Yale Library Book Talk series presents a great fall lineup of new nonfiction

  • Four book covers: "G-Man, J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century" by Beverly Gage with half photo of Hoover's face; Without Concealment, Without Compromise, with four old photos of black Civil War surgeons at bottom half; Thoreau's Axe, with a black snake on a grey background and white lettering; My Egypt Archive with nine piles of books in watercolor in a grid on yellow ground
September 6, 2023

In each month of the academic year, the Yale Library Book Talk series features an expert author who will discuss a newly released book of fiction or nonfiction.

This fall season showcases a nonfiction lineup, with book topics ranging from the tumultuous politics of 21st-century Egypt and the unsung histories of Black Civil War surgeons to the life and times of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. 

All events are free and open to the public and will be held on Wednesday afternoons in the lecture hall at Sterling Memorial Library. After the presentations, authors will be available to sign copies of books that participants have purchased in advance. Books will not be sold at the event.

Sept. 21 (Thurs., 4 p.m.)
“My Egypt Archive” 

Alan Mikhail, Chace Family Professor of History at Yale, witnessed the everyday oppressions of his native Egypt during the early 21st century. Working with his memories and the archive he gathered of paper scraps from the past, he has created what is described as an “unmatched contemporary history of authoritarian politics.” The author of 5 books and more than 30 award-winning scholarly articles, Mikhail is widely recognized for his work in Middle Eastern and global history. He will be in conversation with Jonathan Wyrtzen, associate professor of Sociology, History, and International Affairs.

Oct. 11 (4 p.m.)
“G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century” 

Beverly Gage, John Lewis Gaddis Professor of History, will discuss her 2023 Pulitzer Prize–winning book about the complex life and career of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who planted the seeds for much of today’s conservative political landscape. Gage works with previously unknown sources to create a groundbreaking portrait of this influential character who dominated half a century of American history. Through his story, Gage explains the evolution of governance, policing, race, ideology, political culture, and federal power in the 20th century.

Nov. 1 (4 p.m.)
“Without Concealment, Without Compromise: The Courageous Lives of Black Civil War Surgeons”

Historian Jill Newmark will discuss her research on Richard Henry Greene, the first African American to graduate from Yale University—a key figure in her new book Without Concealment, Without Compromise. This book is the first-ever comprehensive exploration of the lives and service of Black surgeons during the Civil War. Newmark uncovers untold stories, illuminating the unique experiences of Greene and other patriots, whose efforts and actions influenced societal change and forged future pathways for African Americans.

Dec. 6 (4 p.m.)
“Thoreau’s Axe: Distraction and Discipline in American Culture” 

Literary critic and Yale professor Caleb Smith explores nineteenth-century archives and shows that distraction—“the wandering mind”—is not just a 21st-century problem. It was also a serious concern in American culture two centuries ago. Modeling his text after 19th-century books of devotion, Smith offers close readings of 28 short passages about attention. Considering social reformers, religious leaders, and spiritual seekers, Smith shows how disciplines of attention became spiritual exercises in an earlier distracted age.

The Yale Library Book Talk series focuses on the research and writing process of Yale faculty, alumni, and other authors who have worked with Yale Library collections. Subscribe to the Yale Library Book Talk mailing list to learn about future events.

—Deborah Cannarella