These recently published books are written about Americans who have contributed to the welfare, culture and health of the nation. These are uplifting stories of people whose actions improved life for many. Readers will be proud to call them their “fellow Americans.”
American Rhapsody by Claudia Roth Pierpont (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). Twelve portraits of artists, writers, actors and musicians who shaped the culture of the nation through their creativity and genius. From Edith Warton to Peggy Guggenheim and Nina Simone, the author’s insightful and intelligent perspectives bring to life fascinating characters that shaped America as we know it today.
The Death of Cancer by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr., M.D. and Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015). For 50 years, Dr. Vincent DeVita has been on the forefront of developing cures for cancer. This book is his personal, accessible perspective on brave patients and the committed oncologists who fight the disease. It’s excellent and engrossing science writing that gives hope that the battle against cancer is being won.
The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act by Alex Prud’Homme (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016). Here’s the captivating story of an unlikely heroine, a tall, exuberant middle-aged woman who managed to transform cooking in the United States through her knowledge, enthusiasm and hard work. The author, her grand-nephew, writes for The New York Times, and co-authored My Life in France with Julia Child.
Prisoners of Hope: Lyndon B. Johnson, the Great Society and the Limits of Liberalism by Randall B. Woods (Basic Books, 2016). Under President Johnson’s leadership, more than 1,000 pieces of groundbreaking legislation were passed, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with the goal of improving racial injustice, poverty, education, health care, immigration and the environment. This is a history of what Johnson was able to achieve through the Great Society and a cautionary tale of unexpected consequences that can follow the best of intentions.
Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland by Miriam Horn (W. W. Norton and Company, 2016). The five men and women in these stories do not call themselves environmentalists, but they all feel morally responsible for protecting the nation’s natural heritage. Their admirable work puts them front and center in the conservation movement. This beautifully written book gives hope that our nation’s land and water can be preserved through the leadership of those who work close to the earth.
Cathleen Towey Merenda is the Director of the Westbury Memorial Public Library and is servicing on the University Press Committee for the American Library Association in 2016.