Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates
by Eric Jay Dolin (Liveright)
You've probably heard of Captain Kidd, but not Stede Bonnet, a Barbados plantation owner who in 1717 decided to abandon his family, build a 60-ton sloop, and go marauding. The golden age of pirates in the West ran from 1650 to 1720, and here Dolin zeroes in on pirates operating out of colonies and plundering the Atlantic coast. Things could be confusing, as there was an often porous line between a privateer, a captain with a "letter of marque" legally allowed to capture enemy ships, and an ordinary pirate. A cinematic look at an intriguing time.
The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How A Mysterious Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies
by Dawn Raffel '79 (Blue Rider Press)
In 1897, Dr. Martin Couney launched an incubator exhibit—with actual premature babies in incubators—for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in London. It was a hit, and Couney soon immigrated to the United States, where he set up similar exhibitions at amusement parks and World's Fairs. As late as 1943, you could have visited his sideshow in Coney Island. By the 1950s, just after Couney's death, incubators—which were developed in Europe in the 1880s, but rarely adopted by hospitals—finally became common in maternity wards. With a vast cast of characters and a lively narrative that jumps through time and place, this is history that reads like a novel.
Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto
by Alan Stern '75 & David Grinspoon '82
This is the story of New Horizons, NASA's 1,000-pound spacecraft that traveled three billion miles across the solar system for the first-ever flyby of Pluto in 2015. In an often riveting account, Stern, who led the mission, and Grinspoon, an astrobiologist, track the genesis of the idea, the decades-long trek to corral support for the project, the spacecraft's nine-year flight, and the frightening moment just days before the flyby when mission control in Maryland lost contact with the ship. The book also contains numerous color photographs of icy Pluto.