Rather than focus on events or players, this fall’s big history books are rooted in geographic locations, from the landscapes of the Catskills in upstate New York to the back alleys of Paris and the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean.
History Top 10
The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America
Stephen M. Siverman and Raphael D. Silver. Knopf, Oct. 27
The cultural history of the Catskills—home to poets, artists, and musicians; hucksters and gangsters; idealists and tycoons; prizefighters and politicians; preachers and spiritualists; and outlaws, outcasts and rebels.
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
Ari Berman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Aug. 4
Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of passing the Voting Rights Act, Berman’s book provides a popular history of the right to vote in America, which, according to the starred PW review, is “not only easily understandable, but riveting.”
Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonorola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City
Paul Strathern. Pegasus, Aug. 15
The starred PW review describes Strathern’s latest as an “enjoyable and pleasantly articulate look into the inner workings of two larger-than-life entities (the Medici family and the Church) and offers unexpected insight into the theology, philosophy, and society.”
The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America
Ethan Michaeli. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jan. 12
A former staff member tells the story of the great black Chicago newspaper The Defender and the family who founded and ran it.
The House of Twenty Thousand Books
Sasha Abramsky. New York Review Books, Sept.
Journalist Abramsky has written an elegy to the vanished intellectual world of his grandparents and their vast library. The buzz started building for this book at BEA.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
Sarah Vowell. Riverhead, Oct.
The bestselling author of Unfamiliar Fishes brings levity to history with this account of the Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero.
The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency
Annie Jacobsen. Little, Brown, Sept. 22
The latest exposé from Jacobsen paints a picture of DARPA, the military research agency within the Department of Defense, from its inception in 1958 to the present.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
Mary Beard. Norton/Liveright, Nov. 9
A distinguished classicist will delight readers with a history of the Roman Empire, with familiar characters such as Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Nero, and less-familiar ones, including loud women, shrewd bakers, and brave jokers.
Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War
Ian Buruma. Penguin Press, Jan. 19
Using letters written by his maternal grandparents, Buruma provides an account of enduring love through the terror and separation of two world wars.
The Witches: Salem, 1692
Stacy Schiff. Little, Brown, Oct. 27
Following the extraordinary success of 2011’s Cleopatra, Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff heads to Salem, Mass., to uncover the mysteries of the infamous witch trials.
Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling (Sept. 29, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0-465-02229-8). In this revisionist account, an intelligence expert recasts Pius XII—allegedly a Nazi sympathizer—as an anti-Nazi spymaster.
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy (Dec. 1, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-465-05091-8) covers the history of Ukraine from the fifth century B.C.E. to the present day.
Washington: A History of Our National City by Tom Lewis (Oct. 13, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-465-03921-0). A historian presents a colorful history of Washington, D.C., the idealistic and contradictory city whose internal conflicts and promise mirror those of the nation at large.
Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles by Jon Wilkman (Jan. 5, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-62040-915-2) combines urban history, a technological detective story, and life-and-death drama to tell the harrowing story of the St. Francis Dam break of 1928.
Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America by Ioan Grillo (Jan. 19, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-62040-379-2). Grillo, a Mexico City–based journalist, examines the men at the heads of drug cartels throughout Latin America: what drives them, what sustains their power, and how they can be brought down.
The Roughest Riders: The Untold Story of the Black Soldiers in the Spanish-American War by Jerome Tuccille (Sept. 1, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-61373-046-1). Tuccille tells the story of the first African-American soldiers to serve overseas during the post-slavery era. They faced intolerable discrimination from their fellow soldiers and commanders but ultimately secured their own place in American history.
(dist. by PGW)
Tragic Encounter: A People’s History of Native Americans by Page Smith (Nov. 10, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-61902-574-5). This unpublished manuscript from historian Smith, who died in 1995, offers a history of Native Americans after the first European contact.
The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher (Oct. 6, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-307-45106-4) explores the rivalry between Harry Houdini and the so-called “Witch of Lime Street,” whose lives intersected in the 1920s at a time when science was on the verge of embracing the paranormal.
Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder (Sept. 8, hardcover, $30 ISBN 978-1-101-90345-2) relates the Holocaust based on an array of new archival sources from eastern Europe and the voices of Jewish survivors.
City on a Grid: How New York Became New York by Gerard Koeppel (Nov. 10, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-306-82284-1) explains how New York City’s street grid came to be—who made the decision and why, how it was carried out, and what impact it had on local, national, and world history.
Hunter Killer: Inside America’s Unmanned Air War by T. Mark McCurley and Kevin Maurer (Oct. 13, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-525-95443-9) is equal parts techno-thriller, historical account, and war memoir, and provides an insider’s look at the U.S. military’s secretive remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) program.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne by Anna Bikont, trans. by Alissa Valles (Sept. 15, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-374-17879-6), is both the story of the massacre told through oral histories of survivors and witnesses, and a portrait of a Polish town coming to terms with its dark past.
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman (Aug. 4, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-374-15827-9) chronicles the transformation made by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, continuing threats to the right to vote since then, and the legal and grass-roots efforts to resist those threats.
The Other Paris by Luc Sante (Oct. 27, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-374-29932-3) reveals the city’s hidden past and its seamy underside—populated by working and criminal classes that, though virtually extinct today, have shaped Paris over the past two centuries.
Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston’s Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America by Jay Atkinson (Sept. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-4930-0322-8). In 1697, Hannah Duston was taken captive by Abenaki warriors who killed 28 men, women, and children from her village, including Hannah’s own infant daughter. She escaped and made a treacherous journey home—her captors’ scalps in hand. Was she a heroine or harbinger of genocide?
Nixon’s Gamble: How a President’s Own Secret Government Destroyed His Administration by Ray Locker (Oct. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4930-0931-2). Using newly released National Security Council and administration documents, USA Today reporter Locker upends conventional wisdom about Nixon’s presidency and shows how his creation of a secret, extraconstitutional government sowed the seeds of his own destruction.
Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever (Oct. 13, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-4555-1387-1) is a cultural history of drinking and its effects on the American character.
Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux (Nov. 10, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-06-231379-9) offers an account of the tension between racial politics and national service in wartime America through the story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of African-American soldiers fighting in WWII.
Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century by Alistair Horne (Nov. 17, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0-06-239780-5) revisits six battles of the past century and examines the strategies, leadership, preparation, and geopolitical goals of aggressors and defenders, to reveal the one trait that links them all: hubris.
Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers by Simon Winchester (Oct. 27, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0-06-231541-0) offers a history of the Pacific Ocean and its role in the modern world, exploring our relationship with this imposing force of nature.
Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman (Sept. 1, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0-06-223846-7) tells the story of the intertwined lives of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first and second women to serve as Supreme Court justices.
Paris at War: 1939–1944 by David Drake (Nov. 16, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-674-50481-3) chronicles the lives of ordinary Parisians during WWII, from September 1939 when France went to war with Nazi Germany to liberation in August 1944.
Hill and Wang
Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America by Michael A. McDonnell (Dec. 8, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-8090-2953-2). Historian McDonnell recounts the pivotal role the native peoples of the Great Lakes played in the history of North America.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America by Ethan Michaeli (Jan. 12, hardcover, $32, ISBN 978-0-547-56069-4) constructs the story of a great black Chicago newspaper’s narrative of race in America and brings to life the reporters who braved lynch mobs and policemen’s clubs to do their jobs, from the age of Teddy Roosevelt to that of Barack Obama.
The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn Anahid MacKeen (Jan. 12, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-618-98266-0) relates a young Armenian’s escape from genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to retrace his steps.
The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America by Stephen M. Siverman and Raphael D. Silver (Oct. 27, hardcover, $45, ISBN 978-0-307-27215-7) is the cultural history of the Catskills—home to poets, artists, hucksters and gangsters, idealists and tycoons, prizefighters, politicians, preachers and outlaws, musicians, spiritualists, outcasts and rebels.
Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History by Saul David (Dec. 1, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-316-24541-8) provides an account of one of the greatest Special Forces missions ever, by acclaimed military historian David.
The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen (Sept. 22, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-316-37176-6) draws on inside sources, exclusive interviews, private documents, and declassified memos to paint a picture of DARPA, the military research agency within the Department of Defense, from its inception in 1958 to the present.
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff (Oct. 27, hardcover, $32, ISBN 978-0-316-20060-8). Pulitzer Prize–winner Schiff reveals the mysteries of the Salem witch trials.
The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America’s Deadliest Natural Disaster: The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900 by Al Roker (Aug. 11, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-06-236465-4). From NBC’s weatherman Roker, an account of the Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in American history.
Lion in the Bay: The British Invasion of the Chesapeake, 1813–14 by Stanley L. Quick, with Chipp Reid (Oct. 15, hardcover, $32.95, ISBN 978-1-61251-236-5), provides an intimate look at the events leading up to the battle that inspired the U.S. national anthem.
New York Review Books
The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky (Sept. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-59017-888-1) is a journalist’s elegy to the vanished intellectual world of his grandparents and their vast library of socialist literature and Jewish history.
The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944 by Ian W. Toll (Sept. 21, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-393-08064-3). The devastation of Pearl Harbor and the American victory at Midway were prelude to a greater challenge: rolling back the vast Japanese Pacific empire, island by island.
Farthest Field: A Story of India’s Second World War by Raghu Karnad (Aug. 24, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-393-24809-8) retrieves from obscurity the story of India’s WWII narrated through the lives and deaths of the members of a single family.
Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier (Oct. 5, hardcover, $49.95, ISBN 978-0-87140-468-8). The landmark abolitionist also happened to be the most photographed American in the 19th century.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (Nov. 9, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-87140-423-7) provides a history of the Roman Empire with the familiar characters of Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Nero, as well as the untold, the loud women, the shrewd bakers, and the brave jokers.
(dist. by Norton)
Bosworth 1485: The Battle That Transformed England by Michael K. Jones (Sept. 15, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-60598-859-7) reinterprets the Battle of Bosworth Field, where the Wars of the Roses ended and the Tudor dynasty began.
Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonorola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City by Paul Strathern (Aug. 15, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-60598-826-9) examines the lives of two legendary 15th-century figures who shaped Renaissance Florence: Lorenzo (the Magnificent) de’ Medici and Girolamo Savonarola.
The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908–1923 by Sean McMeekin (Oct. 13, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-59420-532-3) retells 20th-century history from the Ottoman perspective, delivering new insights into WWI and the contemporary Middle East.
Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War
by Ian Buruma (Jan. 19, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-59420-438-8). Based on almost daily letters back and forth between the author’s maternal grandparents, Buruma provides an account of enduring love through the terror and separation of two world wars.
City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence (Jan. 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-250-06763-0). A humanitarian and journalist provides an insider account of Dadaab, in Kenya, the world’s largest and best-known refugee camp, and tells its human story.
We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s by Richard Beck (Aug. 4, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-61039-287-7) shows how a group of legislators, doctors, lawyers, and parents, most with the best of intentions, set the stage for a cultural disaster when daycare workers were arrested and convicted of committing horrible sexual crimes against the children they cared for.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell (Oct. 20, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-59463-174-0) is a humorous account of the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette and an insightful portrait of a nation’s idealism and its reality.
Simon & Schuster
The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman (Sept. 8, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-4516-9411-6). The sweeping story of the modern struggle for gay, lesbian, and trans rights—from the 1950s to the present—based on interviews with politicians, military figures, legal activists, and others in the LGBTQ community who continue to face challenges every day.
Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries by Kim MacQuarrie (Dec. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4391-6889-9) is a historical journey through the Andes Mountains, the world’s longest mountain chain, bringing fresh insight and contemporary connections to such fabled characters as Charles Darwin, Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara, and many others.
Katrina: After the Flood by Gary Rivlin (Aug. 11, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4516-9222-8). Ten years after Hurricane Katrina hit southeast Louisiana, journalist Gary Rivlin traces the storm’s immediate damage, the city of New Orleans’ efforts to rebuild, and the storm’s lasting effects on the city’s geography and infrastructure, as well as its psychic, racial, and social fabric.
The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution by Dominic Lieven (Aug. 18, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-670-02558-9) submits a fresh interpretation of the linked origins of WWI and the Russian Revolution.
To Hell and Back: Europe 1914–1949 by Ian Kershaw (Nov. 17, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-670-02458-2).
The Penguin History of Europe series reaches the 20th century with scholar Kershaw’s analysis of the first half of the century, the pivotal years from WWI to post-WWII.
The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952–1961 by Irwin F. Gellman (Aug. 25, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0-300-18105-0). Based on 20 years of research, a book that rewrites the history of the Eisenhower presidency.