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In 2012, a publisher asked me if I wanted to write a book about Joseph Smith's assassination. I leapt at the chance, in part because I was fascinated by Smith and the Latter-day Saints, and in part because I appreciated how many of the important contributions to Mormon history --- including Fawn Brodie’s famous biography of Joseph Smith, or the first honest and comprehensive account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre -- sprang from the pens of women and men with no formal academic training. By contrast, many “scholars” have disgraced themselves with prevaricating or pusillanimous accounts of the religion’s raucous and fascinating 190-year history. So jump in! Never a dull moment with the Latter-day Saints!
I started out like most travelers, attracted to new places and to meeting people whose worlds were different from my own. Typically, this meant tried-and-true destinations in Europe until a book project required me to visit an utterly daunting place, the West African nation of Liberia during a civil war. I was in no way prepared for the experience and it changed everything. Seeing how people behave when faced with extreme circumstances profoundly altered my view of the world. Everything was magnified. Though I still enjoy a cup of espresso on the Piazza Navona, there is nothing like traveling to a forbidden zone and meeting someone destined to be a lifelong friend on the roof of a bombed-out building. It opens the world in ways that are challenging and scary, but also incomparably rewarding.
I’ve been writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about the history of American children and their childhoods for many decades. When I went to school—a long time ago—the subject did not come up, nor did I learn much in college or graduate school. I went out and dug up the story as did many of the authors I list here. I read many novels and autobiographies featuring childhood, and I looked at family portraits in museums with new eyes. Childhood history is fascinating and it is a lot of fun. And too, it is a great subject for book groups.
As a boy, Joseph D’Agnese grew up absolutely convinced that he was terrible at two school subjects: math and science. Lo and behold—he ended up making a career writing about both! For more than seven years, he edited a children’s math magazine for Scholastic, and was rewarded for his work by multiple Educational Press Association Awards. His children's book about the Fibonacci Sequence, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, is available in five languages worldwide, and as a classroom DVD. Blockhead is an Honor Book for the Mathical Book Prize—the first-ever prize for math-themed children's books. Joe’s work in science journalism has been featured twice in the prestigious annual anthology, Best American Science Writing.
I am a Professor of History at Texas A&M University and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I find the War of 1812 fascinating because throughout history one would struggle mightily to find a war so small with so many great consequences. Conflict between the U.S. and British Empire could have been averted (and it nearly was) in 1812 just as it had for years, and it ended with neither side recognizing a victor and an agreement to return to a pre-war state of affairs. The bicentennial of the War of 1812 brought fresh perspectives from a wide variety of historians, who as a group asserted the importance of the war to world history and global affairs to our understanding of the war. Below are some of my favorites.
I am an aviation historian and writer, a defense analyst, and a retired, combat-experienced, Marine Corps fighter pilot. I am one of the lucky ones. Since early childhood, I wanted nothing more than to become a fighter pilot. It was a combination of good fortune, hard work, and a bit of talent that made it possible for me to realize that dream. I was inspired by the memoirs and recollections of World War II fighter pilots, and I read every book on the topic that I could find. Following my military service, I transitioned from a reader to a writer; my experience as a military pilot helps to make my books real and credible.