General - History

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

We are living in a golden age of readable historians. The stuffy academic attitude that regarded readable books as beneath serious consideration is and should be ignored. Sorry! It is not a sign of intelligence or erudition to write boring books about very interesting subjects.

For non-fiction readers, it is my pleasure to recommend BOOKTV on CSPAN2. It runs from 8 A.M. Saturday morning through 8 A.M. Monday morning, around the clock. No book critics. Just authors talking about their books, various conferences from various sections of the publishing business, children's books, etc. Sometimes boring, sometimes fascinating. Like CSPAN, it is a great reason to have cable TV.

The following list is by no means definitive. I welcome all suggestions. My only requirement is that they be readable and not revisionist.

I can guarantee that the following are all readable reads. By that I mean, they won't put you to sleep in 10 minutes. I am a firm believer that good narrative style is a requirement for good history books.

One of my favorite historians is Winston Churchill. Most people have forgotten that Churchill made his living by writing. He earned the Nobel Prize in literature for his History of World War II.  His History of the English Speaking Peoples is notable for its readability and erudition. High on my list of recommended reading for anyone over the age of 11, is his autobiography My Early Years – covering the first 30 years of his life.  Currently, his youngest daughter has published her parents’ correspondence with each other throughout their lives together.  It’s called Winston & Clementine

I also recommend:

David McCullough
His range is spectacular. His prose style is a delight. Most of us became acquainted with him when he wrote the Pulitzer prize-winning Truman. If you enjoyed it, here are a few more:

    The Great Bridge - the epic story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It is a story of engineering,           politics and people. $18.00

   The Johnstown Flood - An event that we hear referred to. This is the full story.

    Mornings on Horseback - A prize-winning biography of a very colorful character who became President of the United States.

    Path Between the Seas - The building of the Panama Canal. A complex story full of heroes, villains and victims.   

Stephen Ambrose for Undaunted Courage about the Lewis & Clark   expedition, and all his books on World War II.

David Donald for his biography Lincoln.

On a broader perspective, Barbara Tuchman is great. The Guns of August, The Proud Tower, The Zimmerman Telegram, A Distant Mirror and several others are worth every minute of your time.

 Others on my “forever” list are Is Paris Burning,  Freedom at Midnight,and O Jerusalem  - all by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins.

 For solid background, I must recommend The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes. He asks the key question: Why are rich nations rich and poor nations poor over time?  Excellent. 

Just recently, I became aware of David Frum’s book - How We Got Here: The 70’s .Getting a handle on recent history is always difficult if not impossible. The reason: lack of the perspective that the passage of time brings.  We’re in luck! David Frum has done a great job. I highly recommend this book. It will go a long way to assist understanding between the generations.  A great read.

Samuel Eliot Morrison was the official naval historian during  WWII. His work has been published in a series of 15 books covering both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. These are the definitive books of World War II naval history. If you are interested in a specific time period or battle, please tell us and we can tell you which volume you will need. They are $50 each.

No Name War by  Jill Laporte on the King Phillip's War in the late 17th century. In 1675, the Algonquins rose up against the Puritan colonists in Southern New England with whom they had lived in peace since 1620. This forever changed the relationship between the native American tribes and the European settlers.  $15.00

The Cousins War - Religion, Politics, and the Triumph of Anglo-America by Kevin Phillips. An excellent book on the wars between Britain and the U.S. and the resulting close relationship. $16.50

The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey. What was life in England like 1,000 years ago? 12 chapters taking you through a full year, month by month. In an age when the seasons had far greater influence on daily life, this approach is excellent. A marvelous read. $12.95

The Usborne Newspapers
    The Stone Age Sentinel
    The Egyptian Echo
    The Greek Gazette
    The Roman Record
    The Viking Invader
    The Medieval Messenger
A nifty way to get the facts. History presented in a modern newspaper format. Entertaining and very informative no matter your age. $6.95 each.

Horrible Histories
    The Awsome Egyptians
    The Groovy Greeks
    The Rotten Romans
    The Vicious Vikings
    The Measly Middle Ages
Another British approach to history. This time with humor. Again, entertaining and very informative. $4.50 each

Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy. No. This is not about the Democratic Party. It's about people who risked their political careers by following their own convictions to do what was right. $12.00

James Michener: Hawaii, Centennial; Covenant; Chesapeake; The Source, etc. The list goes on. These are the very best kind of historical writing. With his exceptional gift for narrative, Michener has given us  wonderful reads. Try one! You'll become addicted.  Under $10 each

 Undaunted Courage - the Lewis & Clark Expedition by Stephen Ambrose. ($17.00) Another master of the historical narrative. His books on World War II are excellent. He has also done biographies of Nixon and Eisenhower. 

Science and the Founding Fathers - Science in the Political Thought of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison by I.Bernard Cohen. This is a facet of their personalities not usually considered. $15.95 

From Here to Eternity by James Jones. $13.95
The Naked and the Dead
by Norman Mailer. $16.00
These are the two great novels to come out of World War II. After 50 years, they are still superb reads.

The Greatest Generation $24.95
The Greatest Generation Speaks
by Tom Brokaw. His books have rekindled our interest in 20th century history while many of its participants are still alive. After you read them, I hope you will be inspired to speak to your family members about their experiences before, during and after World War II.

Pearl Buck. She used China as the background for all her novels. Through them, you watch China change. Start with The Good Earth and continue reading  through all her books. A very rewarding experience. $6.99 

Embracing Defeat by John W. Dower. A Pulitzer Prize winner, it deals with modern Japan after World War II. A vivid portrayal of the countless ways in which the Japanese have met the challenge of starting over. $29.95

We would be delighted to hear from you with suggestions, questions or comments. Our e-mail address is: We look forward to your correspondence.



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