Reading in Threes: Corners of American History

This time around, Reading in Threes covers three new books that pick up bits and pieces from the corners of unknown American history.

One Nation, Under Gods by Peter Manseau
Published by Little, Brown on January 27th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 416
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America is often described as a Christian nation and painted with broad strokes as a country built on Puritan beliefs, but Peter Manseau makes it clear that there is much more behind our religious history.

In chronological sections, starting before the arrival of Columbus, One Nation, Under Gods follows the rise and fall of religions in the colonies and United States. While some stories, like those of Anne Hutchinson and the Salem Witch Trials, are familiar others are more surprising. Manseau charts the use of Yiddish code in the Revolutionary War, the popularity of Hinduism among progressive thinkers in the late 19th century and the role of Sikh soldiers in World War I. While it lacks the narrative thread many readers like to see in nonfiction, One Nation, Under Gods will be a fascinating read for history and religion buffs alike.


The Monopolists by Mary Pilon
Published by Bloomsbury on February 17th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
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From the time it hit stores in the 1930’s, Parker Brothers sold Monopoly with the encouraging backstory of being invented by a Pennsylvania father struggling through the Great Depression. However, many Americans who had played versions of the game before knew the story wasn’t exactly true. Mary Pilon’s upcoming book follows a professor in the 1970’s as he digs back through Monopoly’s past in an effort to sell his own game and set history straight.

At the start of The Monopolists it’s not clear how the story of a modern professor who invented a game called Anti-Monopoly, a creative feminist in the early 20th century and a group of Quakers in Atlantic City will come together, but Mary Pilon weaves their narratives together brilliantly. What could easily be a dry history of a game almost all Americans have played reads like a fresh, page-turning mystery. The Monopolists is every bit as fun as it looks.


The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell
Published by Scribner on January 20th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 416
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In 1942, while assembly centers for Japanese Americans were established in California, a small town in Texas began to function as the only family internment camp in the United States. In The Train to Crystal City, Jan Jarboe Russell tells the previously unknown story of the city, how it came to be, and the people who called it home.

Russell’s book is wonderfully narrated through the stories of Japanese and German American teenage girls who lived in Crystal City and felt the impact of the American government’s suspension of civil rights throughout the war. In sections that alternate between daily life at the camp and the government process behind internment, readers are given a full picture of Crystal City. Written with great balance, including a beautifully thought-out portion that addresses the Holocaust, The Train to Crystal City is an essential look into America’s blemished past.