Love word origins as much as ancestral origins? Learn words named after little-known people in Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words by John Bemelmans Marciano (Bloomsbury). Etienne de Silhouette, for example, cut costs by asking his portrait painter to render just a shadow of his image, and acrobat Jules Léotard designed the costume that made Jazzercise possible.
Inspired by her grandfather’s life in the 1930s, thriller queen Sandra Brown ventures into historical fiction with Rainwater (Simon and Schuster). In this powerful story set in Depression-era Texas, a single mother takes in a boarder who changes her life. The book has the riveting characters and taut storytelling that make Brown a best-selling author.
Our 19th-century American ancestors were fascinated with mystical experiences. In Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation (Bantam), Mitch Horowitz explores the history of the Ouija board, Spiritualism’s influence on the Senate and the source of the slogan on the dollar bill.