Staff Pick

Serious history buffs will appreciate the new perspective on the decline of the Roman Empire offered in The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (Princeton, $35). While experts and armchair historians have spent years debating the human causes that contributed to the downfall of the great empire, Kyle Harper argues that it was brought to the brink of destruction by a larger, less manageable force: nature. He demonstrates that the Roman Empire was able to flourish due to an ideal climate, but when climate stability began to decay so did the fortunes of Rome. And while the Romans benefited from increased migration, travel, and trade, these factors also permitted the spread of a variety of deadly diseases. The author is clearly an expert in his field, and he makes a compelling case by drawing on modern developments in fields such as DNA sequencing, epidemiology, and climate science. As Harper lays out in his book, perhaps the Romans’ greatest mistake was holding on to the belief that they had “tamed the forces of wild nature.” These environmental factors, along with human error, helped to bring about the destruction of one of the greatest empire’s the world has ever seen.

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (Princeton History of the Ancient World #2) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780691166834
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Princeton University Press - October 24th, 2017

Staff Pick

Dan Jones has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most captivating and lively historians, proving that well-researched historical narratives need not be dry and impenetrable. Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors (Viking, $30) is his best work to date. It has the advantage of dealing with a fascinating and often ill-used subject, but Jones elevates the Templars above conspiracy theory histories to uncover the fascinating history within, from their military campaigns, Outremer Crusader states, their financial acumen and extensive properties, to the knights’ eventual downfall. This volume is possibly the most comprehensive modern history of the Templars, told by an incredibly talented chronicler and interpreter of facts and sources. It is a must-have for any history bookshelf.

The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525428305
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Viking - September 19th, 2017

Staff Pick
The 19th century might have seemed far away in the late-20th century, but now that we’re in the 21st century, how does it feel? When you read books like Joachim Kalka’s Gaslight, the answer is “surprisingly close”, and history feels significantly larger after reading it. It’s a book made from a melange of styles—literary criticism, military history, true crime—but they're all of a piece, because they’re all recognizably facets of the same world. We know how the modern world, as it exists now, can find its way into literature, so it's fun and enlightening to see how canonical artists like Marcel Proust and Emile Zola, Karl Kraus and Alban Berg dealt with their own contemporary bugaboos, from Jack the Ripper to the Dreyfus Affair, from anarchists to submarines.
Gaslight: Lantern Slides from the Nineteenth Century Cover Image
By Joachim Kalka, Isabel Fargo Cole (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781681371184
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: New York Review Books - June 6th, 2017