"Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin"

By Jill Lepore (Knopf, $27.95)

Historian Jill Lepore explains "what it means to write history not from what survives but from what is lost" as she pieces together the life of Benjamin Franklin's sister from the fragments that have survived. Lepore forges a resounding exploration of books, reading and the disparity between the sexes: Benjamin went on to earn his worth with words, while Jane toiled to sustain her family's existence. "I Read as much as I Dare," she tells her brother, leading the reader to imagine Jane's endless possibilities had she been afforded the chance.

"Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World"

By Alison Weir (Ballantine, $30)

Tudor expert Alison Weir focuses on another woman whose sex determined her path in "Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World." Much has been written about the reign of Henry VIII, but in this study Weir turns to the fickle king's mother, and her influence on the royal family.


By A. Scott Berg (Putnam, $40)

Woodrow Wilson may not get as much attention as other U.S. presidents, but that is certain to change with Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg's hefty new biography. Berg's exhaustive research and relentless pursuit of new sources has resulted in an exceptional work that will capture even the most jaded historian; Berg crafts a portrait of a president whose reach extended beyond the boundaries of Washington.

"Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World"

By Matthew Goodman (Ballantine, $28)

In a stunning feat of narrative nonfiction, Matthew Goodman brings the 19th century to life, tracing the history of two intrepid journalists as they tackled two male-dominated fields — world travel and journalism — in an era of incredible momentum. Jules Verne, train and ship travel, and international snapshots are included as Goodman laces biography with history in a book that has something for everyone.

"The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine — Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary"

By Jenny Uglow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28)

"The Pinecone," by the award-winning Jenny Uglow, is a treasure of artistic delights. Sarah Losh made her mark on the English countryside during the early 19th century as she followed her heart and created one of the most imaginative and ornate churches that still exists today.

Meganne Fabrega is a book critic and a member of the National Book Critics Circle.