A hit-or-miss selection of notable personalities who made a dent in history.
That “the 50 people in this book made other people swoon” is debatable, even accounting for taste, but since the authors consider the nature of “hotness varied, from physical to intellectual to emotional,” much yardage is added to the meaning of “heartthrob.” On the upside of the book are the pithy character sketches, which get to the nub of their historical impact while keeping the language light. It can drift into campy or corny, but that probably comes with the territory. Each entry ends with short paragraphs marking why this person mattered, his or her best feature, his or her ranking on the “heat factor” (an index of their pros and cons), and the story of his or her sex life. This last, except in the most notorious cases—Lord Byron, George Sand—is either rumor or farce: Harriet Beecher Stowe? W.E.B. DuBois? The overarching issue is “heartthrob”—a hook that doesn’t deliver. The emphasis here is on sex appeal—why else make special note of their sex lives?—not just passion, and it is difficult to count Leni Riefenstahl, Bugsy Siegel and Benazir Bhutto in that number (though Eddie Chapman and Maya Deren are gusts of fresh air).
“Historical Game Changers” doesn’t have the teasing selling power of “Heartthrobs,” but it may nail John Wilkes Booth more squarely. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)