Rum Maniacs: Alcoholic Insanity in the Early American Republic (University of Chicago Press) by Matthew Warner Osborn is history with a view to alcohol.
Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine (Twelve) by Maximillian Potter is more than just a true crime story.
Matthew Stewart in Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic (W. W. Norton) tells of the influence of deism, not Christianity, on our founders.
The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases (Simon and Schuster) by Deborah Halber shows a new way of fighting crime and identifying the anonymous dead.
How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking (The Penguin Press) is a fine explanation for non-mathematicians (but we are all mathematicians!).
Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (University of California Press) by Mary Beard is a serious look at old, old jokes.
Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies (Ballantine Books) by Lawrence Goldstone tells of the patent fights as the airplane was developed.
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery (Little, Brown) by science writer Sam Kean tells how we got a little understanding of what goes on in our heads.
John F. Kasson's The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America (W. W. Norton) is more than a book about the child star.
Veni, Vidi, Vici: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Romans but Were Afraid to Ask (Atlantic Books) by Peter Jones is history and fun, too.
5. Out and About for the week of December 21, 2014 ENTERTAINMENT