If you have been looking for a new book to read and have been deciding between non-fiction history books, here are a few suggestions that you should consider. These include The Jews by Howard Fast, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, and The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher.
American Rebels by Nina Sankovitch
The American Rebels is a book about three families who influenced the events of the American Revolution. These three families were located in Braintree, Massachusetts. They are the Adams, the Hancock, and the Quincy.
In the American Rebels, Nina Sankovitch explores the life of each family member. She retells stories of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Declaration of Independence, and the First and Second Continental Congresses. This is done through personal correspondence, scavenging past historical works, and by showing how seismic events rippled from door-to-door intimacy.
While the book is a great read, there are some drawbacks. Firstly, the bibliography is dated. Secondly, the book’s tone is somewhat curt, homiletically. And lastly, it’s not a comprehensive look at the American Revolution.
The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher
The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher is a novel that traces the lives of a number of people who lived in a medieval English village in the mid 14th century. In doing so, the author explores many aspects of social and cultural life.
He focuses on a parish priest named Master John. His role in the community is paramount, and he manages to keep up his end of the bargain with unshakable faith.
Along the way, the author reveals the role of religion in the plague, and how the Roman Catholic Church had a significant impact on the lives of its members. Also, he explores the role of women in agricultural societies.
Helen Zia’s Last Boat Out of Shanghai
Last Boat Out of Shanghai is a new book by Chinese American author Helen Zia. It is about the mass exodus of Chinese from Shanghai during the years of Mao’s revolution. The book is based on more than 100 interviews with Shanghai refugee survivors.
The book is a first-person, family-oriented account of the exodus. Zia, a former Fulbright researcher, has spent twelve years collecting accounts of the Shanghai refugees. She interweaves the stories of four Chinese, including Benny Pan, a privileged child; Ho Chow, a thirteen-year-old scion of landowning gentry; Annuo Liu, a 2-year-old daughter of a Nationalist leader; and Bing Woo, a nine-year-old girl who was rescued from traffic by a stranger.
Tamim Ansary’s The Invention of Yesterday
Tamim Ansary is an Afghan-American author and public speaker who lives in San Francisco. His book The Invention of Yesterday is a brief look at 50 thousand years of human culture. He writes in a conversational style that is a pleasure to read.
The Invention of Yesterday is a well-written book. The gist of it is that the engine of history is narrative. It’s not just about writing a good story, it’s about looking for connections between people.
While it’s impossible to cover all of the major events in world history, Ansary has managed to distill it down into a reasonably brief but informative overview of the ages. Using a variety of media, he weaves experiences from extinct and current cultures into his tale. One example is the emergence of the savannah.
Howard Fast’s The Jews
Howard Fast’s The Jews: A Story of a People is a readable account of the Jewish experience in the early twentieth century. In this book, Howard Fast weaves a fascinating history of the Jews, from their earliest days in the waning days of the Egyptians to their triumphant return to the land of Israel.
The Jewish experience was a complicated and complex one. Their contributions to civilizations abound, from finance to science to medicine to astronomy. But they were also a target of anti-Semitism. During the Middle Ages, European overlords were particularly vicious toward them.
One of the most impressive things about The Jews is how well Fast demonstrates his expertise on this subject. For example, did you know that a small group of Portuguese Jews made it to the New World in 1621? And did you know that the Jewish cartographers of the early days helped to make the voyages of discovery that took place during the Spanish and Portuguese empires possible?
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark tells the story of the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist who terrorized California for over a decade. The book is a portrait of the man, the crimes, and the victims. It’s a disturbing chapter in American history.
McNamara, a crime writer, spent a decade trying to discover the identity of a mysterious, faceless killer who was responsible for at least 10 murders. She became interested in the case when she saw an episode of the television show Night Stalker. In her article, she dubbed the man the Golden State Killer.
Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested and pleaded guilty to 13 murders. He was also found guilty of over 50 rapes. But the evidence did not connect his crimes to McNamara’s research.