True Story

Democracy, Lady Codes, and Social Adaptations

Hello hello, and happy Wednesday! I am happy to report that I (and the rest of the Midwest) have survived an April blizzard and spring is in sight. But, let’s not dwell on the weather when there are books to enjoy.

In keeping with April’s theme of ALL THE BOOKS, I’ve got a full newsletter again today — five titles highlighted in a bit of detail, then a few more that should be on your radar at the end. Yay, books!

Sponsored by The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper. For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that “the Ripper” preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time—but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.

The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein – Two historians look at the intersecting personal and political lives of John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, as they grappled with politics in early America.


Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis – A collection of essays “on marriage and manners, thank-you notes and three-ways, ghosts, gunshots, gynecology, and the Calgon-scented, onion-dipped, monogrammed art of living as a Southern Lady.”



Magical Realism for Nonbelievers: A Memoir of Finding Family by Anika Fajardo – At 21 years old, Anika Fajardo boarded a plane to Colombia to visit the birthplace of the father she’s never known while uncovering the story of her parents’ marriage and her own experiences as parent.



The House of the Pain of Others: Chronicle of a Small Genocide by Julián Herbert, translated by Christina MacSweeney – In 1911, around 300 Chinese immigrants were massacred over the course of three days in the Mexican city of Torreón. In this book, Herbert tries to understand this horrific incident and put it in context within the history of Mexico and the Americas.

The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall by Mark Moffett – This book looks at the history of human civilization from chimpanzee communities to today’s sprawling civilizations. Drawing on biology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, Mark Moffett tries to explain the social adaptations that bind us together.



And now five more books you could grab that I didn’t have a chance to write about in more detail:

And that’s it for this week! You can find me on Twitter @kimthedork, on email at, and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. This week, Alice and I chatted books around the theme of “death and taxes,” which I promise is interesting. Happy reading! – Kim