In the 1920s, some of the wealthiest people in the world belonged to the Osage Indian Nation of Oklahoma, who had benefited greatly from the discovery of oil on their land. When the Osage began to die under suspicious circumstances, something was clearly amiss. After the fledgling F.B.I. took over the case, they discovered extensive prejudice, corruption, and deliberate obstructions of justice, all of which allowed the perpetrators to operate freely for far too long. Their work eventually uncovered one of the most horrific and tragic conspiracies in the history of our country. Grann’s gripping account of these largely unknown events will fascinate and shock readers from beginning to end.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings (Skira Rizzoli, $75) is simply a stunning addition to any art book collection. Compiled by Kathryn Calley Galitz, this tome features over 1,000 stunning, full color reproductions of 500 paintings from the collection, organized chronologically, beginning with an Iron Age jar from Iran and ending with a 2014 painting by American artist Kerry James Marshall. The book spans many cultures and deliberately places paintings from different regions side by side, allowing readers to view in one glance works that would likely never appear together in the same museum gallery. The resulting juxtapositions spark unexpected resonances and create connections that would otherwise go unnoticed. In addition to the striking pairings, enlarged details of selected works give readers the opportunity to appreciate the art up-close and personal. This book is sure to delight lovers of history, art, and culture alike.
One of the standout biographies of the season is Victoria: The Queen (Random House, $35) by Julia Baird, an engaging portrait of one of the most famous and influential monarchs in European history. Victoria was the longest-reigning English monarch until her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, broke her record in 2015. At a time when women were supposed to be submissive and subservient to men, Victoria reigned over the vast British Empire at the pinnacle of its power and influence. Baird’s book covers the whole of Victoria’s life, from her childhood in Kensington Palace through her marriage to her first cousin Albert and her sixty-four-year monarchy until her death at the age of eighty-one. Her reign saw a massive expansion of the British Empire as well as significant political, industrial, and cultural changes and progress. This survey of her life focuses not just on her personal and professional triumphs but also on her missteps and flaws, presenting a well-paced, compelling portrait of a powerful woman who was, at the end of it all, still profoundly human. Baird’s book is biography at its best.