Hotel: An American History

After his inauguration, George Washington embarked on a tour of the United States to bolster support for its fledgling government; sadly, the poor guy could barely find a decent place to rest his head. ?The only Inn short of Hallifax Rooms or beds which appeared tolerable, & everything else having a dirty appearance, I was compelled to keep on,? the father of our country wrote wearily of his visit to North Carolina. In this erudite, engaging, and beautifully illustrated history, Sandoval-Strausz examines how the inns of Washington?s day -- places where a drunken stranger might join you in bed at any point during the night -- came to be replaced by the hotel, which, he argues, is a uniquely American invention. The author links the proliferation of hotels to the rise of capitalism. In Colonial times, strangers were viewed with suspicion and often run out of town, but in the 19th century, with revolutions in steam and rail transportation facilitating the movement of goods, the people moving the goods needed dependable places to stay along their routes. By the early 20th century, the emergence of mass tourism and the popularization of the automobile meant that more and more Americans were hitting the road. Thus, the creation of the ?institutional model of hospitality,? which is something of a fancy term for the Kids Eat Free special at the Holiday Inn.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).