As the end of the summer draws near, now can be a wonderful time to appreciate the many benefits of looking back. Before you turn your eyes towards the new season and begin anticipating all the upcoming changes, why not dedicate some time to enjoying all there is to learn from the past?
With these eight brand-new history books, all the excitement, drama, and wisdom of the past is at your fingertips.
Release date: July 11
Thunderclap: A Memoir of Art and Life and Sudden Death
In 1654, an explosion in the city of Deft, Holland, brought two of the most well-renowned painters in history face to face with mortality: Carel Fabritius, painter of The Goldfinch, and Johannes Vermeer, painter of Girl with a Pearl Earring. With Fabritius killed and Vermeer nearly-killed, art-historian Laura Cumming uses her seasoned analytical expertise to turn a tragedy into a stunning exploration of the intersections between art, life, and death in Europe. Through Cumming’s explanations, Thunderclap recreates an incredible period in history, demonstrating how even the smallest cultural aspects of a time period can manifest in the subtlest details of art.
Release date: August 1
Flirting with Danger: The Mysterious Life of Marguerite Harrison, Socialite Spy
Again and again, history draws attention to people who defied expectations and overcame the societal restrictions placed on them. Janet Wallach’s Flirting with Danger relates the incredible life of Marguerite Harrison, an American-born 20th century woman with a craving for adventure. Having worked for a spy for the American military during WWI, survived discovery by the Russians, enchanted wealthy Europeans as an elegant socialite, and even tried her hand at documentary filmmaking, Harrison’s globe-traveling 20th century adventures make a sharp, entertaining, and enlightening historical read not to be missed.
Release date: August 8
Cave of Bones: A True Story of Discovery, Adventure, and Human Origins
Perhaps the most timeless history of all is that of the human race. Deep in the Rising Star cave complex in South Africa, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger discovered something phenomenal in the summer of 2022. What Berger discovered about the remains of Homo naledi, a proto-human existing hundreds of thousands of years ago, promises to fundamentally transform our understanding of human origins.
Whether your interest lies with the thrilling dangers of cave-diving (Berger lost 50 pounds in order to complete his excavation), or the potential implications for our understanding of human culture, this “true-life scientific adventure story” (Penguin Random House) is packed with adventure and intellectual intrigue from cover to cover.
Release date: August 22
The Ballot and the Bible: How Scripture Has Been Used and Abused in American Politics and Where We Go from Here
Christianity has played a key role in the trajectory of American political power. Like any other tool, the Bible has the potential to be interpreted according to the will of the person using it, and this has been especially true in U.S. politics. In The Ballot and the Bible, Kaitlyn Schiess illuminates the application of the Bible to political issues past and present. Ultimately, Schiess paves the way for a stronger understanding of scriptural interpretation and American politics, while leaving plenty of room for readers to form their own opinions and judgements.
Release date: August 29
Discourses of the Elders: The Aztec Huehuetlatolli
In a world constantly searching for meaning, obscure histories can offer incredible insight. This book is Sebastian Purcell’s translation of an ancient philosophical tradition originally recorded in Nahuatl, the Indigenous language of the Aztecs of central Mexico. It records conversations between elders and youth of a pre-colonial era centuries past, and in doing so offers an oppositional framework to modern Western values that speaks volumes about how to live a meaningful life.
Centering community and active presence at the heart of its philosophy, the ancient, non-Western knowledge preserved in this text might just change your life.
Release Date: August 29
Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women's Words
In this profound investigation of feminist language and the linguistic paths leading to the words used today, Dr. Jenni Nuttall explores the ways women’s bodies and experiences have been described differently in the past. Unveiling the shocking nuances and meanings that have since been lost, eclipsed by a language that leaves many women feeling stuck between the no-win associations of either clinical sterility or not-so-subtle misogyny, the history exposed by Mother Tongue brings the vibrancy of a lost language to life.
Release date: September 5
Why Empires Fall: Rome, America, and the Future of the West
The future has always been uncertain, but with climate change already begun, and the global cultural landscape in the process of being irrevocably transformed by technology and globalization, the current moment may feel especially unstable. Looking back to the turmoil of the past can be a helpful way to imagine what the future might look like. In Why Empires Fall: Rome, America, and the Future of the West, the parallels drawn between the great Roman Empire—author of its own demise—and the United States of America work to suggest the potential future of the West.
Release Date: September 19
Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America
With the next presidential election barely a year away, American citizens can unfortunately prepare themselves for an onslaught of public messaging that can often be confusing, if not outright contradictory. It’s a good time to get a clearer picture of America’s history. In Black AF History, political commentator Michael Harriot attempts to do just that—educate the public on the true American history that those in power have done their best to conceal.
Calling the commonly taught American history a “whitewashed mythology” (Harper Collins), Harriot removes the “white sugar coating” that has historically erased Black experiences and perspectives from the national self-narrative. With masterful storytelling and extensive, accurate research, Harriot subverts the dominant American narrative, creating a history that is both more truthful and beautifully Black AF.
Featured image: Brandon Weekes / Unsplash