Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz
Unlike Horwitz's other books, Midnight Rising is a straight biography, no humorous modern day excursions as Horwitz follows a historic trail, and I admit that I picked it up thinking it would be like his earlier books. I was familiar with John Brown and the raid on Harper's Ferry, and it was not the topic that drew me to the book. It was Horwitz's name on the cover.
Once I began reading it, however, I found Brown a compelling subject. Horwitz neither demonizes nor glorifies Brown. Drawing on primary sources, using many of John Brown's own words, we see a complex man fixated on the greatest social injustice of his day. Brown's radical views on equality were rooted in his conservative Calvinist Christianity and were much more liberal than even the outspoken, secularly driven abolitionists of his day. This combination of deeply held orthodoxy leading to extreme liberality of thought so contradicts the mainstream bias of today, that the exploration of it fascinates. I hope it challenges readers to confront their own assumptions about the interaction of religious faith and progressive thought.