Sin: The Early History of an Idea (Princeton University Press) by Paula Fredriksen shows that defining what sin is and isn't was a product of culture, even in the early church.
Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum (David R. Godine, Publisher) by Stuart M. Frank brings forth creations from eyewitnesses to the world of whaling.
In Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (Crown), Ben Macintyre tells the story of brilliant trickery.
Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story (Liveright Publishing) by Jim Holt takes readers on a philosophical tour of big mysteries.
With the Hand: A Cultural History of Masturbation (Reaktion Books) by Mels van Driel attempts to understand the many taboos.
Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 (Nan A. Talese) by Jefferson Morley recounts an important episode in race relations.
View Versailles (Abrams) by Valérie Bajou if you can't get there yourself
In Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll (Lyons Press) Joe Oestreich tells about real-life rocking.
Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China (Penguin Books), by Paul French, tells of a sensational murder and the unusual way it was solved just before WWII swallowed up the old city.
Kyle Gann takes the silent music seriously in No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33" (Yale University Press).
4. America and the Muslims BOOK REVIEWS