Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson - OverDrive/Libby - audiobook also available.
On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though German U-boats had, for months, brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the fastest liners then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game. An array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - OverDrive/Libby - audiobook also available.
Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became the first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, which are still alive today. They were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown. As Rebecca Skloot shows, this story is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly - OverDrive/Libby - audiobook and graphic novel also available.
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as "human computers" used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space, including a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. They were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America's aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they helped America achieve a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War and complete domination of the heavens.
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport - OverDrive/Libby - audiobook also available on OverDrive/Libby and hoopla.
They were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore, and their privileged lifestyle. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive, and perceptive witnesses to the turmoil within their immediate family and the approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer - OverDrive/Libby.
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild. Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, he searches for clues to the drives and desires that propelled McCandless.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - OverDrive/Libby - audiobook also available.
Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which provides endless opportunities to witness the silliness of his fellow human beings. For a start, there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride; while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail; as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - OverDrive/Libby - audiobook also available.
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.
As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.