AASLH Staff Picks for 2017’s Best Reads

As we are nearing the end of 2017, members of the AASLH staff thought we would share some of the books that inspired us this year. We chose titles that would be of particular interest to those who work or volunteer in history organizations. (Note: They were not necessarily published in 2017, we just read them in 2017.)

Aja Bain, Program and Publications Coordinator

Soul by Soul: Inside the Antebellum Slave Market by Walter Johnson (1999)

“One thing I really liked about this book was how it used primary sources to translate an enormously complicated topic we usually think about in terms of hundreds of years and millions of people into individual human stories and moments. It was an enlightening and surprising way to understand how a powerful institution was lived out in day-to-day life by all different kinds of people.”

Aja also recommends Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.

Cherie Cook, Senior Program Manager

Creativity in Museum PracticeCreativity in Museum Practice by Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale (2014)

“This book has been in my nightstand ‘must reads’ pile for some time and I plan to finish reading over the Christmas holiday. From it I hope to gain inspiration for infusing the StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program) review process, by staff and colleagues who have volunteered to help with the project, with activities that generate new ideas for StEPs.”

Natalie Flammia, Education and Service Coordinator

Hild by Nicola Griffith (2013)

“This book interprets and imagines the young life of the seventh century saint, Hilda of Whitby. As both a lover of good writing and someone with an interest in history, but little knowledge of this time period, I was completely enraptured by the detailed, immersive world Griffith presents. The reader experiences the stressful tumult of a Britain in transition to Christianity, and the ruggedness of everyday life, through the eyes of a young girl regarded as a seer and prophet. I couldn’t put it down!”

Bethany Hawkins, Chief of Operations

Getting to “Yes And”: The Art of Business Improv by Bob Kulhan with Chuck Crisafulli (2017)

“This book helped me think more creatively about my work as a manager. It is easy to think of all the ways why we can’t or shouldn’t accept a new idea. Thinking, instead, of new ideas in terms of an improv exercise was a great approach. It also includes some games/icebreakers to help inspire creativity in your staff.”

Bethany also recommends Johnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride: Lasting Legends and Untold Adventures in Country Music by Peter Cooper.

Terry Jackson, Membership and Database Coordinator

William Strickland and the Creation of an American Architecture by Robert Russell (2017)

“This book was just sent to AASLH by the University of Tennessee Press and I grabbed it immediately. Strickland is known in Tennessee for designing our state capitol, historic buildings around Nashville like the Downtown Presbyterian Church, and for several monuments in the Nashville City Cemetery where I have volunteered for many years.”

 John Marks, External Relations Coordinator

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2017)

“After spending the better part of seven years only reading history monographs while I completed my Ph.D., I decided to focus on reading fiction this year—but I still wanted to stay engaged with the broad themes I explore in my scholarly work. Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing explores the stories of seven generations of African-descended people after the family is split by the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The stories and characters are incredible, and I appreciated even more because I was able to place the fictional worlds she created within a broader historical context.”

John also recommends The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.

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