cover image A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown's War Against Slavery

A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown's War Against Slavery

Albert Marrin. Knopf, $19.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-98152-3

National Book Award finalist Marrin adds to his acclaimed collection of history books, and while the subject of this latest%E2%80%94fervent abolitionist John Brown and his efforts to end slavery in the United States%E2%80%94is not easy to read about, Marrin's narrative style is entirely accessible. Nine chapters effortlessly bridge topics that include Brown's upbringing, the global history of slavery, the %E2%80%9Cpeculiar institution" (as slavery was known in the pre%E2%80%93Civil War south), and the legacy of Brown's actions. Marrin sets out %E2%80%9Cto place this man within his world and then to see how he helped bring about the most terrible conflict in American history," and he accomplishes that and more. The book winds down with Brown's execution, the Civil War, and President Lincoln's assassination, and a final chapter raises thoughtful topics for discussion. Should people in a lawful society follow the law or their own conscience? Was John Brown a martyr, a terrorist, or both? Archival photos, maps, and documents break up lengthy sections of text, and an index, notes, and suggestions for further reading are included. Ages 12 %E2%80%93up. (Apr.)