45 Best History Books of 2020

Here are the 45 best history books of 2020 according to Google. Find your new favorite book from the local library with one click.

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1. Caste

by: Isabel Wilkerson
Release date: Aug 04, 2020
Number of Pages: 496
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“”As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power–which groups have it and which do not.” In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people–including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others–she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity. Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of America life today”– Provided by publisher.

2. Black Wave

by: Kim Ghattas
Release date: Jan 28, 2020
Number of Pages: 368
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A New York Times Notable Book of 2020 “[A] sweeping and authoritative history” (The New York Times Book Review), Black Wave is an unprecedented and ambitious examination of how the modern Middle East unraveled and why it started with the pivotal year of 1979. Kim Ghattas seamlessly weaves together history, geopolitics, and culture to deliver a gripping read of the largely unexplored story of the rivalry between between Saudi Arabia and Iran, born from the sparks of the 1979 Iranian revolution and fueled by American policy. With vivid story-telling, extensive historical research and on-the-ground reporting, Ghattas dispels accepted truths about a region she calls home. She explores how Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, once allies and twin pillars of US strategy in the region, became mortal enemies after 1979. She shows how they used and distorted religion in a competition that went well beyond geopolitics. Feeding intolerance, suppressing cultural expression, and encouraging sectarian violence from Egypt to Pakistan, the war for cultural supremacy led to Iran’s fatwa against author Salman Rushdie, the assassination of countless intellectuals, the birth of groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the rise of ISIS. Ghattas introduces us to a riveting cast of characters whose lives were upended by the geopolitical drama over four decades: from the Pakistani television anchor who defied her country’s dictator, to the Egyptian novelist thrown in jail for indecent writings all the way to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Black Wave is both an intimate and sweeping history of the region and will significantly alter perceptions of the Middle East.

3. The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X

by: Les PayneTamara Payne
Release date: Oct 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 640
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WINNER • 2021 PULITZER PRIZE IN BIOGRAPHY • WINNER — 2020 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION • TIME Magazine — 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 • A New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and Editors’ Choice Selection • Best Books of 2020: NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, Chicago Public Library • Excerpted in The New Yorker • Longlisted — Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction • Best Books of Fall 2020 — O, the Oprah Magazine, The Week, St. Louis Post-Dispatch An epic biography of Malcolm X finally emerges, drawing on hundreds of hours of the author’s interviews, rewriting much of the known narrative. Les Payne, the renowned Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X—all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism. Setting Malcolm’s life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century’s most politically relevant figures “from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary.” In tracing Malcolm X’s life from his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his Harlem assassination in 1965, Payne provides searing vignettes culled from Malcolm’s Depression-era youth, describing the influence of his Garveyite parents: his father, Earl, a circuit-riding preacher who was run over by a street car in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, and his mother, Louise, who continued to instill black pride in her children after Earl’s death. Filling each chapter with resonant drama, Payne follows Malcolm’s exploits as a petty criminal in Boston and Harlem in the 1930s and early 1940s to his religious awakening and conversion to the Nation of Islam in a Massachusetts penitentiary. With a biographer’s unwavering determination, Payne corrects the historical record and delivers extraordinary revelations—from the unmasking of the mysterious NOI founder “Fard Muhammad,” who preceded Elijah Muhammad; to a hair-rising scene, conveyed in cinematic detail, of Malcolm and Minister Jeremiah X Shabazz’s 1961 clandestine meeting with the KKK; to a minute-by-minute account of Malcolm X’s murder at the Audubon Ballroom. Introduced by Payne’s daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, who, following her father’s death, heroically completed the biography, The Dead Are Arising is a penetrating and riveting work that affirms the centrality of Malcolm X to the African American freedom struggle.

5. The Splendid and the Vile

by: Erik Larson
Release date: Jan 01, 2020
Number of Pages: 608
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Bleak Expectations — The Rising Threat — A Certain Eventuality — Dread — Blood and Dust — The Americans — Love Amid the Flames — One Year to the Day — Epilogue.

6. The Story of China

by: Michael Wood
Release date: Sep 03, 2020
Number of Pages: 624
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A single volume history of China, offering a look into the past of the global superpower and its significance today

7. Children of Ash and Elm

by: Neil Price
Release date: Aug 25, 2020
Number of Pages: 624
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The definitive history of the Vikings — from arts and culture to politics and cosmology — by a distinguished archaeologist with decades of expertise The Viking Age — from 750 to 1050 — saw an unprecedented expansion of the Scandinavian peoples into the wider world. As traders and raiders, explorers and colonists, they ranged from eastern North America to the Asian steppe. But for centuries, the Vikings have been seen through the eyes of others, distorted to suit the tastes of medieval clerics and Elizabethan playwrights, Victorian imperialists, Nazis, and more. None of these appropriations capture the real Vikings, or the richness and sophistication of their culture. Based on the latest archaeological and textual evidence, Children of Ash and Elm tells the story of the Vikings on their own terms: their politics, their cosmology and religion, their material world. Known today for a stereotype of maritime violence, the Vikings exported new ideas, technologies, beliefs, and practices to the lands they discovered and the peoples they encountered, and in the process were themselves changed. From Eirík Bloodaxe, who fought his way to a kingdom, to Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, the most traveled woman in the world, Children of Ash and Elm is the definitive history of the Vikings and their time.

8. Providence Lost

by: Paul Lay
Release date: Jan 09, 2020
Number of Pages: 352
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‘A compelling and wry narrative of one of the most intellectually thrilling eras of British history’ Guardian. ***************** England, 1651. Oliver Cromwell has defeated his royalist opponents in two civil wars, executed the Stuart king Charles I, laid waste to Ireland, and crushed the late king’s son and his Scottish allies. He is master of Britain and Ireland. But Parliament, divided between moderates, republicans and Puritans of uncompromisingly millenarian hue, is faction-ridden and disputatious. By the end of 1653, Cromwell has become ‘Lord Protector’. Seeking dragons for an elect Protestant nation to slay, he launches an ambitious ‘Western Design’ against Spain’s empire in the New World. When an amphibious assault on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in 1655 proves a disaster, a shaken Cromwell is convinced that God is punishing England for its sinfulness. But the imposition of the rule of the Major-Generals – bureaucrats with a penchant for closing alehouses – backfires spectacularly. Sectarianism and fundamentalism run riot. Radicals and royalists join together in conspiracy. The only way out seems to be a return to a Parliament presided over by a king. But will Cromwell accept the crown? Paul Lay narrates in entertaining but always rigorous fashion the story of England’s first and only experiment with republican government: he brings the febrile world of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate to life, providing vivid portraits of the extraordinary individuals who inhabited it and capturing its dissonant cacophony of political and religious voices. ***************** Reviews: ‘Briskly paced and elegantly written, Providence Lost provides us with a first-class ticket to this Cromwellian world of achievement, paradox and contradiction. Few guides take us so directly, or so sympathetically, into the imaginative worlds of that tumultuous decade’ John Adamson, The Times. ‘Providence Lost is a learned, lucid, wry and compelling narrative of the 1650s as well as a sensitive portrayal of a man unravelled by providence’ Jessie Childs, Guardian.

9. The Year 1000

by: Valerie Hansen
Release date: Apr 14, 2020
Number of Pages: 320
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From celebrated Yale professor Valerie Hansen, a groundbreaking work of history showing that bold explorations and daring trade missions connected all of the world’s great societies for the first time at the end of the first millennium. People often believe that the years immediately prior to AD 1000 were, with just a few exceptions, lacking in any major cultural developments or geopolitical encounters, that the Europeans hadn’t yet reached North America, and that the farthest feat of sea travel was the Vikings’ invasion of Britain. But how, then, to explain the presence of blonde-haired people in Maya temple murals at Chichén Itzá, Mexico? Could it be possible that the Vikings had found their way to the Americas during the height of the Maya empire? Valerie Hansen, an award-winning historian, argues that the year 1000 was the world’s first point of major cultural exchange and exploration. Drawing on nearly thirty years of research, she presents a compelling account of first encounters between disparate societies, which sparked conflict and collaboration eerily reminiscent of our contemporary moment. For readers of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, The Year 1000 is an intellectually daring, provocative account that will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about how the modern world came to be. It will also hold up a mirror to the hopes and fears we experience today.

10. You Never Forget Your First

by: Alexis Coe
Release date: Feb 04, 2020
Number of Pages: 304
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AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AN NPR CONCIERGE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR “In her form-shattering and myth-crushing book….Coe examines myths with mirth, and writes history with humor… [You Never Forget Your First] is an accessible look at a president who always finishes in the first ranks of our leaders.” —Boston Globe Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first–and finds he is not quite the man we remember Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, caused an international incident, and never backed down–even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle. But after he married Martha, everything changed. Washington became the kind of man who named his dog Sweetlips and hated to leave home. He took up arms against the British only when there was no other way, though he lost more battles than he won. After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War cast him as the nation’s hero, he was desperate to retire, but the founders pressured him into the presidency–twice. When he retired years later, no one talked him out of it. He left the highest office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created. Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty must confront his greatest hypocrisy–what to do with the men, women, and children he owns–before he succumbs to death. With irresistible style and warm humor, You Never Forget Your First combines rigorous research and lively storytelling that will have readers–including those who thought presidential biographies were just for dads–inhaling every page.

11. The World Aflame

by: Dan JonesMarina Amaral
Release date: Aug 04, 2020
Number of Pages: 448
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Dan Jones and Marina Amaral tell the epic, harrowing, and world-changing story—in narrative form with colorized images—of global conflict from the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the obliteration of Hiroshima by the first atom bomb.The World Aflame embraces not only the total conflagrations of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 and the tensions, ideologies and economic forces that set them in motion, but also the revolutions in Russia; civil wars in Ireland and Spain; American interventions in Latin America, colonial wars in Moroco, Ethiopia, and Palestine; and events on the domestic ‘fronts’ of the belligerent nations.A fusion of amazing pictures and well-chosen and informative words, The World Aflame offers a moving—and often terrifying—perspective on the bloodiest century in human history.

12. The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science

by: Seb Falk
Release date: Nov 17, 2020
Number of Pages: 320
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An illuminating guide to the scientific and technological achievements of the Middle Ages through the life of a crusading astronomer-monk. Soaring Gothic cathedrals, violent crusades, the Black Death: these are the dramatic forces that shaped the medieval era. But the so-called Dark Ages also gave us the first universities, eyeglasses, and mechanical clocks. As medieval thinkers sought to understand the world around them, from the passing of the seasons to the stars in the sky, they came to develop a vibrant scientific culture. In The Light Ages, Cambridge science historian Seb Falk takes us on a tour of medieval science through the eyes of one fourteenth-century monk, John of Westwyk. Born in a rural manor, educated in England’s grandest monastery, and then exiled to a clifftop priory, Westwyk was an intrepid crusader, inventor, and astrologer. From multiplying Roman numerals to navigating by the stars, curing disease, and telling time with an ancient astrolabe, we learn emerging science alongside Westwyk and travel with him through the length and breadth of England and beyond its shores. On our way, we encounter a remarkable cast of characters: the clock-building English abbot with leprosy, the French craftsman-turned-spy, and the Persian polymath who founded the world’s most advanced observatory. The Light Ages offers a gripping story of the struggles and successes of an ordinary man in a precarious world and conjures a vivid picture of medieval life as we have never seen it before. An enlightening history that argues that these times weren’t so dark after all, The Light Ages shows how medieval ideas continue to color how we see the world today.

13. The Last Assassin

by: Peter Stothard
Release date: Oct 27, 2020
Number of Pages: 288
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Many men killed Julius Caesar. Only one man was determined to kill the killers. From the spring of 44 BC through one of the most dramatic and influential periods in history, Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus, exacted vengeance on the assassins of the Ides of March, not only on Brutus and Cassius, immortalized by Shakespeare, but all the others too, each with his own individual story. The last assassin left alive was one of the lesser-known: Cassius Parmensis was a poet and sailor who chose every side in the dying Republic’s civil wars except the winning one, a playwright whose work was said to have been stolen and published by the man sent to kill him. Parmensis was in the back row of the plotters, many of them Caesar’s friends, who killed for reasons of the highest political principles and lowest personal piques. For fourteen years he was the most successful at evading his hunters but has been barely a historical foot note–until now. The Last Assassin dazzlingly charts an epic turn of history through the eyes of an unheralded man. It is a history of a hunt that an emperor wanted to hide, of torture and terror, politics and poetry, of ideas and their consequences, a gripping story of fear, revenge, and survival.

14. Dead Famous

by: Greg Jenner
Release date: Mar 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 400
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During these extraordinary times Greg Jenner is able to sign you a personalised bookplate for your hardback. Please email info@gregjenner.com with the name you would like the book dedicated to and the postal address. ‘Fizzes with clever vignettes and juicy tidbits… [a] joyous romp of a book.’ Guardian ‘A magical mystery tour through the history of celebrity – eye opening, provocative, triumphant.’ Kate Williams, bestselling author and historian ‘A fascinating, rollicking book in search of why, where and how fame strikes. Sit back and enjoy the ride.’ Peter Frankopan Celebrity, with its neon glow and selfie pout, strikes us as hypermodern. But the famous and infamous have been thrilling, titillating, and outraging us for much longer than we might realise. Whether it was the scandalous Lord Byron, whose poetry sent female fans into an erotic frenzy; or the cheetah-owning, coffin-sleeping, one-legged French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who launched a violent feud with her former best friend; or Edmund Kean, the dazzling Shakespearean actor whose monstrous ego and terrible alcoholism saw him nearly murdered by his own audience – the list of stars whose careers burned bright before the Age of Television is extensive and thrillingly varied. Celebrities could be heroes or villains; warriors or murderers; brilliant talents, or fraudsters with a flair for fibbing; trendsetters, wilful provocateurs, or tragic victims marketed as freaks of nature. Some craved fame while others had it forced upon them. A few found fame as small children, some had to wait decades to get their break. But uniting them all is the shared origin point: since the early 1700s, celebrity has been one of the most emphatic driving forces in popular culture; it is a lurid cousin to Ancient Greek ideas of glorious and notorious reputation, and its emergence helped to shape public attitudes to ethics, national identity, religious faith, wealth, sexuality, and gender roles. In this ambitious history, that spans the Bronze Age to the coming of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Greg Jenner assembles a vibrant cast of over 125 actors, singers, dancers, sportspeople, freaks, demigods, ruffians, and more, in search of celebrity’s historical roots. He reveals why celebrity burst into life in the early eighteenth century, how it differs to ancient ideas of fame, the techniques through which it was acquired, how it was maintained, the effect it had on public tastes, and the psychological burden stardom could place on those in the glaring limelight. DEAD FAMOUS is a surprising, funny, and fascinating exploration of both a bygone age and how we came to inhabit our modern, fame obsessed society.

15. A World Beneath the Sands

by: Toby Wilkinson
Release date: Dec 09, 2020
Number of Pages: 512
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What could be more exciting, more exotic or more intrepid than digging in the sands of Egypt in the hope of discovering golden treasures from the age of the pharaohs? Our fascination with ancient Egypt goes back to the ancient Greeks. But the heyday of Egyptology was undoubtedly the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This golden age of scholarship and adventure is neatly book-ended by two epoch-making events: Champollion’s decipherment of hieroglyphics in 1822 and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon a hundred years later. In A World Beneath the Sands, the acclaimed Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson tells the riveting stories of the men and women whose obsession with Egypt’s ancient civilisation drove them to uncover its secrets. Champollion, Carter and Carnarvon are here, but so too are their lesser-known contemporaries, such as the Prussian scholar Karl Richard Lepsius, the Frenchman Auguste Mariette and the British aristocrat Lucie Duff-Gordon. Their work – and those of others like them – helped to enrich and transform our understanding of the Nile Valley and its people, and left a lasting impression on Egypt, too. Travellers and treasure-hunters, ethnographers and epigraphers, antiquarians and archaeologists: whatever their motives, whatever their methods, all understood that in pursuing Egyptology they were part of a greater endeavour – to reveal a lost world, buried for centuries beneath the sands.

16. Black Spartacus

by: Sudhir Hazareesingh
Release date: Sep 01, 2020
Number of Pages: 464
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Winner of the 2021 Wolfson History Prize “Black Spartacus is a tour de force: by far the most complete, authoritative and persuasive biography of Toussaint that we are likely to have for a long time . . . An extraordinarily gripping read.” —David A. Bell, The Guardian A new interpretation of the life of the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture Among the defining figures of the Age of Revolution, Toussaint Louverture is the most enigmatic. Though the Haitian revolutionary’s image has multiplied across the globe—appearing on banknotes and in bronze, on T-shirts and in film—the only definitive portrait executed in his lifetime has been lost. Well versed in the work of everyone from Machiavelli to Rousseau, he was nonetheless dismissed by Thomas Jefferson as a “cannibal.” A Caribbean acolyte of the European Enlightenment, Toussaint nurtured a class of black Catholic clergymen who became one of the pillars of his rule, while his supporters also believed he communicated with vodou spirits. And for a leader who once summed up his modus operandi with the phrase “Say little but do as much as possible,” he was a prolific and indefatigable correspondent, famous for exhausting the five secretaries he maintained, simultaneously, at the height of his power in the 1790s. Employing groundbreaking archival research and a keen interpretive lens, Sudhir Hazareesingh restores Toussaint to his full complexity in Black Spartacus. At a time when his subject has, variously, been reduced to little more than a one-dimensional icon of liberation or criticized for his personal failings—his white mistresses, his early ownership of slaves, his authoritarianism —Hazareesingh proposes a new conception of Toussaint’s understanding of himself and his role in the Atlantic world of the late eighteenth century. Black Spartacus is a work of both biography and intellectual history, rich with insights into Toussaint’s fundamental hybridity—his ability to unite European, African, and Caribbean traditions in the service of his revolutionary aims. Hazareesingh offers a new and resonant interpretation of Toussaint’s racial politics, showing how he used Enlightenment ideas to argue for the equal dignity of all human beings while simultaneously insisting on his own world-historical importance and the universal pertinence of blackness—a message which chimed particularly powerfully among African Americans. Ultimately, Black Spartacus offers a vigorous argument in favor of “getting back to Toussaint”—a call to take Haiti’s founding father seriously on his own terms, and to honor his role in shaping the postcolonial world to come. Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize | Finalist for the PEN / Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography Named a best book of the year by the The Economist | Times Literary Supplement | New Statesman

17. The Jews and the Reformation

by: Kenneth Austin
Release date: Jul 14, 2020
Number of Pages: 288
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The first comprehensive account of Protestant and Catholic attitudes toward Jews and Judaism in the European Reformation ​In this rich, wide-ranging, and meticulously researched account, Kenneth Austin examines the attitudes of various Christian groups in the Protestant and Catholic Reformations towards Jews, the Hebrew language, and Jewish learning. Martin Luther’s writings are notorious, but Reformation attitudes were much more varied and nuanced than these might lead us to believe. This book has much to tell us about the Reformation and its priorities—and has important implications for how we think about religious pluralism more broadly.

18. The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream

by: Charles Spencer
Release date: Sep 17, 2020
Number of Pages: 352
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‘As gripping as any thriller. History doesn’t get any better than this’ BILL BRYSON ’A brilliant read … Game of Thrones but in the real world’ ANTHONY HOROWITZ

19. Hamnet

by: Maggie O’Farrell
Release date: Jul 21, 2020
Number of Pages: 320
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WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER OF THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “[An] exceptional winner…. It expresses something profound about the human experience that seems both extraordinarily current and at the same time, enduring.” –Martha Lane Fox, Chair of The Women’s Prize for Fiction judges TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A PLAGUE THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART. England, 1580. A young Latin tutor–penniless, bullied by a violent father–falls in love with an eccentric young woman: a wild creature who walks her family’s estate with a falcon on her shoulder and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. Agnes understands plants and potions better than she does people, but once she settles on the Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband. His gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when their beloved twins, Hamnet and Judith, are afflicted with the bubonic plague, and, devastatingly, one of them succumbs to the illness. A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a hypnotic recreation of the story that inspired one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time, Hamnet & Judith is mesmerizing and seductive, an impossible-to-put-down novel from one of our most gifted writers. Published as Hamnet in the US and the UK.

20. The Last Million

by: David Nasaw
Release date: Sep 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 672
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From bestselling author David Nasaw, a sweeping new history of the one million refugees left behind in Germany after WWII In May 1945, German forces surrendered to the Allied powers, putting an end to World War II in Europe. But the aftershocks of global military conflict did not cease with the German capitulation. Millions of lost and homeless concentration camp survivors, POWs, slave laborers, political prisoners, and Nazi collaborators in flight from the Red Army overwhelmed Germany, a nation in ruins. British and American soldiers gathered the malnourished and desperate refugees and attempted to repatriate them. But after exhaustive efforts, there remained more than a million displaced persons left behind in Germany: Jews, Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans who refused to go home or had no homes to return to. The Last Million would spend the next three to five years in displaced persons camps, temporary homelands in exile divided by nationality, with their own police forces, churches and synagogues, schools, newspapers, theaters, and infirmaries. The international community could not agree on the fate of the Last Million, and after a year of debate and inaction, the International Refugee Organization was created to resettle them in lands suffering from postwar labor shortages. But no nations were willing to accept the 200,000 to 250,000 Jewish men, women, and children who remained trapped in Germany. In 1948, the United States, among the last countries to accept refugees for resettlement, finally passed a displaced persons bill. With Cold War fears supplanting memories of World War II atrocities, the bill granted the vast majority of visas to those who were reliably anti-Communist, including thousands of former Nazi collaborators and war criminals, while severely limiting the entry of Jews, who were suspected of being Communist sympathizers or agents because they had been recent residents of Soviet-dominated Poland. Only after the controversial partition of Palestine and Israel’s declaration of independence were the remaining Jewish survivors able to leave their displaced persons camps in Germany. A masterwork from acclaimed historian David Nasaw, The Last Million tells the gripping yet until now largely hidden story of postwar displacement and statelessness. By 1952, the Last Million were scattered around the world. As they crossed from their broken past into an unknowable future, they carried with them their wounds, their fears, their hope, and their secrets. Here for the first time, Nasaw illuminates their incredible history and, with profound contemporary resonance, shows us that it is our history as well.

21. Royals and Rebels

by: PRIYA. ATWAL
Release date: Jun 25, 2020
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In late-eighteenth-century India, the glory of the once formidable Mughal emperors was fading. Building on the ruins of their kingdom, a whole host of ambitious newcomers seized power, changing the political map of the subcontinent forever. Among them were the Sikhs of the Punjab, most importantly the dynasty of the legendary Maharajah Ranjit Singh–his Sikh Empire stretched throughout north-western India into Afghanistan and Tibet. ‘Royals and Rebels’ is a fascinating, fresh look into the world of this long-lost kingdom. Priya Atwal looks beyond the dynasty’s founding father and, for the first time, restores the perspectives and contributions of the dynasty’s women and children to the history of this empire’s spectacular rise and fall. She brings to life a self-made royal family seeking to secure and legitimise their new power, inventively fusing Sikh, Mughal and European ideas, and reveals an entirely new story about the gendered family politics that led to their eventual decline, with the Punjab controversially annexed by that other great emerging player in India: the British East India Company. This is a highly original tale of family, royalty and the fluidity of power, set in a dramatic global era when new stars rose and upstart empires clashed.

22. The Mirror and the Light

by: Hilary Mantel
Release date: Mar 01, 2020
Number of Pages: 883
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Shortlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 The long-awaited sequel to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the stunning conclusion to Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall trilogy. ‘A masterpiece’ Guardian ‘It is a book not read, but lived’ Telegraph ‘Her Cromwell novels are, for my money, the greatest English novels of this century’ Observer ‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’ England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him? With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

23. The Great Secret: The Classified World War II Disaster that Launched the War on Cancer

by: Jennet Conant
Release date: Sep 08, 2020
Number of Pages: 400
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The gripping story of a chemical weapons catastrophe, the cover-up, and how one American Army doctor’s discovery led to the development of the first drug to combat cancer, known today as chemotherapy. On the night of December 2, 1943, the Luftwaffe bombed a critical Allied port in Bari, Italy, sinking seventeen ships and killing over a thousand servicemen and hundreds of civilians. Caught in the surprise air raid was the John Harvey, an American Liberty ship carrying a top-secret cargo of 2,000 mustard bombs to be used in retaliation if the Germans resorted to gas warfare. When one young sailor after another began suddenly dying of mysterious symptoms, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Alexander, a doctor and chemical weapons expert, was dispatched to investigate. He quickly diagnosed mustard gas exposure, but was overruled by British officials determined to cover up the presence of poison gas in the devastating naval disaster, which the press dubbed “little Pearl Harbor.” Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight D. Eisenhower acted in concert to suppress the truth, insisting the censorship was necessitated by military security. Alexander defied British port officials and heroically persevered in his investigation. His final report on the Bari casualties was immediately classified, but not before his breakthrough observations about the toxic effects of mustard on white blood cells caught the attention of Colonel Cornelius P. Rhoads—a pioneering physician and research scientist as brilliant as he was arrogant and self-destructive—who recognized that the poison was both a killer and a cure, and ushered in a new era of cancer research led by the Sloan Kettering Institute. Meanwhile, the Bari incident remained cloaked in military secrecy, resulting in lost records, misinformation, and considerable confusion about how a deadly chemical weapon came to be tamed for medical use. Deeply researched and beautifully written, The Great Secret is the remarkable story of how horrific tragedy gave birth to medical triumph.

24. One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965

by: Jia Lynn Yang
Release date: May 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 336
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Winner of the Zócalo Book Prize Shortlisted for the Arthur Ross Book Award Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice A “powerful and cogent” (Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post) account of the twentieth-century battle for immigration reform that set the stage for today’s roiling debates. The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is at the core of the American narrative. But in 1924, Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing arrivals from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning those from nearly all of Asia. In a riveting narrative filled with a fascinating cast of characters, from the indefatigable congressman Emanuel Celler and senator Herbert Lehman to the bull-headed Nevada senator Pat McCarran, Jia Lynn Yang recounts how lawmakers, activists, and presidents from Truman through LBJ worked relentlessly to abolish the 1924 law. Through a world war, a refugee crisis after the Holocaust, and a McCarthyist fever, a coalition of lawmakers and activists descended from Jewish, Irish, and Japanese immigrants fought to establish a new principle of equality in the American immigration system. Their crowning achievement, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, proved to be one of the most transformative laws in the country’s history, opening the door to nonwhite migration at levels never seen before—and changing America in ways that those who debated it could hardly have imagined. Framed movingly by her own family’s story of immigration to America, Yang’s One Mighty and Irresistible Tide is a deeply researched and illuminating work of history, one that shows how Americans have strived and struggled to live up to the ideal of a home for the “huddled masses,” as promised in Emma Lazarus’s famous poem.

25. Mistresses

by: LINDA. PORTER
Release date: Apr 16, 2020
Number of Pages: 448
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According to the great diarist, John Evelyn, Charles II was ‘addicted to women’, and throughout his long reign a great many succumbed to his charms. Clever, urbane and handsome, Charles presided over a hedonistic court, in which licence and licentiousness prevailed. Mistresses is the story of the women who shared Charles’s bed, each of whom wielded influence on both the politics and cultural life of the country. From the young king-in-exile’s first mistress and mother to his first child, Lucy Walter, to the promiscuous and ill-tempered courtier, Barbara Villiers. From Frances Teresa Stuart, ‘the prettiest girl in the world’ to history’s most famous orange-seller, ‘pretty, witty’ Nell Gwynn and to her fellow-actress, Moll Davis, who bore the last of the king’s fifteen illegitimate children. From Louise de Kéroualle, the French aristocrat – and spy for Louis XIV – to the sexually ambiguous Hortense Mancini. Here, too, is the forlorn and humiliated Queen Catherine, the Portuguese princess who was Charles’s childless queen. Drawing on a wide variety of original sources, including material in private archives, Linda Porter paints a vivid picture of these women and of Restoration England, an era that was both glamorous and sordid.

26. The Zealot and the Emancipator

by: H. W. Brands
Release date: Oct 06, 2020
Number of Pages: 464
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From the acclaimed historian and bestselling author: a page-turning account of the epic struggle over slavery as embodied by John Brown and Abraham Lincoln—two men moved to radically different acts to confront our nation’s gravest sin. John Brown was a charismatic and deeply religious man who heard the God of the Old Testament speaking to him, telling him to destroy slavery by any means. When Congress opened Kansas territory to slavery in 1854, Brown raised a band of followers to wage war. His men tore pro-slavery settlers from their homes and hacked them to death with broadswords. Three years later, Brown and his men assaulted the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, hoping to arm slaves with weapons for a race war that would cleanse the nation of slavery. Brown’s violence pointed ambitious Illinois lawyer and former officeholder Abraham Lincoln toward a different solution to slavery: politics. Lincoln spoke cautiously and dreamed big, plotting his path back to Washington and perhaps to the White House. Yet his caution could not protect him from the vortex of violence Brown had set in motion. After Brown’s arrest, his righteous dignity on the way to the gallows led many in the North to see him as a martyr to liberty. Southerners responded with anger and horror to a terrorist being made into a saint. Lincoln shrewdly threaded the needle between the opposing voices of the fractured nation and won election as president. But the time for moderation had passed, and Lincoln’s fervent belief that democracy could resolve its moral crises peacefully faced its ultimate test. The Zealot and the Emancipator is the thrilling account of how two American giants shaped the war for freedom.

27. Ravenna

by: Judith Herrin
Release date: Oct 27, 2020
Number of Pages: 576
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A riveting history of the city that led the West out of the ruins of the Roman Empire At the end of the fourth century, as the power of Rome faded and Constantinople became the seat of empire, a new capital city was rising in the West. Here, in Ravenna on the coast of Italy, Arian Goths and Catholic Romans competed to produce an unrivaled concentration of buildings and astonishing mosaics. For three centuries, the city attracted scholars, lawyers, craftsmen, and religious luminaries, becoming a true cultural and political capital. Bringing this extraordinary history marvelously to life, Judith Herrin rewrites the history of East and West in the Mediterranean world before the rise of Islam and shows how, thanks to Byzantine influence, Ravenna played a crucial role in the development of medieval Christendom. Drawing on deep, original research, Herrin tells the personal stories of Ravenna while setting them in a sweeping synthesis of Mediterranean and Christian history. She narrates the lives of the Empress Galla Placidia and the Gothic king Theoderic and describes the achievements of an amazing cosmographer and a doctor who revived Greek medical knowledge in Italy, demolishing the idea that the West just descended into the medieval “Dark Ages.” Beautifully illustrated and drawing on the latest archaeological findings, this monumental book provides a bold new interpretation of Ravenna’s lasting influence on the culture of Europe and the West.

28. Underground Asia

by: Tim Harper
Release date: Oct 29, 2020
Number of Pages: 864
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The story of the hidden struggle waged by secret networks around the world to destroy European imperialism The end of Europe’s empires has so often been seen as a story of high politics and warfare. In Tim Harper’s remarkable new book the narrative is very different: it shows how empires were fundamentally undermined from below. Using the new technology of cheap printing presses, global travel and the widespread use of French and English, young radicals from across Asia were able to communicate in ways simply not available before. These clandestine networks stretched to the heart of the imperial metropolises: to London, to Paris, to the Americas, but also increasingly to Moscow. They created a secret global network which was for decades engaged in bitter fighting with imperial police forces. They gathered in the great hubs of Asia – Calcutta, Singapore, Batavia, Hanoi, Tokyo, Shanghai, Canton and Hong Kong – and plotted with ceaseless ingenuity, both through persuasion and terrorism, the end of the colonial regimes. Many were caught and killed or imprisoned, but others would go on to rule their newly independent countries. Drawing on an amazing array of new sources, Underground Asia turns upside-down our understanding of twentieth-century empire. The reader enters an extraordinary world of stowaways, false identities, secret codes, cheap firearms, assassinations and conspiracies, as young Asians made their own plans for their future.

29. Elizabethans

by: Andrew Marr
Release date: Oct 01, 2020
Number of Pages: 432
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In a brilliantly entertaining, living history of the modern United Kingdom, Andrew Marr traces how radically we have transformed through the course of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. When the Queen stepped up her crown in 1953 at the age of twenty-five, Britain was a very different nation. In this vital history, bestselling author Andrew Marr tells the story of modern Britain through the people who shaped it: from Sylvia Plath to Elvis Costello, Frank Critchlow to Bob Geldof, Zaha Hadid to James Dyson, David Attenborough to the Beatles. How did our activists, our innovators, our artists, our every-kind-of-mover-and-shaker define and progress this new Elizabethan era over the last seven decades? How did the seventies shape the eighties, shape the nineties to incrementally land us where we are today? And where exactly is that?

30. Machiavelli

by: ALEXANDER. LEE
Release date: Mar 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 768
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‘A notorious fiend’, ‘generally odious’, ‘he seems hideous, and so he is.’ Thanks to the invidious reputation of his most famous work, The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli exerts a unique hold over the popular imagination. But was Machiavelli as sinister as he is often thought to be? Might he not have been an infinitely more sympathetic figure, prone to political missteps, professional failures and personal dramas? Alexander Lee reveals the man behind the myth, following him from cradle to grave, from his father’s penury and the abuse he suffered at a teacher’s hands, to his marriage and his many affairs (with both men and women), to his political triumphs and, ultimately, his fall from grace and exile. In doing so, Lee uncovers hitherto unobserved connections between Machiavelli’s life and thought. He also reveals the world through which Machiavelli moved: from the great halls of Renaissance Florence to the court of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, from the dungeons of the Stinche prison to the Rucellai gardens, where he would begin work on some of his last great works. As much a portrait of an age as of a uniquely engaging man, Lee’s gripping and definitive biography takes the reader into Machiavelli’s world – and his work – more completely than ever before.

31. Inge’s War

by: Svenja O’Donnell
Release date: Apr 28, 2020
Number of Pages: 320
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“An extraordinary saga.” —David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon The mesmerizing account of a granddaughter’s search for a World War II family history hidden for sixty years Growing up in Paris as the daughter of a German mother and an Irish father, Svenja O’Donnell knew little of her family’s German past. All she knew was that her great-grandparents, grandmother, and mother had fled their home city of Königsberg near the end of World War II, never to return. But everything changed when O’Donnell traveled to the city—now known as Kaliningrad, and a part of Russia—and called her grandmother, who uncharacteristically burst into tears. “I have so much to tell you,” Inge said. In this transporting and illuminating book, the award-winning journalist vividly reconstructs the story of Inge’s life from the rise of the Nazis through the brutal postwar years, from falling in love with a man who was sent to the Eastern Front just after she became pregnant with his child, to spearheading her family’s flight as the Red Army closed in, her young daughter in tow. Ultimately, O’Donnell uncovers the act of violence that separated Inge from the man she loved; a terrible secret hidden for more than six decades. A captivating World War II saga, Inge’s War is also a powerful reckoning with the meaning of German identity and inherited trauma. In retracing her grandmother’s footsteps, O’Donnell not only discovers the remarkable story of a woman caught in the gears of history, but also comes face-to-face with her family’s legacy of neutrality and inaction—and offers a rare glimpse into a reality too long buried by silence and shame.

32. 100 Great Black Britons

by: Patrick VernonAngelina Osborne
Release date: Sep 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 464
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With a foreword by David Olusoga Patrick Vernon’s landmark 100 Great Black Britons campaign of 2003 was one of the most successful movements to focus on the role of people of African and Caribbean descent in British history. Frustrated by the widespread and continuing exclusion of the black British community from the mainstream popular conception of ‘Britishness’, despite black people having lived in Britain for over a thousand years, Vernon set up a public poll in which anyone could vote for the black Briton they most admired. The response to this campaign was incredible. As a result, a number of black historical figures were included on the national school curriculum and had statues and memorials erected and blue plaques put up in their honour. Mary Seacole was adopted by the Royal College of Nursing and was given the same status as Florence Nightingale. Children and young people were finally being encouraged to feel pride in their history and a sense of belonging in Britain. Now, with this book, Vernon and Osborne have relaunched the campaign with an updated list of names and accompanying portraits – including new role models and previously little-known historical figures. Each entry explores in depth the individual’s contribution to British history – a contribution that too often has been either overlooked or dismissed. In the wake of the 2018 Windrush scandal, and against the backdrop of Brexit, the rise of right-wing populism and the continuing inequality faced by black communities across the UK, the need for this campaign is greater than ever.

33. The Other Madisons

by: Bettye Kearse
Release date: Mar 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 288
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“A Roots for a new generation, rich in storytelling and steeped in history.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review “A compelling saga that gives a voice to those that history tried to erase . . . Poignant and eye-opening, this is a must-read.” —Booklist In The Other Madisons, Bettye Kearse—a descendant of an enslaved cook and, according to oral tradition, President James Madison—shares her family story and explores the issues of legacy, race, and the powerful consequences of telling the whole truth. For thousands of years, West African griots (men) and griottes (women) have recited the stories of their people. Without this tradition Bettye Kearse would not have known that she is a descendant of President James Madison and his slave, and half-sister, Coreen. In 1990, Bettye became the eighth-generation griotte for her family. Their credo—“Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president”—was intended to be a source of pride, but for her, it echoed with abuses of slavery, including rape and incest. Confronting those abuses, Bettye embarked on a journey of discovery—of her ancestors, the nation, and herself. She learned that wherever African slaves walked, recorded history silenced their voices and buried their footsteps: beside a slave-holding fortress in Ghana; below a federal building in New York City; and under a brick walkway at James Madison’s Virginia plantation. When Bettye tried to confirm the information her ancestors had passed down, she encountered obstacles at every turn. Part personal quest, part testimony, part historical correction, The Other Madisons is the saga of an extraordinary American family told by a griotte in search of the whole story.

34. Thebes

by: Paul Cartledge
Release date: Sep 22, 2020
Number of Pages: 336
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The riveting, deï¬?nitive account of the ancient Greek city of Thebes, by the acclaimed author of The Spartans Among the extensive writing available about the history of ancient Greece, there is precious little about the city-state of Thebes. At one point the most powerful city in ancient Greece, Thebes has been long overshadowed by its better-known rivals, Athens and Sparta. In Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece, acclaimed classicist and historian Paul Cartledge brings the city vividly to life and argues that it is central to our understanding of the ancient Greeks’ achievements—whether politically or culturally—and thus to the wider politico-cultural traditions of western Europe, the Americas, and indeed the world. From its role as an ancient political power, to its destruction at the hands of Alexander the Great as punishment for a failed revolt, to its eventual restoration by Alexander’s successor, Cartledge deftly chronicles the rise and fall of the ancient city. He recounts the history with deep clarity and mastery for the subject and makes clear both the differences and the interconnections between the Thebes of myth and the Thebes of history. Written in clear prose and illustrated with images in two color inserts, Thebes is a gripping read for students of ancient history and those looking to experience the real city behind the myths of Cadmus, Hercules, and Oedipus.

35. Crucible of Hell

by: Saul David
Release date: May 05, 2020
Number of Pages: 448
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From the award-winning historian, Saul David, the riveting narrative of the heroic US troops, bonded by the brotherhood and sacrifice of war, who overcame enormous casualties to pull off the toughest invasion of WWII’s Pacific Theater — and the Japanese forces who fought with tragic desperation to stop them. With Allied forces sweeping across Europe and into Germany in the spring of 1945, one enormous challenge threatened to derail America’s audacious drive to win the world back from the Nazis: Japan, the empire that had extended its reach southward across the Pacific and was renowned for the fanaticism and brutality of its fighters, who refused to surrender, even when faced with insurmountable odds. Taking down Japan would require an unrelenting attack to break its national spirit, and launching such an attack on the island empire meant building an operations base just off its shores on the island of Okinawa. The amphibious operation to capture Okinawa was the largest of the Pacific War and the greatest air-land-sea battle in history, mobilizing 183,000 troops from Seattle, Leyte in the Philippines, and ports around the world. The campaign lasted for 83 blood-soaked days, as the fighting plumbed depths of savagery. One veteran, struggling to make sense of what he had witnessed, referred to the fighting as the “crucible of Hell.” Okinawan civilians died in the tens of thousands: some were mistaken for soldiers by American troops; but as the US Marines spearheading the invasion drove further onto the island and Japanese defeat seemed inevitable, many more civilians took their own lives, some even murdering their own families. In just under three months, the world had changed irrevocably: President Franklin D. Roosevelt died; the war in Europe ended; America’s appetite for an invasion of Japan had waned, spurring President Truman to use other means — ultimately atomic bombs — to end the war; and more than 250,000 servicemen and civilians on or near the island of Okinawa had lost their lives. Drawing on archival research in the US, Japan, and the UK, and the original accounts of those who survived, Crucible of Hell tells the vivid, heart-rending story of the battle that changed not just the course of WWII, but the course of war, forever.

36. A Curious History of Sex

by: Kate Lister
Release date: Feb 06, 2020
Number of Pages: 384
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This is not a comprehensive study of every sexual quirk, kink and ritual across all cultures throughout time, as that would entail writing an encyclopaedia. Rather, this is a drop in the ocean, a paddle in the shallow end of sex history, but I hope you will get pleasantly wet nonetheless. The act of sex has not changed since people first worked out what went where, but the ways in which society dictates how sex is culturally understood and performed have varied significantly through the ages. Humans are the only creatures that stigmatise particular sexual practices, and sex remains a deeply divisive issue around the world. Attitudes will change and grow – hopefully for the better – but sex will never be free of stigma or shame unless we acknowledge where it has come from. Based on the popular research project Whores of Yore, and written with her distinctive humour and wit, A Curious History of Sex draws upon Dr Kate Lister’s extensive knowledge of sex history. From medieval impotence tests to twentieth-century testicle thefts, from the erotic frescoes of Pompeii, to modern-day sex doll brothels, Kate unashamedly roots around in the pants of history, debunking myths, challenging stereotypes and generally getting her hands dirty. This fascinating book is peppered with surprising and informative historical slang, and illustrated with eye-opening, toe-curling and meticulously sourced images from the past. You will laugh, you will wince and you will wonder just how much has actually changed.

37. Feminisms

by: Lucy Delap
Release date: Aug 27, 2020
Number of Pages: 416
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How has feminism developed? What have feminists achieved? What can we learn from the global history of feminism? Feminism is the ongoing story of a profound historical transformation. Despite being repeatedly written off as a political movement that has achieved its aim of female liberation, it has been continually redefined as new generations of women campaign against the gender inequity of their age. In this absorbing book, historian Lucy Delap challenges the simplistic narrative of ‘feminist waves’ – a sequence of ever more progressive updates – showing instead that feminists have been motivated by the specific concerns of their historical moment. Drawing on an extraordinary range of examples from Japan to Russia, Egypt to Germany, Delap explores different feminist projects to show that those who are part of this movement have not always agreed on a single programme. This diverse history of feminism, she argues, can help us better navigate current debates and controversies. A tour de force from an award-winning expert, Feminisms shows that a rich relationship to the past can infuse today’s activism with a sense possibility and inspiration.

38. Agent Sonya

by: Ben Macintyre
Release date: Sep 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 368
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The international bestselling author of A Spy and the Traitor and A Spy Among Friends reveals one of the last great untold spy stories of the twentieth century–the woman hidden in plain sight who set the stage for the Cold War. If you happened to be in the quiet English village of Great Rollright in 1942, you might have seen a thin, elegant woman emerging from a cottage and climbing onto her bicycle. Ursula Burton had three children and a husband named Len, who worked as a machinist nearby. She was friendly but reserved, and spoke English with a very slight foreign accent. Her neighbours in the Cotswolds knew little about her. They did not know that Burton was a dedicated communist, a Soviet Colonel, and a veteran spy who had already conducted espionage operations in China, Poland, and Switzerland. They did not know that Len was also a Soviet spy, or that Burton kept a powerful radio transmitter connected to Moscow in their outhouse. They did not know that in her last espionage mission, Burton had infiltrated communist spies into a top-secret American intelligence operation parachting anti-Nazi agents into the Third Reich. But perhaps the most remarkable thing they did not know was that when Burton hopped onto her bike and pedaled away, she was heading to a countryside rendezvous with Klaus Fuchs, the nuclear physicist working on Britain’s top secret atomic weapons program. Klaus was Burton’s best agent, and together they were gathering the scientific secrets that would enable the Soviet Union to build the bomb. Ben Macintyre’s latest true-life spy story is a masterpiece about the woman code-named “Sonya,” one of the most important female spies in history. Hunted by the Chinese, the Japanese, the Nazis, MI5, MI6, and the FBI, she evaded all of them, and survived as well the brutal Soviet purges that left many of her friends and colleagues dead. Her story reflects the great ideological clash of the twentieth century, between communism, fascism, and Western democracy, and casts new light on the spy battles and shifting allegiances of our own times. With access to Sonya’s papers and her intelligence files from multiple countries, Macintyre has conjured a thrilling secret history of a landmark agent, a true original who altered the course of the Cold War and helped plunge the world into a nuclear standoff that would last for decades.

39. Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory

by: Claudio Saunt
Release date: Mar 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 416
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A masterful and unsettling history of “Indian Removal,” the forced migration of Native Americans across the Mississippi River in the 1830s and the state-sponsored theft of their lands. In May 1830, the United States formally launched a policy to expel Native Americans from the East to territories west of the Mississippi River. Justified as a humanitarian enterprise, the undertaking was to be systematic and rational, overseen by Washington’s small but growing bureaucracy. But as the policy unfolded over the next decade, thousands of Native Americans died under the federal government’s auspices, and thousands of others lost their possessions and homelands in an orgy of fraud, intimidation, and violence. Unworthy Republic reveals how expulsion became national policy and describes the chaotic and deadly results of the operation to deport 80,000 men, women, and children. Drawing on firsthand accounts and the voluminous records produced by the federal government, Saunt’s deeply researched book argues that Indian Removal, as advocates of the policy called it, was not an inevitable chapter in U.S. expansion across the continent. Rather, it was a fiercely contested political act designed to secure new lands for the expansion of slavery and to consolidate the power of the southern states. Indigenous peoples fought relentlessly against the policy, while many U.S. citizens insisted that it was a betrayal of the nation’s values. When Congress passed the act by a razor-thin margin, it authorized one of the first state-sponsored mass deportations in the modern era, marking a turning point for native peoples and for the United States. In telling this gripping story, Saunt shows how the politics and economics of white supremacy lay at the heart of the expulsion of Native Americans; how corruption, greed, and administrative indifference and incompetence contributed to the debacle of its implementation; and how the consequences still resonate today.

40. The Ratline

by: Philippe Sands
Release date: Apr 16, 2020
Number of Pages: 432
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*THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER* FROM THE AUTHOR OF EAST WEST STREET As Governor of Galicia, SS Brigadeführer Otto Freiherr von Wächter presided over an authority on whose territory hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles were killed, including the family of the author’s grandfather. By the time the war ended in May 1945, he was indicted for ‘mass murder’. Hunted by the Soviets, the Americans, the Poles and the British, as well as groups of Jews, Wächter went on the run. He spent three years hiding in the Austrian Alps, assisted by his wife Charlotte, before making his way to Rome where he was helped by a Vatican bishop. He remained there for three months. While preparing to travel to Argentina on the ‘ratline’ he died unexpectedly, in July 1949, a few days after spending a weekend with an ‘old comrade’. In The Ratline Philippe Sands offers a unique account of the daily life of a senior Nazi and fugitive, and of his wife. Drawing on a remarkable archive of family letters and diaries, he unveils a fascinating insight into life before and during the war, on the run, in Rome, and into the Cold War. Eventually the door is unlocked to a mystery that haunts Wächter’s youngest son, who continues to believe his father was a good man – what happened to Otto Wächter, and how did he die? *** ‘A gripping adventure, an astounding journey of discovery and a terrifying and timely portrait of evil in all its complexity, banality, self-justification and madness. A stunning achievement’ STEPHEN FRY ‘Hypnotic, shocking and unputdownable’ JOHN LE CARRÉ ‘Breathtaking, gripping, and ultimately, shattering. Philippe Sands has done the unimaginable: look a butcher in the eye and tell his story without flinching’ ELIF SHAFAK ‘A triumph of research and brilliant storytelling’ ANTONY BEEVOR

41. Prisoners of History

by: Keith Lowe
Release date: Dec 08, 2020
Number of Pages: 384
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A look at how our monuments to World War II shape the way we think about the war by an award-winning historian. Keith Lowe, an award-winning author of books on WWII, saw monuments around the world taken down in political protest and began to wonder what monuments built to commemorate WWII say about us today. Focusing on these monuments, Prisoners of History looks at World War II and the way it still tangibly exists within our midst. He looks at all aspects of the war from the victors to the fallen, from the heroes to the villains, from the apocalypse to the rebuilding after devastation. He focuses on twenty-five monuments including The Motherland Calls in Russia, the US Marine Corps Memorial in the USA, Italy’s Shrine to the Fallen, China’s Nanjin Massacre Memorial, The A Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, the balcony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and The Liberation Route that runs from London to Berlin. Unsurprisingly, he finds that different countries view the war differently. In monuments erected in the US, Lowe sees triumph and patriotic dedications to the heroes. In Europe, the monuments are melancholy, ambiguous and more often than not dedicated to the victims. In these differing international views of the war, Lowe sees the stone and metal expressions of sentiments that imprison us today with their unchangeable opinions. Published on the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, Prisoners of History is a 21st century view of a 20th century war that still haunts us today.

42. Sicily ’43

by: James Holland
Release date: Nov 03, 2020
Number of Pages: 598
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A major new history of one of World War II’s most crucial campaigns—the first Allied attack on European soil—by the acclaimed author of Normandy ’44 and a rising star in military history On July 10, 1943, the largest amphibious invasion ever mounted took place, larger even than the Normandy invasion eleven months later: 160,000 American, British, and Canadian troops came ashore or were parachuted onto Sicily, signaling the start of the campaign to defeat Nazi Germany on European soil. Operation HUSKY, as it was known, was enormously complex, involving dramatic battles on land, in the air, and at sea. Yet, despite its paramount importance to ultimate Allied victory, and its drama, very little has been written about the 38-day Battle for Sicily. Based on his own battlefield studies in Sicily and on much new research, James Holland’s Sicily ’43 offers a vital new perspective on a major turning point in World War II and a chronicle of a multi-pronged campaign in a uniquely diverse and contained geographical location. The characters involved—Generals George Patton and Bernard Montgomery among many—were as colorful as the air and naval battles and the fighting on the ground across the scorching plains and mountaintop of Sicily were brutal. But among Holland’s great skills is incorporating the experience of on-the-ground participants on all sides—from American privates Tom and Dee Bowles and Tuskegee fighter pilot Charlie Dryden to British major Hedley Verity and Canadian lieutenant Farley Mowat (later a celebrated author), to German and Italian participants such as Wilhelm Schmalz, brigade commander in the Hermann Göring Division, or Luftwaffe fighter pilot major Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff and to Italian combatants, civilians and mafiosi alike—which gives readers an intimate sense of what occurred in July and August 1943. Emphasizing the significance of Allied air superiority, Holland overturns conventional narratives that have criticized the Sicily campaign for the vacillations over the plan, the slowness of the Allied advance and that so many German and Italian soldiers escaped to the mainland; rather, he shows that clearing the island in 38 days against geographical challenges and fierce resistance was an impressive achievement. A powerful and dramatic account by a master military historian, Sicily ’43 fills a major gap in the narrative history of World War II.

43. When Time Stopped

by: Ariana Neumann
Release date: Nov 03, 2020
Number of Pages: 336
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In this astonishing story that “reads like a thriller and is so, so timely” (BuzzFeed) Ariana Neumann dives into the secrets of her father’s past: “Like Anne Frank’s diary, it offers a story that needs to be told and heard” (Booklist, starred review). In 1941, the first Neumann family member was taken by the Nazis, arrested in German-occupied Czechoslovakia for bathing in a stretch of river forbidden to Jews. He was transported to Auschwitz. Eighteen days later his prisoner number was entered into the morgue book. Of thirty-four Neumann family members, twenty-five were murdered by the Nazis. One of the survivors was Hans Neumann, who, to escape the German death net, traveled to Berlin and hid in plain sight under the Gestapo’s eyes. What Hans experienced was so unspeakable that, when he built an industrial empire in Venezuela, he couldn’t bring himself to talk about it. All his daughter Ariana knew was that something terrible had happened. When Hans died, he left Ariana a small box filled with letters, diary entries, and other memorabilia. Ten years later Ariana finally summoned the courage to have the letters translated, and she began reading. What she discovered launched her on a worldwide search that would deliver indelible portraits of a family loving, finding meaning, and trying to survive amid the worst that can be imagined. A “beautifully told story of personal discovery” (John le Carré), When Time Stopped is an unputdownable detective story and an epic family memoir, spanning nearly ninety years and crossing oceans. Neumann brings each relative to vivid life, and this “gripping, expertly researched narrative will inspire those looking to uncover their own family histories” (Publishers Weekly).

44. Veritas

by: Ariel Sabar
Release date: Aug 11, 2020
Number of Pages: 416
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From the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author comes the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that shook Harvard. In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star religion professor at Harvard, announced a breathtaking discovery just steps from the Vatican: she’d found an ancient scrap of papyrus in which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene “my wife.” The mysterious manuscript, which King provocatively titled “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” had the power to topple the Roman Catholic Church. It threatened not just the all-male priesthood, but centuries of sacred teachings on marriage, sex, and women’s leadership, much of it premised on the hallowed tradition of a celibate Jesus. Award-winning journalist Ariel Sabar covered King’s announcement in Rome but left with a question that no one seemed able to answer: Where in the world did this history-making papyrus come from? Sabar’s dogged sleuthing led from the halls of Harvard Divinity School to the former headquarters of the East German Stasi before landing on the trail of a Florida man with an unbelievable past. Could a motorcycle-riding pornographer with a fake Egyptology degree and a prophetess wife have set in motion one of the greatest hoaxes of the century? A propulsive tale laced with twists and trapdoors, Veritas is an exhilarating, globe-straddling detective story about an Ivy League historian and a college dropout—and how they worked together to pass off an audacious forgery as a long-lost piece of the Bible.

45. Wilmington’s Lie

by: David Zucchino
Release date: Jan 01, 2020
Number of Pages: 336
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“By 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina, was a shining example of a mixed-race community-a bustling port city with a thriving African American middle class and a government made up of Republicans and Populists, including black alderman, police officers, and magistrates. But across the state-and the South-white supremacist Democrats were working to reverse the advances made by former slaves and their progeny. They were plotting to take back the state legislature in the November 8th election and then use a controversial editorial published by black newspaper editor Alexander Manly to trigger a “race riot” to overthrow the elected government in Wilmington. With a coordinated campaign of intimidation and violence, the Democrats sharply curtailed the black vote and stuffed ballot boxes to steal the 1898 mid-term election. Two days later, more than 2,000 heavily armed white nightriders known as Red Shirts swarmed through Wilmington, terrorizing women and children and shooting at least sixty black men dead in the streets. The rebels forced city officials and leading black citizens to flee at gun point while hundreds of local African Americans took refuge in nearby swamps and forests. This brutal insurrection is the only violent overthrow of an elected government in U.S. history. It halted gains made by blacks and restored racism as official government policy, cementing white rule for another seventy years. It was not a “race riot” as the events of November 1898 came to be known, but rather a racially-motivated rebellion launched by white supremacists. In Wilmington’s Lie, David Zucchino uses contemporary newspaper reports, diaries, letters, and official communications to create a gripping narrative that weaves together individual stories of hate, fear, and brutality. This is a dramatic and definitive account of a remarkable but forgotten chapter of American history”–

Last updated on October 17, 2021