Blood on the table : the greatest cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

From Andrea Kalinowski

Author:  Colin Evans

Title:   Blood on the table : the greatest cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner 

Blood on the table: the greatest cases of New York’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner by Colin Evans echoes some of the history which I had already known through reading Arsenic and clam chowder: murder in Gilded Age New York by James D. Livingston. Colin Evans explores, in detail, the complex history and tumultuous beginnings of the Coroner’s Office, which was eventually renamed. “Of the sixty-five men who had held the office of coroner since consolidation, not one was thoroughly qualified, by training or experience, for the adequate performance of his duties. By occupation, nineteen were general physicians without any formal training in legal medicine, eight were undertakers, seven were politicians, six were real estate dealers, two were saloonkeepers, and two were plumbers; the rest were respectively, a lawyer, a printer, an auctioneer, a contractor, a carpenter, a painter, a dentist, a butcher ….” This book was an eye-opener regarding the politics and fiduciary issues plaguing the Coroner’s Office. The Coroner’s Office was eventually abolished in 1915. “The small print stated that the current holder of the positon would be replaced when their engagement ended on January 1, 1918. Beginning in January 1918, the city of New York, would have its first chief Medical Examiner. For anyone interested in forensics and history, this book is a perfect amalgamation of both. It is sprinkled throughout with true crime examples and the bitter rivalries engendered by the esteem attached to the office of Medical Examiner.

The warmth of other suns : the epic story of America’s great migration

From Ellen Druda
Author:  Isabel Wilkerson
The warmth of other suns : the epic story of America’s great migration 
The great migration by African Americans from the South to the North during the 20th century is told through the stories of three individuals who made the trip. We learn about the rough lives of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster in the Jim Crow south: the humiliation and fear, pitiful pay, and brutal working conditions that were regular parts of their daily existence. Separately they make the leap up North, and we follow their lives, for better or worse. Wilkerson interweaves the personal histories with the great history and brings the migration to life with facts, quotes, and an incredible amount of research.  Eye-opening, expansive, and moving, this book sheds brilliant light on an important part of the American story.

Governors Island : the jewel of New York Harbor

From Alicja Feitzinger
author: Buttenwieser, Ann L.
Governors Island : the jewel of New York Harbor
 This is a beautifully illustrated and well annotated history of Governors Island. It’s almost hard to believe that this small, 92 acre island has such rich history.  For more than 200 years the island was used as a military facility by British and American forces, utilizing its strategic location, but now it can be visited and enjoyed by the public. The book is worth glancing through before the visit to the Governors Island.

Just Kids

From Ellen Druda
author: Smith, Patti
 Just Kids
Patti Smith’s evocative memoir recounts her early days in New York City and her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. This National Book Award winning work is an accessible, easy read, yet full of imagery that stirs the imagination.  From her childhood in New Jersey, we follow her across the river to a bohemian city life in the psychedelic 60’s, mingling with soon- to- be famous painters, writers, and musicians.  This book will especially appeal to baby-boomers and music fans.

Hellhound on his trail : the stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the international hunt for his assassin

From Chris Garland
author: Sides, Hampton
Hellhound on his trail : the stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the international hunt for his assassin
James Earl Ray and Martin Luther King were at existential crossroads in 1968.  Each was looking for a new path to the next phase of his life.  Ray was seeking a way to give his life focus after his escape from prison.  King, struggling in his personal and professional life, was trying to jump start his movement in a new direction- away from Civil Rights and toward the issue of poverty. Chance found both men in Los Angeles where Ray had his epiphany. He would kill the Civil Rights leader and become a hero.  Thus, their paths led them to Memphis and to their ultimate fate.  Hampton Sides weaves together a fascinating account of these two men which led to the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968 and the historic manhunt for James Earl Ray that followed.

Hitler’s holy relics : a true story of Nazi plunder and the race to recover the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire

From Rita Gross
author: Kirkpatrick, Sidney D. 
Hitler’s holy relics : a true story of Nazi plunder and the race to recover the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire
At the end of the war, Lt. Walter Horn is charged with investigating the disappearance of the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, and retrieving them.  As the story of their recovery unfolds, we learn of their sinister deeper symbolic meaning to the Nazis and Hitler.  The book follows his pursuit of the relics, and the uncovering of the plot that would have used them to imbue resurgent Nazis with mythic qualities.

Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910

From Eileen Effrat
author: Jackson, Jeffrey H.
Paris Under Water:  How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910
On the 100th anniversary of the catastrophic flood that put much of Paris
under  water in January 1910, historian Jeffrey Jackson vividly describes
the flooding within the political, cultural, and social context of the
time.  Although the Seine’s water level normally rose during the winter
months,  19th century technology had done much to protect the city against serious flooding. This was not to be the case in 1910.  The Seine rose 20 feet above normal—the highest level in 250 years. As water began seeping into basements, sewers, and underground channels, the Paris metro lines came to a halt as power plants filled with water and short circuited.  Lights went out across the city. City workers dumped tons of refuse into the fast flowing Seine, as garbage processing plants were knocked out of service.  Surprisingly, disease remained at bay.  Using entries from diaries, letters written by eye witnesses, and newspaper articles, the author presents the human side of a disaster that captured world-wide media coverage.

Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void

From Ellen Druda
author: Roach, Mary
Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void
This book was funny. Each chapter took a look at the different ways NASA prepared the astronauts to handle certain personal functions in space: sleeping, going to the bathroom, eating, air sickness, claustrophobia, etc., and how successful they were.  Along the way we learn about the history of the space program both here and in the Soviet Union, some interesting trivia, and the author’s personal experiences researching the book.  Roach focuses on the absurd and the comic in the very serious world of space travel, and the results are enlightening and entertaining.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

From Erik Schmid
author: D’Agnese, Joseph
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci
The life of the mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci is simplified with fictionalized narrative in this picture biography for the young reader. From his childhood in 1178 Pisa, where he solved the math problems his teachers gave him in seconds, to introducing Hindu-Arabic Numerals to Europe, to discovering the Fibonacci sequence, the book expands upon what is factually known about the life of this great scholar.
Taking what could be perceived as a dry topic and making it very interesting is the true triumph of this children’s biography.

Off Like the Wind!: The First Ride of the Pony Express

From Erik Schmid
author: Spradlin, Michael P.
titl: Off Like the Wind!: The First Ride of the Pony Express
This handsomely illustrated picture book for older readers tells the story of the first ride of the Pony Express in 1860. Using a daily journal style approach, the book uses the route that the riders traversed to inform the reader about the local geography, history and conditions of the stops along the way from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The factual accounts of the riders, along with action of the everyday events themselves, make this a history book that will appeal to the non-history reader.