In one of this year’s outstanding works of American history, Tony Horwitz recognizes the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry with Midnight Rising (Holt, $29), an absorbing portrait of that revolutionary firebrand. Brown was born into a strict fundamentalist and abolitionist family (his father was an early trustee of the radical new Ohio college, Oberlin) that was never financially secure. Intensely idealistic but domineering and uncompromising, Brown embraced terrorist tactics and finally engaged in a retaliatory massacre in his fight against slavery, carrying out an unrealistic plan to overpower the pro-slavery American government with a force of nineteen men. At the ensuing trial, the verdict was a foregone conclusion, but Horwitz tells the story with dramatic tension; Brown, described by Julia Ward Howe as a “holy and glorious” martyr, was unrepentant, and you can’t help having mixed feelings—or even reaching for the Kleenex—as Brown climbs to the gallows.
Politics and Prose Bookstore 202-364-1919 Hours and Locations