At long last, a fresh year has dawned—and we’re thrilled to see that 2021 already has many a bright spot on the horizon. Not least of those bright spots are the history books we’re excited to delve into this year. The upcoming history books we’ve highlighted include a thrilling ride through Icelandic influences on global culture and history, a portrait of the man behind the Comstock laws, and a re-examination of 19th century gold rushes.
Related: 12 Best History Books of 2020
The Eagles of Heart Mountain
America has only recently started to fully grapple with the depravity of the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Thanks to books like The Eagles of Heart Mountain, readers are able to meet some of the individuals who suffered, lived, survived, and were forcibly drafted during internment. Pearson’s deft story-telling will leave you rooting for the young men who drew attention and praise for their football skills in Wyoming’s Heart Mountain Relocation Center.
The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen
This sure-to-be-fascinating book will illuminate how war and the creation of government constitutions were inextricably intertwined for centuries. A professor of history at Princeton, Colley has demonstrated her ease with wide-ranging history with the likes of Britons, an award-winning look at how the residents of the United Kingdoms have, and have not, come to see themselves as British.
Fears of a Setting Sun
Although we think of our Founding Fathers primarily as those who created the architecture of our country, many of those men lived to see what America became after the Revolutionary War was over. Rasmussen promises to tell a tale of when and how some of early America’s brightest figures became disillusioned with their own creation. This timely read will change how you think of our founders.
The gold rushes of the 19th century are remembered as one of the most invigorating moments of our nation. But gold wasn’t the only thing found by westward strivers. Many panning for gold found peril instead—from the weather, from a lack of resources, and in the case of the 1897 gold rush, from hunger due to unimaginable poverty. Castner’s book brings back the grit of the gold rush with a large cast of real-life characters.
Murder at the Mission
Take another look at the Wild West with this compelling history of a mass murder that shaped the Oregon Terrority. Harden weaves the tale of two missionaries, one murdered, and one who wove that murder into a tale that made him a savior. Murder at the Mission is a quintessentially American tale—in the least flattering ways.
Strauss’s own great-aunt is at the center of this inspirational history book as one of nine woman who escaped Nazi labor camps, snuck across countries, and joined the Resistance in France. This tale of resistance is moving, unforgettable, and sure to please any WWII buff.
Related: Jewish Resistance Fighters Pulled Off the Largest Prison Escape of WWII
How Iceland Changed the World
Small things sometimes shape the course of the world—the small island of Iceland is perhaps one of the best examples of this. Icelandic journalist Bjarnason explores the fascinating history of Iceland and its broad effects on the world, from the French Revolution to the Space Age.
The Confidence Men
Margalit Fox is perhaps best known for her obituaries at The New York Times—her obituary for Reginald Foster, a Vatican Latin expert, went rather viral on Twitter late last year. But the writer is capable of even greater heights, as exemplified by the nonfiction she’s written during and since her NYT tenure. Her latest book is sure to entrance readers of The Archive, exploring the unbelievable true story of the WWI escape of British officers Harry Jones and Cedric Hill.
People of the River
Travel to the Land Down Under, to the first British settlement of Australia in the last days of the 18th century. The Dyarubbin—or as the settlers called it, the Hawkesbury-Nepean River—was the site chosen for Britain’s great new experiment. Settlers pitted themselves against the Aboriginal people who lived in their new home, often with violent outcomes. Karskens’s exploration was published in 2020 in Australia to rave reviews. We welcome it to our shores with open arms.
The Man Who Hated Women
You’ve likely heard about the Comstock laws—really just one act passed by Congress that made it illegal to send birth control or information about birth control through the mail. It also deemed contraceptives as obscene. The man behind this law, Anthony Comstock, was disgusted by the sight of constant pornography and prostitution in New York City, and believed that contraceptives were the cause of such sin. The salesman drafted his own laws… and somehow passed them. This fascinating book focuses less on Comstock and more on the stories of eight women prosecuted under the Comstock law, including Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman.
Related: 20 Influential Women in History You Need to Know About