Recommended History Books
Learn more about World & American history.
Take a look at these recommended books on world history and American history that we've listed below - they will help you to think about what is important and what isn't; they will help you to see the world in a whole new light; they will motivate you to action; they will help you see different perspectives than your own; and they will help you to understand the cultures and nations that surround you.
Author: John Keay
Keay goes into the history of China from its earliest days, 5000 years ago, to the Cultural Revolution and beyond. Unlike other nations that might define themselves in terms of its people or territory, China defines itself by its own history. China has kept track of its own history and recorded it for future generations, more than any other nation or people-group have. Learn more about their complex and detailed past, about how the civilization began, the warring between different states, the cultural traditions, their public works projects, including the building of the Great Wall, the Grand Canal and the agricultural development of the southern hill country. Learn more about the great dynasties, what brought about their rise and demise. Learn more about the rise of western influences, including the trade wars that arose between European nations as they all vied for the ability and power to trade precious Chinese commodities that were strongly desired back home. And, learn more about the Cultural Revolution, the rise of Chairman Mao, and the state-controlled market socialism that has given rise to China's economic resurgence and power in the 21st century. China: A History, by John Keay is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about the long, intricate and elaborate history found in this civilization that is older than more of the rest of the world's civilizations.
Author: John Keay
Go into the 5000-year history of India, from its earliest civilization that spanned the banks of the Indus River with Harappa and Mahenjo-Daro, the expansion of people-groups and nation-states into the whole of the Indian subcontinent, the rise of the Vedic religion and classical Hinduism, the development of ancient republics, one of which the founder of Buddhism came from, the spread of Buddhism, the rise of different empires and emperors, Roman trade with the subcontinent, the Persian and Greek invasions and influences, the rise of different religious influences, including the Islam, Judaism and Christianity, as well as the rise of western colonialism, the rise of British power, and the eventual struggle for self-sovereignty and independence in the 20th century that brought about the rise of the Great Partition and the creation of the modern states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Go deep into the history of this subcontinent, and discover the epic history of one of earth's oldest and most richly diverse civilizations on the planet with India: A History, by John Keay.
Author: John Reader
Although this book is already over ten years old, it still is a great and deeply penetrating read, delving into all of the different aspects of the continent of Africa. It starts out rather slow and slowly speeds up to a eye-opening crescendo near the end of the book. Author John Reader starts out by explaining the geological development of the continent over billions of years, turns to the biological development of the different living things found in the continent over the course of hundreds of millions of years, including the development of modern humans, and then it goes into the development of the human race from its earliest days in the rainforests of east-central Africa, the rise of different tools and technologies, the rise of different languages, and rise of human population from those technologies as well as the environmental changes that eventually led to some humans leaving the continent to branch out elsewhere, the development of different cultures that resembled nation-states, and the warfare between groups that came about as new technologies were invented and re-tooled for warfare purposes. You will learn about the rise of European exploration, cultural inroads brought about by the Europeans, the rise of colonialism and modern states, as well as the movement by different states for independence. One of the more interesting facets of the book is the part where you discover how the desertification of the grasslands of northern Africa that became the Sahara forced the herders and farmers of the region to migrate elsewhere, leading to the rise of ancient Egyptian civilization. Learn about all this and more through John Reader's Africa: A Biography of a Continent.
Author: Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond is a well-known professor of geography from the University of California, and in this Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, Diamond goes into the environmental and geographical factors that led to the rise and technological advancements of some human societies, while keeping other human societies in a perpetual state of being hunter-gatherers. He talks about how germs, the availability of different plants for agricultural purposes, the fighting and rivalry between different groups, the rise of religion, and how the development of different technologies, including sea-going vessels, helped to shape different human societies and give some an edge over others. Diamond uses his knowledge to debunk the racially-based theories of human history. Guns, Germs, and Steel is one of those thought-provoking books that forces you to think about the truth of the matter and what really lies behind human history.
Author: Jared Diamond
In this book, which is a follow-up to the book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jered Diamond discusses the role that climate changes, political discord, inequalities and population explosions played in causing previous civilizations to collapse. By learning about the demise of other civilizations, including the Easter Island society, the Mayans, the Anasazi and the original Viking colony in Greenland, we can use history to warn us about our own future as a human race, especially as we globalize and become more interconnected, converting the entire earth into the equivalent of one large island civilization. We can even see signs today of the roles different elements play as we look at the issues in Rwanda, Haiti and Australia. Will we learn from our human past, develop new technologies, and evolve our modern civilization in ways that allow us to thrive and remain strong despite the elements that have caused previous societies to collapse? Collapse by Jared Diamond will really make you think.
Author: David S. Landes
David S. Landes, professor emeritus of history at Harvard University, discusses the reason why some nations achieve economic success and others remain stuck in poverty. The author explains the reasons for this, which are quite complex and are based on interconnections between cultural mores and the circumstances of history, including things that accidental and surprising in nature. You will discover the geographical, environmental, climate, natural resources, and a nation's willingness or unwillingness to embrace its own industrial revolution shaped its ability to create wealth for itself or be mired in poverty. Learn about the cultural traits the made some nations have the willingness to create its own industrial revolution. Learn the cultural traits that are seen in the people of successful nations, including honesty, integrity, patience, industriousness, frugality and thrift, positive traits that lead those nations who have them to be wealthy, and those that don't have them to be poor. Learn more about the cultural and historical elements that cause some nations to be economically successful and some to stay poor. Make yourself think with The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David S. Landes.
Author: Norman Davies
You will find a sweeping narrative of the history of the continent of Europe, from the days of the Ice Age to the end of the 20th century. Learn the story of Europe, both East and West, including the development of primitive cultures, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the invasions of Alaric and Atilla, the Norman conquests, the rise of the Catholic Church, the rise of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the wars, empires, rise of cities and nations, as well as a host of other things. Find out about how different nationalities developed, and their cultures, the technology that transformed the nations of the continent into a powerful factor for world development, and the devastating world wars that decimated whole nations. Europe: A History provides plenty of maps with its narrative to help you piece the puzzle pieces together and more fully understand what has shaped Europe into the contintent that it is today.
Author: Susan Wise Bauer
Read along as author Susan Wise Bauer discusses the history of the ancient world in easy-to-understand and exciting format in this fast-paced book. Learn how different and diverse peoples across the world, including the people of Europe, the Middle East, China and everywhere in between are interconnected. Understand the natures and characteristics of each country, their cultures, their connection to the world around them, and how they changed and evolved over time. With the 80 maps and 13 illustrations that are included, you can discover the ancient cultures of China, India, Greece, Egypt, Sumer, Mesopotamia and Rome, how they began, came to power, and faded away. Learn how individuals lived their lives, ancient religious and theisting beliefs, and see how famines, plagues, wars and floods effected the ancient civilizations and the individuals in them. Stop looking at history as sleepy and boring and take the time to read this unique book on the history of the ancient world. Read The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer.
Author: Susan Wise Bauer
Continuing where her previous book finished off, author Susan Wise Bauer helps you to learn more about the medieval world, from the time of the Roman Empire's split and conversion to Christianity to the time when Christianity and the Catholic Church had a stranglehood on the people of Europe and allowed kings to use it as an excuse to go conquer foreign lands. What was the world like at the time of Constantine, and what were the factors that shaped, developed and evolved the world into the state it was in by the time the crusades came to be? Learn more about the rise of feudalism, the empire that we refer to as the Byzantine Empire, the rise of Charlemagne, and the rise of Mohammed and Islam. But, this sweeping book doesn't just stop at Europe, but includes an understanding of other societies and nations as well, during that time period, including the Middle East, Islam, the spread of Buddhism to eastern Asia, and the rise of the T'ang Dynasty in China. Learn all about the world around you during this pivotal time period in human history, and go away feeling more aware and enlightended in your understanding of the world, and who you really are, with The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer.
Author: Howard Zinn
Taken from a different angle than the general perspective given by history books, which usually shows the nation's development as a whole in terms of economics, general history and general culture, this book helps us to understand the plight of people and people groups which were exploited, mistreated, destroyed or not treated with the same fairness and equal rights that the rest of us take for granted. Some see this book as a revisionist history because of the facts that are dealt with inside the book. Learn more about the American Indians' struggle against the rise of the United States; learn about the struggle of the blacks against slavery and racism; learn more about the struggle of women for equal rights and against the male-dominated culture; learn more about the struggle of workers against the capitalists who overworked them and didn't seem to understand how to properly treat their workers. The perspective of this book is from the point of view of the political left, so even if you consider yourself to be on the political right, by reading and understanding a different perspective than one you hold yourself, it can help you to be more objective by seeing and understanding the point of view of those who have for so long been downtrodden. A People's History of the United States is great at helping you understand the point of view that most of us miss.
Author: Larry Schweikart
The author of this book makes it clear that in our focus on understanding the plight of the downtrodden in our history, we have failed to focus on the individuals and groups around us that have triumphed and made the United States the great nation that it is today. By focusing on all of the instances of injustice, racism, sexism and bigotry in our past, of which there were many, and downplaying the importance of individuals in our past who represent freedom, liberty, patriotism and individualism, we have failed to understand the greatness that comes from what we represent to the world. When we focus more on the Japanese internment during World War II rather than our hard-won victories for the cause of human freedom during D-Day and Iwo Jima, or focus more on the intimidations caused by Joseph McCarthy rather than on the dangers to freedom and human dignity brought by Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union and what they represented, when we focus on the mistreatment of workers by the capitalist owners for whom they worked rather than on the successful path that hard work, frugality, good financial management and staying out of trouble can take an individual, we tend to lose an understanding of much of what we represent. Written from the perspective of the political right, this book is a good read, even if you consider yourself to be on the political left - trying to understanding points of view that are different than your own is important when trying to be objective about the world around us and the issues that surround us. Try to understand what you've been missing in your history classes and get back to the basics that America stands for, and individuals that represented those ideals, by reading A Patriot's History of the United States.
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