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    A is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States
    What ties Americans to one another? What unifies a nation of citizens with different racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds? These were the dilemmas faced by Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they sought ways to bind the newly United States together. In A is for American, award-winning historian Jill Lepore portrays seven men who turned to language to help shape a new nation’s character and boundaries. From Noah Webster’s attempts to standardize American spelling, to Alexander Graham Bell’s use of “Visible Speech” to help teach the deaf to talk, to Sequoyah’s development of a Cherokee syllabary as a means of preserving his people’s independence, these stories form a compelling portrait of a developing nation’s struggles. Lepore brilliantly explores the personalities, work, and influence of these figures, seven men driven by radically different aims and temperaments. Through these superbly told stories, she chronicles the challenges faced by a young country trying to unify its diverse people.
    Blindspot:  A Novel by a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise
    Lepore, J, and J Kamensky. 2008. Blindspot: A Novel by a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise. New York: Spiegel & Grau/Random House. Website Abstract

    New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Blindspot is a twenty-first century novel in eighteenth-century garb. It plays with the conventions of eighteenth-century novels, newspapers, portraits, and histories. Novels look for a different kind of truth than history books, and while Blindspot is fiction, it relies on our work as historians, on every page. Much that happens in the novel is based on actual events and adapted from archival evidence chronicling both ordinary life and extraordinary transformations. The American Revolution. The Enlightenment. The eighteenth century’s bawdiness, its anticlericalism, its obsessions with wit and sham and rank and pleasure. A few of Blindspot’s characters were inspired by real people; many of its buildings are based on buildings that still stand; its portraits resemble paintings that now hang on the walls of American museums. A sizable number of very short passages in the text are taken nearly verbatim from eighteenth-century letters, newspapers, account books, diaries, sermons, novels, poems, riddles, philosophical treatises, and legal records. We quoted, we borrowed, we took liberties. But we also kept faith with the past. --Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore

    Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

    A Finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction

    From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians, a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister and a history of history itself. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Unlike him, she was a mother of twelve. Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her children. They left very different traces behind. Making use of an amazing cache of little- studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only this one woman but an entire world—a world usually lost to history. Lepore’s life of Jane Franklin, with its strikingly original vantage on her remarkable brother, is at once a wholly different account of the founding of the United States and one of the great untold stories of American history and letters: a life unknown.

    Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents
    Lepore, J. 2000. Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract
    A collection of primary sources documenting the early clash of cultures in the Americas, Encounters in the New World spans the years from Columbus's voyage in 1492 to the publication of the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave, in 1789. Emotional eyewitness accounts--memoirs, petitions, diaries, captivity narratives, private correspondence--as well as formal documents, official reports, and journalistic reportage give body and texture to the historical events described. A special 16-page color cartographic section, including maps from both Europe and North America, is fascinating not only for the maps' telltale imperfections, but also because they convey information about how their creators saw themselves and the world around them. A Jesuit priest's chronicle of life among his Iroquois captors, Aztec records of forbidding omens, excerpts from Columbus's ship's log, John Smith's account of cannibalism among the British residents of Jamestown, slave auction advertisements, memoirs by several members of Cortes's expedition, the reminiscences of an escaped slave-these are just a few examples of the wealth of primary sources collected here. Jill Lepore, winner of the distinguished Bancroft Prize for history in 1999, provides informed, expert commentary linking the documents into a fascinating and seamless narrative. Textbooks may interpret history, but the books in the Pages from History series are history. Each title, compiled and edited by a prominent historian, is a collection of primary sources relating to a particular topic of historical significance. Documentary evidence including news articles, government documents, memoirs, letters, diaries, fiction, photographs, and facsimiles allows history to speak for itself and turns every reader into a historian. Headnotes, extended captions, sidebars, and introductory essays provide the essential context that frames the documents. All the books are amply illustrated and each spans the years froincludes a documentary picture essay, chronology, further reading, source notes, and index.
    IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future

    A brilliant, revelatory account of the Cold War origins of the data-mad, algorithmic twenty-first century, from the author of the acclaimed international bestseller, These Truths.

     

    The Simulmatics Corporation, founded in 1959, mined data, targeted voters, accelerated news, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge--decades before Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Cambridge Analytica. Silicon Valley likes to imagine it has no past but the scientists of Simulmatics are the long-dead grandfathers of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Borrowing from psychological warfare, they used computers to predict and direct human behavior, deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Cambridge, and Saigon for clients that included John Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the New York Times, Young & Rubicam, and, during the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense. Jill Lepore, distinguished Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, unearthed from the archives the almost unbelievable story of this long-vanished corporation, and of the women hidden behind it. In the 1950s and 1960s, Lepore argues, Simulmatics invented the future by building the machine in which the world now finds itself trapped and tormented, algorithm by algorithm.

     

    “A person can't help but feel inspired by the riveting intelligence and joyful curiosity of Jill Lepore.  Knowing that there is a mind like hers in the world is a hope-inducing thing.”

                --George Saunders

     

    “Everything Lepore writes is distinguished by intelligence, eloquence, and fresh insight. If Then is that, and even more: It’s absolutely fascinating, excavating a piece of little-known American corporate history that reveals a huge amount about the way we live today and the companies that define the modern era.”

     

                --Susan Orlean

     

    “Data science, Jill Lepore reminds us in this brilliant book, has a past, and she tells it through the engrossing story of Simulmatics, the tiny, long-forgotten company that helped invent our data-obsessed world, in which prediction is seemingly the only knowledge that matters. A captivating, deeply incisive work.”

     

                —Frederik Logevall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam

     

    “Think today’s tech giants invented data mining and market manipulation? Think again. In this page-turning, eye-opening history, Jill Lepore reveals the Cold War roots of the tech-saturated present, in a thrilling tale that moves from the campaigns of Eisenhower and Kennedy to ivied think tanks, Madison Avenue ad firms, and the hamlets of Vietnam. Told with verve, grace, and humanity, If Then is an essential, sobering story for understanding our times.”

               

    —Margaret O’Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

     

    “It didn’t all start with Facebook. We have long been fascinated with the potential of using computing technology to predict human behavior. In another fast-paced narrative, Jill Lepore brilliantly uncovers the history of the Simulmatics Corp, which launched the volatile mix of computing, politics and personal behavior that now divides our nation, feeds on private information, and weakens the strength our democratic institutions. If you want to know where this all started, you need not look any further--read this book!”

    — Julian Zelizer, author of Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker and the Rise of the New Republican Party 

     

    Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. A two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, her many books include the international bestseller, These Truths.

     

    Joe Gould's Teeth
    Lepore, Jill. 2016. Joe Gould's Teeth. New York: Knopf. Audio Edition Abstract

    From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the long-lost, longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.”

    Joe Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers and artists that included E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound. Gould began his life’s work before the First World War, announcing that he intended to write down nearly anything anyone ever said to him. “I am trying to preserve as much detail as I can about the normal life of every day people,” he explained, because “as a rule, history does not deal with such small fry.” By 1942, when The New Yorker published a profile of Gould written by the reporter Joseph Mitchell, Gould’s manuscript had grown to more than nine million words. But when Gould died in 1957, in a mental hospital, the manuscript was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1964, in “Joe Gould’s Secret,” a second profile, Mitchell claimed that “The Oral History of Our Time” had been, all along, merely a figment of Gould’s imagination. Lepore, unpersuaded, set about to find out.

    Joe Gould’s Teeth is a Poe-like tale of detection, madness, and invention. Digging through archives all over the country, Lepore unearthed evidence that “The Oral History of Our Time” did in fact once exist. Relying on letters, scraps, and Gould’s own diaries and notebooks—including volumes of his lost manuscript—Lepore argues that Joe Gould’s real secret had to do with sex and the color line, with modernists’ relationship to the Harlem Renaissance, and, above all, with Gould’s terrifying obsession with the African American sculptor Augusta Savage. In ways that even Gould himself could not have imagined, what Gould wrote down really is a history of our time: unsettling, and ferocious.

    “A madman’s grossly engrossing tale.” —The New York Times

    “Revelatory..” —San Francisco Chronicle
     
    “We owe Lepore a debt of gratitude for re-introducing us to one of the strangest strangers to have ever walked among us.” —Chicago Tribune

    “Lepore specializes in excavating old flashpoints—forgotten or badly misremembered collisions between politics and cultural debates in America’s past. She lays out for our modern sensibility how some event or social problem was fought over by interest groups, reformers, opportunists and ‘thought leaders’ of the day. The result can look both familiar and disturbing, like our era’s arguments flipped in a funhouse mirror….Her discipline is worthy of a first-class detective.” —The New York Review of Books

    “At a time when few are disposed to see history as a branch of literature, Lepore occupies a prominent place in American letters.” —The Daily Beast

    “Again and again, she distills the figures she writes about into clean, simple, muscular prose, making unequivocal assertions that carry a faint electric charge…[and] attain a transgressive, downright badass swagger.” —Slate

    “Lepore’s superb narrative brings that history vividly into the present, weaving individual lives into the sweeping changes of the century.” —The Wall Street Journal

    The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death

    A finalist for the 2013 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

    Renowned Harvard scholar and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has written a strikingly original, ingeniously conceived and beautifully crafted history of American ideas about life and death from before the cradle to beyond the grave.

    How does life begin? What does it mean? What happens when we die? “All anyone can do is ask,” Lepore writes. “That’s why any history of ideas about life and death has to be, like this book, a history of curiosity.” Lepore starts that history with the story of a seventeenth-century Englishman who had the idea that all life begins with an egg, and ends it with an American who, in the 1970s, began freezing the dead. In between, life got longer, the stages of life multiplied, and matters of life and death moved from the library to the laboratory, from the humanities to the sciences. Lately, debates about life and death have determined the course of American politics. Each of these debates has a history. Investigating the surprising origins of the stuff of everyday life—from board games to breast pumps—Lepore argues that the age of discovery, Darwin, and the Space Age turned ideas about life on earth topsy-turvy. “New worlds were found,” she writes, and “old paradises were lost.” As much a meditation on the present as an excavation of the past, The Mansion of Happiness is delightful, learned, and altogether beguiling.

    The Name of War:  King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity

    King Philip's War, the excruciating racial war--colonists against Indians--that erupted in New England in 1675, was, in proportion to population, the bloodiest in American history. Some even argued that the massacres and outrages on both sides were too horrific to "deserve the name of a war." Telling the story of what may have been the bitterest of American conflicts, and its reverberations over the centuries, Lepore has enabled us to see how the ways in which we remember past events are as important in their effect on our history as were the events themselves.

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