Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016: American History

One of my reading themes in 2016 concerned American history. Events from places I have lived and the times I have lived in, presidential history, Native American history, African American history, and the American Revolution continue to be interest areas I am drawn to.The books were galley ebooks, Arcs, or books provided by the publisher. All were my choices to read.

Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression Era Detroit by Tom Stanton brought to life a city thrilled by its team's sport wins while The Black Legion, a hate group spawned from the KKK, pressed unsuspecting people into membership at gunpoint then sent them out to kill.

The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City: Spectacle and Assassination at the 1901 World's Fair by Margaret Creighton peels back the tinted postcard memories of the Pan-American Exposition to reveal the seamy side of American society a hundred years ago


67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence by Howard Means was a moving, important, and disturbing book, particularly for my generation.


Of Arms and Artists by Paul Staiti shows how artists of the American Revolution created a national identity.  

The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe by Elaine Showalter reveals the complicated life of the woman who penned our national anthem.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink reveals how the lack of preparation by a for-profit hospital resulted in avoidable deaths.

Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation's Capital by Joan Quigley is the story of 90 year old Terrell's fight to end segregation in Washington D.C. in 1950. It is the inspiring story of how age has nothing to do with standing up for what is right.

The Parker Sisters: A Border Kidnapping by Lucy Maddox is a historian's study of the Fugitive Slave Law through the kidnapping of two African American teenagers.


Truevine: Two Bothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy concerns Albino African Americans enslaved by a circus and their mother's endeavor to protect them.


Massacre at Sand Creek: How Methodists Were Involved in an American Tragedy by Gary Roberts was commissioned by the United Methodist Church. Leaders in this attack on 'friendly' Native American women and children were Methodist. It is a warning of how 'good people' can be led by cultural norms to commit crimes against humanity.

The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, The Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History by Paul Andrew Hutton is a dense and comprehensive history, another revelation of treaties broken and genocidal military leaders.

The Thunder Before the Storm: The Autobiography of Clyde Bellecourt is a raw, honest, and moving relating of his journey from juvenile delinquent to the leader of the American Indian Movement.

John Quincy Adams and the Politics of Slavery by David Waldstreicher and Matthew Mason draws from Adams diaries to trace his evolving understanding, personally and legally, of slavery, culminating in his eight year battle to end the Gag Rule that forbade the House from accepting petitions to end slavery.

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye is a fascinating biography focusing on Bobby's evolution from McCarthy staffer to Civil Rights spokesperson.

Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency by Charles Rappleye is a great study on how the Great Humanitarian, a successful business man, failed as president.

The Gatekeeper:Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Partnership that Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith is the first biography of President Roosevelt's constant companion for twenty years in the office and out, the first female 'chief of staff'.

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn considers the friendship, and possibly love affair, that supported the First Lady to blossom into leadership.

Valient Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick shows that our country's founding was pretty messy and the ramifications of leaders obsessed with image, personal power, and monetary success.

Washington's Spys: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose is the book behind the series Turn, the real story of the Culpepper spy ring.

Love Canal: A Toxic History From Colonial Times to the Present by Richard S. Newman was another upsetting read of how industry used Niagara Falls for profit, leaving a legacy of chemical waste, Activist Lois Gibbs work helped establish the Superfund, which almost immediately was defunded. We are all affected by industrial toxic waste.

A History of New York in 101 Objects by Sam Roberts is a more lighthearted look at our past, considering the things that made New York, and America and the world, what it is today.

Dead Wake by Eric Larson is the moving tale of the Lusitania.

I hope you found something here to put on your 2017 reading list!