As summer comes to a close, the third and final month of the AHA Summer Reading Challenge ends with it. We asked AHA members, Council, and staff to share with us what history they had read in August to finish #AHAReads and we’ve compiled some of their responses.
Read a “classic” of your field that you’ve never read before.
Shannon Bontrager (Georgia Highlands Coll., Cartersville, and AHA Council) looked to memory studies for this task, reading Michael Rothberg’s Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization.
Makoto Hunter (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) decided to read Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition by Jan Shipps, a book she had previously read only excerpts of for a class.
Tanya Roth (Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School) chose Daniel Immerwahr’s How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States as a new classic.
Kara Swanson (Northeastern Univ.) finished The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes right at the end of August.
Read a history published in the past two years.
Evan Elizabeth Hart (Missouri Western State Univ.) thought The Mark of Slavery: Disability, Race, and Gender in Antebellum America is an amazing book.
Julie Mujic has been teaching chapter 3 of Daniel Immerwahr’s How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States but has now taken the time to read the rest.
Tyler Peterson (Colorado State Univ. Pueblo) read the 2021 revised version of New York: An Illustrated History by Ric Burns and James Sanders, with Lisa Ades, after a recent trip to New York City.
Amy Rohmiller (librarian and archivist) read All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles and loved the use of an extraordinary object to tell such an encompassing history.
Jonathan D. Sassi (Coll. of Staten Island and Graduate Center, CUNY) read Andrea C. Mosterman’s Spaces of Enslavement: A History of Slavery and Resistance in Dutch New York, which already has him thinking differently about certain primary sources.
Read a piece of historical fiction (novel, story, poem, play) set in the time or place you study.
Joseph Adelman (Framingham State Univ.) checked out The Left Behinds: The iPhone That Saved George Washington by David Potter at the insistence of his 13-year-old.
Rebecca Brenner Graham (Madeira School) read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Pernille Røge (Univ. of Pittsburgh and AHA Council) read David Diop’s La Porte du Voyage Sans Retour, which she called “a stunning read” about 18th-century Gorée, the French slave trade, and botanist Michel Adanson.
Susan Rhodemyre Willmot (King’s Coll., Univ. of Dalhousie) read the new release Horse by Geraldine Brooks, about the 19th-century racehorse Lexington and his caretakers, and the 21st-century researchers uncovering his story.
Read a history of the place you know the most about that takes place at least a century before or after your time period of expertise.
Rebecca Brenner Graham (Madeira School) dove into SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard on audiobook.
Christopher Ferguson (Auburn Univ.) read Cities of Strangers: Making Lives in Medieval Europe by Miri Rubin, which is several centuries before his own 19th-century urban history expertise.
Elizabeth Lehfeldt (Cleveland State Univ.) took a visit to modern Spain with Sandie Holguín’s Flamenco Nation: The Construction of Spanish National Identity.
Read a history written by a historian who works in a day job different from your own.
Laura Ansley (AHA managing editor), looked to academic historians for this task, choosing Brianna Theobald’s Reproduction on the Reservation: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century.
Katharina Matro (Walter Johnson High School and AHA Council) says she “learned something new and astonishing, something I had to read out loud to whomever was near on every single page” from Bathsheba Demuth’s Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait.
Michael Novak (George Washington Univ.) read Mavericks of the Sky: The First Daring Pilots of the US Air Mail by Barry Rosenberg and Catherine Macaulay.
Amy Rohmiller (librarian and archivist) called Gene Andrew Jarrett’s new biography Paul Laurence Dunbar: The Life and Times of a Caged Bird a “very good, unvarnished portrait of a mythologized hometown hero.”
Read a history of an identity group you don’t belong to.
Laura Ansley read a new classic in the history of medicine, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology by Deirdre Cooper Owens.
Darcy Fryer (Brearley School) read two different books that fulfill this task in August: Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration and Ronald Grigor Suny’s “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else”: A History of the Armenian Genocide.
Makoto Hunter (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) read Robert A. Orsi’s History and Presence on 20th-century Catholicism.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the first #AHAReads. We’re looking forward to making a new list of tasks for a second challenge next summer! We hope you'll fill out our brief survey. Your responses will help us improve future AHA reading challenges. And be sure to download our special digital #AHAReads bookmark, which we offer as a small token of our appreciation for the time you spent with us this summer.
Laura Ansley is managing editor at the AHA. She tweets @lmansley.
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