Subject: Historical

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

About the Book

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles's assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements-she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States-Anne is viewed merely as the aviator's wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life's infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Hissing Cousins by Mark Petser

About the Book

When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, his beautiful and flamboyant daughter was transformed into “Princess Alice,” arguably the century’s first global celebrity. Thirty-two years later, Alice’s first cousin Eleanor moved into the White House as First Lady. The two women had been born eight months and twenty blocks apart in New York City, spent much of their childhoods together, and were far more alike than most historians acknowledge. But their politics and personalities couldn’t have been more distinct.

Democratic icon Eleanor was committed to social justice and hated the limelight; Republican Alice was an opponent of big government who gained notoriety for her cutting remarks. The cousins liked to play up their rivalry—in the 1930s they even wrote opposing syndicated newspaper columns and embarked on competing nationwide speaking tours. When the family business is politics, winning trumps everything. Lively, intimate, and stylishly written, Hissing Cousins is a double biography of two extraordinary women whose entwined lives give us a sweeping look at the twentieth century in America.

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

About the Book

On the eve of the World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, is unsure how the fair’s events will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his purpose shifts, and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair.

One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine, playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, transforms everything when the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

About the Book

The story begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when ten-year-old Handful is abruptly pulled from the Grimké’s work yard, adorned in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah tries in vain to decline, but over time, the two create a bond that will ultimately and dramatically shape their destinies.

As their intertwined stories unfold in their own voices, Sarah will eventually break from the only life she knows and go north to become an exile, encountering love and heartbreak, repression and renaissance as she searches for her voice and her place of belonging. Back home, Handful will experience her mother’s mysterious disappearance, finding strength and answers in the story quilt she leaves behind. When Denmark Vesey, a free black man with messianic charisma, plots a dangerous slave insurrection in the heart of Charleston, Handful becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens to shake the city to its foundations.

Euphoria by Lily King

About the Book

English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying the Kiona river tribe in the Territory of New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brothers’ deaths and increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when a chance encounter with colleagues, the controversial Nell Stone and her wry and mercurial Australian husband Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell’s poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe nearby, the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

About the Book

They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.

The Trees by Conrad Richter

About the Book

The Trees is a moving novel of the beginning of the American trek to the west. Toward the close of the 18th century, the land west of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio River was an unbroken sea of trees. Beneath them the forest trails were dark, silent, and lonely, brightened only by a few lost beams of sunlight. Here, in the first novel of Conrad Richter's Awakening Land trilogy, the Lucketts, a wild, woods-faring family, lived their roaming life, pushing ever westward as the frontier advanced and as new settlements threatened their isolation. This novel gives an excellent feel for America's lost woods culture, which was created when most of the eastern midwest was a vast hardwood forest—virtually a jungle. The Trees conveys settler life, including conflicts with Native Americans, illness, hunting, family dynamics, and marriage.


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

About the Book

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.


War Brides by Helen Bryan

About the Book

As evacuation gets underway and Britain waits for the Luftwaffe to arrive, the lives of five very different women are about to collide in the sleepy little village of Crowmarsh Priors.

Evangeline has eloped from New Orleans with naval captain Richard Fairfax. A Sussex village is about as far away from home as she can possibly imagine, but brings her nearer to her true love—Laurent, who has fled to France.

Alice is resigned to life as the parish spinster, but the war will bring her friendships and passion she could never have foreseen.

Elsie leaves her East End home at fifteen, to become an under-house maid for Lady Marchmount. She soon catches the eye of another young evacuee—Bernie Carpenter.

Tanni has fled from Vienna, and arrives in Crowmarsh Priors with her newborn son, not knowing if her family are alive or if she will ever see them again.

Frances is to see out the war with her godmother, Lady Marchmont. She has lived a carefree life of privilege, but now her desire to help her friend, Tanni, leads her into a whole new world of danger and excitement.

Together these five women will face hardship, passion and danger. They form a bond that lasts for the rest of their lives and sees them through their darkest hours.

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

About the Book

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!

But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.

Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way.

For more information, visit The Girls of Atomic City website.

Denise Kiernan presents to the National Archives

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