2018 Selections


Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement

Janet Dewart Bell, (The New Press)
A groundbreaking collection based on oral histories that plumb the overlooked leadership of African American women in the twentieth-century fight for civil rights. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, these stories provide a broader understanding of the Movement.

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Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity

Nick Bunker, (Penguin Random House, 2018)
An illuminating new study of this complex, brilliant, and ambitious young man through the age of forty-one, when he began making his first electrical discoveries. Beyond science, the book is rich in politics, war, and religion, going behind the legend to reveal a nuanced portrait of Franklin and the forces that formed America’s favorite genius.

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The Earth is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West

Peter Cozzens, (Alfred A. Knopf}
A sweeping, definitive history of the battles and negotiations that destroyed the Indian way of life even as they paved the way for the emergence of the United States we know today.

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The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France

Daniel de Visé, (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018) The story of Greg LeMond, the first American winner of the Tour de France. Months after his victory, LeMond had a serious accident, made a remarkable recovery, and won twice more. He later spoke up about doping, taking on Armstrong, and was ostracized from his sport.



Valley Forge

Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, (Simon & Schuster, 2018)
The tale of what has long been considered a “disaster” is turned on its head, reframing a key chapter in U.S. military and political history to show how the events at Valley Forge shaped Washington as a leader and set the stage for the strength and resiliency of the nation.

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Dinner in Camelot: The Night America's Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House

Joseph A. Esposito, (ForeEdge 2018)
The Night America's Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House. Beyond being a single spectacular event, the evening had historical repercussions and has implications in light of today’s polarized political climate.

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Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation

Robert W. Fieseler, (Liveright, 2018)
An essential work of American civil rights history, the reconstruction of the 1973 arsonist’s fire that was the largest mass murder of gays until 2016. It devastated New Orleans’ subterranean, blue collar gay community and revealed the toxic prejudice of that time and place.

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The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul

Eleanor Herman, (St. Martin’s Press, 2018)
An entertaining account of poison as a powerful political tool in the royal courts of Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the Kremlin today.

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The Lost Locket of Lewes

Ilona E. Holland, Ed.D, (Ingram, 2018 – children’s historical fiction)
Employing time travel, two children unravel a mystery presented in a long lost locket they find on the beach. Includes a walking tour of historical sites in Lewes. Before moving to Delaware,

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Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

Stacy Horn, (Algonquin Books, 2018)
The first contemporary investigative account of the 19th-century lunatic asylum, prisons, almshouse, and hospitals on what was called Blackwell’s Island (Roosevelt Island today). A bright light in the misery was the Rev. William Glenney French, who ministered to residents and battled bureaucracy on their behalf.

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Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food

Roger Horowitz, (Columbia University Press, 2016, paperback 2018)
The National Jewish Book Award winner for the best book in American Jewish Studies from the Jewish Book Council, is the fascinating and fun journey of Kosher food through the modern industrial food system.

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The Hunger

Alma Katsu, (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018 – historical fiction) A supernatural twist on one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in America: the Donner Party wagon train. Her second novel, it studies the volatility of human nature pushed to its breaking point by depleted rations, ill-advised choice of route, and the mysterious death of a little boy.

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The Kennedy Debutante

Kerri Maher, (Berkley, 2018 – historical fiction)
Shining a light on the life of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, the independent, rebellious member of one of America’s greatest political dynasties. The novel provides a thrilling look inside pre-war London high society through the experiences of this particular debutante whose father was serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. 


The Widows of Malabar Hill

Sujata Massey, (Soho Press, 2018 – historical fiction) India in the 1920s when Bombay’s first female lawyer is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows. Before long, the case takes a turn toward the murderous. This critically acclaimed historical mystery has a captivating heroine, as do many of Massey’s 14 books of mystery and historical fiction, featuring strong women in late British colonial India.

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Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown’s Army

Eugene L. Meyer, (Chicago Review Press, 2018)
The true story of the five black men who stood with John Brown, willing to die for the cause, on October 16, 1859. This is the first book about their collective story.

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The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization

Nicholas P. Money, (Oxford University Press, 2018)
A celebration of yeast, a key component in brewing, winemaking, and baking as well as biofuels, insulin, and other pharmaceuticals. This is the story of 10,000 years of yeast, leading to agricultural settlement and the development of civilization.

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Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America’s Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective Who Brought Them to Justice

William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce (Touchstone, 2018)
The true story of America’s 156th Post Office Inspector and his quest to bring to justice a Sicilian-American organized crime ring who preyed on Italian immigrant families. Despite death threats and obstacles, using unconventional and unsanctioned methods, Oldfield’s efforts led to the first national organized crime convictions in the U.S.


Delaware’s John Dickinson: The Constant Watchman of Liberty

John Sweeney, (jointly published by the Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion, Delaware Department of State, and the Delaware Heritage Commission, 2018)
A new anthology of essays and lectures on the life and career of John Dickinson. Largely acknowledged in his day yet less known in ours, Dickinson’s influential role as a colonial patriot and statesman earned him the nickname “Penman of the Revolution.” He fought slavery, promoted religious freedom, and included individual rights in the U.S. Constitution.

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Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island

Earl Swift, (Dey Street Books; 2018)
The story of the past, present, and future of the island mapped by John Smith in 1608. It takes a deep dive into this community of less than 500 residents and its ecosystem, addressing the challenges that will test the fate of this and other coastal communities.

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Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock

Amy Werbel, (Columbia University Press, 2018)
A colorful cultural and social history framed by the story of America's first professional censor, whose campaign to rid America of lasciviousness and obscenity led to greater acceptance of materials he deemed objectionable.


Not Our Kind

Kitty Zeldis, (HarperCollins, 2018 – historical fiction) Focused on two women, a Park Avenue WASP and the young, Jewish Vassar grad she hires to tutor her teenager. Their lives intersect in post-WWII New York City, with society on the cusp of significant changes. A line is crossed that has consequences for both families, raising compelling questions about how our lives are shaped by our circumstances and by chance.