Boston Public Library author talks feature a wide range of talented writers. Hear authors read from their books, purchase a copy, get it signed, and learn about the creative process that gets such magnificent stories told. To look for even more author talks taking place at Boston Public Library locations, please use our calendar of events.
In The Map Thief, award-winning investigative reporter Michael Blanding tells the true story of map dealer-turned-criminal E. Forbes Smiley III, who stole more than three million dollars’ worth of antique maps from rare-book libraries including the Boston Public Library. Smiley was ultimately caught in 2005 when an attentive librarian spotted a razor blade he dropped on the floor, leading to the ultimate unraveling of his deceptions. Drawing on an exclusive interview with Smiley as well as in-depth investigations involving map collectors, dealers, curators, and law enforcement, Blanding paints a compelling psychological portrait of an obsessive man who committed daring crimes against the backdrop of a quirky and cutthroat subculture. He also looks at the backstories of the explorers and mapmakers who charted the history of North America through their maps, many of which are worth tens of thousands of dollars today. Blanding is a regular contributor to publications including the Nation, Boston Globe Magazine, and Boston Magazine, and is the author of The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink.
In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson takes readers on an intimate journey into the broken American criminal justice system. After Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School, he started the Equal Justice Initiative, a law practice dedicated to defending some of America’s most marginalized people. Among the first cases he took on was that of Walter McMillian, a black man from Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, who was sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn't commit. Just Mercy follows the battle to free Walter while telling other dramatic stories of men, women, and children, innocent and guilty, who found themselves at the mercy of a system often incapable of providing justice. Stevenson is a professor of law at New York University School of Law. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant,” and Just Mercy is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize.
In A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience, Emerson W. Baker describes how conditions in the Bay Colony in the 1690s set the stage for the dramatic events in Salem. He engages a range of perspectives to address why the Salem tragedy unfolded as it did and to explore its enduring legacy. Baker is a professor of history at Salem State University. He is the author of The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England and coauthor of an award-winning biography of Sir William Phips. Baker has been featured as an expert consultant on the PBS series Colonial House and has provided historical consultation for Parks Canada, National Geographic, Plimoth Plantation, Historic Salem, Inc., and other historic district commissions. This talk is also part of the Local & Family History Lecture Series.
In 1983, Ron Capps enlisted in the United States Army, and in the early ’90s he joined the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer while remaining in the Army Reserve. That unusual combination set the stage for a unique career during which Capps functioned at times as a diplomat and an intelligence officer, investigating some of the bloodiest war zones in recent history. This distinct perspective informs his book Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years, a work that is part soldier’s memoir, part story of the toll extensive exposure to war can take on the psyche, and part inspirational tale of the power of the written word to lift us out of the darkest of places. Capps is the founder and director of the Veterans Writing Project, a non-profit program that provides no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, service members, and their family members. Capps’ policy writing and commentary have appeared regularly in Time’s blog Battleland, Foreign Policy, and NPR’S All Things Considered.
How do wars end? Why are some societies capable of peaceful political transitions while others descend into violence? In this compelling narrative, Timothy Phillips draws on twenty years of experience on the front lines of peace negotiations around the world to offer lessons for societies currently struggling with conflict. He relates stories of six individuals who stood up to dictatorship and sat down with their enemies to pave the way for lasting reconciliation. In an era in which war and devastation dominate the headlines, Beyond Conflict: 20 Years of Putting Experience to Work for Peace is a timely reminder that peace is not an illusion, but a reality. Phillips is the co-founder of Beyond Conflict, a non-profit global initiative for conflict resolution. He has advised the United Nations, the U.S. Department of State, and the Council of Europe.