5 Nonfiction Books About Overlooked People From History

There are countless biographies of figures like FDR or John F. Kennedy, but there are plenty of other important people from history who've never had their stories told. These authors have zeroed in on pivotal moments from the past, showing just how large of an effect people whose names you don't yet know have had on your life. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

5 Refreshing Books About History

Title Author Also by the Author
The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies Dawn Raffel The Secret Life of Objects
Pirate Hunting: The Fight Against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders from Antiquity to the Present Benerson Little The Golden Age of Piracy: The Truth Behind Pirate Myths
Silver, Sword, and Stone: Three Crucibles in the Latin American Story Marie Arana Bolívar: American Liberator
The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television David M. Weinstein The Eddie Cantor Story: A Jewish Life in Performance and Politics
The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition's Evil Genius Bob Batchelor Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel

The Remarkable True Story Behind Dawn Raffel's The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

6 Vacation Ideas For Lovers Of American History

Location Key Attractions
Ste. Geneviève, MO Missouri's oldest town, with classic homes, a trolley, the Green Tree Tavern, and The Sainte Genevieve Museum Learning Center
Boston, MA The USS Constitution, Old North Church, the Commonwealth Museum, Fenway Park, and tours featuring the sites of the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's House, and Freedom Trail
Alexandria, VA Mount Vernon, the Carlyle House, the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum, and excursions like the Original Ghost & Graveyard Tour
Cabarrus County, NC The Charlotte Motor Speedway, Reed Gold Mine, North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, and the Billy Graham Library
Grand Rapids, MI Historic homes, bridges, and lighthouses, Nelis' Dutch Village, the Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Plymouth County, MA Plymouth Rock, the Richard Sparrow House Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, and the Myles Standish Monument

Marie Arana on Simón Bolivar

In Depth

Not every important historical person gets their due. While figures from Cleopatra to Gandhi are justly covered in numerous books and media, other individuals go largely unrecognized despite their noteworthy activities and cultural contributions. The non-fiction titles included here, presented in no particular order, highlight some of those unique people whom you won't find in most history books.

Arriving at #1 is "The Strange Case of Dr. Couney" by Dawn Raffel. It tells the extraordinary tale of the titular doctor, a mysterious European showman who emigrated to America at the turn of the 20th century. By placing premature babies in incubators at world's fairs, Coney Island, and Atlantic City, he ended up saving thousands of lives and pioneering neonatology. Raffel explores this incredible figure, revealing his unique place in medical history.

Other works by Raffel include her memoir "The Secret Life of Objects," which includes illustrations by her teenage son. She's also the author of the novel "Carrying the Body," as well as the short story collections "In the Year of Long Division" and "Further Adventures in the Restless Universe." Raffel's writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, BOMB, and O, The Oprah Magazine, which she helped launch.

Raffel's writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, BOMB, and O, The Oprah Magazine, which she helped launch.

For #2 we have "Pirate Hunting" by Benerson Little. A history of piracy, privateering, and sea raiding, this book takes the unusual approach of being told from the perspective of the victims, and those who strive to keep the seas safe. It chronicles how people and governments have retaliated against pirate attacks for more than four millennia, and details the hunting strategies used by everyone from the ancient Minoans to modern maritime professionals.

A former US Navy officer and special operations and intelligence analyst, Little is considered a leading expert on piracy and naval history. Among his works are "The Buccaneer's Realm," which recounts pirate life on the Spanish Main, and "The Sea Rover's Practice," the only book that describes in great detail sea-roving tactics of the 17th and 18th centuries. Little has also authored "The Golden Age of Piracy" and the historical fiction novel "Fortune's Whelp."

Coming in at #3 is "Silver, Sword, and Stone" by Peruvian-American author Marie Arana. Against the backdrop of thousands of years of history, it tells the stories of three contemporary Latin Americans whose lives reflect the forces that have shaped the region. They include Leonor Gonzales, a gold miner in Peru; Carlos Buergos, a former Cuban soldier expelled to the US; and Xavier Albo, a Jesuit priest working among the indigenous population of Bolivia.

They include Leonor Gonzales, a gold miner in Peru; Carlos Buergos, a former Cuban soldier expelled to the US; and Xavier Albo, a Jesuit priest working among the indigenous population of Bolivia.

Arana's focus on Latin American history is further evidenced by "Bolivar," a sweeping account of the 19th-century military leader and liberator. She's also penned a memoir, "American Chica," about her bicultural childhood, as well as the fictional works "Cellophane" and "Lima Nights." In addition, Arana is the Literary Director of the Library of Congress, and has written for myriad publications including The Washington Post, National Geographic, and Peru's El Comercio.

For #4 we get "The Forgotten Network" by David Weinstein, which concerns the man responsible for bringing television to the American people: Allen B DuMont. Established in 1946, his network was among the world's pioneering TV brands. Yet less than a decade later, it was out of business and DuMont was forced to surrender control of the company. Using archival materials and employee recollections, Weinstein's book recovers this lost chapter of broadcasting history.

Additionally, Weinstein is the author of "The Eddie Cantor Story," a biography of the illustrious Jewish entertainer. The book devotes equal attention to Cantor's humor and politics, describing his significance as a performer, philanthropist, and activist. Weinstein also created the short documentary "Wake Up!," about the punk scene in early 1990s Washington, DC. On top of his creative work, he is a senior program officer in the Division of Public Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On top of his creative work, he is a senior program officer in the Division of Public Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Finally, landing at #5 is "The Bourbon King" by cultural historian and biographer Bob Batchelor. The title refers to George Remus, the Jazz Age mastermind who cracked the Prohibition system and grew the largest bootlegging operation in American history. For a time one of the world's wealthiest criminal figures, Remus was brought down in sensational fashion after he was put on trial for murdering his wife, and his empire was plundered.

Batchelor has authored and edited a plethora of books about contemporary American culture, including biographies of famous figures such as Bob Dylan, John Updike, and Stan Lee. He's also written analyses of "The Great Gatsby" and "Mad Men," and edited "Cult Pop Culture: How the Fringe Became Mainstream" and the "American Pop" series. As of 2020, Batchelor teaches at Miami University in the Media, Journalism & Film department.