Gun Barons: The Weapons That Transformed America and the Men Who Invented Them by John Bainbridge Jr.

Long before the N.R.A. and mass shootings at schools and a country riven by a debate over what “the right to bear arms” means in today’s society, the men who invented guns were hailed as visionaries whose names still resonate today as pioneers: Winchester, Remington, Colt, Wesson. John Bainbridge Jr. does a brilliant job of bringing to life these men and the 19th-century times in which they flourished, making the point along the way that not only did they change warfare but they shaped American industry as well. By both fluke and design, these individuals created a gun culture that is now deeply ingrained in the American psyche and (mostly) got very rich doing so. It is not their fault that what began for many of them as romantic adventure has become a nightmare for so many of us.

Hotbed: Bohemian Greenwich Village and the Secret Club that Sparked Modern Feminism by Joanna Scutts

Revolutions often begin in unlikely places, and Joanna Scutts, with verve and a historian’s eye, captures the moment that gave birth to modern feminism. The place was a restaurant called Polly’s in Greenwich Village, the year was 1912, and the group was called Heterodoxy, gathering artists, social workers, journalists, lawyers, and scientists to hash out how to achieve gender equality. Were there arguments? Of course. Love affairs? Naturally. And there was also a lot of fun. No records of the meetings were kept, to allow folks to speak their mind, which makes Scutts’s achievement in piecing together Heterodoxy and its impact even more remarkable. Hotbed is its own landmark of a struggle that persists today, whether it be about abortion or sexual harassment or workplace inequities.

This Train by James Grady

Think that the most dangerous train today is a subway car in New York City? Not in the world of fiction, where the Empire Builder and its 47-hour journey from Seattle to Chicago holds enough mayhem, violence, and suspense (not to mention a cargo car filled with treasure, a bomb, and an annoying dog named Mugzy) to beat the IRT line. James Grady, the accomplished thriller writer whose most famous work is Six Days of the Condor (made into the Robert Redford hit Three Days of the Condor, magically making 72 hours disappear), has lost none of his deft touch in creating a propulsive ride that will make a reader never more eager to reach Chicago in one piece.

Gun Barons, Hotbed, and This Train are available at your local independent bookstore, on Bookshop, and on Amazon