Dana’s April Recommendation

Destiny of the Republic:  A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

destiny of the republic“Millard (The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey) presents a dual biography of the 20th U.S. President and his assassin. James A. Garfield and Charles Guiteau were both born into hardscrabble Midwestern circumstances. While Garfield made himself into a teacher, Union army general, congressman, and President, Guiteau, who was most likely insane, remained at the margins of life, convinced he was intended for greatness. When he failed to receive a position in Garfield’s administration, he became convinced that God meant him to kill the President. At a railway station in the capital, Guiteau shot Garfield barely four months into his term. Garfield lingered through the summer of 1881, with the country hanging on the news of his condition. In September he died of infection, apparently due to inadequate medical care. Millard gives readers a sense of the political and social life of those times and provides more detail on Guiteau’s life than is given in Ira Rutkow’s James A. Garfield. The format is similar to that in The President and the Assassin, Scott Miller’s book on President McKinley and Leon Czolgosz. VERDICT Recommended for presidential history buffs and students of Gilded Age America.” – Library Journal

3 Similar Reads

Dark Horse:  The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield by Kenneth Ackerman

The First American:  The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H. W. Brands

Rebbe:  The Life and Teachings of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History by Joseph Telushkin

Karen’s April Recommendation

Dead Wake:  The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

dead wake

Karen says:  “I would recommend Dead Wake:  The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.  Wow.  Written with Erik Larson’s usual meticulous attention to detail.  A gripping history lesson, focusing on the Lusitania, the German U-boat that launched the fatal torpedo, top secret Room 40 and the many lives affected by the sinking of the ship.  Riveting to the end.”

3 Similar Reads

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage:  The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster – “This work unabashedly focuses on Titanic’s first-class passengers, the best-known on the ship, whose lives were the most carefully documented.” – Library Journal

Lusitania:  Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age by Greg King – “Unlike the fate of the Titanic, sunk three years earlier when it crashed into an iceberg, the deliberate sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915 has been shrouded in mystery and intrigue that continue even as the 100th anniversary of the tragedy approaches.  Was the British ocean liner carrying munitions that exploded after it was torpedoed?  Was it part of a deliberate plot by the British government to lure the U.S. into WWI?” – Booklist

Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston – “The destruction of the liner Lusitania in 1915 is two stories rolled into one:  a Titanic-type tale of personal catastrophes and a still murky diplomatic incident of the first order.” – Booklist

Claudia’s February Recommendation

The Boys in the Boat:  Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

boys in the boatClaudia says:  “Nine young Americans from the University of Washington rowing team won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  This very personal story is set against the backdrop of the Depression and the carefully orchestrated and filmed images of Nazi Berlin.”

Does this sound interesting?  Click here for a sample!

3 Similar Reads

Saving Italy:  The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel – “Alongside the Allies’ push north against the Nazis, there was another war fought in WWII Italy, a battle to preserve the country’s rich cultural contribution to Western civilization. With Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic The Last Supper nearly demolished by a bomb, protecting the nation’s art became an urgent task, requiring hundreds of paintings and sculpture to be hidden throughout the country (Michelangelo’s David was entombed in brick). The group assigned to save the art in Italy was made up of 40 American and British ‘Monuments Men.'” – Booklist

Luckiest Man:  The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig – “Lou Gehrig famously announced to the world at his 1938 Yankee Stadium tribute that he was the luckiest man in the world. Not so. He was dying in his late thirties from ALS, a disease that remains incurable to this day. Eig, a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal, interviewed hundreds of people and spent hundreds of research hours inside the archives of baseball’s Hall of Fame, but the touchstone of his research is more than 200 pages of correspondence between Gehrig and the world, mostly regarding the progress of the disease.” – Booklist

Seabiscuit:  An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand – “There have been numerous biographies of famous horses, but this one is the best by open lengths, partly because Hillenbrand expands the scope of her project to include owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard, whose boom-and-bust and boom-again careers are fascinating in themselves. But Seabiscuit’s rags-to-riches story is unparalleled in a sport known for its longshots.” – Booklist

Magdalena’s January Recommendation

The Family Romanov:  Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

family romanovMagdalena says:  “I’d like to recommend The Family Romanov:  Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming.  This book describes the lives–and the tragic deaths–of the last tsar and his wife and children, but it also explains the details of the poor economic conditions and political events that led to the downfall of the Russian autocracy.  Fleming does an excellent job of portraying the extreme hardships of the common people’s lives under the tsar’s rule without demonizing Nicholas II or the Romanov family.  The Family Romanov is an enjoyable read for anyone who is interested either in the personal lives of the Romanov family or in twentieth-century Russian political history.”

Does this sound interesting?  Click here for a sample!

3 Similar Reads

Sugar Changed the World:  A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson – “As the title suggests, this stirring, highly detailed history of the sugar trade reaches across time and around the globe.  Framed by the authors’ family connections to the subject, the chapters move from New Guinea, where humans are believed to have first cultivated sugar cane 10,000 years ago, to its spread across the ancient world.” – Booklist

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie – “In this commanding book, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert K. Massie sweeps readers back to the extraordinary world of Imperial Russia to tell the story of the Romanovs’ lives:  Nicholas’s political naïveté, Alexandra’s obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin, and little Alexis’s brave struggle with hemophilia.  Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Massie unfolds a powerful drama of passion and history—the story of a doomed empire and the death-marked royals who watched it crumble.” – Publisher’s description

The Lost Crown by Sarah Elizabeth Miller – “The Russian Grand Duchesses, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918 along with the rest of their family, have become something of a literary mainstay.  This thoroughly researched novel brings the four young women to readers in their own voices. In alternating chapters (each with a small photo of the narrator), Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia report on their lives and their relationships and slowly but surely reveal the perilous situation in which they find themselves.” – Booklist

Claudia’s October Recommendation

by Thomas Dyja
the third coast“This well researched book tells the cultural history of Chicago in the middle of the 20th century,  including contributions to literature, music, theater,  architecture and more.  There are colorful portraits and interesting stories which enlighten the reader-native Chicagoan or not.” -Claudia
The Third Coast… has an elegant, unflinching, non-nostalgic clarity… a new touchstone in Chicago literature… an ambitious history lesson no one had written.”
—Chicago Tribune
3 Similar Reads:
Great Fortune by Daniel Okrent
A History of Venice by John Julius Norwich
Names on the Land by George Stewart

Mary Ann’s September Recommendation

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime   By Judith Flanders

the invention of murderThink that our society is obsessed with violence and gore in entertainment?  We have nothing on the Victorians.  People flocked to public executions, murder sites, exhibits of bloody clothing and weapons, and even to viewings of victims’ bodies.

They went to theatrical re-enactments of murders and bought “penny dreadfuls” – originally called “penny-bloods” to read about violent acts.  Murderers became rock stars.

This book recounts all that and explains how real events affected the works of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Thackery, and others.

Fascinating and a bit horrifying.

3 Similar Titles:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Bloody Crimes: the chase for Jefferson Davis and the death pageant for Lincoln’s corpse by James L. Swanson

In the Garden of Beasts: love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson


Mary Ann’s July Recommendation

Marshall Field’s: The Store That Helped Build Chicago by Gayle Soucek

marshall field's“This book traces Marshall Field’s early retail experiences that led him to create a beloved Chicago institution, Marshall Field & Company.  We learn about several people who helped Field build earlier retail businesses in a very rough and tumble Chicago. There is a riveting section on the attempts by Field and his employees to save merchandise during the Great Chicago Fire.

Soucek explains how a  young, innovative John G. Shedd and a “brash and cocky”  Harry Selfridge contributed to Field’s success.  We also learn background on the early developments of the Toy Department, Walnut Room’s Christmas Tree, the Christmas windows, and Frango Mints.

For the ambitious, there is a recipe for the Chicken Pot Pie served in the Walnut Room.

The book will evoke great memories for any reader who shopped at Field’s before it became the store-that-shall–not-be-named.” – Mary Ann

3 Similar Reads

Marshall Fields by Axel Madsen

You Were Never in Chicago by Neil Steinberg

Chicago By Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America