson

The remarkable story of the intrepid French archaeologist who led the international effort to save ancient Egyptian temples from the floodwaters of the Aswan Dam. In the 1960s, the world’s attention was focused on a nail-biting race against time: Fifty countries contributed nearly a billion dollars to save a dozen ancient Egyptian temples, built during the height of the pharaohs’ rule, from drowning in the floodwaters of the massive new Aswan High Dam. But the extensive press coverage at the time overlooked the gutsy French archaeologist who made it all happen. Without the intervention of Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, the temples would now be at the bottom of a vast reservoir. It was an unimaginably large and complex project that required the fragile sandstone temples to be dismantled, stone by stone, and rebuilt on higher ground. A willful real-life version of Indiana Jones, Desroches-Noblecourt refused to be cowed by anyone or anything. 

In The Garden Of The Righteous : The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives To Save Jews During The Holocaust by Richard Hurowitz

This book chronicles extraordinary acts at a time when the moral choices were stark, the threat immense, and the passive apathy of millions predominated. Deeply researched, it focuses on ten remarkable stories. These heroes provided hiding places, participated in underground networks, refused to betray their neighbors, and secured safe passage to save the persecuted. They repeatedly defied authorities and risked their lives, their livelihoods, and their families.

Knowing What We Know:The Transmission of knowledge, From Ancient Wisdom To Modern Magic by Simon Winchester

Examining such disciplines as education, journalism, encyclopedia creation, museum curation, photography and broadcasting, an award-winning writer explores how humans have attained, stored, and disseminated knowledge.

Master Slave Husband Wife : An Epic Journey From Slavery To Freedom by Ilyon Woo

Presents the remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled white man and William posing as “his” slave.

myth america 1

Myth America : Historians Take On The Biggest Legends And Lies About Our Past edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer

Historians Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer have assembled an all-star team of historians to provide textured analysis that explains what we get wrong about the past. Drawing on their immense knowledge of scholarship and their own primary research, these contributors provide correctives to the ways conservatives distort history to serve the needs of their anti-democratic agenda. For instance: Erika Lee shows how, far from posing a relentless threat to America, immigrants have long been recruited and even coerced to come to the United States. Joshua Zeitz traces how the welfare programs of the Great Society, criticized by the right as wasteful failures, have provided millions of Americans with food security, health care, and education. Carol Anderson uncovers how racism and anxiety over the nation’s changing demographics, not voter fraud, are motivating Republicans’ assault on voting rights. Elizabeth Hinton reveals that, rather than curbing crime, patrolling low-income communities with outside police forces has historically.

The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot To Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill by Brad Meltzer

In 1943, as the war against Nazi Germany raged abroad, President Franklin Roosevelt had a critical goal: a face-to-face sit-down with his allies Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. This first-ever meeting of the Big Three in Tehran, Iran, would decide some of the most crucial strategic details of the war. Yet when the Nazis found out about the meeting, their own secret plan took shape–an assassination plot that would’ve changed history. A true story filled with daring rescues, body doubles, and political intrigue, The Nazi Conspiracy details FDR’s pivotal meeting in Tehran and the deadly Nazi plot against the heads of state of the three major Allied powers who attended it.

Pathogenesis : A History Of The World In Eight Plagues by Jonathan Kennedy

A sweeping look at how the major transformations in history–from the rise of Homo sapiens to the birth of capitalism–have been shaped not by humans but by germs.  Drawing on the latest research in fields ranging from genetics and anthropology to archaeology and economics, Pathogenesis takes us through 60,000 years of history, exploring eight major outbreaks of infectious disease that have made the modern world. Bacteria and viruses were protagonists in the demise of the Neanderthals, the growth of Islam, the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the devastation wrought by European colonialism, and the evolution of the United States from an imperial backwater to a global superpower. Even Christianity rose to prominence in the wake of a series of deadly pandemics that swept through the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries: Caring for the sick turned what was a tiny sect into one of the world’s major religions. By placing disease at the center of his wide–ranging history of humankind, Kennedy challenges some of the most fundamental assumptions about our collective past–and urges us to view this moment as another disease-driven inflection point that will change the course of history

The 272 : The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church by Rachel L. Swarns

A probing examination of the causes and aftermath of the sale of 272 people enslaved by Catholic priests in 1838. Swarns, a New York Times contributor and NYU journalism professor, expands on a story she published in the Times in 2016, in which she explored the sale of people enslaved by the Jesuit order in Maryland to plantation owners in Louisiana. The proceeds—approximately $4.5 million in today’s dollars—were used to fund Georgetown University (then College) as well as Holy Cross in Massachusetts and Loyola College in Baltimore. The author smoothly weaves together the stories of the priests who, beginning in the 18th century, supervised plantations in Maryland, collectively becoming “one of the largest enslavers in Maryland,” and the families they enslaved, whose stories were passed down to their descendants. She carefully analyzes the economic rationales for both owning and ultimately selling the enslaved people, contrasting the monetary data with the devastating personal impacts of the sales, relocation, and enslavement of the people involved. 

The Watchmaker’s Daughter : The True Story Of World War II Heroine Corrie Ten Boom by Larry Loftis

The first major biography of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker who saved the lives of hundreds of Jews during World War II-at the cost of losing her family and being sent to a concentration camp, only to survive, forgive her captors and live the rest of her life as a Christian missionary.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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