My favorite books covering the first draft of history

Why am I passionate about this?

Warner is a multi-disciplinary artist who began with object theatre – writing, designing and building characters, and performing. Now, history writing is his primary focus, having written two books for 14 years, and still counting, writes a monthly blog, combining words and images to tell stories of early Snohomish. 

I wrote...

J. S. White, Our First Architect: His Surviving Structures from 19th-Century Snohomish

By Warner Blake,

Book cover of J. S. White, Our First Architect: His Surviving Structures from 19th-Century Snohomish

What is my book about?

Our fine art book, J. S. White, Our First Architect: His Surviving Structures from 19th-Century Snohomish, features essays by local historian Warner Blake (Early Snohomish, Snohomish: Then and Now), and color portraits by Seattle photographer Otto Greule. White left nothing behind except his buildings, so Warner combed through over a decade of weekly issues published by the Snohomish Eye to discover White’s story and identify his structures.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America

Warner Blake Why did I love this book?

Just finished listening to this dynamite book read by the author. Dahlia Lithwick demolished the conventions of women lawyers I’ve lived with, by telling us the stories of women who used the law to stand up and overcome the shock of Trump’s administration. 

Remember the infamous “travel ban?” If like me, a surface memory, you may enjoy the tour with lawyer and writer Lithwick, who introduces us to the players in her stories – the lawyers who worked all night in the airports on their laptops to file petitions to the court first thing in the morning, for example. 

Lithwick’s rant on the chant: “Lock Her Up” is worth the price of admission alone. Dynamite. File under First-Draft-of-History.

By Dahlia Lithwick,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lady Justice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant New York Times Bestseller!

“Stirring…Lithwick’s approach, interweaving interviews with legal commentary, allows her subjects to shine...Inspiring.”—New York Times Book Review

“In Dahlia Lithwick’s urgent, engaging Lady Justice, Dobbs serves as a devastating bookend to a story that begins in hope.”—Boston Globe

Dahlia Lithwick, one of the nation’s foremost legal commentators, tells the gripping and heroic story of the women lawyers who fought the racism, sexism, and xenophobia of Donald Trump’s presidency—and won

After the sudden shock of Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, many Americans felt lost and uncertain. It was clear he and his administration…

Book cover of Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America

Warner Blake Why did I love this book?

The author also reads this audiobook with professional polish making it a very pleasurable experience. Actually comforting as I would tune in often during the day doing the chores, with the iPhone in the back pocket. 

Maggie Haberman, currently a New York Times reporter with previous positions at the Post and Daily News, makes her account of the man “formidable” – to use a word from the New York Times review. But for me it was continually fascinating to hear the stories of Trump’s early years. For example, one of Haberman’s talking points is that Trump’s orientation to the world is one of hospitality, of course. This explains his charm to voters where I see none. 

It’s a long book, but I loved Haberman reading her story to me, as sad as it is, but as the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and I feel stronger for knowing the human called Trump.

By Maggie Haberman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Confidence Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

“This is the book Trump fears most.” - Axios

“Will be a primary source about the most vexing president in American history for years to come.” - Joe Klein, The New York Times

"A uniquely illuminating portrait." - Sean Wilentz, The Washington Post

“[A] monumental look at Donald Trump and his presidency.” — David Shribman, Los Angeles Times

From the Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times reporter who has defined Donald J. Trump's presidency like no other journalist, Confidence Man is a magnificent and disturbing reckoning that chronicles his life and its meaning from his…

Book cover of Justice on the Brink: A Requiem for the Supreme Court

Warner Blake Why did I love this book?

Best to know up-front, I am a dedicated follower of the author. 

Linda Greenhouse once covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times between the years 1978-2008, yet, she is still contributing opinion pieces – perhaps on a First-responder status! 

Reading Greenhouse describing what just happened in the highest Court Room with a clarity that astounds me as I read the words, then a feeling of complete understanding. Like a backstage tour, during the performance, I just can’t get enough of her descriptive writing – it’s as if I’m there. 

This book sets the stage for the drama of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment by Donald Trump… and I assume you know what I’m talking about. A great read that makes us smarter.

By Linda Greenhouse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Justice on the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The gripping story of the Supreme Court’s transformation from a measured institution of law and justice into a highly politicized body dominated by a right-wing supermajority, told through the dramatic lens of its most transformative year, by the Pulitzer Prize–winning law columnist for The New York Times

“A dazzling feat . . . meaty, often scintillating and sometimes scary . . . Greenhouse is a virtuoso of SCOTUS analysis.”—The Washington Post

In Justice on the Brink, legendary journalist Linda Greenhouse gives us unique insight into a court under stress, providing the context and brilliant analysis readers of her work in…

Book cover of The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021

Warner Blake Why did I love this book?

As a serious fan of Susan Glasser’s digital column on The New Yorker website, I had the bonus treat of listening to narrator Julia Whelan read the articles as a promotion for Audm back in the Days-of-Trump.

For this book, Glasser joins her husband Peter Baker, The New York Times’ chief White House correspondent, to co-author this impressive document, I loved this book. And it’s fat-free.

Full of stories on the brink of disaster during the Trump years are briskly told with a calm, reasoned voice – kind of like a walk down memory lane! Curious that reading about the events that had me bubbling up with anger at the time, is now replaced with understanding and acceptance of the man Trump as a phenomenon, and with this account I may have read enough about the man in the White House from 2017 to 2021.

By Peter Baker, Susan Glasser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Divider as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • ABest Book of the Year: The New Yorker and Financial Times • "The most comprehensive and detailed account of the Trump presidency yet published."—The Washington Post

"A sumptuous feast of astonishing tales...The more one reads, the more one wishes to read."—

The inside story of the four years when Donald Trump went to war with Washington, from the chaotic beginning to the violent finale, told by revered journalists Peter Baker of The New York Times and Susan Glasser of The New Yorker—an ambitious and lasting history of the full Trump presidency that also contains dozens…

Book cover of Dark Earth

Warner Blake Why did I love this book?

Rebecca Stott sets her adventure story in the Roman ruins of early London around 500 AD, and is included in this collection because Stott is, in a sense, creating the first draft of history where none exists with this admirable tale.

It’s of two sisters, Isla and Blue, whose father dies and they must deliver the Sword he forged to the client, King Osric. Listening to the story transported me to the sister’s side as they overcome one obstacle after another. Found myself listening in a dream state — an extraordinary listen that called me to make the exception to include this book in my list.

On the author's website I wanted to learn more about the title and clicked on the tab "Mysterious Black Soil". Reading the entry, I was entranced all over again by this amazing tale. Briefly, when the Romans abandoned Londinium, around 420 AD, the mile-wide stone city they built fell into ruins for 400 years and anthropologists have identified a layer of black, rich compost referred to as “Dark Earth” –  it’s the composted city Londinium under the medieval city of London.

By Rebecca Stott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dark Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A “superb” (The Guardian) novel about two sisters fighting for survival in Dark Ages Britain that weaves “a dazzling blend of history and fantasy” (BuzzFeed)
“Rich in history and folklore . . . Stott is astute on the use of stories to control others and maintain power. . . . Female defiance blazes through as her women reclaim this brutal period from the men.”—The Telegraph

The year is 500 AD. Sisters Isla and Blue live in the shadows of the Ghost City, the abandoned ruins of the once-glorious mile-wide Roman settlement Londinium on the bank of the River Thames. But…

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The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

Book cover of The Road from Belhaven

Margot Livesey Author Of The Road from Belhaven

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Secret orphan Professor Scottish Novelist

Margot's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Road from Belhaven is set in 1880s Scotland. Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small girl that she can see the future. But she soon realises that she must keep her gift a secret. While she can sometimes glimpse the future, she can never change it.

Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her never told her that the touch of a hand can change everything? When she follows Louis to Glasgow, she begins to learn the limits of his devotion and the complexities of her own affections.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late-nineteenth-century Scotland

Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective—she doesn’t, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her “pictures” foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but…

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