They say history is written by the victors, but what about the everyday people? The ones who witnessed or experienced events that changed history? What are their stories? Below is a collection of fascinating and eye-opening nonfiction books either written by or about the regular, run-of-the-mill people who were there when history changed forever.
9 Historical Tales from the Not-So-Famous People Who Lived Them
A feminist classic, this essay collection from a Croatian writer explores the daily lives of women behind the Iron Curtain. Witty, clear-eyed, and whip-smart, Slavenka Drakulić not only analyzes the politics of Communism but shows us the tiny details that the rest of the world may not consider, such as why a banana is a luxury to women who for years have desperately hoarded cosmetics.
Switching between the perspectives of the passengers of the ill-fated luxury ocean liner the Lusitania and those of the German U-boats terrorizing the Atlantic, Erik Larson effortlessly and breathlessly brings the tragedy of this 1915 maritime disaster to life. Intimate, suspenseful, and captivating, Larson makes this story feel eerily real.
Travel back in time to eighteenth-century New England and discover the laborious and fascinating day-to-day life of a midwife. Based on the real diary of an herbalist who attended more than 800 births, this is an absorbing look at how Americans lived more than 200 years ago and dealt with violence, women’s rights, marriage, and sex.
Discover the little-known true story of America’s First Family and the woman who was determined to be free. After George Washington became president, one of his slaves, Ona Judge, sparked a national manhunt when she ran away. A spellbinding and eye-opening book, NEVER CAUGHT is an important and inspirational tale for all Americans.
Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
“A fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom.” —Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Fiery Trial and Gateway to Freedom
A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked everything to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom.
When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary and eight slaves, including Ona Judge, about whom little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.
Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs.
At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.
With impeccable research, historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked it all to gain freedom from the famous founding father.
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In this compelling, tragic, and hopeful memoir, Loung Ung recounts the horrors of surviving the Cambodian genocide as a child. From being forced out of her home with her family at age five to enduring life as a child soldier and beyond, Ung brings a clear voice to this vital story about the worst of humanity and the power of family.
Discover the fascinating reality behind the creation of the world’s greatest female superhero and the women who inspired her creator. Jill Lepore delves into the women’s rights movement of the early 20th century and explores how sex, academia, criminal justice, and birth control all played a role in forming the Wonder Woman we love today.
Learn more about the Puerto Rican diaspora in the mid-twentieth century from a woman who lived it as a young teenager. With evocative and fierce writing, Esmeralda Santiago recounts her family’s move from rural Puerto Rico to 1960s New York City and the difficult but often humorous cultural clashes she experienced.
How do you write a biography of the man billions of people consider to be God? Ask Reza Aslan, who crafted a thrilling and moving exploration of the Jewish preacher who would later be known to Christians as the Messiah. By analyzing the politics of Galilee and the Scripture versus historical context, Aslan creates a vivid and engaging portrait of Jesus.
Directly from the hundreds of people who were affected by the worst nuclear reactor disaster in history, this gripping oral history clearly illustrates the personal cost of the disaster. A darkly humorous, and haunting collection of testimonies, VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL is a clear-eyed look at survival during the last years of the Soviet Union.