Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (HarperCollins) by Caroline Moorehead informs and inspires.
How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair (Da Capo Press) by Jonathan Beckman makes lively an old scandal.
Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (Metropolitan Books) by Sara Lipton gives a history of increasingly unpleasant pictures.
The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War (PublicAffairs) by Dick Lehr is preparation for the centenary of a great, flawed film.
Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction (Oxford University Press) by Kathryn Gin Lum shows the American version of a scare story.
Lucy Worsley's The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock (Pegasus Crime) tells how the detective story came to be.
Art Deco Mailboxes: An Illustrated Design History (W. W. Norton) by Karen Greene and Lynne Lavelle is a study in practical design.
Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) by Alexandra Watkins is an expert's take on commercial naming.
Ziauddin Sardar's Mecca: The Sacred City (Bloomsbury) is a history of a sacred place marked by discord.
In The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution (W. W. Norton), Jonathan Eig gives a tale of sociology, medicine, religion, and activism.