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The Best History Books of July

Summer is considered a time for Beach Reads—which generally means big thrillers and summer romances—but this month offers some exciting history books that should not be overlooked. I've heard others theorize that summer is the perfect time to sit down with a big serious book that we wouldn't otherwise have the time to take on, and I don't disagree with that theory. With that in mind, here are some history books that will keep you occupied and entertained through the dog days ahead:



The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale - The Wicked Boy is historical true crime centered around an East London murder committed by a thirteen-year-old Victorian boy. In the summer of 1895, the young Robert Coombes and his twelve-year-old brother Nattie spent ten days dining out at coffee houses and taking trips to the seaside and the theater. A suspicious aunt eventually forced her way into their home, where she discovered their mother's badly decomposed body. Lacking remorse, and fascinated with pulp fiction and violent criminals, Robert was sentenced and sent to Broadmoor, England's most infamous criminal lunatic asylum. Yet Broadmoor turned out to be the beginning of a new life for Robert—one that would have profoundly shocked anyone who thought they understood the Wicked Boy. Summerscale takes us through the crime, the investigation, and the aftermath in this narrative nonfiction that reads like a novel.



Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye - From the best-selling author of Satchel comes a revealing portrait of Bobby Kennedy, taking into account his grit, his passions, and his contradictions. When we think of Bobby Kennedy, we don't think of him as one who would work with a red baiter, but Kennedy actually began his public life as counsel to senator Joseph McCarthy. Tye follows RFK's transformation from those early years to his last years spent championing the underclass, drawing on unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and fifty-eight boxes of papers that had been under lock and key for the past forty years. He conducted hundreds of interviews with RFK intimates—including Bobby's widow, Ethel, his sister Jean, and his aide John Siegenthaler—many of whom have never spoken to another biographer. This is a balanced and revelatory treatment of a politician whom we all think we already know.



Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal by Jack Kelly - Before there was the World Wide Web, there was the Erie Canal. Ok, that might be a bit too grand a statement, but the Erie Canal did make New York the financial capital of America and brought the modern world into the frontier. Author Jack Kelly focuses as much on the people involved with the canal—those who built it and those who built their lives around it—as he does on the specifics of digging "Heaven's Ditch." It's a fascinating "only in America" story, filled with swindlers, entertainers, religious awakenings, criminals, and visionaries. This is history that breathes life into the dusty past.

See our full list of the Best History Books of July.


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