Bryan Stevenson was fresh out of Harvard Law School when he embraced—first in Georgia, then in Alabama—the mission of defending death row inmates and others facing undeserved or disproportionate prison sentences. An African American from a poor family in Delaware, Stevenson accepts as a starting point the maxim, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
In mid-19th-century America, newspapers were the primary sources of information and opinion. Most newspaper publishers and editors were closely aligned with politicians and, with few exceptions, opinions were emphasized more than news and loyalty to political parties more than the public interest. It was a time of significant change for the newspaper industry with technological innovations such as steam-driven printing presses and, most importantly, the telegraph, making delivery of the news much faster.
The baffling 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor gets true-crime treatment in Tinseltown, a compelling interweaving of star power, the machinations of power brokers and the desperation of the wannabes and the washed up. Together they provide the book’s apt subtitle: “Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood."
Cleopatra, Nefertiti: These are the names that come to mind when thinking of the legendary female rulers of ancient Egypt. In her highly engrossing The Woman Who Would Be King, Egyptian scholar Kara Cooney shines a spotlight on Hatshepsut, Egypt’s largely overlooked, longest-ruling female pharaoh, who led her country through a period marked by peace, prosperity and architectural achievement.
While we all know George Washington as our first president and leader of American forces in the Revolutionary War, in The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson illuminates another key role he played: leading the Constitutional Convention.
In 2010, the world watched the dramatic rescue of 33 Chilean miners who had endured 69 days buried a half-mile underground. The men, who agreed in advance that they would only tell their story collectively, talked to Héctor Tobar, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who had exclusive access to the miners. They were generous and unsparing as they shared their experiences with him, resulting in a narrative that’s both harrowing and deeply moving.
When we think about technology and innovation, the names that come to mind immediately are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs—maybe Steve Wozniak or Paul Allen for the more hard-core geeks among us.
Self-control. Whether it’s getting to the gym, sticking to that diet, quitting smoking or keeping our tempers under wraps at work, most of us wish we had more of it. And certainly as parents we want our children to have the ability to practice self-control, set goals and be resilient in the face of failure.
If you've ever seen a story about food stamps or poverty and wondered how people end up there, you need to read Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. Author Linda Tirado wrote a post about why the poor make such “terrible decisions,” it went viral, and she offers an expanded take on the subject here.
Let me confess: I’m a medical book junkie. That said, Terrence Holt’s Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories is my new favorite, both in terms of literary merit and intriguing medical details and drama.