Staff Pick

“Is it an animal? Is it human? Is it an extraordinary freak of nature?” This fascinating biography takes us through all Barnum’s humbugs and hoaxes, from the Fejee Mermaid (part fish, part monkey skeleton), the “little general” Tom Thumb and Jumbo the Elephant, as well as his lectures on money making and temperance reform.  He created the ‘greatest show on earth’ but also suffered several catastrophic fires and bankruptcy. Writing with warmth and wisdom, Wilson resists the impulse to editorialize, but his meticulous research speaks for itself.  Whatever he was up to, Barnum emerges as complicated and vain, and in the words of one journalist, always “on the best possible terms with himself.”



Barnum: An American Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501118623
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Simon & Schuster - August 6th, 2019

Staff Pick

In this cerebral biography of Le Philosophe, Denis Diderot, Andrew S. Curran deftly captures the intellectual climate of the Ancien Regime and brings the encyclopaedist’s humor, intelligence and creativity to life. Curran argues Diderot was the pre-modern postmodernist par excellence, tackling issues of truth, subjectivity, sexuality, atheism, slavery, democracy and even hyperlinking. As Diderot was ever oriented towards posterity, one cannot but help wonder what he would think of his portrayal as carefree genius with a penchant for philandering, pondering and postulating. Organized thematically, Curran’s book has a certain logic even if it lacks a certain beauty, not entirely unlike an encyclopedia.

Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590516706
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Other Press - January 15th, 2019

Staff Pick

The story of Douglass’s rise from runaway slave to leading abolitionist, writer, and orator has been told before, not least by Douglass himself in not one but three autobiographies. Still, David W. Blight’s extensively researched, richly textured biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, reveals fresh details and provides a deeper appreciation of the complexities and paradoxes of the most important African American of the 19th century. Drawing on previously unpublished materials discovered in a private collection in Georgia, Blight, a Yale history professor, not only examines Douglass’ voluminous writings and speeches but also delves into his two marriages, other relationships, and complex extended family. While Blight clearly admires Douglass’ brilliant intellect, literary talents, and oratorical skills, he offers a balanced view of his subject’s many sides and turbulent life.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416590316
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 16th, 2018