If you have ever taken a college course on history then you probably had to read either an awful textbook or seven, and maybe some dry readings on the side. If you are or were a history major you probably wonder why there aren’t better books on the subjects you want to learn about. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the majority of books I read for my classes for some reason or another. The catch is how can I plop a 400 page book about slavery in front of a friend and expect them to enjoy learning from it? Academic writing can be thick and boring and not make a lot of sense unless you’re used to that sort of thing, and even then some of us get sick of the same style with lack of inspiration.
So what on earth do we do?
See I find that people understanding the humanties of extreme importance so here are a few of my picks to shed some light on the past.
The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg (or anything by Ginzburg)
Want to learn about the peasant with a surprising knowledge of the world and philosophy in 16th century Italy. This is your read. Beautifully written, quizical, concise and beautiful this is hard to put down as layers of time are peeled back to reveal a slice of history.
The Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano
This is a great compilation of vignettes describing the human condition, heroes, villians, and oddities that have changed the world. Beautifully written it’s great for a story a day or a whole day of reading.
Cleapatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
We all know the famous egyptian and I know I mention this book a lot, but it is an elegantly written story of the woman that rocked the world she lived in. Not only engaging this story is accurate and engaging and lets the mind wander to the world of the larger than life characters she mingled with.
Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation by Yokota, Kariann Akemi
In case you were wondering about how things changed post revolution in exciting and fascinating ways this is a great read in understanding the changes that the United States endured in the first part of their existence.
The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han by Mark Edward Lewis
All of Lewis’s books on China paint great pictures of the life, times, beliefs, wars, and changing shapes of China through its centuries of power and excellence. All of them explain why, what, where and how China developed in the ways and manners that it did. Easy to reference and jump between segments the books are a great read for the student or casual historian.
Have any suggestions?