Curators Book Club
Born during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, the Curators Book Club is the creation of Museum Manager David Moore. Every two weeks, Dave recommends a book related to some area of history for our members, volunteers and social media followers to dive into.
These books are all available online in hardcover and/or paperback, digital ebooks, audiobooks, and should also be available through your local library.
Don’t forget, if you purchase your books on Amazon, you can donate to the Center via the Amazon Smile program. Every dollar helps keep our doors open and remain YOUR Mon Valley Museum.
Be sure to follow our social media accounts for our posts on the new books or search #curatorsbookclub on Facebook and Instagram.
The Curators Book Club Book List
The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Break Their Silence
By Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin
The first book in the #curatorsbookclub focuses on the Secret Service agents that protected President John F. Kennedy in the weeks leading up to his assassination, the day itself, and the aftermath. Selected because of Kennedy’s ties to McKeesport, which is featured in our museum, this book gives you insight into the minds of all those agents who were there on November 22, 1963.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
By E.B. Sledge
The basis for the 2010 HBO Miniseries The Pacific, this book is a first-hand account of life for U.S. Marine Eugene Sledge in the Pacific Theater during World War II. An incredibly gripping read, Sledge brings you right into his world during the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. He will have you smelling the smoke, seeing the carnage and feeling the fear of men in combat. It is a phenomenal read and one of my favorite books on the Second World War.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
By David Grann
I read this book while sitting on a beach in South Carolina, but I felt as if I was searching the Amazon myself. The book tells the life story of British Explorer Percy Fawcett and his explorations of the Amazon jungles. In 1925, Fawcett went into the Amazon in search of the fabled “Lost City of Z,” and never emerged. Grann weaves the life of Fawcett and his disappearance with his own search in the present day to discover what happened to Fawcett and if there is indeed a lost city in the Amazon.
The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down
By Colin Woodard
I have been fascinated by pirates since I was a young boy playing with LEGO Pirate sets and watching Disney’s Peter Pan. As I grew up, that interest never waned and now I try to read as many books on Caribbean piracy that I can find.
In my opinion, Woodard’s 2008 book is the pinnacle of the history of piracy. He explores how men like Charles Vane, “Blackbeard” Edward Teach and Henry Morgan pillaged the seven seas and created a truly equal and democratic society in the Caribbean before being hunted down and wiped out by the powers of Europe. It shows how these men, and women, created a society that was years ahead of its time, even if they were conducting illegal activities. It gives the best narrative tale to a highly entertaining subject.
The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Tale of the Donner Party
By Daniel James Brown
Recommended to me by my favorite podcast, The Last Podcast on the Left, this incredible book gives the true story of the Donner Party and the dangerous trip that countless Americans made annually to settle California in the 1840s.
The book gives an in-depth account of life in a wagon train, but also focuses on the horrific consequences the Donner Party faced in their journey. Full of murder, starvation and eventually cannibalism, Brown brings the true horrors of the Donner Party's particular journey to life in the 21st Century. A great read for anyone interested in the settling of the old west and the Donner Party.
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
As we enter June, it is time to add a new book to the #curatorsbookclub! For this new selection, I am offering The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.
This work of historical fiction is a pretty accurate representation of the overall Battle of Gettysburg of July 1-3, 1863. For those who have read Martin's Game of Thrones series, Shaara's book is written in a similar fashion, as the battle is being told from the perspective of the major players, both Union and Confederate, of the battle. It is the book that sparked my deep interest in the American Civil War and I hope you find it interesting as well. When you are finished reading, I highly recommend watching the film Gettysburg which is based on Shaara's novel and stars the likes of Martin Sheen, Jeff Daniels, Sam Elliot, and Tom Berenger.
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
This is a book I read during my studies at the University of Pittsburgh and in the current climate of Black Lives Matter and the importance of this essentially next generation of Civil Rights activism, I thought Anne Moody's Coming of Age in Mississippi would be a great read for the #curatorsbookclub.
Anne takes you into her upbringing on a poor tenant farm in the south. How she became the first member of her family to attend college and her eventual involvement in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Anne brings you right into the climate in which she grew up, the turbulence of those times and the strides her generation helped foster. I hope you will enjoy this read.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
By Erik Larson
This is one of my absolute favorite true crime/history books. Erik Larson, a phenomenal writer, takes you back to the late 19th Century and America's bid to host the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Interwoven in his tale is the story of H.H. Holmes, a "pharmacist" in Chicago who created a building on the streets of Chicago known as the "Murder Castle." The story of Holmes, America's first serial killer, is documented from beginning to end, along with the history of Chicago and everything that went into the hosting of the 1893 World's Fair in an incredibly gripping way. I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did.