These terrific titles shed new light on fascinating figures and monumental moments that have shaped our world today, and will make you wish you had read them years ago.
Erica Armstrong Dunbar illuminates the life of a freedom fighter in Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. Born into enslavement in Mount Vernon, Virginia, Ona Judge moved with George and Martha Washington to Philadelphia, where, under Pennsylvania law, enslaved people were to be freed after six months—an edict Washington flouted. When Judge fled the Washington household, she became the center of a protracted search. Books clubs may view Washington in a new light after reading Dunbar’s revealing narrative, which also explores social justice, gender and notions of heroism.
In The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America's Urban Heartland, Walter Thompson-Hernández tells the remarkable story of the Compton, California, ranch where local youngsters have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the long history of America’s Black cowboys. The narrative focuses on a core group of characters, including single mother Keiara, who hopes to win a rodeo championship. A lively blend of reportage and history, the book provides a fundamental new perspective on the concept of the American cowboy and its legacy within the Black community.
Gareth Russell’s Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII provides fresh insight into the life of Catherine Howard, whose brief reign as queen of England ended when she was charged with treason and executed. Too often a side character in the story of her husband, Catherine is given new depth and dimension in Russell’s narrative, which focuses on her innermost circle and explores the court intrigue that brought about her end. Rich in detail and talking points, including Tudor politics and the role of aristocratic women in the 16th century, this compelling biography is a can’t-miss pick.
In Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster, Adam Higginbotham delves into the mysteries behind the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl atomic energy station. The Soviet government tried to cover up the truth about the catastrophe, which sent radioactive clouds across parts of the Soviet Union and Europe. Incorporating newly available archival material and extensive interviews, Higginbotham pieces together the events that led to the accident and dispels the mythology that has since surrounded it in this darkly fascinating book.