Also of interest...in underappreciated histories
Last Hope Island
by Lynne Olson (Random House, $30)
In this “brisk and compelling” World War II history, Great Britain emerges as the most unlikely of havens, said Martin Rubin in The Wall Street Journal. Author Lynne Olson focuses on refugees who fled the continent for London after 1939, and on how a fraternal spirit sprang up among exiled kings and commoners to help them endure German bombings and eventually turn the tide. We meet heroes of all backgrounds, and Olson proves “exceptionally good” at tracking their stories beyond V-E Day.
The Home That Was Our Country
by Alia Malek (Nation, $28)
As the Syrian Civil War continues to make grim headlines, “we need intelligent storytellers to seduce us into the country’s tale,” said Priyanka Kumar in The Washington Post. Syrian- American journalist Alia Malek, who moved to Damascus in 2011, watched the Arab Spring give way to war, but instead of showing only decline, she uses the life story of a beloved grandmother to incorporate a longer history. This book’s Syria proves “far more alluring than the war-torn mess we encounter in the news.”
by Herb Boyd (Amistad, $28)
“Though it’s often forgotten today, Detroit was a beacon for black Americans long before the Great Migration,” said Michael Jackman in the Detroit Metro Times. Herb Boyd’s history begins shortly after Detroit’s 1701 founding, but he “strikes gold” when he illuminates the city’s 19th-century role as the last stop on the Underground Railroad. Boyd, a journalist and academic who lived in Detroit for more than 40 years, proves an invaluable guide to its history, some of which he witnessed firsthand.
The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks, $27)
The villains in Kate Moore’s spirited new history of a century-old corporate crime “would seem cartoonishly evil, except for how familiar it all sounds,” said Genevieve Valentine in NPR.org. In the 1910s, two U.S. factories employed women to paint radium on watch dials, and when those women developed glowing jaws and started dying off, the companies did everything they could to hush up the matter. Sadly, it’s “frighteningly easy” to see that corporate morality hasn’t really changed since.