Cortés vs. Montezuma, Erasmus vs. Luther, & More | History Previews, Jan. 2018

Baatz, Simon. The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9780316396653. $29; ebk. ISBN 9780316396677. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316510677. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. HISTORY/TRUE CRIME
The rape of 16-year-old chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit by womanizing architect Stanford White and White’s subsequent murder five years later by Nesbit’s playboy millionaire husband are well-known events. New York Times best-selling author Baatz (For the Thrill of It), who holds appointments in history at John Jay College and CUNY’s Graduate Center, aims to document and just as thoroughly vivify what really happened. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Bergman, Ronen. Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. Random. Jan. 2018. 736p. ISBN 9781400069712. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780679604686. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
The Talmud proclaims, “If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first,” something Israel has taken seriously since its difficult inception. The senior political and military analyst for Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, Bergman interviewed dozens of current and former government officials in Israel to tell the story of its state-sponsored assassination programs. Billed as news-breaking.

Dingell, John David with David Bender. The Dean: The Best Seat in the House, from FDR to Obama. Harper. Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780062571991. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780062572004. MEMOIR
The son of a congressman, Dingell became a house page in 1938 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1955, ultimately serving for 59 consecutive years and twice chairing the Energy and Commerce Committee. Clearly, his story is also America’s, and he’s still out there tweeting. With a 50,000-copy first printing; originally scheduled for September 2017.

Jacobson, Sid & Ernie Colón. Three-Fifths a Man: A Graphic History of the African American Experience. Hill and Wang. Jan. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9780809093687. $35. HISTORY
Former Harvey Comics editor in chief Jacobson, and Colón, who oversaw the production of Spider-Man at Marvel and of numerous superheroes at DC Comics, got more serious-minded with graphic novels like the New York Times best seller The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Now they use their considerable skills to chronicle African American history from the Middle Passage to Barack Obama.

Kerrison, Catherine. Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America. Ballantine. Jan. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9781101886243. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781101886250. lrg. prnt. Downloadable: Random Audio. BIOGRAPHY
An associate professor of history at Villanova University, Kerrison won the Outstanding Book Prize from the History of Education Society for Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South—great scholarly bona fides, and Kerrison did considerable archival and DNA research to write this account of Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters, two free white girls and one (with Sally Hemings) an African American slave. Note, however, that the book is being published by Ballantine, which suggests that it is an accessibly written work aimed at all readers. An important issue heretofore barely explored; keep an ear out for the NPR campaign.

Massing, Michael. Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Rupture of Europe. Harper. Jan. 2018. 800p. ISBN 9780060517601. $40. HISTORY
MacArthur Fellow Massing offers a dual biography of Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther, two of the great minds of European history and in everlasting hot contention. Erasmus was famed for his wit and erudition but was reluctant to challenge the Church, while Luther was a tough-hided individualist with a ribald sense of humor and a fighter’s will to take on all comers. Then and now, they represent humanism and evangelism, respectively, and Massing’s study shows why Luther is the one best remembered. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

O’Toole, Patricia. The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made. S. & S. Jan. 2018. 512p. ISBN 9780743298094. $32. HISTORY
The author of The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, a finalist for Pulitzer, National Book Critics Circle, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize honors, O’Toole explores the controversies and consequences of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. A progressive regarding economics but not racial equality or women’s suffrage, Wilson repressed political dissent when finally leading the nation into World War I but emerged to advocate liberal internationalism, spearheading the founding of the League of Nations. Infamously, Congress blocked America’s joining the league, but O’Toole points out that Wilson’s internationalism was later adopted by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Restall, Matthew. When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History. Ecco. Jan. 2018. 560p. ISBN 9780062427267. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062427281. HISTORY
In his November 8, 1519, meeting with Aztec emperor Montezuma, Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés is typically portrayed as a bold military genius triumphing over a weak and temporizing enemy. But Restall, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Latin American History and director of Latin American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University, offers a distinctly different picture, thus shifting our perception of the European colonization of the New World. Restall is currently working with Brown University’s John Carter Brown Library on events marking the upcoming 500th anniversary of the momentous events depicted here.

Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2018. 528p. ISBN 9781250128010. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250128034. CD: Macmillan Audio. BIOGRAPHY
Taraborrelli is the author of nearly 20 biographies that include numerous New York Times best sellers chronicling the glamorous lives of Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna, not to mention Jackie, Ethel, Joan—Women of Camelot and After Camelot—A Personal History of the Kennedy Family 1968 to the Present. All of which sets him up nicely for this triple-paned biography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis; her mother, Janet Lee Auchincloss; and her sister, Princess Lee Radziwill. Intimate detail is the name of this game.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Amy says:

    Barbara, you should be more careful in assigning paternity to Jefferson’s children. The DNA “evidence” is hardly conclusive, despite popular opinion.

    The fact is that the DNA indicates a “male Jefferson” – and let us not forget that Jefferson’s brother was often seen on Mulberry Row – this according to several docents at Monticello.

    It’s the height of irresponsibility to issue a blanket scurrilous statement about Jefferson, although I know it’s very popular to do so these days.

  2. Deborah Bancroft says:

    Also upcoming in January 2018 is the latest title in Beacon Press’ outstanding series ReVisioning American History: An African American and LatinX History of the United States, by Paul Ortiz.

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