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Rather than focus on events or players, this fall’s big history
books are rooted in geographic locations, from the land-
scapes of the Catskills in upstate New York to the back
alleys of Paris and the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America
Stephen M. Siverman and Raphael D. Silver. Knopf, Oct. 27
The cultural history of the Catskills—home to poets, artists, and musicians; hucksters and
gangsters; idealists and tycoons; prizefighters and politicians; preachers and spiritualists; and
outlaws, outcasts and rebels.
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
Ari Berman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Aug. 4
Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of passing the Voting Rights Act, Berman’s
book provides a popular history of the right to vote in America, which, according to the starred
PW review, is “not only easily understandable, but riveting.”
Death in Florence:
The Medici, Savonorola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City
Paul Strathern. Pegasus, Aug. 15
The starred PW review describes Strathern’s latest as an “enjoyable and pleasantly articulate
look into the inner workings of two larger-than-life entities (the Medici family and the Church)
and offers unexpected insight into the theology, philosophy, and society.”
The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America
Ethan Michaeli. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jan. 12
A former staff member tells the story of the great black Chicago newspaper The Defender and
the family who founded and ran it.
The House of Twenty Thousand Books
Sasha Abramsky. New York Review Books, Sept.
Journalist Abramsky has written an elegy to the vanished intellectual world of his grandparents
and their vast library. The buzz started building for this book at BEA.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
Sarah Vowell. Riverhead, Oct.
The bestselling author of Unfamiliar Fishes brings levity to history with this account of the
Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero.
The Pentagon’s Brain:
An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency
Annie Jacobsen. Little, Brown, Sept. 22
The latest exposé from Jacobsen paints a picture of DARPA, the military research agency within
the Department of Defense, from its inception in 1958 to the present.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
Mary Beard. Norton/Liveright, Nov. 9
A distinguished classicist will delight readers with a history of the Roman Empire, with familiar
characters such as Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Nero, and less-familiar ones, including loud
women, shrewd bakers, and brave jokers.
Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War
Ian Buruma. Penguin Press, Jan. 19
Using letters written by his maternal grandparents, Buruma provides an account of enduring
love through the terror and separation of two world wars.
The Witches: Salem, 1692
Stacy Schiff. Little, Brown, Oct. 27
Following the extraordinary success of 2011’s Cleopatra, Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff heads
to Salem, Mass., to uncover the mysteries of the infamous witch trials.
HISTORY TOP 10