This months picks are full of intersecting pathways and updated perspectives. A recurring thread seems to be on the pursuit of ‘home’, and questioning what it might mean.
Benazir Bhutto : favored daughter / Brooke Allen.
“The story of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to lead a Muslim nation, seems lifted straight from Greek tragedy. This account illuminates Bhutto’s tragic life as well as the role she played as the first female prime minister of Pakistan. Brooke Allen approaches Bhutto in a way not many have done before in this taut biography of a figure who had a profound effect on the volatile politics of the Middle East, drawing on contemporary news sources and eyewitness reports, as well as accounts from her supporters and her enemies.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Slow burn city : London in the twenty-first century / Rowan Moore.
“London has become the global city above all others. Versions of what is happening in London are happening elsewhere, but London has become the best place to understand the way the world’s cities are changing. […] Moore makes a passionate case for London to invent new ways to respond to the pressures of the present, from which other cities could learn.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
In wartime : stories from Ukraine / Tim Judah.
“Urgent and insightful, Tim Judah’s account of the human side of the conflict in Ukraine is an evocative exploration of what the second largest country in Europe feels like in wartime. Making his way from the Polish border in the west, through the capital city and the heart of the 2014 revolution, to the eastern frontline near the Russian border, seasoned war reporter Tim Judah brings a rare glimpse of the reality behind the headlines.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The slave’s cause : a history of abolition / Manisha Sinha.
“Received historical wisdom casts abolitionists as bourgeois, mostly white reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism. Manisha Sinha overturns this image, broadening her scope beyond the antebellum period usually associated with abolitionism and recasting it as a radical social movement in which men and women, black and white, free and enslaved found common ground in causes ranging from feminism and utopian socialism to anti-imperialism and efforts to defend the rights of labor.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The weight of shadows : a memoir of immigration and displacement / José Orduña.
“Tracing his story of becoming a US citizen, José Orduña’s memoir explores the complex issues of immigration and assimilation. […] A trenchant exploration of race, class, and identity, The Weight of Shadows is a searing meditation on the nature of political, linguistic, and cultural borders, and the meaning of “America”.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The battle for home : the memoir of a Syrian architect / Marwa al-Sabouni ; foreword by Roger Scruton.
“From Syria’s tolerant past, with churches and mosques built alongside one another in Old Homs and members of different religions living harmoniously together, the book chronicles the recent breakdown of social cohesion in Syria’s cities. With the lack of shared public spaces intensifying divisions within the community, and corrupt officials interfering in town planning for their own gain, these actions are symptomatic of wider abuses of power.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Bone rooms : from scientific racism to human prehistory in museums / Samuel J. Redman.
“In 1864 a U.S. army doctor dug up the remains of a Dakota man who had been killed in Minnesota. Carefully recording his observations, he sent the skeleton to a museum in Washington, DC, that was collecting human remains for research. In the ‘bone rooms’ of this museum and others like it, a scientific revolution was unfolding that would change our understanding of the human body, race, and prehistory.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
A woman’s life : Pauline Wengeroff and Memoirs of a grandmother / Shulamit S. Magnus.
“Pauline Wengeroff was born in 1833 into a pious Jewish family in Bobruisk. Her life, as recounted in this biography, was one of upheaval and transformation during Russian Jewry’s passage from tradition to modernity. Wengeroff’s narrative refracts communal experience and larger cultural, economic, and political developments through her own family life, to present readers with an extraordinary account of the cultural transformation of Russian Jewry in the 19th century.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Heart of Europe : a history of the Holy Roman Empire / Peter H. Wilson.
“The Holy Roman Empire lasted a thousand years, far longer than ancient Rome. Yet this formidable dominion never inspired the awe of its predecessor. Voltaire distilled the disdain of generations when he quipped it was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. Yet as Peter Wilson shows, the Holy Roman Empire tells a millennial story of Europe better than the histories of individual nation-states. And its legacy can be seen today in debates over the nature of the European Union.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Polynesian navigation and the discovery of New Zealand / Jeff Evans ; foreword by Francis Cowan.
“Polynesian navigation and the discovery of New Zealand offers a straightforward account of how and why Polynesian seafarers made their journey south to New Zealand shores. The first part discusses the origins of the voyages, legends of the homeland and the explorer Kupe, traditional Polynesian navigation techniques, and the preservation of seafaring knowledge by Māori. The second part presents a gripping account of the canoe Hawaiki-nui retracing the route from Tahiti to New Zealand in 1985 using traditional voyaging methods.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)