In a time of political strife, a number of American history titles are looking anew at the country’s ideals, myths, beginnings, and those it has disenfranchised.

Top 10

1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy

James Horn. Basic, Oct. 16

In one of two books about Jamestown’s significance being released this season, Horn locates the birth of both America’s idealistic dedication to democracy and its perpetration of oppression and slavery in 1619 Jamestown.

African Samurai: The True Story of a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan

Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard. Hanover Square, Jan. 8

This biography brings charts the life of Yasuke, who arrived in 16th-century Japan as a bodyguard and was made a samurai—the only African samurai in history—by ruler Odu Nobunaga.

American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us

Joseph J. Ellis. Knopf, Oct. 16

This volume, from the award-winning colonial historian, sets out to answer the often-asked question “What would the founding fathers think?” by pairing significant topics, such as racism and the doctrine of original intent, with one historical figure each.

A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland

DaMaris B. Hill. Bloomsbury, Jan. 15

Hill’s history in verse pays homage to African-American women throughout American history who have been imprisoned as slaves, in jails, and by discriminatory social codes.

The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation

Miriam Pawel. Bloomsbury, Sept. 11

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Pawel looks at Pat and Jerry Brown, both multiple-term governors of California, and considers their legacy and California’s role in the U.S.

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History

Keith O’Brien. HMH/Dolan, Aug. 7

Expanding the pantheon of trailblazing women aviators past Amelia Earhart, this book tells the tale of five pilots who fought to be allowed to compete against men in air racing—and won.

In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown

Nathaniel Philbrick. Viking, Oct. 16

The final volume in Philbrick’s Revolutionary War trilogy chronicles the Battle of the Chesapeake and the pivotal role played in it by the French military, which set the stage for Washington’s victory at Yorktown.

The Library Book

Susan Orlean. Simon & Schuster, Oct. 16

The bestselling author of The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin offers a love letter to libraries centered around an investigation of a catastrophic library fire in 1980s Los Angeles.

Outrages: Inventing Homosexuality as a Crime and a Cause

Naomi Wolf. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jan. 22

Wolf (The Beauty Myth) reveals the significance of Britain’s Obscene Publications Act—which conceived of homosexuality as deviant and made it illegal—for gay life and gay writers on both sides of the Atlantic.

These Truths: A History of the United States

Jill Lepore. Norton, Sept. 18

Lepore, author of several previous prizewinners on American history, sets out to examine America’s relationship with its fundamental ideas—the rights of, sovereignty of, and political equality among the people—in a single volume.

History Listings


Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr (Sept. 11, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-1-61620-843-1) looks at the role of punk music, and members of the teen subculture it spawned in East Berlin, in bringing down the Berlin Wall and the authoritarian Communist East German regime.

Atlantic Monthly

A History of France by John Julius Norwich (Oct. 2, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-8021-2890-4) is a sweeping narrative history of the country and its leaders—beginning with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in the first century BCE and including Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon, and Marie Antoinette—from the late British popular historian.


1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy by James Horn (Oct. 16, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-465-06469-4) probes the quintessentially American tension between cultural ideals of democracy and freedom and the reality of race-based oppression and slavery, both of which, Horn argues, had their origins in the same place and the same year.

Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household by Adrian Tinniswood (Oct. 2, hardcover, $32, ISBN 978-0-465-09402-8). The historian gives an upstairs-downstairs history of 500 years of life at home—with its familial rifts, budgetary crises, and practical challenges, like ensuring the king won every game of tennis—for British monarchs and those who served them.Behold, America: The Entangled History of “America First” and “the American Dream” by Sarah Churchwell (Sept. 4, hardcover, $32, ISBN 978-1-5416-7340-3) chronicles the origins and early history of these two ideas—one associated with white supremacy and isolationism, the other with equality—from WWI to WWII, examining how America avoided falling prey to demagoguery as fascism gained power.

A Nation Forged by Crisis: A New American History by Jay Sexton (Oct. 16, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-5416-1723-0) views major events in U.S. history as dramatic reactions to geopolitical and economic shifts: the American Revolution to economic interdependence with Britain, the Civil War to intercontinental peace, the New Deal to a critical mass of European immigrants in the Democratic Party.

The Rise of Andrew Jackson: Myth, Manipulation, and the Making of Modern Politics by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler (Oct. 23, hardcover, $32, ISBN 978-0-465-09756-2) contends it was only powerful supporters’ mastery of the early-19th-century media landscape—slanderous pamphlets, partisan newspapers, less-than-honest paeans—that enabled Jackson’s electoral victory, creating a model of campaigning that still persists.


Liberated Spirits: Two Women Who Battled Over Prohibition by Hugh Ambrose and John Schuttler (Oct. 16, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-451-41464-9) delves into the role played by women, newly enfranchised in the roaring ’20s, in the passage and repeal of prohibition—in particular U.S. Assistant Attorney General Mabel Willebrandt and socialite activist Pauline Brandt.


A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African-American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland by DaMaris B. Hill (Jan. 15, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-63557-261-2) is a history in verse that both responds to and explicates for readers the struggles of African-American women, including Lucille Clifton, Zora Neale Hurston, and Grace Jones. 40,000-copy announced first printing.

The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation by Miriam Pawel (Sept. 11, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-63286-733-9) uses the Brown political dynasty—Jerry Brown and his father, Pat, have collectively governed California for 24 of the last 60 years—as a lens through which to examine the state’s history and role in the U.S. 60,000-copy announced first printing.

Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin by Joseph Kelly (Oct. 30, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-63286-777-3) argues that the colony in Jamestown was not a failed false start at colonization, as it’s commonly portrayed, but the true founding story of the United States and the birthplace of American representative democracy. 50,000-copy announced first printing.

Blue Rider

Cuba Libre! Che, Fidel, and the Improbable Revolution That Changed World History by Tony Perrottet (Jan. 15, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-7352-1816-1). Travel and history writer Perrotet looks anew at the Cuban Revolution, seeing it as a movement thrown together by very young people, many of them educated and privileged, who had to learn guerilla warfare on the fly.


The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House by Norman Eisen (Sept. 4, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-451-49578-5) tells the story of 20th-century Europe via five occupants of a Prague palace: the Jewish original owner; the Nazi general who occupied the palace during WWII; two U.S. ambassadors determined to help then-Czechoslovakia; and the author’s mother, who fled after the Holocaust.

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre (Sept. 18, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-101-90419-0). The author of Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies follows Oleg Gordievsky (the son of two KGB agents), who turned against Soviet communism, started secretly working for MI6, and was eventually unmasked by Aldrich Ames—a CIA officer turned Soviet double agent.


On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle by Hampton Sides (Oct. 2, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-385-54115-2). Sides (In the Kingdom of Ice) combines archival research and interviews with survivors on both sides to tell the tale of the 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, in which American troops were surprised and outnumbered by the Chinese in harrowing conditions.

The White Darkness by David Grann (Oct. 30, hardcover, $20, ISBN 978-0-385-54457-3). Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon) follows Henry Worsley, a British special forces officer and Ernest Shackleton obsessive, as he first recreates Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition and then, in 2015, attempts to walk across Antarctica alone.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Blood Papa: Rwanda’s New Generation by Jean Hatzfeld, trans. by Joshua David Jordan (Aug. 21, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-374-27978-3). French journalist Hatzfeld interviews Rwandan young adults, both Hutu and Tutsi, who are too young to remember the 1993 Tutsi genocide but whose lives have been shaped by it and the prohibition on talk of ethnicity that followed.


Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time by Michael Palin (Sept. 25, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-77164-441-9). Former Monty Python member Palin explores the HMS Erebus, which sank in 1848 during John Franklin’s attempt to chart a route through the Northwest Passage and was only found in 2014, and reconstructs the experiences of the doomed crew. 10,000-copy announced first printing.


Henry VIII: And the Men Who Made Him by Tracy Borman (Jan. 8, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-8021-2843-0) broadens the focus from Henry’s marriages to his relationships with male confidants, ministers, and attendants, in which he could be fiercely loyal, overly trusting, wildly suspicious, and sometimes cruel.

Hanover Square

African Samurai: The True Story of a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard (Jan. 8, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-335-14102-6) draws on new primary sources to tell the story of Yasuke, a 16th-century African bodyguard for the Jesuits who became a powerful samurai and a member of Japan’s upper class. 75,000-copy announced first printing.

Head of Zeus

Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa by Paul Kenyon (Oct. 1, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-1-78497-213-4) follows the careers of seven significant African dictators of the 20th and 21st centuries, examining their extreme and brutal methods for retaining power with help from Western oil companies and governments.


An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere by Mikita Brottman (Nov. 6, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-250-16914-3) recounts the author’s decadelong investigation into—or obsession with—the life, disappearance, and death of a neighbor, who, she suspected, was murdered.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War by Neal Bascomb (Sept. 18, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-544-93711-6). Bascomb (The Winter Fortress) recreates the escape from the notorious German POW camp Holzminden pulled off by Allied airmen, who then had to travel 150 miles through enemy territory to safety in Holland. 40,000-copy announced first printing.

Outrages: Inventing Homosexuality as a Crime and a Cause by Naomi Wolf (Jan. 22, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-544-27402-0). The author of The Beauty Myth identifies Britain’s Obscene Publications Act of 1857 as a defining moment in gay history, making the topic of love between men effectively illegal and profoundly affecting such writers as Walt Whitman and John Addington Symonds. 35,000-copy announced first printing.


Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien (Aug. 7, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-328-87664-5) introduces readers to a group of pioneering women in early American aviation who fought against rudimentary technology, severe weather, and undermining men to achieve success in air racing in the 1930s. 75,000-copy announced first printing.


American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us by Joseph J. Ellis (Oct. 16, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-385-35342-7). Ellis (Founding Brothers) considers the often-asked question of what America’s founding fathers—in this case, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, and James Madison—would think of contemporary issues, respectively racism, economic inequality, American imperialism, and the original intent behind the Constitution. 150,000-copy announced first printing.

Little, Brown Spark

The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search for Meaning in the Great Depression by Ben Montgomery (Sept. 18, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-316-43806-3) follows Plennie Wingo, a Texas restaurant owner whose livelihood was destroyed by the Great Depression and who decided to regain his sense of adventure by walking backward across America and parts of Europe, leading to occurrences both dangerous and droll.


Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin (Sept. 18, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-63149-210-5) delves into notable pirates of the late-17th-century American colonies (such as Captain Kidd and Blackbeard), those who tried to thwart them (including Benjamin Franklin and Cotton Mather), and the colonists’ reactions to them (pro, then anti).

How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England: A Guide for Knaves, Fools, Harlots, Cuckolds, Drunkards, Liars, Thieves, and Braggarts by Ruth Goodman (Oct. 9, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-1-63149-511-3). Popular historian Goodman lays out the scurrilous ways of Elizabethan-era social troublemakers, both highbrow and low, drawing on court cases, advice manuals, and sermons.


Operation Columba—The Secret Pigeon Service: The Untold Story of World War II Resistance in Europe by Gordon Corera (Oct. 16, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0-06-266707-6) tells the tale of a British intelligence program that used homing pigeons, carrying messages in tiny canisters tied to their legs, to secretly communicate with members of the Resistance in Nazi-occupied Europe about critical troop movements and weapons developments.

National Geographic Society

Atlas of World War II: A Comprehensive Guide to the Battles That Changed the World, edited by Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop (Oct. 23, hardcover, $45, ISBN 978-1-4262-1971-9), provides rare maps, terrain data, photographs, sketches, and secret documents to accompany dramatic battle stories.

New York Univ.

Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design by Bess Williamson (Jan. 15, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-4798-9409-3) traces the history of accessibility efforts from post-WWII advocacy for injured veterans through the ripple effect of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, including resistance from quarters both political and architectural, and the individualistic, rights-based arguments that helped spur change.

Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City by Clarence Taylor (Jan. 8, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-4798-6245-0) considers the people and forces, including black churches, black media outlets, black communists, and civil rights activists, that have worked to curb police brutality and power in New York between the 1940s and the present day.

What Would Mrs. Astor Do? The Essential Guide to the Manners and Mores of the Gilded Age by Cecelia Tichi (Nov. 6, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-4798-2685-8) intimately depicts Caroline Astor, heiress and self-appointed guardian of old money social codes in Gilded Age New York, and the high-society world that followed her dicta.


These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore (Sept. 18, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-393-63524-9). Lepore, of Harvard and the New Yorker, considers America, beginning in 1492, through the lens of its ideals, its ideas, and its contradictory understandings of historical truth.


Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh by Anna Beer (Nov. 13, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-78607-434-8). This new biography of Ralegh asks whether he should be viewed today with reverence or disdain.

Oxford Univ.

Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till by Elliot Gorn (Nov. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-19-932512-2). Drawing on new evidence and autobiographies of the people involved, Gorn reexamines the implications for present-day society of the murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago teenager brutally killed in 1955 after a white woman falsely claimed he had flirted with her.


The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind by Justin Driver (Sept. 4, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-101-87165-2) surveys court cases in which the culture wars came to the classroom, engaging such topics as segregation, antiwar protests, prayer, and corporal punishment in schools, and finds a potential constitutional threat to students’ rights.

Penguin Press

The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Deborah Blum (Sept. 25, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-59420-514-9) recounts Harvey Washington Wiley’s political and scientific campaigns against unsafe food and the corporate interests that knowingly subjected the public to it, which resulted in the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

They Fought Alone: The True Story of the Starr Brothers, British Secret Agents in Nazi-Occupied France by Charles Glass (Sept. 11, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-59420-617-7). Glass (Americans in Paris) draws upon newly declassified documents and interviews with French resistance fighters to tell the story of George and John Starr, sent behind enemy lines to organize the French against their German occupier.


The Last Weeks of Abraham Lincoln: A Day-by-Day Account of His Personal, Political, and Military Challenges by David Alan Johnson (Oct. 2, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-63388-397-0) reconstructs Lincoln’s activities and thoughts during the last six weeks of his life, in which he gave his second inaugural address and saw the end of the Civil War.

Wright Brothers, Wrong Story: How Wilbur Wright Solved the Problem of Manned Flight by William Hazelgrove (Dec. 4, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-63388-458-8) challenges the popular myth surrounding the Wright brothers, arguing that Wilbur, not Orville, was the driving force behind the reclusive brothers’ achievement.


Fallout: Conspiracy, Cover-up, and the Making of the Atom Bomb by Peter Watson (Sept. 18, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-61039-961-6) argues that developing the atomic bomb was an unnecessary response to a nonexistent German nuclear threat and recounts the doomed efforts of scientists Niels Bohr and Klaus Fuchs to convince the U.S. and Britain to share nuclear technology with their Soviet allies.

Reckless: Henry Kissinger’s Responsibility for the Tragedy in Vietnam by Robert K. Brigham (Sept. 4, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-61039-702-5) draws on newly available sources, including some of Kissinger’s personal papers, to denounce Kissinger’s master plan for the Vietnam War as overly influenced by domestic politics and personal rivalries.


Inventing American Tradition by Jack David Eller (Sept. 15, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-78023-986-6) investigates the often-surprising origins of American political symbols (the national anthem), iconic clothing (blue jeans), and holiday celebrations (Thanksgiving), with an eye to those who created them and their reasons for doing so.

Rowman & Littlefield

Paris on the Brink: The 1930s Paris of Jean Renoir, Salvador Dalí, Simone de Beauvoir, André Gide, Sylvia Beach, Léon Blum, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe (Sept. 13, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-5381-1237-3) depicts a time of political upheaval, widening inequality, and creative energy in Paris, with focus on the writers, artists, fashion designers, performers, philosophers, and architects who were part of the city’s scene.

The Pendulum: A Granddaughter’s Search for Her Family’s Dark Nazi Past by Julie Lindahl (Oct. 1, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-5381-1193-2). Long suspicious because of her grandparents’ racism, Lindahl investigates their past, discovers that her grandfather was a Nazi war criminal, and retraces her grandparents’ journey from Germany to Brazil.


Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick by David Frye (Aug. 21, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-5011-7270-0) examines walls all over the world and in many periods of history, from ancient Sparta to 20th-century Hollywood, considering the significance of barriers and dividers to human societies and experience.

Simon & Schuster

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Sept. 18, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-4767-9592-8) expands on her previous studies of presidents, using the examples of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson to consider how people develop into and are recognized as leaders, and the qualities—ambition, resilience, moral purpose—that enable great leadership.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (Oct. 16, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-4767-4018-8). With the unsolved mystery of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire as a jumping-off point, Orlean weaves the history of libraries with her own memories and interviews with LAPL employees in a love letter to libraries.

Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin (Oct. 30, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-5011-5271-9) recounts the months George Washington and his troops spent at the Continental Army winter camp in 1777–1778, during which he transformed them from beaten-down citizen soldiers into a fighting force that could win.

St. Martin’s

Frank and Al: FDR, Al Smith, and the Unlikely Alliance That Created the Modern Democratic Party by Terry Golway (Sept. 11, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1-250-08964-9) spotlights the relationship between Al Smith, an urban Catholic Tammany Hall political operator, and Franklin Roosevelt, a patrician country Protestant, and how it shaped the New Deal and the 20th-century Democratic Party.

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne De Courcy (Aug. 7, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-250-16459-9) tells the glitzy tale of the moneyed and glamorous American women who married into titled but often financially strapped upper-class British families at the end of the 19th century.

The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds, and Riches of Latin America During World War II by Mary Jo McConahay (Sept. 18, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1-250-09123-9) traces the Allies’ and the Axis’s attempts to win the allegiance of countries including Brazil and Mexico, whose natural resources, fighting forces, and strategic locations were eagerly sought.


The New York Times Book of Politics by Andrew Rosenthal (Oct. 2, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-4549-3126-3). Times editor Rosenthal gathers 80 stories from the last 167 years of the newspaper’s coverage of elections, political scandals, and legislation.


Influenza: The Hundred-Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Jeremy Brown (Dec. 25, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-5011-8124-5). An emergency medicine physician looks at both the flu’s history, including the epidemic of 1918 and the genome-sequencing of the virus, and human struggles with it, including controversies about vaccination and the still-unanswered question of a cure.

Univ. of North Carolina

The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle by Malinda Maynor Lowery (Sept. 10, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-4696-4637-4) sheds light on the history of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina from first contact with Europeans to the present day, when the tribe has its own constitutional government but is still seeking full federal acknowledgment.


In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown by Nathaniel Philbrick (Oct. 16, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-525-42676-9). The follow-up to Philbrick’s Valiant Ambition focuses on 1780–1781, following Washington through the dramatic Battle of the Chesapeake and the siege of Yorktown.

Yale Univ.

Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River by Sudipta Sen (Jan. 8, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-300-11916-9). The UC Davis professor explores the political, religious, and ecological significance of the Ganges from prehistory and early Hinduism through the rise of Buddhism, Indian empires, and the British Raj to the republic of India.

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