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Best History Books

Uncover the past with this curated selection of the best history books, as acknowledged by numerous educational and literary sources. These books have been ranked to enlighten and engage readers with the most compelling historical narratives and analyses.

Recommendations from 53 articles, Barack Obama, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Gates and 241 others.
Best History Books
100 books on the list
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Guns, Germs, and Steel book cover
Guns, Germs, and Steel
The Fates of Human Societies
Jared Diamond - 2005-01-01 (first published in 1997)
Goodreads Rating
Explore the answer to the central problem in global history with Guns, Germs, and Steel. In this insightful book, author Jared Diamond looks at the broad movements of peoples and ideas on every continent since the Ice Age. He presents a biology-driven answer to The Rise of the West, focusing on geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. With a binocular perspective of an evolutionary biologist and a heart that belongs to the people of New Guinea, Diamond presents a well-rounded and evenhanded review of human history.
Sapiens book cover
A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari - 2015-01-01 (first published in 2011)
Goodreads Rating
Discover the story of human history, from the first humans to walk the earth to today's modern society. Explore how we came to believe in gods, nations, and human rights, and how our societies were shaped by the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific Revolutions. Sapiens covers it all, using insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology, and economics to challenge our beliefs about what it means to be human. Are we happier now than we were before? Can we change our behavior and influence the future? Dr. Yuval Noah Harari's provocative and wide-ranging book will challenge the way you think about our species and our place in the world.
1491 book cover
New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Charles C. Mann - 2006-10-10 (first published in 2005)
Goodreads Rating
Explore a fascinating and surprising world with this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology. Charles C. Mann challenges the widely-held belief that pre-Columbian Americans lived sparsely in a wilderness. Instead, he reveals that they molded and influenced the land around them in incredible ways, from creating advanced cities to engineering corn in a specialized process. Enrich your understanding of the Americas before 1492 with this transformative read.
Recommended by
John Leguizamo
SPQR book cover
A History of Ancient Rome
Mary Beard - 2016-09-06 (first published in 2015)
Goodreads Rating
Discover the rise and fall of Rome in SPQR, as Mary Beard offers a passionate and detail-oriented narration of the history of the ancient empire. From a humble beginning to becoming the masters of the Mediterranean, Beard challenges the traditional historical viewpoints and sheds light on often overlooked aspects such as class struggles and democratic movements. Spanning nearly a millennium, this highly informative and engaging read will leave your hair standing on end, earning its place as a modern classic - shaping our view of Rome for many years to come.
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World book cover
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Jack Weatherford - 2018-07-01 (first published in 2004)
Goodreads Rating
Discover the fascinating history of Genghis Khan, the Mongol warrior who rose to power and shaped the modern world. From his roots in Mongol culture to his tactical warfare and empire-building, this book tells the captivating story of a true historical figure who changed the course of history.
A People's History of the United States book cover
A People's History of the United States
Howard Zinn - 1995-01-01 (first published in 1980)
Goodreads Rating
Explore American history from the perspective of the people who shaped it, in this groundbreaking book. A People's History of the United States throws out the official narrative and focuses on the struggles and triumphs of everyday Americans, including women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrant laborers. From the fight for fair wages to the battle for women's rights, this book explores the grassroots movements that shaped our country. With lively prose and scholarly research, this classic bestseller is a must-read for anyone who wants to truly understand America's past and future.
A Woman of No Importance book cover
A Woman of No Importance
The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
Sonia Purnell - 2019-04-09
Goodreads Rating
Discover the incredible, untold story of Virginia Hall, one of the greatest American spies who changed the course of the Second World War. Despite being rejected from the foreign service due to her gender and prosthetic leg, Hall talked her way into Churchill's "ministry of ungentlemanly warfare" and became the first woman to deploy to occupied France. Coordinating a network of spies, she sabotaged enemy lines and recruited and trained guerrilla fighters while being hunted by the Gestapo. Through sheer persistence and bravery, Hall became known as the "Madonna of the Resistance" and helped win the war.
Say Nothing book cover
Say Nothing
A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
Patrick Radden Keefe - 2019-02-26 (first published in 2018)
Goodreads Rating
Discover the devastating consequences of a notorious killing in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Follow award-winning writer Patrick Radden Keefe's intricate narrative, starting with the abduction of Jean McConville, a mother of ten, and delve into the violent guerrilla war that plagued Northern Ireland. From IRA terrorists and their brutal violence to dirty schemes of the British Army, Say Nothing is a tale of passion, betrayal, and anguish that lingers long after the last page.
The Guns of August book cover
The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman - 2009-07-22 (first published in 1962)
Goodreads Rating
Discover the fascinating events and people that led to World War I with this Pulitzer Prize-winning book. The author, Barbara Tuchman, provides intricate details and an expert understanding of the subject that will leave readers captivated. Throughout this historical survey, Tuchman reveals how the war started, why it began, and how it could have been prevented. THE GUNS OF AUGUST offers an engaging perspective on a critical moment in world history that is not to be missed.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich book cover
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
A History of Nazi Germany
William L. Shirer - 1990-11-15 (first published in 1960)
Goodreads Rating
Explore the catastrophic events of the Third Reich, Hitler's thousand-year empire that lasted only 12 years. William L. Shirer's monumental study is the definitive record of this intense time period in human history. With mountains of evidence including testimonies, diaries, transcripts, and private letters, Shirer's work offers unprecedented insight into Hitler's drive to conquer the world. This classic work also covers the US's involvement and Hitler's usage of Mussolini and Japan. A worldwide bestseller, this book is a must-read for those interested in one of the most frightening chapters in human history.
Recommended by
Ed Morrissey
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
Grant by Ron Chernow
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss
The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge
Broken Lives by Konrad H. Jarausch
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
1776 by David McCullough
Democracy by Paul Cartledge
The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Leningrad by Anna Reid
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
Embracing Defeat by John W. Dower
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr
Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
They Were Her Property by Stephanie E Jones-Rogers
The Cigarette by Sarah Milov
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Orientalism by Edward W. Said
Salt by Mark Kurlansky
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
Churchill by Andrew Roberts
An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson
A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil Macgregor
The River of Doubt by Candice Millard
In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
Appeasement by Tim Bouverie
Manhunt by James L. Swanson
Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee
The Race Beat by Gene Roberts
Embers of War by Fredrik Logevall
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott
The Bone and Sinew of the Land by Anna-Lisa Cox
The Season by Kristen Richardson
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney
A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan
1493 by Charles C. Mann
Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi Wa Thiong'O
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Hiroshima by John Hersey
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne
Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt
A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo
The War Before the War by Andrew Delbanco
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Enemy at the Gates by William Craig
Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson
Napoleon by Andrew Roberts
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
Six Days of War by Michael B. Oren
John Adams by David McCullough
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
These Truths by Jill Lepore
Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent
Vietnam by Max Hastings
Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos
Hitler by Ian Kershaw
The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto
Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer
Truman by David McCullough
Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
Tenements, Towers & Trash by Julia Wertz
The Gay Revolution by Lillian Faderman