FLASH! Stamped from the Beginning; The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. Nation Books, 2016. The author assembles sources from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis, from the Great Awakening to Black Lives Matter, suggesting that racist ideas are central to American social thought. National Book Award. Proud to say that Kendi is a member of the African-American Studies faculty at the University of Florida.
Rain; A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett. Broadway, 2016 paper. The long history of rainfall and our persistent, sometimes desperate effort to control and redirect it for our needs. Florida Book Award.
Defining Duty in the Civil War; Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front by J. Matthew Gallman. University of North Carolina Press, 2015. How civilians in the North understood the meaning of duty and citizenship in this “people’s conflict.” Florida Book Award.
Coming to Pass; Florida’s Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change by Susan Cerulean. University of Georgia Press, 2015. The ancient formation of these coastal islands, inextricably linked to the Apalachicola River. They are now threat from coastal development of second (third?) homes. Florida Book Award.
George Merrick; Son of the South Wind by Arva Parks. University of Florida Press, 2015. Merrick transformed his family’s citrus grove into a planned community, Coral Gables. He adopted the then popular Mediterranean Style, built infrastructure, and left room for the site of the University of Miami. An achievement, but a happy ending? Florida Book Award.
Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home by Tameka Hobbs. University of Florida Press, 2016 paper. A dark period in the state’s history. Why lynchings of African American males during the Jim Crow era continued in Florida when they were declining elsewhere in the South. Florida Book Award.
Dispatches from Pluto; Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant. Simon & Schuster, 2016 paper. A couple settles near a small town in the Delta and learn lots about rural poverty and the region’s lingering racial tensions. Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
The Home Place; Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham. Milkweed, 2017 paper. A meditation on nature, of belonging to a place in the rural South and its contradictions with his strong sense of black identity. Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
The Book of Isaias; A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America by Daniel Connolly. St. Martin’s Press, 2016. For those who wish to build a wall, metaphorical or real, around a phenomenon that is a rich benefit to our country. Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
Jacksonland; President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab by Steve Inskeep. Penguin Press, 2016 paper. Andrew Jackson – war hero, populist political, however, was a massive expulsion of Native Americans, known as the “Trail of Tears”. His opponent John Ross, a mixed Cherokee politician and diplomat. Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
Custer’s Trials; The Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles. Vintage, 2016 paper. Best known for his exploits on the western frontier, Custer also played a central role during the American civil war, slave emancipation, the brutal resettlement of Native Americans, and the American industrial revolution. Pulitzer Prize.
Barbarian Days; A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. Penguin Press, 2016. A “surfing book” but also a clear-eyed vision of American boyhood in the twenty-first century. Pulitzer Prize.
Black Flags; The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick. Anchor, 2016 paper. Critics say that Warrick has mastered the tradecrafts of a spy, investigative report, and master story-teller. Pulitzer Prize.
Pastrami on Rye; An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli by Ted Merwin. New York University Press, 2015. The Jewish deli reached its full flowering in the interwar era when the children of Jewish immigrants left for the suburbs but wanted cheesecake and other Jewish delicacies to maintain a connection with their heritage. National Jewish Book Awards.
Doomed to Succeed; The U.S. – Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama by Dennis Ross. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016 2016. The bond between the two countries and our commitment to Israeli security seems solid. But that wasn’t always so and Administrations from Truman to Obama differed. National Jewish Book Award.
The Crime and the Silence; Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne by Anna Bikont & Alissa Valles, trans. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016, paper. Bikont was part of the uncovering of the story of this massacre in Jedwabne, told earlier with Jan Gross’s Neighbors. National Jewish Book Award.
What’s Divine about Divine Law? Early Perspectives by Christine Hayes. Princeton University Press, 2015. For the Greeks, divine law was divine by virtue of its inherent qualities of intrinsic rationality, truth, and universality. Biblical divine law was grounded on revelation with no assumption of rationality or immutability. National Jewish Book Award.
Birth, Sex and Abuse; Women’s Voices under Nazi Rule by Beverley Chalmers. Grosvenor House, 2016 paper. Giving birth during the Nazi era was particularly dangerous. National Jewish Book Award.
The Burdens of Brotherhood; Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France by Ethan Katz. Harvard University Press, 2015. With collective similarities and differences, Muslims and Jews found common cause in the North African setting. World War II and the Holocaust altered that collectivity. National Jewish Book Award.
Madison’s Hand; Revising the Constitutional Convention. By Mary Sarah Bilder. Harvard University Press, 2015. A serious investigation of the notes kept by James Madison’s during the Constitutional Convention that he “edited” several years later. Bancroft Prize.
The Saltwater Frontier; Indians and the Contest for the American Coast by Andrew Lipman. Yale University Press, 2015. A reminder of the importance of English and Dutch settlements in New England and New York, the importance of the Atlantic trade in the conflict, and also the alliances of Native Americans with the European empires. Bancroft Prize.
Border Law; The First Seminole War and the American Nationhood by Deborah Rose. Harvard University Press, 2015. Warfare between post-colonial American and the Native Americans in Georgia and Florida from 1816 to 1818. The role it played in shaping subsequent events along the southern border. Bancroft Prize.
Deepa Iyer We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future by Deepa Iyer. The New Press, 2016. Authors looks at Islamophobia in America’s Bible Belt and provides us with a new framework for the discussion of race in post-9/11. America. American Book Award.
F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature by William Maxwell. Princeton University, 2016 paper. How the FBI threatened the international travels of African American writers and prepared to jail them in times of national emergency. America. American Book Award.
Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy. Counterpoint, 2016 paper. A mosaic of journeys and historical inquiry across the time and the American continent in search of a national history that reveals the often unvoiced presence of the past. America. American Book Award.
The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned Sublette & Constance Subletter. Lawrence Hill Books, 2017 paper. How the slave business in the American South made the reproductive labor of “breeding women” essential to the expansion of the ultimately the American economy. America. American Book Award.
Tomorrow’s Battlefield; U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa by Nick Turse Haymarket Books, 2015 paper. The U.S. is fighting a new shadow war in Africa, destabilizing countries and regions in order to justify our later interventions. America. American Book Award.
SPQR; A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. Liveright, 2016 paper. Beard spends considerable time describing the period of the Roman kings before going on to the republic and empire. National Book Critics Award.
Give Us the Ballot; The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman. Picador, 2016, paper. The struggle to see that the voting rights acts continue to be enforced, despite efforts to restrict access to the ballot. National Book Critics Award.
Ghettoside; A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy. Spiegel & Grau, 2015 paper. The story of an often ignored but common murder, one young black man slaying another. National Book Critics Award.
Dreamland; The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. Bloomsbury Press, 2016 paper. The widespread prescribing of pain medications during the 1990s resulted in many new addicts. And the traffic in heroin from Mexico facilitated that addiction. Two classic instances of capitalism meeting a demand. National Book Critics Award.
What the Eye Hears; A History of Tap Dancing by Brian Seibert. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016 paper. Tap dancing began as a hybrid of jig and clog dancing brought to North America by African slaves. National Book Critics Award.
Strangers in Their Own Land; Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell. The New Press, 2016.The not so rosy world of stagnant wages, home foreclosures, the elusive American dream, and current political choices. National Book Award.
Stamped from the Beginning; The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. Nation Books, 2016. The author assembles sources from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis, from the Great Awakening to Black Lives Matter, suggesting that racist ideas are central to American social thought. National Book Award.
Nothing Ever Dies; Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Harvard University Press, 2016. A meditation on the way in which memories are produced, then cultivated, and eventually empowered or subdued. National Book Award.
The Other Slavery; The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. For Centuries Native Americans were enslaved and there was no abolitionist movement to challenge this “other slavery.” Reséndez claims that it was slavery rather than epidemics that decimated Indian populations across North America. National Book Award.
The Slave’s Cause; A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha. Yale University Press. 2016. The diverse and far-ranging abolitionist movement. National Book Award.
Blood in the Water; The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Thompson. Pantheon, 2016. A prison uprising at New York’s Attica Prison seemed to have been settled to the prisoners’ satisfaction. Then Governor Nelson Rockefeller revoked the agreement and the Prison’s exercise yard was taken by military force, part of his getting “tough on crime”. National Book Award.
America’s War for the Greater Middle East; A Military History by Andrew Bacevich. Random House, 2016, The disasters perpetrated on the Middle East by the architects of American empire-building. National Book Award.
The Firebrand and the First Lady; Portrait of a Friendship; Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott. Vintage, 2017 paper. A friendship born of a letter sent by Murray – the granddaughter of a mulatto slave, to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt – whose ancestry would have allowed her to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. National Book Award.
Imbeciles; The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen. Penguin Press, 2017 paper. A history of the eugenics movement in America, from its beginning as an offshoot of social Darwinism to becoming a popular movement. The author has told this story through the lens of an incarcerated young “feeble-minded” woman. National Book Award.
Weapons of Math Destruction; How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil. Crown, 2016. We live in the age of algorithms; our lives are increasingly not described as our efforts to make rational choices but rather by mathematical models fed by statisticians. National Book Award.