• CULTURAL HISTORY

Russians: The People Behind the Power

Gregory Feifer's decade as a Moscow reporter offers sharp insights on everything from Vladimir Putin, Edward Snowden, and a nation's sexual politics, to the enduring pleasures of Dosteyevsky, good vodka, and discovering one's familial roots.

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  • CULTURAL HISTORY

Opium

From the Stone Age onward, Papaver somniferum has been the source of medicinal and recreational drugs alike, and its trade powered the British empire's worldwide expansion. Clinical pathologist Dr. Thomas Dormandy traces its influence on inspired artists, desperate addicts, criminal gangs, and dedicated healers in this potent work of narrative history.

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  • CULTURAL HISTORY

The Accidental Feminist

The author of Forever Barbie offers an appreciation of one of the most glamorous movie stars of all time from a startling perspective. M. G. Lord argues that, in films such as National Velvet, A Place in the Sun, and Butterfield 8, Elizabeth Taylor's roles challenged long-held assumptions about gender, sexuality, and power. A counterintuitive take on a still-fascinating personality.

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  • CULTURAL HISTORY

The Vineyard at the End of the World

How did Argentina and its Malbec wines grow from near obscurity, oenologically speaking, to international prominence so rapidly? Wine journalist Ian Mount tells, with clarity -- and yet no loss of complexity -- the colorful story of how a French grape turned the unlikely region into a wine-producing powerhouse. With lively tales of backroom dealings, brilliant schemes, and big dreams, there's a lot to savor for the discerning palate.

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  • CULTURAL HISTORY

Deadly Powers

Once upon a time, humanity stood naked and armed with only a stick against a world raging with vicious predators. Paul A. Trout theorizes with elegant persuasiveness that this long night of falling prey was instrumental in the genesis of our folklore and fears. Building on Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth, Trout teases out the evolutionary wiring of our narratives about monsters, from the many-headed Hydra to the ferocious Griffin.

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  • CULTURAL HISTORY

The Bear

William Kotzwinkle (The Bear Went Over the Mountain) and Bella Pollen (The Summer of the Bear) have already demonstrated the appeal of ursine protagonists. But their treatment of our bruinish cousins is nowhere near as encyclopedic as that of Michel Pastoureau, who starts his survey in prehistory and rambles down to the present, tracing the biology, allure, and legends of bears right up to the cuddly teddy bear that represents a hearthside version of the former king of beasts.

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  • CULTURAL HISTORY

Elizabeth and Hazel

Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan have been united for decades by a single iconic image. In it, Bryan, who is white, angrily confronts Eckford, who is black, as she tries to enter Little Rock's all-white Central High School in September 1957, one of the handful of students known as the Little Rock Nine. David Margolick examines how this historic moment, captured when each was only 15, forever changed these women's lives, charting their complex relationship, from antagonists, to friends, to wary acquaintances.

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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.

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