History Book Club

The History Book Club meets at 7:00 p.m. at the Cayuga Museum on the second Wednesday of the month, September through June.  The History Book Club does not meet in July and August.  Participation is free and guests can come to any or all of the meetings.

April 13 — Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher:  The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan.  Popular historian Egan tells the story of self-made master photographer Edward Curtis (1868–1952) and his 20-volume, ground-breaking photographic epic, The North American Indian.  Despite losing his business, his property, and all control of his work, Curtis completed his massive project over nearly 30 years, preserving a huge body of knowledge about Indian cultures.

May 11 — North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom by Milton Sernett.  A compelling and wide-ranging tale that begins with a history of slavery in upstate New York and ends with John Brown’s execution and burial in the Adirondacks. Many of the great abolitionists, among them Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, Beriah Green, Jermain Lougen, and Samuel May, lived and worked in upstate New York.

June 8 –  The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust.  More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War.  Faust reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God.

September 14 – The Path Between the Seas:  The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough.  The National Book Award–winning epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal, a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat that was filled with both tragedy and triumph.

October 12 –  Who Are These People Anyway?  By Chief Irving Powless Jr.  Mainstream culture seen through Onondaga eyes.  Powless shares intimate stories of growing up close to the earth, of his work as Wampum Keeper for the Haudenosaunee people, his heritage as a lacrosse player, and the treaties his ancestors made with the newcomers.  He also pokes fun at the often-peculiar behavior of his non-Onondaga neighbors.

November 9 — 1924: The Year That Made Hitler by Peter Ross Ranger.  A compelling narrative that finally explains one of the great mysteries of our era. Range’s deft portrait clicks into place the final necessary nugget in one of our time’s darkest eras and provides us with a biographical portrait that is chilling to read — but that we dare not ignore.

December 14 — The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings by Lars Brownworth. In AD 793 Norse warriors struck the English isle of Lindisfarne and laid waste to it. Wave after wave of Norse ‘sea-wolves’ followed in search of plunder, land, or a glorious death in battle and sacked towns and cities throughout Europe.   But there is more to the Viking story than brute force. They were makers of law and they introduced a novel form of trial by jury to England. They were also sophisticated merchants and explorers who settled Iceland, founded Dublin, and established a trading network that stretched from Baghdad to the coast of North America.

January 11, 2017 — Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick.  An important geopolitical overview with the grisly punch of true-crime nonfiction … The author focuses on dramatic flashpoints and the roles of key players, creating an exciting tale with a rueful tone, emphasizing how the Iraq invasion’s folly birthed ISIS and created many missed opportunities to stop al-Zarqawi quickly.

February 8, 2017 — Coolidge by Amity Shlaes.  A brilliant and provocative reexamination of America’s thirtieth president, Calvin Coolidge, and the decade of unparalleled growth that the nation enjoyed under his leadership.  After a divisive period of government excess and corruption, Coolidge restored national trust in Washington and achieved what few other peacetime presidents have: He left office with a federal budget smaller than the one he inherited. A man of calm discipline, he lived by example, renting half of a two-family house for his entire political career rather than compromise his political work by taking on debt.

March 8, 2017 — The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Anne Marie O’Connor.  The celebrated painting, stolen by Nazis during World War II, subsequently became the subject of a decade-long dispute between her heirs and the Austrian government.  When the U.S. Supreme Court became involved in the case, its decision had profound ramifications in the art world. Expertly researched, masterfully told, The Lady in Gold is at once a stunning depiction of fin-de siècle Vienna, a riveting tale of Nazi war crimes, and a fascinating glimpse into the high-stakes workings of the contemporary art world.