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The Best History Books of January

January was a great month for nonfiction. Here's a sampling of some of our favorites from this month. For the full list, go to the The Best Books of the Month: History, or you can go to the Best Books of the Month to see all our picks.



  • The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson - This is one that I personally enjoyed very much, in which Bryson writes the "sequel" to his 20 year old book Notes from a Small Island. Few writers make me laugh out loud, and Bryson is right at the top of those who do. A certain segment of our customers, however, has commented that he seems just a little too angry and sharp-tongued in this book. That's the minority, though. Different strokes and all that...



  • The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley by Eric Weiner - Amazon's Erin Kodicek writes, "the book—an irreverent and surprisingly entertaining blend of historical biography, travel essay, and sociological study—centers around this quote by Plato: "What is honored in a country will be cultivated there," be it intellectual discourse, art, music, literature, or life-altering gadgets like the iPhone." Eric Weiner, who also wrote the best-selling Geography of Bliss, looks here at hotbeds of innovation through time and asks why they existed where and when they did.



  • City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence - The City of Thorns of the title is Dadaab refugee camp that has grown into a city of refugess. Sitting in the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya, it is nearly 25 years old and is inhabited by half a million or so people. It's the largest refugee camp in the world, one that you have probably never heard of. To write this book, author Ben Rawlence spent four years researching the people of Dadaab. He brings a very human face to an existence that many of us might view as inhuman.



  • The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America by Ethan Michaeli - What a great book and a fascinating piece of history about one of the nation's great black newspapers. First established in 1905, and smuggled into the Jim Crow south where the paper encouraged black people to embark on the Great Migration north, The Defender grew to wield great clout and made its owner one of the country's first black millionaires. The likes of Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, and Martin Luther King wrote columns for the paper. When Barrack Obama first entered public office, he went to the offices of The Defender. There's so much more to the story, and Michaeli tells it so well.



  • Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles by Jon Wilkman - Amazon's Jon Foro writes, "How does a man-made disaster that killed 500 innocents near a burgeoning metropolis become a historical footnote? In 1928, the St. Francis dam, part of William Mulholland's ambitious plan to siphon water to young Los Angeles, suddenly disintegrated, releasing a wall of water that obliterated everything in its path. The story has been told before, but Jon Wilkman is the first to separate the disaster from its larger, triumphant context. Floodpath applies Wilkman's skills as an award-winning documentarian, collecting first-hand accounts, contemporary reporting, and interviews with Mullholland's descendants--while eschewing the dramatic speculation that pads much recent "narrative nonfiction"--to produce a factual-yet-compelling account that still resonates today."

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