Human history is replete with countless examples of our greatest achievements and our darkest times and a person could spend their whole life reading about the events that have molded our society. Here we introduce our top 10 picks from the history genre, focusing on the some of the most turbulent and eventful periods from the past.
England has seen its fair share of change and upheaval over the centuries, which is something you’ll find out all about when you read this comprehensive cataloguing of the country and its inhabitants. Robert Tombs offers his take on the often stoic people of England and their stories that stretch back to the beginning of recorded history.
Since being invaded by the Normans, the Vikings and the Romans, the English came an awfully long way, going on to rule over a quarter of the globe. If you have a few hours to spare and a comfy chair at hand, we’d recommend delving into this fantastic book that describes real-life soap-opera that is English History.
The influences of the Roman Empire are still in evidence all around us and this book by Mary Beard looks back at the very beginning of an era that lasted some 1600 years. Detailing its legend with stories like Romulus and Remus and analyzing the birth of Rome from its humble beginnings, readers get to work through over a millennium of historical events and learn about how the Romans conquered over 4 million square kilometers of land, defeating and ‘civilizing’ country after country from Syria to Spain in the process.
This is a serious read for history enthusiasts everywhere and certainly deserving of a place on our list.
For centuries, it has been believed that prior to Columbus arriving, the Americas were sparsely populated lands, home to primitive tribes. However, there seems to be much evidence that suggests this could have been wildly inaccurate. Charles C Mann’s work highlights scientific, archaeological and historical data that shows the the Aztecs as being an advanced race that created cities surpassing the scale of those seen in Europe centuries later.
This book challenges the very idea that modern civilisation has only Europe to thank for its advancements, as Mexican culture was every bit as sophisticated as that found in England, Spain, Italy and France. Want to know more? Then you’ll need to read it for yourself.
If you’re looking to work you way through some of the most memorable history books in existence, then this book by William L Shirer, an international correspondent from the US who experienced the second world war first hand, has to be in your list. Recognized with a National Book Award, the Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich looks in detail into how it came to pass that Hitler almost achieved his goal of world domination, only to fall at the most critical point.
Readers also get to gain insight into the diary of Joseph Goebbels, as well as testimonies from the Nuremberg trials. One of the most authoritative works on the period is rightly part of our top 10 history books.
Another of the world’s most notorious figures is Genghis Khan, who is famed for his invasions into Europe from Asia. King of the Mongols, Khan and his breathtaking, but often macabre exploits are regaled expertly by Jacob Abbott who offers a broad view of this most tumultuous of periods of human history.
When you read this account of the leader of Mongol Empire, you’ll also get to understand more about the man, his early years and what drove him to become known in the West as “The Scourge of God”. A great addition to the history genre.
Whist Winston Churchill is undoubtedly most well known for being instrumental in turning the tide against the Nazis in World War 2, there were many other sides to the great man. A seasoned writer and painter, Churchill once channeled his literary skills into travel writing, which can be seen in his book – My African Journey.
In 1908, Churchill, then in his thirties, toured Uganda and Kenya, the details of which can be found in his own personal account of his excursion. Highlighting the charm and innocence of the people and its abundant wildlife, Winston provides ample evidence of the characteristics that made him the man he would become.
Speak to any given American citizen about the country they live in and you’ll likely hear much about the glory that is the USA, but as with most great nations, greatness is often built on the suffering of others. This fact is expertly illustrated by Howard Zinn, as he delves into the litany of tales of exploitation and manipulation that have plagued America’s past, as well as shedding light on a corrupt political system controlled by society’s elite.
Having sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, this book looks at the darker side of the “Greatest Country in the World” and its one we’d recommend reading from cover to cover.
There is perhaps no more poignant an account of World War 2 than that provided by Anne Frank, a 13 year old girl needing to go into hiding to escape the Nazi’s clutches. Hers is a tense tale of hunger, terrible living conditions and the constant threat of being found by the Germans and it’s one that is known worldwide, even leading to the creation of museum in her honour in the centre of Amsterdam.
Even in these appalling conditions, Anne is able to be philosophical and thoughtful about those around her and those who sought to do her harm. It’s a story not to be missed and one that will likely stay with you forever.
History doesn’t necessarily have to be in the dim and distant past to captivate, which is evidenced by this fantastic book by Michael Burleigh. Much has happened in just the last 20 years, with the war with Iraq, the Twin Towers disaster in New York to America’s first black President being just a few of the most notable events.
The author navigates you through the key moments that have threatened society’s very existence and offers a forensic analysis of where the world is right now and also where it is headed. This insightful and incisive account of recent historical events is one that simply had to be included in our list.
The last history book on our list takes us back some 1,500 years into the Dark Ages, after the end of the Roman Empire. As the rest of the known world was being fought over by the Visigoths, the Hun and the Vandals, the Emerald Isle was viewed as a haven for scholars and saints. This allowed much of the religious and classical heritage to be saved and enjoyed by many today.
Thomas Cahill offers his take on the period, as his narrative covers tales of Irish Monks manually copying Christian, Pagan and Ancient Greek manuscripts to save them from being lost forever. The world owes much to Ireland for their actions and you can discover much, much more by reading this incredibly interesting non-fiction account..
And there you have it, our top 10 picks from the History genre. Sure, history has never been a light read, but if you work your way through our list, you’ll gain a wonderful, three dimensional view of the present and the past in all its glory.
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