45 Best History Books of All Time

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Blog – Posted on Friday, May 21

45 best history books of all time.

45 Best History Books of All Time

If the mere mention of ‘history books’ is enough to conjure up memories of fighting back yawns in your middle school classroom, then chances are you haven’t been looking in the right places. But fear not — this list is here to bring you some of the most well-researched, entertaining, and readable works by the most preeminent historians of today and generations past.

On this list, you not only find some of the best American history books, on topics spanning slavery and empire, Civil War, and Indigenous histories, but also stories ranging from Asia to Africa, and everywhere in between. This list traverses continents, historical eras, the rise and fall of once-great empires, while occasionally stopping off to hone in on specific, localized events that you might never have heard of.

Whether you’re a history buff looking to flex your muscles, or you struggle to distinguish your Nelson from your Nefertiti, there’ll be something suitable for you. So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive into our 45 best history books of all time.

If you’re looking for history books that give the broader picture as well as the finer details, let us introduce you to some of the most seminal texts on global history. These reads cover the moments and events that form the connective tissue between continents, cultures, and eras. Whether you’re looking for more abstract, theoretical writing on what ‘history’ is and does, or just a broader volume that pans out, rather than in, there’ll be something for you.

1. What Is History? by Edward Hallett Carr

Famous for his hefty History of Soviet Russia , E. H. Carr’s foray into historiography (that is, the study of written history) was panned by critics at first. Initially written off as ‘dangerous relativism’, it is now considered a foundational text for historians, one which probes at the very seams of the discipline. By asking what exactly historical knowledge is and what constitutes history as we have come to understand it, Carr provides a compelling and masterful critique of the biases of historians and their moralized narratives of history. This groundbreaking text also interrogates such notions as fact, science, morality, individualism, and society. Carr’s masterpiece is referenced in countless college applications for a reason — it’s a formidable dive into history as a discipline, and laid the foundations for the subject as it exists in the modern world.

2. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx

Though first and foremost considered a political theorist, much of Marxist thought can be a means to understand history with attention to economic systems and principles. In this seminal text, Marx argues that all of history has been defined by the struggles between the proletariat working-class and the capital-owning bourgeoisie. According to Marx, economic structures have been defined by class relations, and the various revolutions that have occurred throughout history have been instigated by antagonism between these two forces. As Marx famously opined in his 1852 essay, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”, and he lays out those repetitions with striking clarity here. As an added bonus, since this was originally intended as a pamphlet, the manifesto comes in at under 100 pages, so you have no reason not to prime yourself on one of modern history’s greatest thinkers.

3. Orientalism by Edward W. Said

A titan of Middle Eastern political and historical study, Edward Said coined the titular phrase ‘Orientalism’ to describe the West's often reductive and derisive depiction and portrayal of "The East." This book is an explanation of this concept and the application of this framework to understand the global power dynamics between the East and the West. Orientalism is considered by many a challenging read, but don’t let its formidable reputation put you off — it’ll all be worth it when you find yourself thinking about global history in ways you haven’t before.

4. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

It’s no big secret that the US school curriculum is more than a little biased — governments have a tendency to rewrite history textbooks in their favour, and the US government is no exception, keeping quiet on the grizzly, harrowing details and episodes which made the USA the country it is today. With particular focus on the American Civil War, Native Americans and the Atlantic Slave Trade, Loewen tries to interrogate and override simplistic, recountings of these events that portray White settlers as heroes and everybody else as uncivilized and barbarous. This is essential reading for anybody wanting to challenge their own preconceptions about American history and challenge the elevated status of American ‘heroes’.

5. Democracy: A Life by Paul Cartledge

From its birth in the city-state of Ancient Athens to contemporary times, democracy’s definition, application, and practice have been fiercely discussed and debated. With this book, Cartledge presents a biography of a political system that has been alternately lauded as the only means to govern a liberal society and derided as doomed to ineffectiveness.

Based on a near-legendary course of lectures Cartledge taught at Cambridge University, this book charts the social, cultural, and political dimensions of democracy, displaying a mastery of the scholarship to brilliant effect. For those that want to know more about democracy beyond ‘governance for the masses’.

6. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary

When history is so often focalized through a Western lens, reading from alternative positions is essential to challenge these normative understandings of the past. Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted does exactly this. By centering on an Islamic recounting of historical events, it challenges preconceived ideas about Western dominance, colonialism, and stereotyped depictions of Islamic culture and custom. Ansary discusses the history of the Islamic world from the time of Mohammed, through the various empires that have ruled the Middle Eastern region and beyond, right up to contemporary conflicts and the status of Islam in a modern, globalizing world. 

7. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

If you think salt is a substance useful for not much more than topping fries, let journalist Mark Kurlansky prove otherwise. In this book, Kurlansky charts the origins of civilization using a surprising narrative throughline — salt. Many early settlements were established near natural sources of salt because of its many beneficial properties, and this surprisingly precious mineral has continued to play an important role in societies ever since. From its use as a medium of exchange in ancient times to its preservative properties (which allowed ancient civilizations to store essential food throughout the winter), this innocuous substance has been fundamental to the health and wealth of societies across the globe.

8. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

With his collective bibliography having sold over 16 million copies, you’re probably already familiar with Bryson’s work documenting his travels around the world, or his meditations on the brilliant diversity of global culture. Though primarily a travel writer, he’s also turned his hand to history, and A Short History of Nearly Everything specifically focuses on the scientific discoveries of yore that have defined human society. From quantum theory to mass extinction, Bryson recounts these miraculous, unplanned, sometimes ill-fated marvels of human achievement with humor and insight. If there’s a book that’ll have you repeatedly saying “can you believe this?” to random passers-by, this’ll be it!

9. The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World by Lincoln Paine

A nation's ability to conquer the seas has always been a mark of prestige and greatness, especially for empires looking to expand beyond their borders and nations wanting to trade and connect with other peoples. Paine discusses how many societies managed to transform the murky depths of the ocean from natural obstacle to a means of transporting goods, people, and ideas — from the Mesopotamians wanting to trade with their neighbors in ancient Aegea and Egypt, to those in East Asia who fine-tuned their shipbuilding techniques to conquer foreign lands.

10. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Here’s another book that frequents the reading lists of politics and history majors the world over! Many have theorized on why certain human societies have failed while others have thrived — but perhaps none have done it as astutely as Jared Diamond has in Guns, Germs, and Steel . The three things featured in the book’s title make up the nexus that Diamond presents as being fundamental to the development (or lack thereof) of human society. Though Diamond's thesis has as many detractors as it has supporters, it’s worth reading to see which side of the debate you fall on.

11. The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity by Amartya Sen

In this collection of sixteen essays, esteemed economist Amartya Sen explores the Indian subcontinent, with particular focus on the rich history and culture that has made it the country it is today. The title refers to what Sen believes is inherent to the Indian disposition: argument and constructive criticism as a means to further progress. In his essays, Sen presents careful and considered analysis on a range of subjects that other academics have often tiptoe around, from the nature of Hindu traditions to the major economic disparities existing in certain regions today (and what their roots might be). Whether you’re an expert or new to the topic, you’ll be sure to learn something from Sen’s incisive commentary.

Ancient kingdoms are shrouded in mystery — a lot of what we know has been painstakingly pieced together by brilliant archaeologists and historians who have uncovered ancient artifacts, documents, and remains, and dedicated their working lives to understanding their significance to ancient people. Aren’t the rest of us lucky they’ve done the hard work for us?

12. Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend

The pre-colonial Central America ruled by the Aztecs was one characterized by remarkable innovation and progressiveness. Western historians, however, often failed to acknowledge this or pay the region and its ancient empires much academic attention. Moreover, the history of the Mexican people as recounted by the Spanish has often leaned into stereotyped, whitewashed versions of events. Townsend’s Fifth Sun changes this by presenting a history of the Aztecs solely using sources and documents written by the Aztec people themselves in their native Nahuatl language. What results is an empathetic and invigorating interpretation of Aztec history for newbies and long-time enthusiasts alike.

13. When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt by Kara Cooney

When you think of Ancient Egyptian queens, Cleopatra probably comes to mind — but did you know that the various Egyptian dynasties boasted a whole host of prominent women? Cooney’s When Women Ruled The World shifts the spotlight away from the more frequently discussed Egyptian pharaohs, placing attention on the likes of Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra, all of whom commanded great armies, oversaw the conquering of new lands, and implemented innovative economic systems. In this captivating read, Cooney reveals more about these complex characters and explores why accounts of ancient empires have been so prone to placing powerful women on the margins of historical narratives. 

14. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1 by Edward Gibbon

If you’re a fan of serious, in-depth scholarship on ancient history, then this first volume of Gibbon's classic treatise on the Roman Empire is a perfect fit for you. Despite being published in 1776, Gibbon’s work on the Roman Empire is still revered by historians today. Along with five other volumes of this monumental work, this text is considered one of the most comprehensive and pre-eminent accounts in the field. Gibbon offers theories on exactly how and why the Roman Empire fell, arguing controversially that it succumbed to barbarian attacks mainly due to the decline of “civic virtue” within Roman culture. If this thesis has piqued your interest, then we naturally suggest you start with Volume I to understand what exactly Gibbon considers “virtue” to be, and how it was lost. 

15. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer

Historians are often wont to focus on a particular historical era or location when producing historical nonfiction — but Susan Wise Bauer had grander ambitions. In this text, Bauer weaves together events that spanned continents and eras, from the East to the Americas. This book, described as an “engrossing tapestry,” primarily aims to connect tales of rulers to the everyday lives of those they ruled in vivid detail. With an eloquently explained model, she reveals how the ancient world shaped, and was shaped by, its peoples.

16. Foundations of Chinese Civilization: The Yellow Emperor to the Han Dynasty by Jing Liu

Believe it or not, history doesn’t always mean slogging through page after page of dense, footnoted text. This comic by Beijing native Jing Liu turns history on its head by presenting it in a fun, digestible manner for anybody that has an interest in Chinese history (but isn’t quite ready to tackle an 800-page book on the subject yet). Spanning nearly 3,000 years of ancient history, this comic covers the Silk Road, the birth of Confucianism and Daoism, China's numerous internal wars, and finally the process of modern unification.

Middle Ages and renaissance

Some of the most fearsome and formidable characters in history had their heyday during the Middle Ages and renaissance periods — though it’s hard to know whether their larger-than-life reputations are owed to actual attributes they had, or from their mythologizing during a time where fewer reliable sources exist. Either way, we think they’re great fun to read about — as are their various exploits and conquests. From Genghis Khan to Cosimo de Medici, we’ve got you covered.

17. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan

The Silk Road, an artery of commerce running from Europe through Russia to Asia (and a vital means of connecting the West with the East), has long been of interest to historians of the old world. In this book, Frankopan goes one step further, to claim that there has been more than one silk road throughout history — and that the region stretching from the Mediterranean to China (modern-day Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan) remains the crossroads of civilization and the center of global affairs. Frankopan argues compellingly that this region should be afforded more attention when historians theorize on centers of power and how they have shifted across time. It’s a convincing argument, and one that is expertly executed by Frankopan’s engaging writing and scrupulous research.

18. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

Genghis Khan is perhaps one of the most formidable figures in global history. Many recognize his iconic topknot-and-horseback image despite not knowing all too much about his life or the military successes he oversaw as leader of the Mongolian empire. Weatherford’s book takes a deep dive into this complex character and explores new dimensions of the society and culture he imposed upon the many peoples he conquered. As a civilization, Khan's was more keenly progressive than its European counterparts — having abolished torture, granted religious freedoms, and deposed the feudal systems that subordinated so many to so few. If you’re in the mood for an epic tale that’ll challenge your understanding of the global past, you’ll want to pick this book up.

19. Precolonial Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop

Cheikh Anta Diop, a Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician, dedicated his working life to the study of pre-colonial African culture and the origins of human civilization itself. This book, arguably his most influential text, draws out comparisons between European empires and societies with the often overlooked African civilizations. Diop carefully shows that Africa contributed far more to the world’s development than just its exploited labor and natural resources. Precolonial Black Africa thus sets out to reorient our knowledge of a period that is so often derided by non-African thinkers as “uncivilized” and “barbarous” with brilliant attention to detail.

20. The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge

In the 11th century, a vast Christian army was summoned and ordered by the Pope to march across Europe. Their aim was to seize Jerusalem and claim back the city considered the holy seat of Christianity. As it happened, Jerusalem was also a land strongly associated with the Prophets of Islam. The Christian mission thus manifested in the Crusaders’ rampage through the Muslim world, devastating many parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. Asbridge’s innovative recounting of this momentous event is unique in the way it even-handedly unpacks the perspective of both the Christian and Muslim experiences and their memorializing of the Holy Wars. With rich and detailed scholarship, this book reveals how the Crusades shaped the Medieval world and continue to impact the present day.

21. The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert

Renaissance Florence is perhaps most famous as the cradle of revered art, sculpture, and architecture by the likes of Michelangelo and Leonardo — but in the 15th century, it was also home to the Medicis, one of the most powerful banking dynasties in Europe. Starting with enterprising Cosimo de Medici in the 1430s, Hibbert chronicles the impressive rise of a family that dominated a city where mercantile families jostled for political and social influence, often to bloody ends. And — spoiler alert, if you can spoil history — as with every great period, the rise of the Medicis naturally involves a spectacular fall. It’s the kind of stuff soap operas are made of: an unmissable tale of family intrigue and the corrupting influence of money. 

In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.

22. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Mainstream history has too often made it seem as though the Americas was all but a vacant wasteland before Columbus and other European conquerors drifted upon its shores in the 15th century. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth — from the Aztecs to the Incas to the tribes of Northern America, many complex social and cultural structures existed prior to the arrival of Europeans. Southern American peoples in particular had sophisticated societies and infrastructures (including running water!) that have unfortunately been obliviated from the popular (or at least white Western) consciousness. A classic book that challenges the victor’s story, Charles C. Mann’s 1491 provides exciting new information on civilizations that have more to teach us than we have previously acknowledged. 

23. The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

Is there a more abiding emblem of British history than that of Medieval England’s monarchy and the Wars of the Roses? Though its historical figures and events have often been portrayed in television dramas, plays, and books, little is commonly known about the House of Plantagenets, who ruled from the 12th to the 15th century — an era packed with royal drama, intrigue, and internal division. For a witty, acerbic account of the whole ordeal, visit Dan Jones’s The Plantagenets . He approaches the subject with dazzling storytelling skills and charm that it will feel like you’re reading a novel, not a nonfiction book.

Enlightenment, empire, and revolution

You can’t make sense of the present without understanding the forces that got us here. The mechanized and globalized, mass-producing and mass-consuming world we live in today was forged in the fiery hearth of the Industrial Revolution, on the decks of ships setting out in search of uncharted territory, and in battles that were fought over supposedly ‘undiscovered’ lands. A lot changed for the common man in this period, and a lot has been written about it too — here are some of the best works.

24. The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective by Robert C. Allen

The Industrial Revolution is perhaps the most important phenomenon in modern history. It started in 18th-century Britain, where inventions like the mechanical loom and the steam engine were introduced, changing the nature of work and production. But why did this happen in Britain and not elsewhere in the world, and how precisely did it change things? These questions are answered lucidly in Robert C. Allen’s informative book. From the preconditions for growth to the industries and trades that grew out of them, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspectives has it all covered. Though it leans a bit on the academic side, it provides valuable knowledge that will vastly improve your understanding of today’s mass-producing, mass-consuming world.

25. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

For an overview of the history of the US, try this impressive treatise by historian and political scientist Howard Zinn. There’s a reason why this book is so often assigned as mandatory reading for high school and college history courses — it challenges readers to rethink what they’ve been told about America’s past. Rather than focusing on ‘great’ men and their achievements, A People’s History dives unflinchingly into the societal conditions and changes of the last few centuries. Exploring the motives behind events like the Civil War and US international interventions in the 20th century, Zinn shows that while patriotism and morality have often been used to justify America’s social movements and wars, it’s often been economic growth and wealth accumulation that truly drove leaders’ decisions.

26. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

At Wounded Knee Creek in 1890, the Lakota people confronted the encroaching US Army to protect their homeland and community. What followed was a massacre that for decades was viewed as a heroic victory — exemplifying how history is truly shaped by the victors, unless someone else speaks up. In 2010, Dee Brown did just this, exploring the colonialist treatment that Indigenous Americans suffered throughout the late 19th century in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Using council records and personal accounts from people of various Native American tribes, Brown demonstrates just how destructive the US administration was to these communities: in the name of Manifest Destiny and building new infrastructure, white settlers destroyed the culture and heritage of the Indigenous population. It’s something that's sadly still too familiar now, making this an even more pressing read.

27. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi

While this isn’t strictly a history book, Four Hundred Souls is certainly an eye-opening volume if you’re looking to explore oft-hidden aspects of history. This collection of essays, personal reflections, and short stories is written by ninety different authors, all providing unique insights into the experiences of Black Americans throughout history. Editors Kendi and Blain do a brilliant job of amalgamating a variety of emotions and perspectives: from the pains of slavery and its legacy to the heartfelt poetry of younger generations. If you’re looking for your fix of African American Literature and nonfiction in one go, consider this your go-to.

Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America. It is also an outstanding political economy, a social and cultural narrative of the highest quality, and perhaps the finest description of primitive capital accumulation since Marx.

Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Eduardo Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Thus he is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent, up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean, and all the way to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe.

Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. An immense gathering of materials is framed with a vigorous style that never falters in its command of themes. All readers interested in great historical, economic, political, and social writing will find a singular analytical achievement, and an overwhelming narrative that makes history speak, unforgettably.

This classic is now further honored by Isabel Allende’s inspiring introduction. Universally recognized as one of the most important writers of our time, Allende once again contributes her talents to literature, to political principles, and to enlightenment.

28. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Eduardo Galeano

The instabilities of Latin America over the last century have largely stemmed from its turbulent and violent past, its land and people having been exploited by European imperial powers, followed by American interventionism. In Open Veins of Latin America, Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano passionately and compellingly recounts this history while also keeping it accessible to modern readers. Still on the fence? Let the foreword by Latinx literary giant Isabel Allende convince you: “Galeano denounces exploitation with uncompromising ferocity, yet this book is almost poetic in its description of solidarity and human capacity for survival in the midst of the worst kind of despoliation.”

29. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano Illustrated by Olaudah Equiano

Though it was published in the late 18th century, this autobiography is still being reprinted today. It follows the life of Equiano, a slave who was kidnapped from his village in Nigeria and trafficked to Britain. In this foreign land, he was traded like merchandise time and again, struggling against adversity to find his freedom and define his identity. The accuracy of the story has been called into question, which is why reprinted editions have footnotes and additional details to better explain the social context of the situation. Regardless, the narrative style of the book makes it a hypnotizing read, immersing readers in the world of Georgian England and the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The World Wars

We thought the biggest events of the 20th century deserved their own section. The fact that so many people across the globe lived to experience these two momentous, destructive wars is perhaps why so much has been written about them — and how they reinvented life as we know it. The books below, covering a variety of perspectives, will intrigue, surprise, and hopefully teach you a thing or two.

30. Ten Days That Shook The World by John Reed

If you’re interested in firsthand accounts of people who've lived through historical moments, then this is the book for you. Published in 1919, Ten Days that Shook the World is the thrilling political memoir of someone who witnessed the October Revolution unfold in St Petersburg, Russia. Reed was a socialist and a newspaper correspondent who happened to be in close contact with the likes of Lenin and Trotsky, aka the innermost circle of the Bolsheviks. His account of the revolution thus provides a very unique perspective — one of both an insider and an outsider. While Reed couldn’t be as impartial as he intended as a journalist, this book is still a useful insight into one of the most important moments in modern history.

31. The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman

If you’re a fan of history books, then you’ve probably heard of Barbara Tuchman: she was a historian and author who twice won the Pulitzer Prize, once for this very book. In The Guns of August , Tuchman uncovers the beginnings of World War I. She starts by examining the alliances and military plans that each country had in case of warfare, demonstrating how delicate this moment was before the declarations and the first battles on various fronts. The militaristic theme of the book could’ve made the tone dry, yet Tuchman lets the stories unravel in a way that intrigues and enthralls. As the granddaughter of the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Tuchman was in Constantinople as the war began, and as a result, her work takes on the gravity of someone who was in the thick of it.,

32. Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie

In the 1930s, when Hitler was making moves to acquire land from neighboring countries, the rest of the Allies pursued a policy they called appeasement. In the book of the same name (previously known as Appeasing Hitler ), the reasoning behind such a policy — despite the Nazis’ blatant antisemitism and aggressive nationalism — reveals how that led to World War II. Spoiler alert: ironically, this was all done with the assumption that if Hitler got what he wanted, there wouldn’t be another large-scale war that would last another four years. As informative as it is, Appeasement is also a valuable reminder that what happened in the past wasn’t a given — at that moment in time, things could have gone any number of ways. What matters, looking back, is what we can learn from it for the future.

33. Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 by Anna Reid

From historical fiction novels like Atonement to the somber box office hit Dunkirk , our mainstream knowledge about the Second World War has predominantly featured the French Western Front. Possibly because American forces were much more involved in this side of the war, we tend to overlook the biggest battles, which took place in Eastern Europe.

In Leningrad , Anna Reid sheds a light on one of these epic battles. Breaking Hitler’s vow of non-aggression, German forces poured into the Soviet Union in the autumn of 1941, expecting a quick victory. Little did they know that Leningrad (modern-day St Petersburg) was not about to go down without a vicious fight. Over the next three years, this massive city was put under a siege that resulted in destruction, famine, and countless deaths, though the Germans were ultimately defeated. What was life like in this prolonged blockade, and was it truly a Soviet victory? You’ll have to read Leningrad to find out.

34. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower

As the only country to have been a victim of nuclear attacks, Japan’s postwar experience has arguably been one of the most unique and difficult of all the countries that took part in the world wars. Prior to and during WW2, Japan was a major power that had annexed much of East Asia by 1941. After the war, Japan was a defeated nation, strong-armed into surrendering by the Soviet army and two American atomic bombs.

Embracing Defeat is about a nation coming to terms with its new reality in the following years, during which the US-occupied Japan and was actively involved in its rebuilding. Shock, devastation, and humiliation were just a few of the emotions that society had to live through. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning book, MIT professor John Dower explores these sentiments and how they translated into social and cultural changes in Japan.

35. Broken Lives: How Ordinary Germans Experienced the 20th Century by Konrad H. Jarausch

Over the course of the 20th century, Germany truly experienced all possible transformations. From a key European imperial power to an economically crippled state, to Nazism and the Holocaust, and then to Cold War partition — there’s certainly been no shortage of tumult in Germany over the past hundred years. Collecting stories from over 60 people who lived through these ups and downs, Konrad Jarausch presents a down-to-earth picture of what it was like to undergo these changes in everyday life. While we often see historical changes as a given in hindsight, for the people who lived through the period, these transformations were sometimes far from foreseeable — yet have been formative to their individual and collective identities.

It’s remarkable to consider what humanity has achieved in the last century alone, from the first manned flight to landing people on the moon. But that’s not all: world wars were fought, empires were toppled, living conditions improved for many across the world and human rights were advanced in ways many would not have been able to fathom even a few decades before. To absorb more of our “modern” history, peruse the books below.

36. Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring by Andrew Lownie

If you’re a fan of thrilling spy novels , then Stalin’s Englishman is the history book for you: it’s the biography of Guy Burgess, an English-born Soviet spy from the 1930s onward. In a way, Burgess was made for the job — he was born into a wealthy family, attended prestigious schools like Eton and Cambridge, worked at the BBC and then for MI6, making him entirely beyond suspicion in the eyes of his own people. Though little is officially recorded about Burgess’s life, Andrew Lownie has compiled plenty of oral evidence related to this charming spy, weaving together an exciting narrative that will keep you turning the pages.

37. The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence by Martin Meredith

Since the end of World War II, Africa has seen several waves of independence movements. And while it was once a vision of hope, the effects of colonialism have frequently made post-independence life in Africa unstable and dangerous. Martin Meredith looks into the nuances of this legacy and how it has played out in the post-independence era. Rather than focusing on individual countries, Meredith widens his scope and presents a thorough overview of the continent, making this book an essential read for anyone new to modern African history.

38. Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991 by Eric Hobsbawm

Eric Hobsbawm is a well-known Marxist historian, and so it’s no surprise that his account of 20th-century history leans on the critical side. The Age of Extremes is all about failures: of communism, of state socialism, of market capitalism, and even of nationalism. 

Dividing the century into three parts — the Age of Catastrophe, the Golden Age, and the Landslide — Hobsbawm tracks Western powers and their struggles with world wars, economic failures, and new world orders that involved them losing colonies and influence. In their place, new systems rose to prominence, though all exhibited fundamental faults that made it difficult for them to last. The Age of Extremes is not a jovial read, but it provides an interesting perspective on modern world history. If you’re up for some harsh social commentary, you should definitely pick this book up.

39. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Vietnam War, as it is commonly called in the US, still looms large in the American imagination. But while the trauma and camaraderie of American soldiers in the tropical jungles of Vietnam have often been often highlighted, shamefully little has been said about the sufferings of the Vietnamese people — both those who remained in Vietnam and those who eventually left as “boat people.”

The gap in mainstream memory of this heavily politicized war is what Viet Thanh Nguyen addresses in his thought-provoking nonfiction book, Nothing Ever Dies . Having lived through the tail end of that conflict himself, Nguyen offers a perspective that’s too often swept under the rug. Through his writing, he reminds readers that history as we know it is often selective and subjective; it’s more than what we choose to remember, it’s also about why we choose to remember the things we do, and how sinister political motives that can factor in.

40. Age Of Ambition : Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

History isn’t all about the distant past, and with such rapid changes over the last several decades, the contemporary history of China grows ever more fascinating by the year. Following economic reforms in the 1980s, China has grown exponentially and become one of the biggest economies in the world. But this opening up also meant that the Communist Party could no longer control the people’s discourses as effectively as before. In Age of Ambition , Evan Osnos draws on his firsthand observations as a journalist in China, talking about the recent transformation of Chinese people’s aspirations and plans to reach beyond the border of their country through their studies, their work, their consumption, and their communications.

41. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

If you think history can’t be gripping, then let Patrick Radden Keefe convince you otherwise: in this modern history book, he uses a murder investigation as a window into the bitter ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland. The book begins in 1972, in the middle of the Troubles — a 30-year conflict between the Catholic Irish, who wanted to leave the UK, and the Protestants who wanted to stay. A 38-year-old woman by the name of Jean McConville, married to a Catholic former soldier of the British Army, has disappeared. The suspects are members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), known to have executed people they believed were spying on them for the British. All deny the accusation, of course — some even going as far as to deny their involvement in the IRA altogether. Looking back at the incident and its suspects four decades later, Keefe highlights the atrocities that were committed by all parties during this period, and how they still resonate through NI today.

42. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

An esteemed researcher of African American literature and history, Hartman has produced a trove of work on the practices and legacies of slavery in the US. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments is but one of the insightful titles she’s produced, discussing the lives of Black women in late 19th-century New York and Philadelphia. Looking at the concept and understanding of sexuality in these communities, Hartman found that despite the criminalization practiced by the state, there was space for women to own their sexuality and gender identity. It was a small space, and it would have slipped into oblivion if no one cared to explore the nuances of the urbanizing life of the 1890s — but this book ensures that they can never be left in the dust.

43. Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

This book, written to accompany the 4-episode docuseries of the same name, is a must-read for everyone interested in British history. The common understanding of this island nation’s history is usually related to its seaborne conquests and longstanding monarchies. But what of the servants and slaves, the people that actually did the work and fought the battles? What of the people who were moved here through colonial exchanges? Retracing British history with an eye upon the waves of immigration, Olusoga gives a comprehensive overview of the complexity of Black Britishness in the UK, a group whose stories are often obscured. He also shows that these people were and are integral to the nation’s development, and are thus not to be forgotten.

44. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

For those who enjoy storytelling, check out this thrilling novel-style history book on H. H. Holmes, the man considered to be one of the first modern serial killers. Holmes was only ever convicted for one murder but is thought to have had up to 27 victims, many lured to the World’s Fair Hotel that he owned. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago is thus the immersive setting of The Devil in the White City , and is written from the point of view of the designers who contributed to the fair. It reads like suspense — think The Alienist — but it also informs on the excitement and uncertainty of the early stages of urbanization, coming together as a marvelous blend of mystery novel and true crime . 

45. Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala by Stephen Schlesinger

In 1954, Guatemalan President Árbenz was overthrown. As with many Cold War-era coups in Asia and Latin America, the US was heavily involved in the plot. Even more absurdly, one of the main forces lobbying for this intervention was the United Fruit Company, which has been benefiting from labor exploitation in Guatemala. The result of this was the installation of an undemocratic and oppressive government, supremely heightened political unrest, and ultimately a prolonged civil war. Bitter Fruit dives into the rationales (or rather irrationalities) behind American involvement, highlighting the powerful paranoia that underlay many decisions throughout the Cold War.

Seeking more fodder for your non-fiction shelf? Why not check out the 60 best non-fiction books of the 21st century !

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The Greatest Books of All Time

Click to learn how this list is calculated.

This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 194 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page .

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1. Ulysses by James Joyce

Cover of 'Ulysses' by James Joyce

Set in Dublin, the novel follows a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, an advertising salesman, as he navigates the city. The narrative, heavily influenced by Homer's Odyssey, explores themes of identity, heroism, and the complexities of everyday life. It is renowned for its stream-of-consciousness style and complex structure, making it a challenging but rewarding read.

2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Cover of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel is a multi-generational saga that focuses on the Buendía family, who founded the fictional town of Macondo. It explores themes of love, loss, family, and the cyclical nature of history. The story is filled with magical realism, blending the supernatural with the ordinary, as it chronicles the family's experiences, including civil war, marriages, births, and deaths. The book is renowned for its narrative style and its exploration of solitude, fate, and the inevitability of repetition in history.

3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

Cover of 'In Search of Lost Time' by Marcel Proust

This renowned novel is a sweeping exploration of memory, love, art, and the passage of time, told through the narrator's recollections of his childhood and experiences into adulthood in the late 19th and early 20th century aristocratic France. The narrative is notable for its lengthy and intricate involuntary memory episodes, the most famous being the "madeleine episode". It explores the themes of time, space and memory, but also raises questions about the nature of art and literature, and the complex relationships between love, sexuality, and possession.

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cover of 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set in the summer of 1922, the novel follows the life of a young and mysterious millionaire, his extravagant lifestyle in Long Island, and his obsessive love for a beautiful former debutante. As the story unfolds, the millionaire's dark secrets and the corrupt reality of the American dream during the Jazz Age are revealed. The narrative is a critique of the hedonistic excess and moral decay of the era, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

5. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Cover of 'Don Quixote' by Miguel de Cervantes

This classic novel follows the adventures of a man who, driven mad by reading too many chivalric romances, decides to become a knight-errant and roam the world righting wrongs under the name Don Quixote. Accompanied by his loyal squire, Sancho Panza, he battles windmills he believes to be giants and champions the virtuous lady Dulcinea, who is in reality a simple peasant girl. The book is a richly layered critique of the popular literature of Cervantes' time and a profound exploration of reality and illusion, madness and sanity.

6. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Cover of 'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville

The novel is a detailed narrative of a vengeful sea captain's obsessive quest to hunt down a giant white sperm whale that bit off his leg. The captain's relentless pursuit, despite the warnings and concerns of his crew, leads them on a dangerous journey across the seas. The story is a complex exploration of good and evil, obsession, and the nature of reality, filled with rich descriptions of whaling and the sea.

7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Cover of 'War and Peace' by Leo Tolstoy

Set in the backdrop of the Napoleonic era, the novel presents a panorama of Russian society and its descent into the chaos of war. It follows the interconnected lives of five aristocratic families, their struggles, romances, and personal journeys through the tumultuous period of history. The narrative explores themes of love, war, and the meaning of life, as it weaves together historical events with the personal stories of its characters.

8. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Cover of 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J. D. Salinger

The novel follows the story of a teenager named Holden Caulfield, who has just been expelled from his prep school. The narrative unfolds over the course of three days, during which Holden experiences various forms of alienation and his mental state continues to unravel. He criticizes the adult world as "phony" and struggles with his own transition into adulthood. The book is a profound exploration of teenage rebellion, alienation, and the loss of innocence.

9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Cover of 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoevsky

A young, impoverished former student in Saint Petersburg, Russia, formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker to redistribute her wealth among the needy. However, after carrying out the act, he is consumed by guilt and paranoia, leading to a psychological battle within himself. As he grapples with his actions, he also navigates complex relationships with a variety of characters, including a virtuous prostitute, his sister, and a relentless detective. The narrative explores themes of morality, redemption, and the psychological impacts of crime.

10. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Cover of 'Nineteen Eighty Four' by George Orwell

Set in a dystopian future, the novel presents a society under the total control of a totalitarian regime, led by the omnipresent Big Brother. The protagonist, a low-ranking member of 'the Party', begins to question the regime and falls in love with a woman, an act of rebellion in a world where independent thought, dissent, and love are prohibited. The novel explores themes of surveillance, censorship, and the manipulation of truth.

11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Cover of 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

Set in early 19th-century England, this classic novel revolves around the lives of the Bennet family, particularly the five unmarried daughters. The narrative explores themes of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage within the society of the landed gentry. It follows the romantic entanglements of Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest daughter, who is intelligent, lively, and quick-witted, and her tumultuous relationship with the proud, wealthy, and seemingly aloof Mr. Darcy. Their story unfolds as they navigate societal expectations, personal misunderstandings, and their own pride and prejudice.

12. The Bible by Christian Church

Cover of 'The Bible' by Christian Church

This religious text is a compilation of 66 books divided into the Old and New Testaments, forming the central narrative for Christianity. It encompasses a variety of genres, including historical accounts, poetry, prophecy, and teaching, telling the story of God's relationship with humanity, from creation to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the early Christian church. It is considered by believers to be divinely inspired and serves as a guide for faith and practice.

13. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Cover of 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë

This classic novel is a tale of love, revenge and social class set in the Yorkshire moors. It revolves around the intense, complex relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine's father. Despite their deep affection for each other, Catherine marries Edgar Linton, a wealthy neighbor, leading Heathcliff to seek revenge on the two families. The story unfolds over two generations, reflecting the consequences of their choices and the destructive power of obsessive love.

14. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Cover of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll

This novel follows the story of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world full of peculiar creatures and bizarre experiences. As she navigates through this strange land, she encounters a series of nonsensical events, including a tea party with a Mad Hatter, a pool of tears, and a trial over stolen tarts. The book is renowned for its playful use of language, logic, and its exploration of the boundaries of reality.

15. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Cover of 'Lolita' by Vladimir Nabokov

The novel tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a man with a disturbing obsession for young girls, or "nymphets" as he calls them. His obsession leads him to engage in a manipulative and destructive relationship with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Lolita. The narrative is a controversial exploration of manipulation, obsession, and unreliable narration, as Humbert attempts to justify his actions and feelings throughout the story.

16. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Cover of 'The Divine Comedy' by Dante Alighieri

In this epic poem, the protagonist embarks on an extraordinary journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso). Guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil and his beloved Beatrice, he encounters various historical and mythological figures in each realm, witnessing the eternal consequences of earthly sins and virtues. The journey serves as an allegory for the soul's progression towards God, offering profound insights into the nature of good and evil, free will, and divine justice.

17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Cover of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain

The novel follows the journey of a young boy named Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave named Jim as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft. Set in the American South before the Civil War, the story explores themes of friendship, freedom, and the hypocrisy of society. Through various adventures and encounters with a host of colorful characters, Huck grapples with his personal values, often clashing with the societal norms of the time.

18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Cover of 'The Brothers Karamazov' by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This classic novel explores the complex, passionate, and troubled relationship between four brothers and their father in 19th century Russia. The narrative delves into the themes of faith, doubt, morality, and redemption, as each brother grapples with personal dilemmas and family conflicts. The story culminates in a dramatic trial following a murder, which serves as a microcosm of the moral and philosophical struggles faced by each character, and by extension, humanity itself.

19. The Odyssey by Homer

Cover of 'The Odyssey' by Homer

This epic poem follows the Greek hero Odysseus on his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters many obstacles including mythical creatures, divine beings, and natural disasters. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus fend off suitors vying for Penelope's hand in marriage, believing Odysseus to be dead. The story concludes with Odysseus's return, his slaughter of the suitors, and his reunion with his family.

20. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Cover of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

Set in the racially charged South during the Depression, the novel follows a young girl and her older brother as they navigate their small town's societal norms and prejudices. Their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, forcing the children to confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice. The story explores themes of morality, innocence, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of the young protagonists.

21. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Cover of 'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy

Set in 19th-century Russia, this novel revolves around the life of Anna Karenina, a high-society woman who, dissatisfied with her loveless marriage, embarks on a passionate affair with a charming officer named Count Vronsky. This scandalous affair leads to her social downfall, while parallel to this, the novel also explores the rural life and struggles of Levin, a landowner who seeks the meaning of life and true happiness. The book explores themes such as love, marriage, fidelity, societal norms, and the human quest for happiness.

22. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Cover of 'Heart of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad

This classic novel follows the journey of a seaman who travels up the Congo River into the African interior to meet a mysterious ivory trader. Throughout his journey, he encounters the harsh realities of imperialism, the brutal treatment of native Africans, and the depths of human cruelty and madness. The protagonist's journey into the 'heart of darkness' serves as both a physical exploration of the African continent and a metaphorical exploration into the depths of human nature.

23. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Cover of 'Madame Bovary' by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is a tragic novel about a young woman, Emma Bovary, who is married to a dull, but kind-hearted doctor. Dissatisfied with her life, she embarks on a series of extramarital affairs and indulges in a luxurious lifestyle in an attempt to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Her desire for passion and excitement leads her down a path of financial ruin and despair, ultimately resulting in a tragic end.

24. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Cover of 'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller

The book is a satirical critique of military bureaucracy and the illogical nature of war, set during World War II. The story follows a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier stationed in Italy, who is trying to maintain his sanity while fulfilling his service requirements so that he can go home. The novel explores the absurdity of war and military life through the experiences of the protagonist, who discovers that a bureaucratic rule, the "Catch-22", makes it impossible for him to escape his dangerous situation. The more he tries to avoid his military assignments, the deeper he gets sucked into the irrational world of military rule.

25. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Cover of 'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner

The novel is a complex exploration of the tragic Compson family from the American South. Told from four distinct perspectives, the story unfolds through stream of consciousness narratives, each revealing their own understanding of the family's decline. The characters grapple with post-Civil War societal changes, personal loss, and their own mental instability. The narrative is marked by themes of time, innocence, and the burdens of the past.

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  • The 60 Best History Books of All Time (to Read at Any Age)

The Best History Books of All Time Cover

​“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana wrote in 1905. As humans, we can only remember our own past, but we’ve also invented a mind-blowing technology: books. Because others wrote down their past right after it happened, we can “remember” a lot more than just what we’ve experienced ourselves. That’s why history books are some of the most interesting, important, and valuable reads of all — and if you’re here for an overview of the best ones, I say come in, take a seat, and get comfortable!

A good history book will transport you to a time and place in which you’ll never live and introduce you to people you’ll never get to meet. Best of all, it’ll drop you off back home safely and in time for dinner! Whether you’re curious, care about society and our planet, or want to be successful, you could do worse than to start with the history section in the library. Ray Dalio , CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, credits studying history for his great understanding of macroeconomics — reading history books literally made him a billionaire!

So, if you’re ready to explore how humans came to be the dominating species, what pros and cons different political systems have, or which technological innovations have had the biggest impact on humanity, we’ve got just the curriculum for you. After summarizing over 1,000 books , we’ve hand-selected the absolute best titles in the history category for you.

In order to make this list easy to navigate, we’ve sorted the best history books into several groups:

Best History Books Overall

  • America and the United States
  • India, China, and the East
  • Space, Time, and the Universe
  • The Evolution of Humans
  • Global Politics
  • Civilization and Society
  • Nation States and Political Systems
  • The Evolution of Philosophy
  • Climate Change & Population Growth

Best History Books With a Self-Help Angle

  • Important People

For each book, we’ve included our favorite quote, a one-sentence-summary of the book, why you might want to read it, and three key takeaways. We’ve also added links to read the free summary of the book on Four Minute Books or buy a copy for yourself on Amazon. Just use the buttons below each title. Lastly, use the clickable table of contents below to quickly jump to any book or category . There should also be an arrow in the bottom right corner that you can use to come back up here at any time!

Alright, the class is in session! Let’s dive deep into the world’s best history books!

Table of Contents

1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

2. the lessons of history by will & ariel durant, 3. the dawn of everything by david graeber & david wengrow, 4. the evolution of everything by matt ridley, 5. factfulness by hans rosling, 6. enlightenment now by steven pinker, 7. a people’s history of the united states by howard zinn .

  • 8. Common Sense by Thomas Paine 

9. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

10. the warmth of other suns by isabel wilkerson, 11. orientalism by edward w. said, 12. restart by mihir s. sharma, 13. age of ambition by evan osnos, 14. napoleon the great by andrew roberts.

  • 15. The House of Rothschild by Niall Ferguson 

16. A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

17. salt: a world history by mark kurlansky, 18. homo deus by yuval noah harari, 19. how we got to now by steven johnson, 20. the third wave by steve case.

  • 21. At Home by Bill Bryson 

22. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

23. a brief history of time by stephen hawking, 24. the double helix by james d. watson, 25. the selfish gene by richard dawkins, 26. sex at dawn by christopher ryan, 27. a splendid exchange by william j. bernstein, 28. capitalism by james fulcher, 29. narrative economics by robert j. shiller, 30. a world in disarray by richard haass, 31. prisoners of geography by tim marshall, 32. the power of myth by joseph campbell, 33. the republic by plato, 34. caste by isabel wilkerson, 35. the social contract by jean-jaques rousseau, 36. capitalism and freedom by milton friedman.

  • 37. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek 

38. Socialism by Michael W. Newman

39. fascism by madeleine k. albright, 40. on liberty by john stuart mill, 41. how democracies die by steven levitsky.

  • 42. Discourses by Epictetus 

43. The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo

  • 44. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker 
  • 45. Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes 

46. The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant

47. lives of the stoics by ryan holiday, 48. the sixth extinction by elizabeth kolbert, 49. the uninhabitable earth by david wallace-wells, 50. empty planet by darrell bricker & john ibbitson.

  • 51. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli 

52. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

53. the 48 laws of power by robert greene, 54. alexander the great by philip freeman, 55. benjamin franklin: an american life by walter isaacson, 56. the autobiography of malcolm x by malcolm x, 57. steve jobs by walter isaacson, 58. the immortal life of henrietta lacks by rebecca skloot, 59. a woman of no importance by sonia purnell, 60. long walk to freedom by nelson mandela, other book lists by topic, other book lists by author.

Best History Books #1: Sapiens

Favorite Quote

“History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.” — Yuval Noah Harari

The Book in One Sentence

Sapiens  is your guide to becoming an expert on the entire history of the human race as it reviews everything our species has been through from ancient ancestors to our dominating place in the world today.

Why should you read it?

This might be the most comprehensive, all-in-one history book out there. It is jam-packed with fascinating facts and details, making it an essential read for anyone interested in human history.

Key Takeaways

  • The ability to think gave early humans language, which eventually led to agricultural advances allowing them to grow exponentially. 
  • Improvements in trade were only possible with the invention of money and writing.
  • With better economic and communication means, scientific progress gave our race the abilities necessary to get to where we are today.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

Best History Books #2: The Lessons of History

“You can’t fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.” — Will & Ariel Durant

The Lessons of History describes recurring themes and trends throughout 5,000 years of human history, viewed through the lenses of 12 different fields, aimed at explaining the present, the future, human nature, and the inner workings of states.

If you want a concise overview of the causes behind major events throughout history, read this book. It will change the way you view society, politics, culture, and even personal relationships. You’ll learn how to see the world through a different lens and finally understand why things happen as they do.

  • Humans are unequal by nature, fighting that would mean giving up freedom.
  • The evolution of humans was a social one, not a biological one.
  • War is a more natural state than peace.

Best History Books #3: The Dawn of Everything

“We are projects of collective self-creation. What if we approached human history that way? What if we treat people, from the beginning, as imaginative, intelligent, playful creatures who deserve to be understood as such?” — David Graeber & David Wengrow

The Dawn of Everything uses archaeological evidence to argue the case that human history did not follow a linear path but emerged from a big, complex network of individual, decentralized communities.

This book puts history on its head, arguing against much of what is taken for granted in schools and universities across the globe. The last book written before Graeber’s sudden death in 2020, it will challenge your very understanding of history, thus making it a top read in the category.

  • There is no single original form of human society; many different versions have developed independently over millennia.
  • There are three ways to dominate in human societies: sovereignty, bureaucracy, and politics.
  • Instead of complaining about inequality, we should ask ourselves how we lost the flexibility and political creativity we once used to have.

Best History Books #4: The Evolution of Everything

“The things that go well are largely unintended; the things that go badly are largely intended.” — Matt Ridley

The Evolution of Everything compares creationist to evolutionist thinking, showing how the process of evolution we know from biology underlies and permeates the entire world, including society, morality, religion, culture, economics, money, innovation, and even the internet.

This could almost qualify as a self-help book. The distinction between creationist and evolutionist thinking, and learning how to spot them both everywhere, will change your life and allow you to make progress in almost any situation.

  • Evolutionist and creationist thinking are two opposing views, and creationist thinking dominates the Western world.
  • Culture, economics, and technology all progress through evolution.
  • Money changed from evolutionist to creationist subject, and the same might happen with the internet.

Best History Books #5: Factfulness

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.” — Hans Rosling

Factfulness  explains how our worldview has been distorted with the rise of new media, which ten human instincts cause erroneous thinking, and how we can learn to separate fact from fiction when forming our opinions.

This book will help you fight your many biases. Through easy-to-understand research and engaging examples, you’ll learn to see the truth rather than just the media’s spin on things. If Bill Gates can learn something from this book, I think so can you and I.

  • There is no such thing as “the East and the West.” We only have one world.
  • Population growth will eventually level off, despite our perception of increasing numbers.
  • To see the world accurately, you always need multiple perspectives.

Best History Books #6: Enlightenment Now

“There can be no question of which was the greatest era for culture; the answer has to be today, until it is superseded by tomorrow.” — Steven Pinker

Enlightenment Now describes how the values of the Enlightenment — science, reason, humanism, and progress — keep improving our world today, making it a better place day by day, despite the negative news.

This book is a welcome antidote against fake news, media manipulation, and populism. If you need to regain your faith in humanity or want some hope, this title will show you that not everything is as bad as it seems to be in the news.

  • Wealth has increased not just in the West but around the globe, all while decreasing poverty and inequality.
  • The United Nations bring humanism to a global scale, which has made our lives safer than ever.
  • We still have problems, such as AI, terrorism, and the environment, but we must face them with reason.

Best History Books About America and the United States

Best History Books #7: A People's History of the United States

“The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.” — Howard Zinn

A People’s History of the United States will give you a better understanding of the true, sometimes shameful, sometimes inspiring, story of America’s rise to power.

Historically, the US has been terrible at being honest about how it got to where it is. Then again, so are most countries. History is written by the winners, as they say. That’s why it’s so important to get the other side of the story, and that’s what this book delivers. Just be careful not to let your anger keep you from focusing on a better future rather than the not-so-nice past.

  • The founding fathers set up the US government to benefit wealthy landowners, who still have power today.
  • The Civil War wasn’t as much about ending slavery as it was about advancing political interests.
  • The US has repeatedly used war as a way to improve their economic situation.

8. Common Sense by Thomas Paine  

Best History Books #8: Common Sense

“Time makes more converts than reason.” — Thomas Paine

Common Sense is a classic piece of US history that will show you the importance of societies coming together to form a fair governmental system, and how these ideas paved the way for the American revolution.

This book helped kickstart the American Revolution. If you want to know what it takes to write a compelling manifesto, this book is a great place to start. It’ll also show you how to collaborate well and lead great teams by getting people to rally around a shared cause.

  • We depend on each other to survive and thrive, and this means that we need society and rules to guide us.
  • Having kings and queens is a bad idea, it’s better to elect representatives to enact laws that the people want.
  • Just like a teenager preparing to leave home, America came to a point where it had to separate from its mother country.

Best History Books #9: Team of Rivals

“A real democracy would be a meritocracy where those born in the lower ranks could rise as far as their natural talents and discipline might take them.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals explains why Abraham Lincoln rose above his political rivals despite their stronger reputations, and how he used empathy to unite not just his enemies but an entire country.

If you want to know more about how Abraham Lincoln managed to do what he did — see through the abolition of slavery — this book is a must. It’s also a good primer on how to work with your enemies rather than against them, something that’s especially needed in today’s times of division and extremism. Bill Gates thinks it’s the best book about leading a country there is.

  • Lincoln’s many hardships as a child shaped his ambitions and strengthened his resolve to succeed as an adult.
  • Due to his brief track record in politics, Lincoln was the most unlikely choice as a presidential candidate.
  • After Lincoln’s assassination, both the North and South felt the country had suffered a tragic loss, since his leadership was extraordinary.

Best History Books #10: The Warmth of Other Suns

“They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left.” — Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns is the story of how and why millions of Black Americans left the South between 1915 and 1970 to escape the brutality of the Jim Crow Laws and find safety, better pay, and more freedom thanks to what is known today as The Great Migration.

Through multiple stories from several perspectives, this book will teach you empathy and a better understanding of the history of Black people in America.

  • The Great Migration happened for many different reasons, and people left from and went to diverse places throughout it.
  • Ida Mae and her family were just one example of a Black family leaving the South to become safer and earn more money.
  • Settling in Chicago, Ida Mae entered the workforce, but like many others, she didn’t see all of the benefits she had hoped moving would bring.

Best History Books About India, China, and the East

Best History Books #11: Orientalism

“Our role is to widen the field of discussion, not to set limits in accord with the prevailing authority.” — Edward W. Said

Orientalism reveals why false Western assumptions about Eastern countries have prevailed for over 200 years, and how they still affect how we view the Eastern world today.

Asian cultures in Western countries are some of the most discriminated against minorities today, and if you care about racism, or rather, want to take a stand against it, this book will show you how to do that when it comes to the Eastern nations of the world.

  • Western people fabricated views of Eastern nations, telling stories in ways that would benefit Western nations. 
  • The inroads of Orientalism made it difficult for even those with a genuine interest in the East to see it truthfully.
  • Although the name has faded, three key characteristics still govern modern Orientalism today.

Best History Books #12: Restart

“Better people are possible to create, even in Delhi.” — Mihir S. Sharma

Restart tells the story of India’s almost-leadership of the world’s economy, showing why and how it instead succumbed to problems from the past, how those problems still hold it back today, and what the country might do about them.

If you know little about India or want to learn more about your country’s history, this book is for you. It’s also a good read if you are or want to go into politics or economics.

  • India struggles in part because of its inadequate infrastructure, which results from cultural beliefs affecting manufacturing practices.
  • Unemployment is a big problem in India because there aren’t enough industrial jobs available, and farms are unprofitable.
  • The government puts too much power in the private sector, but if they didn’t, things could improve.

Best History Books #13: Age of Ambition

“Hope is like a path in the countryside: originally there was no path, but once people begin to pass, a way appears.” — Evan Osnos

Age of Ambition explains how China has gone from impoverished, developing country to a world superpower and economic powerhouse in just 30 years.

This book will get you up to speed on China, but it’ll also show you that normal people still have the power to make a big difference in and for their nation. If you’re fascinated with China’s rise to power, this is the book for you.

  • Politics didn’t cause China’s rise to power, it was the average, everyday peasant class.
  • The Chinese people are ambitious for success.
  • Freedom of choice in China hasn’t always been strong, but the country’s increasing individuality is making it easier.

Best History Books About Europe

Best History Books #14: Napoleon the Great

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon the Great is the definitive, modern biography of legendary leader, French idol, and European visionary Napoleon Bonaparte, detailing his life from his early years as an immigrant to his rise through the military ranks, all the way to his greatest battles, political achievements, and ultimate exile.

If you ever wanted to learn more about Napoleon Bonaparte and his life, look no further than this very detailed book. It is an easy read yet full of information, much better than reading his Wikipedia page. Plus, the book will show you that if you’re ambitious enough, you can achieve great things in life.

  • Napoleon was (almost) an immigrant, which turned out to be a huge advantage.
  • He had a truly Stoic philosophy about life.
  • Like all great leaders, Napoleon was ahead of his time.

15. The House of Rothschild by Niall Ferguson  

Best History Books #15: The House of Rothschild

“The most outstanding personal qualities may sometimes require exceptional circumstances and world-shattering events to come to fruition.” — Niall Ferguson

The House of Rothschild examines the facts and myths around the wealthiest family in the world in the 19th century, and how they managed to go from being outcast and isolated to building the biggest bank in the world.

One of the aspects of being good at making and handling money is knowing its history, but this book is for more than just investors. If you’re curious about the history of banking or want to break into an industry that’s hard to crack, this book is a must-read.

  • In business, use whatever industry is available to you as a springboard into the next one.
  • If the best solution isn’t good enough, build your own.
  • Expect the 80/20 rule to apply, even in the most extreme cases.

Best History Books About Food

Best History Books #16: A History of the World in 6 Glasses

“Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” — Tom Standage 

A History of the World in 6 Glasses will teach you the origins and impact of the world’s six favorite drinks: beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, and soda.

If you enjoy a good drink or “Feierabendbier,” as we call our post-work beer here in Germany, this book is for you. It’ll teach you more about the origins of your favorite beverage, as well as reveal how different drinks have become dominating forces in various cultures. Fascinating!

  • Beer is much older than you might think and had a major part in the move of our ancestors to farming instead of hunting and gathering.
  • The Middle Ages brought the existence of coffee, which was originally most useful for intellectuals like scientists.
  • Coca-Cola’s original purpose was medicinal, but Americans began drinking it for pleasure and it quickly spread worldwide.

Best History Books #17: Salt: A World History

“The Roman army required salt for its soldiers and for its horses and livestock. At times soldiers were even paid in salt, which was the origin of the word salary and the expression ‘worth his salt’ or ‘earning his salt.’” ― Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World History explores how the everyday mineral we know as table salt has shaped human civilization for centuries, causing wars and even the rise and fall of entire empires.

If you’re the kind of person who tends to miss the obvious that’s right in front of them, this book is for you. It is a “well-seasoned,” riveting narrative about what seems to be a boring everyday product, showing how it lies at the heart of some of history’s biggest conflicts. Includes lots of illustrations too!

  • One of the wealthiest, ancient, unknown people is the Celts, who built their empire on salt.
  • The demand for salt fueled and escalated the conflict between young America and Great Britain into a full-blown revolutionary war.
  • The salt industry has caused much environmental damage, but the tax levied on it has concentrated power in the hands of a few big players.

Best History Books About Technology

Best History Books #18: Homo Deus

“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies.” — Yuval Noah Hariri

Homo Deus illustrates the history of the human race from how we came to be the dominant species to what narratives are shaping our lives today, all the way to which obstacles we must overcome next to continue to thrive.

Sapiens is Harari’s take on the past — Homo Deus offers a glimpse into the future. If you care about where the world is headed and want to know which paths might spell our utopia or doom, this is a great read!

  • Shared narratives are what allow us to collaborate at a large scale and, thus, dominate as a species.
  • The most prevalent, current narrative is humanism.
  • Algorithms could eventually replace us, depending on which future narrative takes over.

Best History Books #19: How We Got to Now

“Sometimes the way a new technology breaks is almost as interesting as the way it works.” — Steven Johnson

How We Got to Now explores the history of innovation, how different inventions connect to one another, and what we can do to create an environment in which change and innovation blossom.

Innovation is a complex process, but this book makes it terrific fun to learn more about it. If you want a brief overview of history’s most important inventions or feel like you can’t change the world on your own, this book is a must-read.

  • Innovations can create an environment for more change, rather than just a change on their own.
  • One innovation can act as a springboard for another, unexpected one, and even change the legal situation.
  • Some innovations highly depend on the person creating them and their rich background.

Best History Books #20: The Third Wave

“We’ll realize that what’s emerging is the much broader Internet of Everything.” — Steve Case

The Third Wave lays out the history of the internet, including why it’s about to permeate everything in our lives, as well as what it takes for entrepreneurs to make use of this mega-trend and thrive in an omni-connected, always-online world.

If you feel like you need to get up to speed with the internet (no judgements here), this book is for you. It’ll also show you the potential the internet (still) has, so if you want to build an online business, this is also a great read!

  • The internet will soon permeate everything on this planet.
  • You must embrace disruption to thrive in a Third Wave world.
  • Cooperate with Second Wave incumbents to succeed.

21. At Home by Bill Bryson  

The Best Books About History #21: At Home

“It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.” — Bill Bryson

At Home takes you on a tour of the modern home, reminiscing about the history and traditions of each room, thus revealing how the everyday amenities and comforts you now take for granted have come to be.

Everything we take for granted today was once a life-changing innovation. It’s important to not forget how hard-won the things we consider normal originally were. We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, and this book will help you remember that.

  • Fighting harder for longer: food didn’t come easily until very recently.
  • Rodents and rings made sleep much less regenerative 100 years ago.
  • There are two very different reasons why there’s a salt and a pepper shaker on every kitchen table.

Best History Books About Space, Time, and the Universe

The Best Books About History #22: A Short History of Nearly Everything

“If you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been you.” — Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything explains everything we’ve learned about our world and the universe so far, including how they formed, how we learned to make sense of time, space, and gravity, why it’s such a miracle that we’re alive, and how much of our planet is still a complete mystery to us.

This book will have you laughing out loud one minute and scratching your head in wonderment the next. If you don’t stop to realize that life is an amazing miracle at least once a week, I fully recommend this book to you!

  • Most of the universe was created in a single, three-minute moment.
  • Given the odds of a planet being livable, it’s a miracle we’re here at all.
  • Every day that the world keeps turning is a gift, because there are many things that could potentially end it.

The Best Books About History #23: A Brief History of Time

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” — Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time is Stephen Hawking’s simple way of explaining the most complex concepts and ideas of physics, such as space, time, black holes, planets, stars, and gravity, so that you and I can better understand where our planet came from, and where it’s going.

Stephen Hawking had one of the fastest-traveling minds of anyone who’s ever lived, and yet, he always managed to convey his incredibly complex insights in the simplest of words. Any minute spent reading a page of one of his books is a minute well spent.

  • Theories can never be proven.
  • Time is not fixed, due to the speed of light.
  • There are three reasons why time can likely only move forward.

Best History Books About the Evolution of Humans

The Best Books About History #24: The Double Helix

“One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.” — James D. Watson

The Double Helix tells the story of the discovery of the structure of DNA, one of the most significant scientific findings in all of history, by outlining the struggles and rivalries of the prideful scientific community, as well as other roadblocks James Watson faced en route to the breakthrough of a lifetime.

If you’re obsessed with something, be it art, business, or a mysterious natural phenomenon, this book is for you. That’s what James Watson and Francis Crick shared: an obsession with DNA. In this fascinating account of the discovery and analysis of the basic Lego block of life, you’ll be reassured that your passion can take you very far — if only you stick with it!

  • Our recent advancements in our understanding of DNA began with a team of chemists in the 1950s.
  • Things got tough as they competed with others who were also studying DNA.
  • Through perseverance and errors of their competition, Watson and Crick made breakthroughs in the study of genetics that won them a Nobel Prize.

The Best Books About History #25: The Selfish Gene

“Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.” — Richard Dawkins

The Selfish Gene explains the process of evolution from the perspective of genes, showing how they manifest in the form of organisms, what they do to ensure their own survival, how they program our brains, which of their strategies have worked best throughout history, and what makes humans so special in this context.

If you’ve ever wondered about whether we have free will, this book is for you. Beyond catching you up on everything important you missed while snoozing in biology class, it asserts a shocking theory: What if humans are just the “carriers” of genes, and it’s really the genes running the show? A trippy and yet extremely insight-dense book!

  • Sometimes, mutually altruistic behaviors benefit the genes of two different organisms.
  • Humans have managed to splice off culture with its own evolutionary process.
  • Our ability to simulate and foresee allows us to overcome the downside of our selfish genes.

The Best Books About History #26: Sex at Dawn

“The bigger the society is, the less functional shame becomes.” — Christopher Ryan

Sex at Dawn challenges all conventional views on sex at once by diving deep into our ancestor’s sexual history and the rise of monogamy, as well as delivering starting points for thinking over our understanding of what sex and relationships should really be like.

If you’re shy about sex or know that, deep down, you’re too uptight about it, this book will help. You’ll learn to not stress about sex so much, see it for the biological impulse that it is, and understand that it’s merely a remnant of our distant past, not to be worried about but to be enjoyed.

  • Agriculture marked the beginning of monogamy, and not in a good way.
  • Women want sex just as much as men but are conditioned to play it down.
  • Our bodies have evolved to thrive in sexual competition.

Best History Books About Economics

The Best Books About History #27: A Splendid Exchange

“Few other historical inquiries tell us as much about the world we live in today as does the search for the origins of world trade.” — William J. Bernstein

A Splendid Exchange outlines the history of global trade, revealing how it has enabled the progress of civilization, and how it continues to change the world on a daily basis.

All day long, you’re trading. You’re trading your time for money, your money for goods and services, and goods and services for quality moments with your family. Getting better at transacting is something we can all benefit from, and so whether you want to improve your business, become a better investor, or spend money more meaningfully, this book lives up to its title: your time will be well spent in acquiring its knowledge.

  • One of the earliest trades in history dealt with stones.
  • You never just trade the items you exchange.
  • Not all innovations that helped foster global trade were about transporting goods.

The Best Books About History #28: Capitalism

“Leisure as a distinct non-work time, whether in the form of the holiday, or evening, was a result of the disciplined and bounded work time created by capitalist production.” — James Fulcher 

Capitalism outlines the origins and future of the world’s most popular and, arguably, successful economic system to show you how money actually makes the world go ’round.

The first step to making more money is to understand the way it works, and this book is a great place to start. That said, if you want to know how money can corrupt and how it impacts countries at scale, this is also a good read.

  • Using money to make more of it is the core of capitalism.
  • Although it’s hard to pinpoint the exact birth of this system, the roots of it began in medieval Europe.
  • One feature of capitalism is financial crises, and we need to fix this. 

The Best Books About History #29: Narrative Economics

“Trying to understand major economic events by looking only at data on changes in economic aggregates runs the risk of missing the underlying motivations for change. Doing so is like trying to understand a religious awakening by looking at the cost of printing religious tracts.” — Robert J. Shiller

Narrative Economics explains why stories have a massive influence on the way our economies operate, analyzing in particular the rise of Bitcoin, several stock market booms and busts, and the nature of epidemics.

If you’re a stay-in-the-loop kind of person, this book is for you. It’s also for you if you’re an investor or entrepreneur, as narratives dramatically shape our economic landscape all the time. To anyone who wants to learn why certain topics dominate our conversations where others don’t: read this book.

  • Bitcoin is the perfect example of how stories affect economics.
  • Epidemics and economic narratives have a lot in common.
  • If we want to be ready for the future, we need to understand the narratives of the past.

Best History Books About Global Politics

The Best Books About History #30: A World in Disarray

“Managing a situation in a manner that fails to address core issues can be preferable to attempting to bring about a solution sure to be unacceptable to one or more of the parties.” — Richard Haass

A World in Disarray will open your mind to new ways of making the world a more peaceful place by guiding you through the major changes in global affairs since World War II.

If you’re a pacifist, chances are, this title is for you. If you want to know what it takes to keep world peace and where we’re about to fail to do so, read this book.

  • Things have been relatively peaceful since World War II because of power balances, nuclear weapons, and economic agreements.
  • New policies concerning intervention in international events were born when the world stood by during the tragedies in Rwanda. 
  • The three major superpowers must thrive and cooperate if we want to have a peaceful world.

The Best Books About History #31: Prisoners of Geography

“Why do you think your values would work in a culture you don’t understand?” — Tim Marshall

Prisoners of Geography explains how the location of a country dramatically affects its success and the amount of power it has in the world, as well as why and how geography has determined t he outcomes of major world events for centuries.

This book will show you why the world is the way it is. Why is America so powerful and Africa so poor? Why is Russia always worried about war? A fascinating theory with really sound arguments.

  • Russia could get invaded from the West; that’s why they have a strong presence in the Baltics. 
  • The United States is nearly invulnerable because of where it’s located.
  • Southern Europe suffers while its northern countries flourish, simply because of geography.

Best History Books About Civilization and Society

The Best Books About History #32: The Power of Myth

“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.” — Joseph Campbell

The Power of Myth is a book based on Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer’s popular 1988 documentary of the same name, explaining where myths come from, why they are so common in society, how they’ve evolved, and what important role they still play in our ever-changing world today.

If you wonder why we’re here or what happens after death, read this book. It’ll show you that myths are useful beyond being good stories, and it’ll also teach you how to tell better stories yourself.

  • Myths are stories that unite people in communities, identify the beginnings of cultures and giving people a common identity.
  • As guidelines for community members, legends give a framework for people to think and act.
  • The power of myth helps us make sense of life, appreciate it, and even prepare to die.

The Best Books About History #33: The Republic

“The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” — Plato

The Republic is one of the most important works about philosophy and politics in history, written by Plato, one of Socrates’ students in ancient Greece, as a dialogue about justice and political systems between Socrates and various Athenian citizens.

If you feel like your country’s judicial system isn’t working, this book is for you. It’ll also show you why it’s difficult to rule others, no matter what form that takes. Even a middle manager could benefit from reading this book. It’s hard to go wrong with such a classic.

  • Justice must be looked at on an individual as well as a city level.
  • Both cities and souls can be divided into three distinct parts.
  • Philosophers trying to rule others justly will face lots of difficulty.

The Best Books About History #34: Caste

“The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when no one sees another person treated unfairly. And the least that a person in the dominant caste can do is not make the pain any worse.” — Isabel Wilkerson

Caste unveils the hidden cultural and societal rules of our class system, including where it comes from, why it’s so deeply entrenched in society, and how we can dismantle it forever to finally allow all people to have the equality they deserve.

Whether you believe you are suffering from the social class system, want to know more about it, or hope to understand what alternative structures society could use to function better, this is the book for you.

  • There are eight foundational pillars of a caste system, and the first four are Divine Will and Laws of Nature, Heritability, Endogamy, and Purity vs Pollution.
  • The last four pillars of the caste system deal with hierarchy, dehumanization, terror, and superiority.
  • We can dismantle the caste with monuments and memorials and support all who try to break it down.

Best History Books About Nation States and Political Systems

The Best Books About History #35: The Social Contract

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Social Contract is a political piece of writing that serves as a roadmap for the democracies of today, outlining the elements of a free state in which people agree to coexist with each other under the rules of a common body that represents the general will.

Most of us aspire to be sovereign citizens in a free state, but we have no idea what that even means. This all-time classic of philosophy will show you.

  • A state becomes legitimate only if its citizens accept to live in it.
  • The general will of the people should be the law of any legitimate state.
  • People should meet often to express their will and communicate more for better governance.

The Best Books About History #36: Capitalism and Freedom

“To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them.” — Milton Friedman

Capitalism and Freedom   helps you understand some of the most important factors protecting your liberty by outlining the government’s role in economics and explaining how things go best when political entities are small and stay out of the flow of money in a country.

For better or for worse, capitalism is impossible to ignore or do away with in our current civilization. If you want to better understand free markets and the benefits and advantages of fully enabling those vs. going with more regulated, government-steered systems, this book is for you.

  • Freedom, both political and economic, is healthier when government is small and decentralized.
  • When the feds mess with the economy, things get worse even though politicians are trying to make them better.
  • A negative income tax, among other measures, should replace the current inefficient social welfare systems.

37. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek  

The Best Books About History #37: The Road to Serfdom

“To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behavior as individuals within the group.” — Friedrich Hayek 

The Road to Serfdom makes a case for keeping our freedom and individuality by rejecting socialism, identifying its risks to turn into totalitarianism, and highlighting the socialist dynamics taking a hold in global politics after WWII.

This book will show you how much control a government should have — and what happens when it oversteps its boundaries. If you’re worried about various governments’ increasing interventions in our day-to-day lives, read this one.

  • Socialism doesn’t enable personal freedom, it smothers it.
  • Corrupt people end up in power in totalitarian, socialist systems.
  • The socialist parts of the world struggled after World War II, but the freer countries thrived because of their freedom.

The Best Books About History #38: Socialism

“Today’s utopia often becomes tomorrow’s reality.” — Michael W. Newman

Socialism outlines the history of the governmental theory that everything should be owned and controlled by the community as a whole, including how this idea has impacted the world in the last 200 years, how its original aims have been lost, and in what ways we might use it in the future.

If you feel like socialism might be the answer to all our problems, read this book. It’ll show you that it started from good intentions but later spiraled off the virtuous path — but also what we might be able to learn form and do with this system in the future.

  • There might not be a single, simple definition of socialism, but the different forms it’s had over the years share common characteristics. 
  • Nineteenth-century capitalism paved the way for socialism, and from there, it divided into two different schools of thought. 
  • If we learn from the mistakes of the past, socialism can actually bring a promising future.

The Best Books About History #39: Fascism

“The real question is: who has the responsibility to uphold human rights? The answer to that is: everyone.” — Madeleine Albright

Fascism explores what lies behind its titular, far-right, authoritarian ideology, from how it can rise to power in uncertain times to why it still poses a serious threat against even our most established democratic systems today.

If you think a few skinheads here and there probably won’t be a big problem, read this book. It’s a fascinating account of how quickly extremism can spiral out of control if left unchecked, and what are the right ways to keep it in check without trying to choke it altogether and thus be as bad as outright fascists themselves.

  • Authoritarian parties often rise to power through democratic means.
  • We can always expect fascism to find its way back, history says.
  • Democracy is fragile, and we should defend it.

The Best Books About History #40: On Liberty

“One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.” — John Stuart Mill

On Liberty is a philosophy classic that laid the foundation of modern liberal politics, applying the concept of utilitarianism to societies and countries in order to create a working system between authority and liberty.

This is a classic but not easy to read, yet if you truly want to understand democracy and freedom, and why one doesn’t automatically lead to the other, this may be worth a few hours of concentrated studying.

  • Democracy alone does not guarantee personal freedom.
  • The only reason to limit liberty should be to save people from harm.
  • False opinions are not only good, they’re important.

The Most Interesting History Books #41: How Democracies DIe

“Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders — presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power. Some of these leaders dismantle democracy quickly, as Hitler did. More often, though, democracies erode slowly, in barely visible steps.” — Steven Levitsky

How Democracies Die lays out the foundational principles of working democracies by looking at historical events, especially in Latin America, that show how democracies have failed in the past, how it could happen again, and how we can protect democracy from threats like bad leadership, inequality, and extremism.

If you live in a democratic country, you probably take your political process and inclusion for granted. This book shows that it can all end rather quickly, and before we know it, we won’t have a say at all. To learn more about the pitfalls of democracy and how we can avoid them, read this book.

  • A democracy needs solid gatekeepers to protect it.
  • With the arrival of Donald Trump in the political arena, the future of our democracy depends on our leadership. 
  • We can resist authoritarianism by holding fast to democratic norms.

Best History Books About Ethics

42. discourses by epictetus  .

The Most Interesting History Books #42: Discourses

“What else is freedom but the power to live our life the way we want?” — Epictetus

Discourses is a transcription of the lectures of ancient philosopher Epictetus, resulting in a series of lessons and tales that help us make sense of what’s happening around and to us, including hardship, challenges, and life events that will ultimately make our character stronger.

This book will make you more resilient in the face of failure, rejection, and adversity. Written as mostly easily digestible, informal lectures Epictetus gave to his students, you’ll find plenty of little bits of inspiration in this classic.

  • Without life’s challenges, we wouldn’t feel the need to grow and evolve. 
  • Everything that is great in life takes time and effort to build.
  • If you can’t control it, don’t stress over it.

The Most Interesting History Books #43: The Lucifer Effect

“The line between good and evil is permeable and almost anyone can be induced to cross it when pressured by situational forces.” — Philip Zimbardo

The Lucifer Effect explains why you’re not always a good person, identifying the often misunderstood line between good and evil that we all walk by recounting the shocking results of the author’s Stanford Prison Experiment that show anyone can be made to do evil under the right (or wrong) circumstances.

Dividing the world into “good people” and “bad people” is easy. Realizing anyone has great capacity for both is hard — but it’s the truth we need, and that’s what this book is for. Shocking and much needed, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to be a good person or who’s curious as to why even some of the best people in the world turn evil.

  • Your personality changes depending on the situation you’re in.
  • The Stanford prison experiment is a shocking example of just how bad everyday people can get in the right, or wrong, circumstances.
  • Don’t worry about being permanently evil; you can always choose to be a hero and act morally.

44. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker  

The Most Interesting History Books #44: The Better Angels of Our Nature

“As one becomes aware of the decline of violence, the world begins to look different. The past seems less innocent; the present less sinister.” — Steven Pinker

The Better Angels of Our Nature argues that we live in the most peaceful time in history by looking at what motivates us to behave violently, how these motivators are outweighed by our tendencies towards a peaceful life, and which major shifts in history caused this global reduction in crime and violence.

If you need a break from bad news and doombait, this is the one to grab. Well-researched and uplifting, it’ll show you that the world is better than it seems — and there’s always more we can do to make it even better!

  • Ideologies always start out with good intentions but can quickly deteriorate into horrific proponents of violence.
  • The Flynn effect increases our ability to reason over time, which makes us less violent.
  • With the invention of the printing press, humanitarian philosophy could spread and further decrease violence across the board.

Best History Books About the Evolution of Philosophy

45. meditations on first philosophy by rené descartes  .

The Most Interesting History Books #45: Meditations on First Philosophy

“Dubium sapientiae initium — doubt is the origin of wisdom.” — René Descartes

Meditations on First Philosophy is the number one work of philosophy of the Western world, written by René Descartes in 1641, abandoning everything that can be doubted and then starting to reason his way from there.

If you often find yourself stricken with doubt and wish it weren’t so, this book is for you. It reveals the upside of doubt and how it can help us challenge our own assumptions and improve. This book will teach you to apply your knowledge in a scientific manner rather than just take things at face value. 

  • Your senses don’t always tell the truth.
  • The fact that you think proves that you exist.
  • There are three levels of truth in the world.

The Most Interesting History Books #46: The Story of Philosophy

“Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.” — Will Durant

The Story of Philosophy profiles the lives of great Western philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, and Nietzsche, exploring their contemplations on governance, religion, the meaning of life, and other philosophic concepts from their individual lifetimes of research, thought, and diligent study.

If you want a comprehensive but quick overview of history’s most important philosophers and how their ideas shaped the world, read this book.

  • Ancient Greek philosophers paved the way for philosophy, science, and a new form of governance.
  • Philosopher Spinoza helped decipher the hidden meanings in religion.
  • Voltaire was partially responsible for the French revolution and the improvement of political systems around the world.

The Most Interesting History Books #47: Lives of the Stoics

“There is no better definition of a Stoic: to have but not want, to enjoy without needing.” — Ryan Holiday

Lives of the Stoics is a deep dive into the experiences and beliefs of some of the earliest philosophers and followers of stoic virtues like justice, courage, and temperance.

This book covers both the tenets of Stoic philosophy itself as well as its most prominent proponents. The chapters are short and written in an easy-to-digest style, so for anyone looking to improve their lives, this is a good pick!

  • Stoicism came about as a result of extreme hardship. 
  • Not everyone who followed Stoicism lived up to its standards. 
  • Marcus Aurelius was a Roman whose practice of Stoicism helped him lead with compassion and humility.

Best History Books About Climate Change & Population Growth

The Most Interesting History Books #48: The Sixth Extinction

“As soon as humans started using signs and symbols to represent the natural world, they pushed beyond the limits of that world.” — Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction  summarizes how human activity has contributed to the mass extinction of species and points out ways to mitigate our biggest environmental problems.

Instead of just doling out more blame to humans for destroying the planet, this book focuses on facts, which makes it refreshing. If you want a book about the environment that makes you feel less guilty and more empowered to act, go for this one.

  • There are several ways in which the human race is responsible for the sixth mass extinction.
  • Homo sapiens has been encouraging the extinction of various species long before the industrial era.
  • There are many ideas for what we can still do to save at least some species.

The Most Interesting History Books #49: The Uninhabitable Earth

“We think of climate change as slow, but it is unnervingly fast. We think of the technological change necessary to avert it as fast-arriving, but it is deceptively slow judged by how soon we need it.” — David Wallace-Wells

The Uninhabitable Earth  explains how humanity’s complacency and negligence have put this world on a course to soon be unlivable unless we each do our small part to improve how we care for this beautiful planet we live on.

While I would recommend balancing this book with something a little less depressing, it provides a fantastic overview of all the factors contributing to global warming. So if you want to know where we can start digging in to save the planet and our future, this one’s for you!

  • Even enacting all the policy changes agreed to in Paris, we will still exceed the threshold where climate disaster begins.
  • Without emissions reduction, we will see our oceans rise to fatal levels, putting major cities underwater.
  • Unless we change our ways, bacteria of ancient diseases in melting Arctic ice sheets will begin a global health crisis.

The Most Interesting History Books #50: Empty Planet

“Will we struggle to preserve growth, or accept with grace a world in which people both thrive and strive less?” ― Darrell Bricker & John Ibbitson

Empty Planet explains why overpopulation alarmists are wrong, and how depopulation poses the more imminent threat to the happiness and success of humanity.

Whether you want to have kids or not, this book will change your perspective on the common notion that “there are already too many people on the planet,” showing that we might soon suffer from the opposite of this problem. An enlightening and contrarian read!

  • The forces that cause fertility to drop, such as urbanization, education, and secularization, only increase.
  • A falling population threatens human quality life in a variety of ways, both materially and culturally.
  • Population decline is likely to happen even more quickly than predictions suggest.

51. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli  

The Most Interesting History Books #51: The Prince

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” — Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince is a 16th century political treatise, famous for condoning, even encouraging evil behavior amongst political rulers in order for them to stay in power.

If you secretly lust for power, this book is for you. It’ll show you how to get and keep that power, sure, but also how to use it well and how to avoid becoming a “Machiavellian prince” who gets completely consumed by their own desire for more.

  • Countries can be easy to conquer but hard to rule or vice versa – and markets are the same.
  • To protect a country it needs its own army, not mercenaries. The same holds true for businesses.
  • If you want to run a business, you have to assemble your advisors and know when to listen to them.

The Most Interesting History Books #52: Man's Search for Meaning

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning  details holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s horrifying experiences in Nazi concentration camps, along with his psychological approach of logotherapy, which is also what helped him survive and shows you how you can – and must – find meaning in your life.

If you’ve ever felt hopelessness and despair, this book is for you. It’ll show you that there’s a way out of any situation, no matter how grim — even if that way is just accepting the situation as it is and waiting for it to pass. A must-read for almost anyone.

  • Sometimes the only way to survive is to surrender to death.
  • Your life has its own meaning, and it’s up to you to find it.
  • Use paradoxical intention to make your fears go away.

The Most Interesting History Books #53: The 48 Laws of Power

“Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.” — Robert Greene

The 48 Laws of Power draws on many of history’s most famous power quarrels to show you what power looks like, how you can get it, what to do to defend yourself against the power of others, and, most importantly, how to keep it and use it well.

This book will show you how to get ahead in life thanks to some uncomfortable but important truths. Each law comes with a short story about an interesting person, so it’s a nice pastime book as well.

  • Always make superiors look smarter than you.
  • Confuse competitors by acting unpredictably.
  • Don’t force others to do what you want, seduce them instead.

Best History Books About Important People

The Most Interesting History Books #54: Alexander the Great

“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.” — Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great is the definitive biography of the life of the ancient Macedonian king, who would extend his empire from a little slide of land in Greece through Persia, Egypt, and all the way to India, forming the greatest empire the ancient world had ever seen.

Whether you’re looking to fill a gap in your knowledge or just want an absolutely epic story, this book will deliver both. It’ll reveal the origins of Christianity as well as detail one young man’s dramatic conquest of the world, and you’ll feel both entertained and informed.

  • Bundle your energy.
  • Always do the unexpected.
  • Without Alexander the Great, Christianity wouldn’t exist.

The Most Interesting History Books #55: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

“Knowledge is obtained rather by the use of the ear than of the tongue.” — Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life takes a thorough look at the life of one of the most influential humans who ever lived and explains how he could achieve such greatness in so many different fields and areas.

Walter Isaacson might be the best biographer alive today, and any book of his feels more like a novel than a boring list of accomplishments. Whether you want to be creative, succeed in business, or learn more about the history of the US and its important people, this book is a great place to start!

  • Benjamin Franklin was a self-improvement nerd.
  • If you really want to learn something, you’ll find a way.
  • Don’t be afraid to be 20 years ahead of your time.

The Most Interesting History Books #56: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

“The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” — Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X chronicles the life and work of one of the most influential members of the civil rights movement in the United States, Malcolm Little, aka Malcolm X.

If you want to get a real sense of how difficult it was for the civil rights movement to succeed, and what it truly takes to bring about change in the world, you’ll love this book.

  • What happens in your childhood will leave a mark on you for life.
  • Sometimes, you have to get totally lost to find yourself.
  • Even the best of us can get it wrong.

The Most Interesting History Books #57: Steve Jobs

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs  is the most detailed and accurate account of the life of the man who created Apple, the most valuable technology company in the world.

Do you want to build a business? Create great technology? Change the world? Look no further. Jobs’ story has it all, and, given how recently it all happened, this is one of the most relevant biographies to read in the 21st century.

  • Steve Jobs’s team invented a name for his most important skill, the reality distortion field.
  • The Apple name was chosen for a very specific reason.
  • Apple didn’t make Steve Jobs a billionaire, Pixar did.

The Most Interesting History Books #58: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Henrietta’s were different: They became the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory.” — Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks reveals the previously unknown story of a woman with extraordinary cells that still live today, and how they have contributed to dozens of medical breakthroughs.

If you want to better understand how consent works in healthcare while discovering the inspiring story of a forgotten but extremely impactful individual, this is the one to grab off the shelf.

  • Henrietta Lacks was a poor Black woman who died of aggressive cervical cancer at a young age, but her immortal cells lived on. 
  • Even though her cells were famous, most people didn’t know of Henrietta and her family until recently. 
  • The use of Hela cells has raised questions about privacy and ethics in cell donation.

The Most Interesting History Books #59: A Woman of No Importance

“Valor rarely reaps the dividends it should.” — Sonia Purnell

A Woman of No Importance tells the fascinating story of Virginia Hall, an American who became one of the best spies for the Allies in World War II, thus significantly contributing to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

This book will make you feel empowered to choose your own way in life. Hall’s life reads like a movie, and if you hear the call to adventure but are hesitant to follow it, this might be the little push you need to live your best life despite all the difficulties it might bring.

  • Too independent to marry, Hall went on to study in Europe and pursue a political career even though she lost a leg in a terrible accident.
  • After multiple failed attempts to join the war efforts, she finally became a member of the Special Operations Executive, or SOE, almost by accident. 
  • Virginia’s work helped in many different ways during World War II, including the vital preparations for D-Day.

The Most Interesting History Books #60: Long Walk to Freedom

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom is the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid activist, national icon, and the first Black South African president, elected in the first fully democratic election in the country.

If you’ve ever wondered how someone might survive more than 20 years in a tiny jail cell without going insane, make this your next read. Mandela’s story is one of the most inspiring ones I’ve ever learned about, and I’m sure his story will make you feel stronger and more courageous too.

  • Your best bet at finding true freedom is education.
  • If you want to be remembered, you must learn to challenge authority.
  • It’s most important that you don’t give up right after your biggest setback.

That concludes our list of the best history books. Don’t let its size intimidate you. History is a large field, and you just have to start somewhere that interests you! Pick the first book that jumps out at you, read its free summary on Four Minute Books, and then perhaps order a copy for yourself to dive in deeper later.

There is nothing new under the sun — but if we don’t study past sunrises and sunsets, we won’t see what’s coming, and everything, from pandemics to recessions to political tensions, will shock us into paralysis. When we study history, we are always prepared, even for the unexpected. Understand the past, master the future. That’s how it works — there’s no better day to start than today.

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:

  • The 60 Best Business Books of All Time (Will Forever Change How You Think About Organizations)
  • The 20 Best Entrepreneurship Books to Start, Grow & Run a Successful Business
  • The 14 Best Finance Books of All Time
  • The 21 Best Habit Books of All Time to Change Any Behavior
  • The 33 Best Happiness Books of All Time That Everyone Should Read
  • The 7 Best Inspirational Books That Will Light Your Inner Fire
  • The 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time to Help You Become a Truly Inspiring Person
  • The 31 Best Motivational Books Ever Written
  • The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of
  • The 35 Best Philosophy Books to Live Better and Become a Great Thinker
  • The 34 Best Psychology Books That Will Make You Smarter and Happier
  • The 25 Best Sales Books of All Time to Help You Close Any Deal
  • The 33 Best Self-Help Books of All Time to Read at Any Age
  • The 22 Best Books About Sex & Sexuality to Improve Your Love Life & Relationships
  • The 30 Most Life-Changing Books That Will Shift Your Perspective & Stay With You Forever

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:

  • All Brené Brown Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Jordan Peterson Books: All Titles in Order of Publication + The 5 Top Books He Recommends
  • All Malcolm Gladwell Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Michael Pollan Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Peter Thiel Books: A Comprehensive List of Books By, About & Recommended by Peter Thiel
  • All Rachel Hollis Books: The Full List of Non-Fiction, Fiction & Cookbooks, Sorted by Popularity & the Best Reading Order
  • All Ray Dalio Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Robert Greene Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Ryan Holiday Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Simon Sinek Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Tim Ferriss Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Walter Isaacson Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)

Last Updated on February 20, 2023

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The 20 most popular books of all time, according to Goodreads members

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  • Goodreads is the world's largest platform for readers to rate and review books.
  • Below are the 20 most popular books of all time, ranked by Goodreads members. 
  • Want more books? Check out the most popular books of 2021, based on Goodreads .

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Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers to rate and review their favorite books and authors , track their reading, participate in challenges, and discover new book recommendations. No matter what you like to read, you can find it on Goodreads along with tons of fellow readers who love the same books. 

With millions of ratings and community reviews, readers are encouraged to share their opinions to help others determine their next read. We used the number of ratings of each book to determine the most popular books amongst Goodreads members, so whether you're curious if your favorite book made the list or are looking for a new read with millions of recommendations , here are the top 20 most popular books on Goodreads. 

The 20 most popular books of all time on Goodreads:

"harry potter and the sorcerer's stone" by j.k. rowling.

famous books in history

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.98

With nearly 8 million ratings, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is the most popular book of all time on Goodreads and has sold over 120 million copies. In this first book of the "Harry Potter" series, readers meet a young orphan boy who learns he's a wizard and begins his magical training at Hogwarts, a special school for witches and wizards.

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

famous books in history

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $11.69

With almost 7 million ratings on Goodreads, "The Hunger Games" is the first book in a young adult dystopian series where the country is divided up into districts that annually select one boy and one girl to fight to the death in a highly publicized arena. When Katniss's little sister is chosen for the games, she volunteers in her sister's place and immediately begins training before entering the deadly arena.

"Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer

famous books in history

"Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.16

"Twilight" is an iconic young adult vampire romance novel about a high school girl named Bella who falls in love with a mysterious boy named Edward and quickly finds out he's a vampire. As the threat of a nearby nomadic vampire looms, Bella chooses to be with Edward and discovers the secrets of his world, despite the nearly constant risks to her life. 

"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

famous books in history

"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.19

"To Kill A Mockingbird" is an American classic from 1960, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and frequently voted as one of the best books of the 20th century . It's about a young girl named Scout who's growing up in a time of racial division, amplified as her lawyer father defends an innocent Black man wrongly accused of a horrible crime. 

"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

famous books in history

"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $5.97

First published in 1925, "The Great Gatsby" is a classic Jazz Age novel about millionaire Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan. Narrated by Gatsby's neighbor, Nick Carraway, the novel follows Gatsby's shady business dealings, extravagant parties, and pursuit of Daisy's affection. 

"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green

famous books in history

"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.10

In this absolute tear-jerker, Hazel is battling a terminal cancer diagnosis, offered a few extra years by a miracle medical advancement. In her cancer support group, she meets Augustus Waters and they immediately begin to fall for each other in this tragic and beautiful young adult love story. 

"1984" by George Orwell

famous books in history

"1984" by George Orwell, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.48

In this novel predicting a dystopian future from its original publication in 1949, Winston Smith is living in a totalitarian world defined by strict mass surveillance and inundating propaganda. Winston works at the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history to fit the government's narrative, and can't help but wonder what the world was truly like before the revolution. 

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

famous books in history

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $5.47

"Pride and Prejudice" is an 1813 romantic classic about Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman who is pressured to marry a wealthy man in order to provide for her family. She meets the brooding Mr. Darcy, with whom she begins a witty but civilized sparring banter as they slowly fall for each other in this novel about the influences of class and the importance of being true to yourself. 

"Divergent" by Veronica Roth

famous books in history

"Divergent" by Veronica Roth, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.46

In the dystopian science fiction world of "Divergent," all 16-year-olds must devote themselves to one of five factions in society, each dedicated to a virtue. Beatrice Prior is torn between staying with her family and being true to herself, so she makes a daring and shocking decision, thrusting her into an intense initiation and transformation while keeping a potentially deadly secret and discovering the growing conflict within her seemingly flawless society. 

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" by J.K. Rowling

famous books in history

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" by J.K. Rowling, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.78

When a murderer named Sirius Black escapes the wizarding world's highest security prison, rumor says he's headed to kill Harry since the dark Lord Voldemort's downfall was his as well. Even with the soulless prison guards searching the castle for Sirius, danger seems to follow Harry at every turn. 

"The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien

famous books in history

"The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $14.37

This fantastical classic introduces readers to magical Middle-Earth where Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, sets out on a quest to win a treasure guarded by a dragon. Initially written for the author's children, this adventure novel is a prequel to the epic "Lord of the Rings" series and is a charming favorite with over three million ratings and 1.6 million five-star reviews on Goodreads.  

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling

famous books in history

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.98

In the final book of the "Harry Potter" series, Harry and his two best friends are on a cross-country journey to find the final answers that will help them defeat the dark wizard Lord Voldemort. Cumulating in an epic and devastating battle at Hogwarts, this intense novel closes the fantastical series with a shocking and emotional resolution. 

"Animal Farm" by George Orwell

famous books in history

"Animal Farm" by George Orwell, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.48

"Animal Farm" is a classic satirical novel about a group of mistreated farm animals who rebel against the human farmer to take over the farm and attempt to create a system where all animals are free and equal. But when the community is betrayed and collapses under a single dictator, the animals' hopes for equality diminish. 

"The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank

famous books in history

"The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.35

Written by Anne Frank during the Nazi occupation of Holland, this diary is a firsthand, nonfiction account of the two years Anne and her family spent hiding in a secret annex of an old office building. With thoughtful insight and emotional impressions of the time, Anne's diary is a testament to her courage during the final years of her life. 

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J.K. Rowling

famous books in history

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J.K. Rowling, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.98

Before returning to Hogwarts for his second year of school, Harry receives an ominous message of the danger that awaits him if he's to return. Needing to escape his dreadful aunt and uncle, Harry ignores the warning and happily returns to school — until students begin to turn to stone and a strange voice in the wall means Harry might be the only one who can save them.

"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

famous books in history

"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $5.21

"The Catcher in the Rye" is a young adult classic about a 16-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield and his three-day adventure through New York City. Heavily impacted by his experiences, Holden is an example of teenage rebellion as he navigates complex feelings about innocence, connection, and loss. 

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" by J.K. Rowling

famous books in history

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" by J.K. Rowling, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.92

In this fourth book of the "Harry Potter" series, Hogwarts is one of three schools participating in a Triwizard Tournament where one representative witch or wizard from each school must complete three extremely challenging tasks. When Harry's name is picked in addition to the three competitors, he must compete in the tournament, despite not knowing how he was entered. 

"Angels & Demons" by Dan Brown

famous books in history

"Angels & Demons" by Dan Brown, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.20

"Angels & Demons" is the first book in the "DaVinci Code" series, a thrilling mystery novel where readers meet world-renowned symbologist Robert Langdon as he's called to help explain the mysterious symbols left seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. His research takes him through an intense investigation that leads him towards a deadly vendetta from the Illuminati. 

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson

famous books in history

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.19

In this international psychological thriller, Henrik Vanger is a billionaire whose niece disappeared over 40 years ago. Still searching for answers, he hires Mikal Blomkvist, a renowned journalist who recently lost a libel lawsuit, along with Lisbeth Salander, a mysterious but brilliant computer hacker. As the duo digs deeper into the investigation, they uncover a complex weave of family and financial secrets in this captivating Swedish thriller. 

"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins

famous books in history

"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.98

The second book in the "Hunger Games" saga follows Katniss and her public love interest, Peeta, after their historic arena win. Though they should be celebrating, rumors of a growing rebellion infuriate the Capitol and threaten their safety in this fast-paced, science-fiction sequel.

famous books in history

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The Best History Books of All Time

Discover real-life stories that are perfect for history buffs from the reign of queen elizabeth i to the cold war, there’s something for everyone on this list..

Killers of the Flower Moon (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture

Killers of the Flower Moon

By david grann, paperback $18.00, buy from other retailers:.

Four Hundred Souls Book Cover Picture

Four Hundred Souls

By ibram x. kendi and keisha n. blain, paperback $20.00.

The Forgotten 500 Book Cover Picture

The Forgotten 500

By gregory a. freeman.

All That She Carried Book Cover Picture

All That She Carried

By tiya miles, paperback $18.99.

Medical Apartheid Book Cover Picture

Medical Apartheid

By harriet a. washington.

Horizontal Vertigo Book Cover Picture

Horizontal Vertigo

By juan villoro, hardcover $32.50.

Say Nothing Book Cover Picture

Say Nothing

By patrick radden keefe.

The Spy and the Traitor Book Cover Picture

The Spy and the Traitor

By ben macintyre.

Against All Odds Book Cover Picture

Against All Odds

By alex kershaw, paperback $22.00.

Empress Dowager Cixi Book Cover Picture

Empress Dowager Cixi

By jung chang, paperback $23.00.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee Book Cover Picture

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

By david treuer.

The Splendid and the Vile Book Cover Picture

The Splendid and the Vile

By erik larson.

The Black Church Book Cover Picture

The Black Church

By henry louis gates, jr..

Twilight of Democracy Book Cover Picture

Twilight of Democracy

By anne applebaum, paperback $17.00.

The Warmth of Other Suns Book Cover Picture

The Warmth of Other Suns

By isabel wilkerson.

The Power Broker Book Cover Picture

The Power Broker

By robert a. caro, paperback $27.00.

A Woman of No Importance Book Cover Picture

A Woman of No Importance

By sonia purnell.

Dreams in a Time of War Book Cover Picture

Dreams in a Time of War

By ngugi wa thiong'o, paperback $16.00.

The Devil in the White City Book Cover Picture

The Devil in the White City

Paperback $19.00.

The Life of Elizabeth I Book Cover Picture

The Life of Elizabeth I

By alison weir.

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The 20 most influential books in history

famous books in history

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famous books in history

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What’s the most influential book you’ve ever read? For most of us, that’s a tough call to make. But that was the question put to the public ahead of Academic Book Week . An expert panel of academic book-sellers, librarians and publishers nominated 200 titles, and members of the public were asked to vote online for their top 20.

Many of the books that make up the final 20 are hundreds – in one case thousands – of years old, proving that the best works really do stand the test of time. How many of these classics have you read?

influential-books (3)

1. On the Origins of Species

Author : Charles Darwin Published : 1859 Why you should read it : It’s simple: “No work has so fundamentally changed the way we think about our very being and the world around us,” says Alan Staton, head of marketing at the Booksellers Association .

2. The Communist Manifesto

Author : Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Published : 1888 Why you should read it : As Marxist historian Ellen Meiksins Wood says , this is more than just a manifesto: “It’s not just a uniquely influential document in the theory and practice of revolutionary movements throughout the world; it’s also a work of history, of economic, political and cultural analysis, and of prophecy.”

3. The Complete Works

Author : William Shakespeare Published : The plays were first published between 1594 and 1634 Why you should read it : Elizabethan poet Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare was “not of an age but for all time”. He wasn’t wrong. Centuries later, Shakespeare’s plays are still by far the most studied and performed in the English-speaking world and beyond.

4. The Republic

Author : Plato Published : 380 BC Why you should read it : Not only is it an important piece of work from one of the most influential philosophers, it’s also very readable. “Plato did not write philosophy like a dry textbook – he wrote it like a living conversation,” says Robin Waterfield, a classics scholar .

5. Critique of Pure Reason

Author : Immanuel Kant Published : 1781 Why you should read it : It’s not an easy read. But British philosopher A.C. Grayling thinks the effort more than pays off: “Kant’s book requires a degree of concentration to be understood and appreciated, but it richly repays close study both for its own sake and because of the far-reaching nature of what it suggests.”

6. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Author : Mary Wollstonecraft Published : 1792 Why you should read it : At a time when revolutionaries were demanding equal rights for all men, Wollstonecraft demanded those rights be extended to women: “The book laid out the tenets of what today we call ‘equality’ or ‘liberal’ feminist theory,” says Anne Mellor , a professor of women’s studies.

7. The Wealth of Nations

Author : Adam Smith Published : 1776 Why you should read it : Smith’s book has been described as “the foundation of economics, the origin of econometrics and the intellectual cradle of capitalism”, all of which are as relevant today as they were when he wrote it.

8. Orientalism

Author : Edward Said Published : 1978 Why you should read it : Said’s book sought to reveal the West’s patronizing and largely inaccurate understanding of Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, and how these views help to “mobilize fear, hatred, disgust and resurgent self-pride and arrogance – much of it having to do with Islam and the Arabs on one side and ‘we’ Westerners on the other”. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since September 2001, you’ll understand why this book is as pertinent as ever.

9. Nineteen Eighty-Four

Author: George Orwell Published : 1949 Why you should read it : “It’s much more than a book – it’s a novel of huge social and political significance that’s never going to date,” says Abe Books , especially in an age of digital surveillance. Is Big Brother watching you?

10. The Meaning of Relativity

Author : Albert Einstein Published : 1922 Why you should read it : Einstein said his goal with the book was to give an insight into the theory of relativity to interested non-experts. This work does exactly that: “Nobody is better at explaining relativity than Einstein himself; his account provides a combination of depth and clarity that only he could confidently produce,” writes Tom Siegfried of Science News .

11. The Second Sex

Author : Simone de Beauvoir Published : 1949 Why you should read it : Times have changed for women since this book was first published. But Beauvoir’s central argument that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” and her detailed examination of women throughout history still makes for a compelling read.

12. The Rights of Man

  Author : Thomas Paine Published : 1791 Why you should read it : Paine was “an original thinker, far ahead of his time,” says John Belchem of the University of Liverpool . The Rights of Man , written while Paine was taking part in the French Revolution, addresses issues – poverty, inequality, welfare – that are still hotly debated today.

13. A Brief History of Time

Author : Stephen Hawking Published : 1988 Why you should read it : It tackles one of the biggest and most intriguing questions: where did we come from and where are we going? “I wanted to explain how far we had come in our understanding of the universe: how we might be near finding a complete theory that would describe the universe and everything in it,” writes Hawking .

14. Silent Spring

Author : Rachel Carson Published : 1962 Why you should read it : When Carson, a former marine biologist, took on the chemical industry and revealed the damage pesticides were doing to the planet, she probably didn’t know how much of an impact her book would have. Described as “one of the most effective books ever written”, it paved the way for the modern environmental movement.

15. The Female Eunuch

Author : Germaine Greer Published : 1970 Why you should read it : Even to this day, both Greer and her book divide feminists. And perhaps that’s why it made it on to this list: it still gets people thinking about and debating important issues. “Her insights, while not always strictly accurate, offer revelatory analysis, and in a language so searing it galvanizes us to reflect more deeply on the status of women and the nature of gender relations,” writes Zohra Moosa of Mama Cash .

16. The Prince

Author : Niccolò Machiavelli Published : 1532 Why you should read it : The Prince provided aspiring rulers with a guide on getting power and holding on to it. “It may give readers an insight into the mindsets of leaders caught taking an ends-justify-the-means approach,” whether that be politicians or your boss .

17. Ways of Seeing

Author : John Berger Published : 1972 Why you should read it : Berger’s book, based on a BBC television series, explores the way women and men are represented in culture, and how these representations influence the way they act. Thirty years after its release, the Independent described it as “a rare example of that much-claimed title, the trailblazer”.

18. The Making of the English Working Class

Author : E.P. Thompson Published : 1963 Why you should read it : History is written by the victors, as they say. Which is why history books tend to be dominated by royalty and aristocrats. Thompson’s book departed from that tradition: “I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the obsolete hand-loom weaver, the utopian artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity,” he wrote in the preface . The impact was immense : “The book set the terms of reference for much labour history that followed.”

19. The Uses of Literacy

Author : Richard Hoggart Published : 1957 Why you should read it : With all the talk of income inequality – how it’s increasing, the many problems it spawns – Hoggart’s book about the working class is well worth a revisit: “Despite the social and economic transformations, thousands still recognize the life depicted – we should be closer to a classless society, but are not,” wrote Anita Sethi for the Independent .

20. The Naked Ape

Author : Desmond Morris Published : 1967 Why you should read it : In this bestseller, Morris, a zoologist and ethologist, explores the human species by comparing them with other animals. He’s published follow-up books, but it’s this first one, and its “irresistible blend of hard science and populism” that still gets people talking .

Have you read? 18 books Warren Buffet thinks you should read 17 books Bill Gates thinks you should read

Author: St éphanie Thomson is an Editor at the World Economic Forum

Image: Thomas Lecky, department head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s, holds a first edition of Charles Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” during a preview at Christie’s auction house in New York June 13, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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50 best historical fiction books of all time

Historical fiction allows us to immerse ourselves in eras long past. our edit of the best historical fiction books is perfect reading inspiration for when you want to lose yourself with a cast of characters in another time and place..

famous books in history

The best historical novels are meticulously researched and wonderfully evocative of times gone by. Whether you’re looking for the sweeping historical romance of Winston Graham’s historical fiction series Poldark , or feminist retellings of ancient Greek myth like Natalie Haynes’ Stone Blind , there’s a historical fiction novel for everyone. Here, ancient history expert and historical fiction fan Dr Jean Menzies shares some of the very best historical novels of all time.

There’s a reason we’re drawn to the past. History is inescapable. Decisions are made on the back of past events, and lives are affected by the stories of those that came before us. Historical fiction books resonate with modern readers because they give us the chance to immerse ourselves in another time. Each of the historical fiction novels on this list tells the stories of different characters, from the plains of Ancient Greece, the dark middle ages, or the battlefields of WWI and WWII.

The best historical fiction of 2024

Maude horton’s glorious revenge, by lizzie pook.

Book cover for Maude Horton’s Glorious Revenge

If you like your historical fiction on the mysterious side, be sure to add Maude Horton's Glorious Revenge to your 2024 reading list. Set in the heart of Victorian London’s seedy underbelly, Lizzie Pook’s newest novel follows young Maude Horton as she embarks on a search for her missing sister Constance. With only the cryptic clues her sister left in her diary to help her, Maude finds herself uncovering the city’s darkest secrets and mixing with some of its most sinister characters in this twisty and addictive historical thriller.

The World and All That It Holds

By aleksandar hemon.

Book cover for The World and All That It Holds

Rafael Pinto's life hasn't quite turned out as he expected. But he is, on the whole, happy. He spends his time crushing herbs at a pharmacy, a far cry from his poetry-filled student days in libertine Vienna. And then the world explodes. In the trenches in Galicia, fantasies fall flat. War devours all that they have known, and the only thing Pinto has to live for is the attentions of fellow soldier, Osman. Together, Pinto and Osman will escape the trenches and find themselves entangled with spies and Bolsheviks. As they travel all the way to Shanghai, it is Pinto’s love for Osman that will truly survive.

by Kate Morton

Book cover for Homecoming

A gripping mystery set between Australia and London, Homecoming , is the much-anticipated new novel by Kate Morton. When 89-year-old Nora's health takes an unexpected turn for the worse, Jess boards the first plane out of London, her home of twenty years, to be by her grandmother's bedside in Sydney. Soon, she discovers that the usually stoic Nora has been hiding a family secret and vows to get to the heart of the mystery of what happened on a fateful Christmas Eve sixty years before. 

by Kate Foster

Book cover for The Maiden

A thrilling historical murder tale and so much more besides, The Maiden is inspired by a real-life case from seventeenth-century Edinburgh. Lady Christina is newly married, wealthy and respected. A year later she is on trial for the murder of her lover, James Forrester, her story splashed across newspapers: Adulteress. Whore. Murderess. Why did she risk everything for an affair? And did it really end in murder? She certainly wasn't the only woman who might have wanted Forrester dead. . .

Don't Miss

Discover more books my Kate Morton

The best historical fiction of 2023, stone blind, by natalie haynes.

Book cover for Stone Blind

This retelling of the famed myth of Medusa asks who the real monsters are, after all. The sole mortal raised in a family of gods, Medusa is alone in her ability to experience change and to be hurt. Then, when the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and she is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. Unable to control her new power, she is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness. Until Perseus embarks upon a quest . . .

A guide to Natalie Haynes' fiction & non-fiction books

By james hynes.

Book cover for Sparrow

This vivid coming of age story set at the end of the Roman Empire, follows Sparrow – a boy of no known origin living in a brothel. He spends his days listening to stories told by his beloved ‘mother’ Euterpe, running errands for her lover the cook, and dodging the blows of their brutal overseer. But a hard fate awaits him – one that involves suffering, murder and mayhem. To cope he will create his own identity – Sparrow – who sings without reason and can fly from trouble. This is a book with one of the most powerfully affecting and memorable characters of recent fiction, brought to life through James Hynes meticulous research and bold imagination. 

The Armour of Light

By ken follett.

Book cover for The Armour of Light

In 1792, England hungers for supremacy while France witnesses Napoleon's ascent. Meanwhile, Kingsbridge, a once-tranquil town, stands on the brink. Industrial innovation sweeps the land, shattering the lives of workers and tearing families apart. In the face of encroaching tyranny, a small but resolute group from Kingsbridge emerges. Their intertwined stories encapsulate a generation's struggle for enlightenment, as they rally against oppression and fight passionately for a future free from the shackles of an oppressive regime. The Armour of Light is the latest instalment in Ken Follett's Kingsbridge series.  

Ken Follett's Kingsbridge novels in order

Once a monster, by robert dinsdale.

Book cover for Once a Monster

Robert Dinsdale brings Victorian London to life in this unusual blend of historical fiction with ancient myth. Ten-year-old orphan Nell belongs to a crew of mudlarks who work a stretch of the Thames. She spends her days searching for treasure in the mud in order to appease her master, Benjamin Murdstone. That is until she finds a body on the shore – a seven-foot matted creature with horns. As she ventures closer the figure draws breath and Nell is forced to make a decision that will change her life forever. 

The Dance Tree

By kiran millwood hargrave.

Book cover for The Dance Tree

It's 1518 in Strasbourg, and in the intense summer heat a solitary woman starts to dance in the main square. She dances for days without rest, and is joined by hundreds of other women. The city authorities declare a state of emergency, and bring in musicians to play the devil out of the dancing women. Meanwhile pregnant Lisbet, who lives at the edge of the city, is tending to the family's bees. The dancing plague intensifies, as Lisbet is drawn into a net of secret passions and deceptions. Inspired by true events, this is a compelling story of superstition, transformative change and women pushed to their limits.

The House of Fortune

By jessie burton.

Book cover for The House of Fortune

A glorious, sweeping story of fate and ambition, The House of Fortune is the sequel to Jessie Burton’s bestseller  The Miniaturist . Amsterdam, 1705. Thea Brandt is about to turn eighteen and she can't wait to become an adult. Walter, her true love, awaits Thea at the city's theatre. But at home on the Herengracht things are tense. Her father Otto and Aunt Nella bicker incessantly and are selling furniture so the family can eat. And, on her birthday, the day her mother Marin died, secrets from Thea's past threaten to eclipse the present. Nella is feeling a prickling sensation in her neck, which recalls the miniaturist who toyed with her life eighteen years ago.

A guide to Jessie Burton's books

The darkest sin, by d. v. bishop.

Book cover for The Darkest Sin

It's spring in Florence in 1537, and Cesare Aldo is investigating a report that a convent in the northern quarter has been breached. Soon Aldo finds himself immersed in a bitterly divided community. And when a man's body is found in the convent, it seems as if one of the nuns must be the murderer. Meanwhile, Constable Carlo Strocchi finds human body parts in the Arno, which turn out to be the remains of a much feared officer who went missing in the winter. Aldo and Strocchi search for the truth, in an investigation that is increasingly full of peril.

The Ghost Ship

By kate mosse.

Book cover for The Ghost Ship

The third book in the Joubert Family Chronicles beging on the Barbary Coast in 1621. A mysterious vessel floats silently on the water. It is known only as the Ghost Ship. For months, its captain - Louise Reydon-Joubert - and her courageous crew has hunted pirates to liberate those enslaved during the course of their merciless raids. But now the Ghost Ship is under attack – its hull splintered, its sails tattered and burnt, and the crew at risk of capture. But the bravest among them are not who they seem.

Kate Mosse’s books in order

The square of sevens, by laura shepherd-robinson.

Book cover for The Square of Sevens

Set in Georgian high-society, The Square of Sevens is a historical fiction novel packed with fortune-telling, travels and mystery. A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient method: the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar. But soon, she can't ignore the burning questions about her family. The pursuit of these mysteries takes her across the country in an epic tale of intrigue, heartbreak and audacious twists. 

by Hannah Kent

Book cover for Devotion

It's 1836 in Prussia, and teenage Hanne is finding the domestic world of womanhood increasingly oppressive. She longs to be out in nature, and finds little companionship with the local girls. Until, that is, she meets kindred spirit Thea. Hanne is from a family of Old Lutherans, whose worship is suppressed and secret. Safe passage to Australia offers liberty from these restrictions. But a long and harsh journey lies ahead, one which will put the girls' close bond to a terrible test.

Learned by Heart

By emma donoghue.

Book cover for Learned by Heart

In 1805, at a boarding school in York, two fourteen-year-old girls cross paths. Eliza Raine, an orphan with an Indian heritage, feels isolated due to her differences. Anne Lister, a rebellious spirit, defies societal norms for women. Their love story blossoms, creating a profound bond that transcends time and shapes their lives forever. Learned By Heart is the heartbreaking story of the love of two women – Anne Lister, the real-life inspiration behind Gentleman Jack, and her first love, Eliza Raine – from the bestselling author of  Room  and  The Wonder.

A complete guide to Emma Donoghue's books

Moonlight and the pearler's daughter.

Book cover for Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

It's 1886, and the Brightwell family has just arrived at Bannin Bay in Western Australia after a long sea voyage from England. Ten-year-old Eliza has been promised bright pearls, shells like soup plates and good fortunes in a new land. Ten years later, and Eliza's father Charles Brightwell is the most successful pearler on the bay. When he goes missing from his boat at sea, rumours of mutiny and murder swirl across the bay. But Eliza refuses to believe that her father is dead and, in a town mired in corruption, she sets out to find the truth.

The Midwife

By tricia cresswell.

Book cover for The Midwife

1838. A violent storm has hit the Northumberland coast, and a woman is found alone, naked and on the verge of death. She has no memory of how she got there, but she can speak fluent French, dress a wound and help women give birth. She starts to rebuild her life, helping those around her and finding a fragile happiness. Until tragedy strikes and she must go into hiding. Meanwhile in London, respectable Dr Borthwick assists mothers and babies in high society, and in the slums of Devil's Acre. The solitary doctor has a secret though, one which threatens to engulf him.

by André Dao

Book cover for Anam

Anam takes us on a poignant journey from 1930s Hanoi to Saigon, Paris, Melbourne, and Cambridge, exploring memory, inheritance, colonialism, and belonging. The narrator, born into a Vietnamese family in Melbourne, grapples with his grandfather's haunting tale of imprisonment in Chi Hoa prison under the Communist government. Straddling his Australian upbringing and Vietnamese heritage, he faces the impact of his grandfather's death and the birth of his daughter on his own life's trajectory. André Dao artfully weaves fiction and essay, theory and personal experience, revealing forgotten aspects of history and family archives. 

Mrs Porter Calling

By aj pearce.

Book cover for Mrs Porter Calling

The third in A J Pearce's charming and uplifting World War Two series find Emmy Lake enjoying huge success at Woman’s Friend  magazine, where she is the much-loved agony aunt. But the arrival of a glamorous new owner puts this all at risk, as Mrs Porter's plans are slowly revealed and it becomes clear she will destroy everything readers love about the magazine.

Other Women

By emma flint.

Book cover for Other Women

Emma Flint’s evocative historical novels transport you to another time and place. In her new book, Other Women , the destination is London, devastated by the impact of the Great War. For unmarried Beatrice Cade, the war has robbed her of the chance to find true love and have a family, just like it has for millions of others. One day a chance encounter changes her life, and she falls head over heels in love with someone she should never have met. An enthralling tale of obsession, murder and lives intertwined by forbidden love, Other Women is a novel that you won’t be able to put down. 

The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel

By antonio iturbe.

Book cover for The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel

Based on the life of Dita Kraus, a holocaust survivor , The Librarian of Auschwitz tells the story of the smallest library in the world – and the most dangerous. Imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz aged fourteen along with her mother and father, Dita is asked to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards. But in the children's block of Auschwitz, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, Dita must risk her life to keep the books alive. Out of one of the darkest chapters in human history, this graphic novel tells an extraordinary story of courage and hope. 

by Hernan Diaz

Book cover for Trust

Everyone in 1920s New York knows of Benjamin and Helen Rask, the Wall Street tycoon and the daughter of bohemian aristocrats. They live in a sphere of untold wealth, but what is the true cost of their fortune? This mystery sits at the heart of Bonds , a bestselling 1938 novel that all of New York has read. But, like all stories, there are different perspectives, and Hernan Diaz puts these different narratives into conversation with each other, in a novel that tracks across a century and documents the truth-bending power of money, with provocative revelations at each turn. 

A Jewish Girl in Paris

By melanie levensohn.

Book cover for A Jewish Girl in Paris

Against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Paris in 1940, Judith, a young Jewish girl, falls in love with the son of a wealthy banker and Nazi sympathiser. As restrictions on Jews tighten, the couple plans to escape, but Judith mysteriously disappears before they have the chance. 1982, Montreal: Lica Grunberg confesses to his daughter, Jacobina, that she has an older half-sister, Judith. Determined by the encouragement of her friend Béatrice, Jacobina takes on the mission to uncover the truth. Delving into the past, they unearth a concealed family secret spanning continents and decades, forever altering the course of their lives.

The best historical fiction of 2022

The red tent, by anita diamant.

Book cover for The Red Tent

In the Bible, the fate of Dinah is only given a brief and violent reference: she features in the Book of Genesis story that tells the tale of Jacob and his twelve sons. But Anita Diamant’s  The Red Tent  gives Dinah space to live and breathe. The narrative, which uses Dinah's voice, is one of betrayal, sorrow and love. Diamant’s feminist text weaves vivid storytelling with original insights into the lives of women in early history.

She Who Became the Sun

By shelley parker-chan.

Book cover for She Who Became the Sun

An absorbing historical fantasy,  She Who Became the Sun  reimagines the rise to power of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, two children must somehow survive. The boy despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother’s identity and begins her journey. Can she escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream?

Daughters of Night

Book cover for Daughters of Night

This historical crime fiction novel is the second from Laura Shepherd-Robinson, following her award-winning debut Blood & Sugar . Set in London in 1782, it’s the story of Caroline Corsham, who is determined to seek justice for a string of murders of high-class prostitutes – crimes that the police are all too happy to ignore. As she delves deeper into the darkest, hidden corners of Georgian society, Caroline soon finds that much more than her reputation is at stake. . .

Circus of Wonders

By elizabeth macneal.

Book cover for Circus of Wonders

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea. But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea,  Circus of Wonders  is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.

The Four Winds

By kristin hannah.

Book cover for The Four Winds

Texas, 1934. Elsa Martinelli finally has everything she had wished for – a family, a home and a livelihood on a farm on the Great Plains. But when drought threatens her family and community, Elsa must decide whether to stay and fight for the land she loves or flee to California in search of a better life. Hailing praise from Matt Haig and Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing who called The Four Winds ‘powerful and compelling’, this is a must-read historical fiction book of the year. 

A complete guide to Kristin Hannah's books

The lamplighters, by emma stonex.

Book cover for The Lamplighters

Inspired by true events, Emma Stonex’s debut historical novel is a riveting mystery which will grip the reader, and a beautifully written exploration of love and grief. In Cornwall in 1972, three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from shore. The door is locked from the inside, and the clocks have stopped. Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give the women a chance to tell their side of the story. What happened to those men, and to the women they left behind?

The Attic Child

By lola jaye.

Book cover for The Attic Child

It's 1907, and twelve-year-old Celestine is locked in the attic of a house by the sea. He has been forcibly removed from his home in Africa and is treated as a servant. He dreams of home and family, even as his mother's face, and his real name, begin to fade. Decades later a young orphan girl is banished to the same attic. Under the floorboards she finds mysterious artefacts, and on a wall there is a sentence etched in a language she does not recognise. What she does recognise though, is that she is not the first child to be held captive in the attic. This dual-narrative tale of love, loss and family secrets shines a light on the early Black British experience. 

Pippo and Clara

By diana rosie.

Book cover for Pippo and Clara

It’s 1938, Mussolini is in power in Italy and war is on the horizon. Pippo and Clara are brother and sister, newly arrived in an unspecified city with their family. When their mother goes missing one morning they both go in search of her, with Clara turning right and Pippo left. As a result of their choices, the children’s lives will be changed forever. Diana Rosie’s Pippo and Clara tells the story of a family and a country divided. But will Clara and Pippo – and their mother – find each other again?

Kololo Hill

By neema shah.

Book cover for Kololo Hill

Neema Shah’s debut is a heartbreaking historical fiction novel set in Uganda and Britain. Uganda, 1972. When a devastating decree is announced which says all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days, Asha and Pran and Pran’s mother Jaya must leave everything they’ve ever known for a new life in Britain. But as they try to rebuild their lives, a terrible secret hangs over them. Neema Shah’s extraordinarily moving novel explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones.

Soul Sisters

By lesley lokko.

Book cover for Soul Sisters

Soul Sisters tells the story of the friendship between Scottish Jen McFadden and South African-born Kemi Mashabane. Since they were children, Jen and Kemi have lived like sisters in the McFadden home in Edinburgh. On a visit to London the women meet handsome South African lawyer Solam Rhoyi and he has a great impact on them both. Kemi returns to her birth country, and Jen decides to come too, but it soon becomes clear that Solam is looking for a wife to help further his political ambitions. The women, bound by friendship and love, are also connected by a family secret, one which threatens to reveal itself with shocking consequences.  

The best historical fiction of all time

Dead man's walk, by larry mcmurtry.

Book cover for Dead Man's Walk

The first book in the famed Lonesome Dove series from Larry McMurtry, Dead Man's Walk takes us into the heart of the American West. Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call first encounter the untamed frontier that will form their characters. The two young men experience their first great adventure in the barren, empty landscape of the great plains, in which arbitrary violence is the only law – whether from nature, or from those whose territory they must cross in order to reach New Mexico. Danger, sacrifice and fear test Gus and Call to the limits of endurance, as they seek the strength and courage to survive against almost insurmountable odds.

Les Misérables

By victor hugo.

Book cover for Les Misérables

A historical fiction classic, it took seventeen years for Hugo to write this epic novel set in impoverished 19th-century Paris. Made up of interrelated stories that follow his characters’ lives, Les Miserables explores how deprivation leads to crime, and ends with the Paris Uprising of 1832. Using big theatrical scenes, extremes of characters, and a fondness for ‘The Fallen Woman’, Hugo’s novel has a fairytale quality which delivers his message with a punch.

Blood Meridian

By cormac mccarthy.

Book cover for Blood Meridian

Written in 1985, but set in the 1850s Blood Meridian explores the anarchic world opened up by America’s westward expansion. Through the hostile landscape of the Texas–Mexico border wanders the Kid, a fourteen year-old Tennessean who is quickly swept up in the relentless tide of blood. But the apparent chaos is not without its order: while Americans hunt Indians – collecting scalps as their bloody trophies – they too are stalked as prey. Powerful, mesmerizing and savagely beautiful, Blood Meridian is considered one of the most important works in American fiction of the last century.

A guide to the literary great: Cormac McCarthy

The miniaturist.

Book cover for The Miniaturist

In 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to marry merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

The Land Beyond the Sea

By sharon penman.

Book cover for The Land Beyond the Sea

Set in 1172 the Kingdom of Jerusalem is also known as Outremer – the land beyond the sea. When the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in 1099, many crusaders stayed on and built a life in this new world of blazing heat, exotic customs and enemies who are also neighbours. But now Saladin, leader of the vast Saracen army, is seeking retribution for the massacre in 1099 In The Land Beyond the Sea, Penman expertly weaves a complicated tapestry to create a historical fiction saga of epic proportions. 

The Pillars of the Earth

Book cover for The Pillars of the Earth

Welcome to medieval England, where a civil war ravages the country and a monk is on a mission. Ken’s The Pillars of the Earth follows Philip, a devoted monk, who joins forces with Tom, a talented builder, to undertake the most ambitious project either has ever set themselves to. In a world in turmoil, however, their journey will not be a smooth one. The first book in Ken Follett's Kingsbridge series, this historical saga is one to get lost in.

The Sin Eater

By megan campisi.

Book cover for The Sin Eater

Set in a thinly disguised 16th century England, Megan Campisi’s debut novel is a wonderfully woven tale of treason and treachery, women and power. When fourteen year old May is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread she is sentenced to become a Sin Eater, a devastating sentence that will see her shunned by society and exiled to the edge of town. For a Sin Eater hears the confessions of the dying and eats their sins as a funeral rite, and is believed to be stained by these sins. When May is called to hear the deathbed confessions of two of the Queen’s courtiers she hears whispers of a terrible rumour her invisibility allows her to investigate. 

Ross Poldark

By winston graham.

Book cover for Ross Poldark

Historical fiction is often the basis for some of the most acclaimed and popular period dramas, and Winston Graham’s Poldark series is no exception. In the first book Ross Poldark, the eponymous hero, returns home to Cornwall, tired from a grim war in America. But the joyful homecoming he has anticipated turns sour, for his father is dead, his estate is derelict and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin. Then, his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers leads him to rescue an urchin girl –  an act which alters the course of his life. 

The Water Dancer

By ta-nehisi coates.

Book cover for The Water Dancer

This is the historical novel that Oprah Winfrey called, ‘One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life.’ Hiram Walker was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation, but one fateful decision will take him away from his plantation family and into the heart of the underground war on slavery. For Hiram is a man with a secret, a mysterious power he was gifted at birth. 

Dissolution

By c. j. sansom.

Book cover for Dissolution

This is the first book to feature Matthew Shardlake, Sansom’s insightful Tudor lawyer. Set in 1537 as Henry VIII becomes Supreme Head of the Church and the bloody dissolution of the monasteries is beginning, Shardlake investigates the shocking murder of one of Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners. But Shardlake's investigation soon forces him to question everything he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes. Dissolution  is the first book in this bestselling phenomenon, where C. J. Sansom creates both a stunning portrait of Tudor England, and an unforgettable character in Matthew Shardlake. 

The Underground Railroad

By colson whitehead.

Book cover for The Underground Railroad

Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and also a major TV series, The Underground Railroad is Colson Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North. At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, as his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. 

by Ian McEwan

Book cover for Atonement

One of the Guardian's 100 best books of the 21st century, Atonement is a formidable modern classic. On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her too is Robbie Turner who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever, as Briony commits a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone. 

Things Fall Apart

By chinua achebe.

Book cover for Things Fall Apart

First published in 1958, Chinua Achebe's stark, coolly ironic novel reshaped both African and world literature. Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive, and his fame spreads throughout West Africa like a bush-fire in the harmattan. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off-balance he can only hurtle towards tragedy.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

By gabriel garcia marquez.

Book cover for One Hundred Years of Solitude

Originally written in Spanish, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves a mesmerizing tapestry of magical realism and generational storytelling. The novel is set in the fictional town of Macondo, where the Buendía family's triumphs and tribulations unfold across generations. As the Buendía family navigates love, war, and the passage of time, Márquez delves into the intricate web of human connections. With its vivid imagery and lyrical storytelling, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a timeless exploration of love, loss, and the inexorable march of time.

War and Peace

By leo tolstoy.

Book cover for War and Peace

War and Peace traverses the tumultuous landscape of early 19th-century Russia, interweaving the lives of a diverse cast against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. The novel follows aristocratic families as they grapple with love, ambition, and existential questions during a time of immense societal upheaval. Pierre Bezukhov's quest for meaning, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky's search for purpose, and Natasha Rostova's journey of self-discovery are among the narrative threads that converge. The novel's canvas spans grand ballrooms, bloody battlefields, and intimate chambers, deftly blending historical events with profound philosophical musings. 

by Min Jin Lee

Book cover for Pachinko

Pachinko is a captivating multigenerational saga set against the backdrop of 20th-century Korea and Japan. The novel centers on Sunja, who, after becoming pregnant by a wealthy man, becomes determined to forge her own path. The story delves into the lives of Sunja's descendants as they grapple with discrimination, ambition, and the complex ties that bind a family together. Pachinko is a deeply moving journey through generations, inviting readers to witness the enduring power of love, the pursuit of belonging, and the indomitable human spirit that thrives even in the face of adversity.

by Hilary Mantel

Book cover for Wolf Hall

Set in 16th century England, Wolf Hall follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell, a shrewd and capable commoner, in the court of King Henry VIII. As Henry VIII seeks to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Cromwell becomes instrumental in navigating the complex political and religious landscape of the time. The book delves into the intricate power struggles, religious conflicts, and personal ambitions of the characters and provides a fresh perspective on the events leading to the English Reformation and the establishment of the Church of England. A Booker-prize-winning novel, this is an essential read for all fans of historical fiction. 

by Colm Tóibín

Book cover for Brooklyn

Set in the 1950s, Brooklyn traces Eilis Lacey's journey from a small Irish town to Brooklyn, New York. Eilis grapples with homesickness but gradually forges a life in America, working and falling in love. Unexpectedly, a family crisis summons her back to Ireland, where she becomes torn between her two worlds. The book delves into Eilis's inner conflict as she navigates questions of identity and belonging. The novel is a poignant exploration of personal growth and cultural displacement, showcasing the complexities of choosing between two lives.

For even more historical fiction recommendations, don't miss this episode of Book Break:

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Must reads: 50 best books of all time, 50 best history books of all time, the 60 best fiction books of all time.

History Adventures

History Adventures

Ignite Curiosity, Transform Learning

famous books in history

15 Best History Books Of All Time

It is a common saying that history is what we make out of it, however, now it may seem like a very elegant thing to say rather than a realistic one. But one thing is pretty sure, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it (George Santayana).  

It is without a doubt that this civilization has evolved over thousands of years, and a lot of historic events took place during this course. If we ought to achieve greatness and success in life then it’s compulsory to know and learn the history and one of the easiest ways to do it is to read about it. 

Here is our guide to some of the greatest history books that you can read and learn from.

1.  History Adventures, World of Characters, Revolutions & Industrialization, 1750 – 1900

Creator : Spencer Striker, PhD

Looking for the best way to learn World History? Travel back in time to 1750–1900 with award-winning History Adventures and experience the stories of 5 amazing characters who lived during this dynamic period—brought to life with the help of animation, interactivity, and visual effects.

Developed by Spencer Striker, PhD, History Adventures is taking world history education to a whole new level with 3D experiences, data visualizations, sound effects, and amazing graphics. Importantly, you will also be able to test your comprehension by taking multimedia, rich assessments at the end of each character narrative.

2. The Guns of August

Author : Barbara W. Tuchman

The first major conflict in the modern world which is often referred to as World War I is one the longest and most brutal international conflicts that ever occurred in human history. Its atrocities left almost 17 million people dead and countless affected all around the globe. There will be many books written about this War, but the ‘Guns of August’ gives you a closer look at the set of events that triggered this war.

3.  The Liberation Trilogy

Author : Rick Atkinson

This book revolves around World War II, especially the European and African Fronts. It is one of the best trilogies that covers almost all the aspects of the 2 nd world war in Europe. Written by Rick Atkinson, these books take us to battlefronts in North Africa, Italy, and western Europe.

4.  1776

Author: David McCullough

This historic masterpiece was written by David McCullough, a Picasso of American History. His ‘1776’ brought the War of Independence and the formation of America into life. The book gives us the hint that G. Washington was not a mythical character but a human being and his counterpart, the British General Willian Howe, was a formidable adversary. It is without a doubt one of the best books in American literature.

5.  1491

Author: Charles C. Mann

As the name suggests itself, the history of America just before Columbus discovered it and then unveiled it to the rest of the world. This book by Charles C. Mann covers the civilizations in North America before the European occupation.

6.  The Crusades

The Crusades: Thomas Asbridge

The name says it all, this masterpiece covers one the most sensitive yet the most important events that shaped the world to what we see today. This book covers the Crusades for the Holy City from the 11 th to 13 th centuries.

7.  Caesar and Christ

Author: Will Durant

Roman Civilization is perhaps one of the first modern civilizations ever created. This book by Will Durant takes us through the highs and lows of the Roman Empire, particularly revolving around its leaders and how religion played a vital role in its collapse.

8.  A History of American People

Author: Paul Johnson

This masterpiece was written by the world-renowned author Paul Johnson. A History of American People takes its readers from the formation of America to 20 th century America while shedding light on important events that took place throughout American History which made America the powerful.

9.  Churchill: A Life and the Second World War

Author: Martin Gilbert

This book by Martin Gilbert focuses on the Second World War and its atrocities. The book educates its readers about the casualty (cause and effects) of the war and how Winston Churchill stepped up to it and became the leader as we know him today.

10.  Guns, Germs, and Steel

Author: Jared Diamond

This book by Jared Diamond is in a league of its own. Unlike the other history books, it doesn’t reflect any particular set of people, region, or race rather than it focuses on general history and circumstances into which an event occurred.

11.  Genghis Khan: The Making Of The Modern World

Author: Jack Weatherford

As the title says the book covers the life story of Genghis Khan, the notorious Mongol leader, and the founder of the Mongolian Empire of 13 and 14 th centuries. The Book covers how Genghis Khan and Mongolia rose to power and how it affected the world as a whole and Europe in particular.

12.  Europe: A History 

Author: Norman Davies

Written by Norman Davies and published in 1996, the book covers the ups and downs of Europian political, economical and territorial aspects. Primarily focusing on Modern Europe, the book is a treat for someone who ought to learn about Europian History.

13.  The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich

Author: William L. Shirer

The book focuses on the rise and fall of German, and particularly the Nazi empire. The book was written by a renowned journalist William L. Shirer. It takes us through the period of history starting with the birth of Hitler in 1889 to the ultimate demise of his Empire in 1945. The book covers the important aspects of Nazi Germany through its highs and lows.

14.  Postwar: A History of Europe

Author: Tony Judt

This book was written by British author Tony Judt, a world-renowned and award-winning author who specialized in European History. The book covers Europe in the aftermath of World War II through its economic, territorial, and political highs and lows.

15.  The Communist Manifesto

Author:  Karl Marx

It may have been the most famous book in this list that not only too many people must have heard about, but quite a few of them must have even read it. This book was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and as the title suggests it focuses on communism. The first-ever written document about communism, some even believe that it signified the start of communism.

American Revolution AP World History Big History Big History Education Botany Bay Character Design Conquistador Cultural Heritage Digital Design Digital Learning Digital Learning Innovation Engaging Educational Games Engaging History Content Historical Exploration Games Historical Fiction Historical Narratives Historical Simulation Games History Apps History Books Interactive History Experiences Interactive History Learning Interactive Learning Mobile Learning Narrative Design Rebellion Revolution slavery Spencer Striker US History World History Exam

The Best Books of 2021

This Year's Must-Reads

The Ten Best History Books of 2021

Our favorite titles of the year resurrect forgotten histories and help explain how the U.S. got to where it is today

Meilan Solly

Meilan Solly

Associate Editor, History

History books illustration

After 2020 brought the most devastating global pandemic in a century and a national reckoning with systemic racism , 2021 ushered in a number of welcome developments, including Covid vaccines , the return of beloved social traditions like the Olympics and public performances , and incremental but measurable progress in the fight   against racial injustice . 

During this year of change, these ten titles collectively serve a dual purpose. Some offer a respite from reality, transporting readers to such varied locales as ancient Rome, Gilded Age America and Angkor in Cambodia. Others reflect on the fraught nature of the current moment, detailing how the nation’s past—including the mistreatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and police brutality—informs its present and future. From a chronicle of civilization told through clocks to a quest for Indigenous justice in colonial Pennsylvania, these were some of our favorite history books of 2021.

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz

“It’s terrifying to realize that most of humanity lives in places that are destined to die,” writes Annalee Newitz in the opening pages of Four Lost Cities . This stark statement sets the stage for the journalist’s incisive exploration of how cities collapse—a topic with clear ramifications for the “global-warming present,” as Kirkus notes in its review of the book. Centered on the ancient metropolises of Çatalhöyük , a Neolithic settlement in southern Anatolia; Pompeii , the Roman city razed by Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 C.E.; Angkor , the medieval Cambodian capital of the Khmer Empire; and Cahokia , a pre-Hispanic metropolis in what is now Illinois, Four Lost Cities traces its subjects’ successes and failures, underscoring surprising connections between these ostensibly disparate societies. 

All four cities boasted sophisticated infrastructure systems and ingenious feats of engineering. Angkor, for instance, became an economic powerhouse in large part due to its complex network of canals and reservoirs, while Cahokia was known for its towering earthen pyramids , which locals imbued with spiritual significance. Despite these innovations, the featured urban hubs eventually succumbed to what Newitz describes as “prolonged periods of political instability”—often precipitated by poor leadership and social hierarchies—“coupled with environmental collapse.” These same problems plague modern cities, the writer argues, but the past offers valuable lessons for preventing such disasters in the future, including investing in “resilient infrastructure, … public plazas, domestic spaces for everyone, social mobility and leaders who treat the city’s workers with dignity.”

Preview thumbnail for 'Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

A quest to explore some of the most spectacular ancient cities in human history―and figure out why people abandoned them

Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America by Nicole Eustace

In the winter of 1722, two white fur traders murdered Seneca hunter Sawantaeny after he refused their drunken, underhanded attempts to strike a deal. The ensuing furor, writes historian Nicole Eustace in Covered With Night , threatened to spark outright war between English colonists and the Indigenous inhabitants of the mid-Atlantic. Rather than enter into a prolonged, bloody battle, the Susquehanna River valley’s Native peoples forged an agreement, welcoming white traders back into their villages once Sawantaeny’s body had been metaphorically “covered,” or laid to rest in a “respectful, ritualized way,” as Eustace told Smithsonian magazine’ s Karin Wulf earlier this year.

“Native people believe that a crisis of murder makes a rupture in the community and that rupture needs to be repaired,” Eustace added. “They are not focused on vengeance; they are focused on repair, on rebuilding community. And that requires a variety of actions. They want emotional reconciliation. They want economic restitution.”

The months of negotiation that followed culminated in the Albany Treaty of 1722 , which provided both “ritual condolences and reparation payments” for Sawantaeny’s murder, according to Eustace. Little known today, the historian argues, the agreement underscores the differences between Native and colonial conceptions of justice. Whereas the former emphasized what would now be considered restorative justice (an approach that seeks to repair harm caused by a crime), the latter focused on harsh reprisal, meting out swift executions for suspects found guilty. “The Pennsylvania colonists never really say explicitly, ‘We’re following Native protocols. We’re accepting the precepts of Native justice,’” Eustace explained to Smithsonian . “But they do it because in practical terms they didn’t have a choice if they wanted to resolve the situation.”

Preview thumbnail for 'Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America

Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America

An immersive tale of the killing of a Native American man and its far-reaching implications for the definition of justice from early America to today

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe

The Sackler family’s role in triggering the U.S. opioid epidemic attracted renewed attention this year with the release of “ Dopesick ,” a Hulu miniseries based on Beth Macy’s 2018 book of the same name , and Patrick Radden Keefe ’s award-winning Empire of Pain , which exhaustively examines the rise—and very public fall—of the drug-peddling American “dynasty.” 

Meticulously researched, the book traces its roots to the early 2010s, when the journalist was reporting on Mexican drug cartels for the New York Times magazine . As Keefe tells the London Times , he realized that 25 percent of the revenue generated by OxyContin, the most popular pill pushed by Sackler-owned Purdue Pharma, came from the black market. Despite this trend, the family was better known for its donations to leading art museums than its part in fueling opioid addiction. “There was a family that had made billions of dollars from the sale of a drug that had such a destructive legacy,” Keefe says, “yet hadn’t seemed touched by that legacy.” Infuriated, he began writing what would become Empire of Pain .

The resulting 560-page exposé draws on newly released court documents, interviews with more than 200 people and the author’s personal accounts of the Sacklers’ attempts to intimidate him into silence. As the New York Times notes in its review, the book “paint[s] a devastating portrait of a family consumed by greed and unwilling to take the slightest responsibility or show the least sympathy for what it wrought.” 

Preview thumbnail for 'Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin

Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America by Keisha N. Blain

Historian Keisha N. Blain derived the title of her latest book from a well-known quote by its subject, voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer : “We have a long fight and this fight is not mine alone, but you are not free whether you are white or Black, until I am free.” As Blain wrote for Smithsonian last year, Hamer, who grew up in the Jim Crow South in a family of sharecroppers , first learned about her right to vote in 1962, at the age of 44. After attempting to register to vote in Mississippi, she faced verbal and physical threats of violence—experiences that only strengthened her resolve.

Blain’s book is one of two new Hamer biographies released in 2021. The other, Walk With Me by historian Kate Clifford Larson , offers a more straightforward account of the activist’s life. Comparatively, Blain’s volume situates Hamer in the broader political context of the civil rights movement. Both titles represent a long-overdue celebration of a woman whose contributions to the fight for equal rights have historically been overshadowed by men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Preview thumbnail for 'Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

Explores the Black activist’s ideas and political strategies, highlighting their relevance for tackling modern social issues including voter suppression, police violence, and economic inequality

Into the Forest: A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love by Rebecca Frankel

On April 30, 1942, 11-year-old Philip Lazowski found himself separated from his family during a Nazi selection in the Polish town of Zhetel. Realizing that the elderly, the infirm and unaccompanied children were being sent in one direction and families with work permits in the other, he tried to blend in with the children of a woman he recognized, only to hear her hiss , “Don’t stand next to us. You don’t belong in this group.” Looking around, Lazowski soon spotted another stranger and her daughters. Desperate, he pleaded with her to let him join them. After pausing momentarily, the woman— Miriam Rabinowitz —took his hand and said, “If the Nazis let me live with two children, they’ll let me live with three.”

All four survived the selection. From there, however, their paths temporarily diverged. Lazowski reunited with his family, remaining imprisoned in the Zhetel ghetto before fleeing into the nearby woods, where he remained hidden for the next two and a half years. Miriam, her husband Morris and their two children similarly sought refuge in a forest but did not encounter Lazowski again until after the war. (Lazowski later married one of the Rabinowitz daughters, Ruth, after running into Miriam at a 1953 wedding in Brooklyn—a “stroke of luck that … mirrors the random twists of fate that enabled the family to survive while so many others didn’t,” per Publishers Weekly .) 

As journalist Rebecca Frankel writes in Into the Forest , the Rabinowitzes and Lazowski were among the roughly 25,000 Jews who survived the war by hiding out in the woods of Eastern Europe. The majority of these individuals (about 15,000) joined the partisan movement , eking out a meager existence as ragtag bands of resistance fighters, but others, like the Rabinowitzes, formed makeshift family camps, “aiming not for revenge but survival,” according to the Forward . Frankel’s account of the family’s two-year sojourn in the woods captures the harsh realities of this lesser-known chapter in Holocaust history, detailing how forest refugees foraged for food (or stole from locals when supplies were scarce), dug underground shelters and remained constantly on the move in hopes of avoiding Nazi raids. Morris, who worked in the lumber business, used his pre-war connections and knowledge of the forest to help his family survive, avoiding the partisans “in the hope of keeping outside the fighting fray,” as Frankel writes for the New York Times . Today, she adds, the stories of those who escaped into the woods remain “so elusive” that some scholars have referred to them as “the margins of the Holocaust.”

Preview thumbnail for 'Into the Forest: A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love

Into the Forest: A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love

From a little-known chapter of Holocaust history, one family’s inspiring true story

The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age by Amy Sohn

Though its title might suggest otherwise, The Man Who Hated Women focuses far more on the American women whose rights Anthony Comstock sought to suppress than the sexist government official himself. As novelist and columnist Amy Sohn explains in her narrative non-fiction debut, Comstock , a dry goods seller who moonlighted as a special agent to the U.S. Post Office and the secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, spent more than four decades hounding activists who advocated for women’s reproductive rights. In 1873, he lobbied Congress to pass the Comstock Act , which made it illegal to send “obscene, lewd or lascivious” material—including documents related to birth control and sexual health —through the mail; in his view, the author adds, “obscenity, which he called a ‘hydra-headed-monster,’ led to prostitution, illness, death, abortions and venereal disease.”

The Man Who Hated Women centers on eight women activists targeted by Comstock: among others, Victoria Claflin Woodhull, the first woman to run for president; anarchist and labor organizer Emma Goldman; Planned Parenthood founder and notorious eugenicist Margaret Sanger ; abortionist Ann “ Madam Restell ” Lohman; and homeopath Sarah Chase , who fought back against censorship by dubbing a birth control device the “Comstock Syringe.” Weaving together these women’s stories, Sohn identifies striking parallels between 19th- and 20th-century debates and contemporary threats to abortion rights. “Risking destitution, imprisonment and death,” writes the author in the book’s introduction, “[these activists] defined reproductive liberty as an American right, one as vital as those enshrined in the Constitution. … Without understanding [them], we cannot fight the assault on women’s bodies and souls that continues even today.”

Preview thumbnail for 'The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age

The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age

A narrative history of Anthony Comstock, anti-vice activist and U.S. Postal Inspector, and the remarkable women who opposed his war on women’s rights at the turn of the 20th century

African Europeans: An Untold History by Olivette Otele

In this sweeping chronicle , scholar Olivette Otele challenges white-centric narratives of European history by tracing African people’s presence on the continent from the 3rd century to the 21st. Featuring a rich cast of characters, including Renaissance duke Alessandro de’ Medici , 18th-century polymath Joseph Boulogne , and actress and artists’ muse Jeanne Duval , African Europeans artfully examines changing conceptions of race and how these ideas have shaped both real-world experiences and accounts of the past. 

“The term ‘African European’ is … a provocation for those who deny that one can have multiple identities and even citizenships, as well as those who claim that they do not ‘see color,’” writes Otele in the book’s introduction. “The aims of this volume are to understand connections across time and space, to debunk persistent myths, and to revive and celebrate the lives of African Europeans.”

Preview thumbnail for 'African Europeans: An Untold History

African Europeans: An Untold History

A dazzling history of Africans in Europe, revealing their unacknowledged role in shaping the continent

The Eagles of Heart Mountain by Bradford Pearson

Life at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated between August 1942 and November 1945, was punctuated by harsh winters, inadequate medical care, and racist treatment by white staff and locals. A year or so after the camp’s opening, however, prisoners gained an unlikely source of hope: high school football. As journalist Bradford Pearson writes in The Eagles of Heart Mountain , the team—made up mainly of second-generation immigrants who’d never played the sport before—went undefeated in the 1943 season and lost just one game the year after that. 

Pearson juxtaposes the heartwarming tale of the underdog Eagles with details of how players resisted the draft. Reluctant to fight on behalf of a country that had ordered their detainment, several of the young men refused to enlist, leaving them vulnerable to (additional) imprisonment. “We are not being disloyal,” declared the Heart Mountain–based Fair Play Committee. “We are not evading the draft. We are all loyal Americans fighting for justice and democracy right here at home.”

Preview thumbnail for 'The Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America

The Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America

The impeccably researched, deeply moving, never-before-told tale about a World War II incarceration camp in Wyoming and its extraordinary high school football team

About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks by David Rooney

“[F]or thousands of years,” argues David Rooney in About Time , humans have “harnessed, politicized and weaponized” time, using clocks to “wield power, make money, govern citizens and control lives.” A former curator of timekeeping at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, home of Greenwich Mean Time , Rooney traces his fascination with horology to his childhood, when his parents ran a clockmaking and restoration business. Over a lifetime spent studying clocks, the scholar realized that the devices could be used as windows into civilization, revealing insights on “capitalism, the exchange of knowledge, the building of empires and the radical changes to our lives brought by industrialization.”

About Time centers on 12 clocks created over some 2,000 years, from a sundial at the Roman forum in 263 B.C.E. to a plutonium time-capsule clock buried in Osaka, Japan, in 1970. As the centuries progressed, timekeeping tools became increasingly accurate—a development that could “never [be] politically neutral,” notes the Washington Post in its review of the book. Instead, the standardization of time enabled capitalist endeavors like the opening and closing of financial markets and social control measures such as laws limiting when consumers could purchase alcohol. Overall, writes Rooney, his “personal, idiosyncratic and above all partial account” seeks to demonstrate that “monumental timekeepers mounted high up on towers or public buildings have been put there to keep us in order, in a world of violent disorder, … as far back as we care to look.” 

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About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks

A captivating, surprising history of timekeeping and how it has shaped our world

America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s by Elizabeth Hinton

Between July 1964 and April 2001, almost 2,000 urban rebellions sparked by racially motivated police intimidation, harassment and violence broke out across the U.S. These “explosions of collective resistance to an unequal and violent order,” in Elizabeth Hinton ’s words , are often characterized as riots—a term the Yale historian rejects in favor of “rebellion.” Citing a rich trove of historical data, Hinton’s America on Fire   convincingly argues that Black rebellions occur in response to police violence rather than the other way around. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1960s “ War on Crime ,” for example, contributed to the growth of local police forces that “encroach[ed on] all aspects of Black social life, transforming typical youthful transgressions into fodder for police assaults on young Black people,” per the New Yorker .

Published almost exactly a year after George Floyd was killed in police custody, America on Fire deftly draws parallels between the violence that followed the assassinations of civil rights leaders in the 1960s and the 2020 protests. Only “extraordinary” acts of police violence, like the well-documented murder of Floyd, prompt such rebellions today: “[T]he daily violence and indignities that Black people experience in encounters with police go unaddressed,” notes the Washington Post in its review of the book. “In this sense, Hinton argues that the status quo has won. Ordinary police violence has become normalized, run-of-the-mill. We respond to only its most brutal forms.”

Preview thumbnail for 'America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s

America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s

From one of our top historians, a groundbreaking story of policing and “riots” that shatters our understanding of the post–civil rights era

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Meilan Solly

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Meilan Solly is Smithsonian magazine's associate digital editor, history.

Flowing Cents

Flowing Cents

The Books Of The Famous: Here Are 10 For Your Reading List

Posted: February 14, 2024 | Last updated: February 14, 2024

1. The Controversial Side of Steve Harvey's Public Image A lone individual points out that Steve Harvey, often perceived as universally adored, may have an ... <a class="read-more" href="https://maxmymoney.org/pretty-face-but-very-rude-10-beloved-stars-who-are-jerks-in-real-life/" title="10 Beloved Stars Who Are Jerks In Real Life">Read More</a>

Do you ever wonder what your favorite celebrities curl up in their free time? There is a list of famous names who are the most significant book nerds. You must look for the excellent book your favorite celebrity loves the most. Dive into the top 10 most recommended books from famous readers. From the big screen legends to the social media stars, find out which books they love to read. Let’s explore the bookshelf of the famous people. 

<p>Communities, political parties, and nations often emphasize the importance of peace in their discourse. They stress the significance of maintaining stability for the survival of the planet. Paradoxically, their actions are sometimes at odds with their rhetoric. They initiate or engage in wars through covert means, sometimes justifying them as acts of defense or security.</p>

1. Barack Obama

The first and foremost personality in US history, Barack Obama, is a former president and a voracious reader. Dr.Suess and Spiderman by Ralph Ellison always had a special place in his book corner and also the most recommended one. Before becoming the President, he was a writer and penned down famous stuff like A Promised Land, The Audacity of Hope, and Dreams from My Father.

<p><span>World’s Richest Tech giant, Microsoft maestro and philanthropist Bill Gates have a separate corner in people’s hearts. He and his wife, Melinda, founded the Gates Foundation to cope with world health and education issues. They have helped developing countries by providing aid, scholarships, Sanitation projects, Polio vaccines, and aiding flood victims in India, Pakistan, and many others. </span></p>

2. Bill Gates

Who knows? Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and a philanthropist, has a deep passion for literature, especially socioeconomics. He also authorizes the famous book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.” Moreover, he recommended some outstanding readings, such as Strange in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, based on science fiction. Other books he prefers are Team of Rivals, The Inner Game of Tennis, and Surrender by Bono.

<p><span>Lebron James is a renowned Los Angeles laker basketball player and a keen reader. He has won 3 NBA championships and 4 MVP awards and competed in myriad Olympic basketball tournaments. Few sports stars are interested in reading, and James is one of them. He says that Reading is a great thing, which helps to unwind the games. He enjoys reading fiction and recommends “The Hunger Games” by Suzzane Collins. </span></p>

3. Lebron James

Lebron James is a renowned Los Angeles Laker basketball player and a keen reader. He has won 3 NBA championships and 4 MVP awards and competed in myriad Olympic basketball tournaments. Few sports stars are interested in reading, and James is one of them. He says that Reading is a great thing, which helps to unwind the games. He enjoys reading fiction and recommends “The Hunger Games” by Suzzane Collins. 

<p><span>An individual directs their disapproval toward Oprah, noting her involvement in promoting pseudoscientific health products on her show for many years. They highlight that Oprah received payment from various individuals peddling questionable and scientifically unsupported remedies.</span></p>

4. Oprah Winfrey

You will find Oprah talking about book quotes and life lessons that are thought-provoking and meaningful. The famous talk show personality, billionaire, and media mogul who loves to read and recommend many books to her audience. However, she is a publisher of her books titled “What I Know For Sure,” “What Happened to You,” and “Wisdom on Sundays.” The recommended books are East of Eden, the Bluest Eye, and A Fine Balance. 

<p><span>A lone individual points out that Steve Harvey, often perceived as universally adored, may have an alternative facet to his personality. They allude to his interviews with women and atheists, illuminating controversial perspectives. Additionally, they mention instances of infidelity and physical abuse in his personal life. Furthermore, the creative individual highlights his alarming statements, suggesting that religion is the sole constraint preventing him from engaging in harmful actions.</span></p>

5. Steve Harvey

Regarding the celebrity books club, who can forget the name of Steve Harvey? American comedian, author, host, and radio personality who became famous for his great humor. Later, he became famous for his thoughts, providing self-help advice, especially about relationships. He is a publisher of a renowned book, “Act Like a Lady and Thinks Like a Man.” His recommended books for personal growth are “The Power of Now,” “Think and Grow Rich” and “The Alchemist.” 

<p><span>The world’s second richest person in America with a net worth of $170 billion, Jeff Bezos is also a founder of Amazon and a bibliophile. Besides his side business, he enjoys books for his business and mental satisfaction. Like many other famous readers, Jeff is the author of a book titled “Invent and Wander: The Collected Writing of Jeff Bezos” and also recommends it to those interested in enlarging their business. </span></p>

6. Jeff Bezos

The world’s second richest person in America with a net worth of $170 billion, Jeff Bezos is also a founder of Amazon and a bibliophile. Besides his side business, he enjoys books for his business and mental satisfaction. Like many other famous readers, Jeff is the author of a book titled “Invent and Wander: The Collected Writing of Jeff Bezos” and also recommends it to those interested in enlarging their business. 

<p><span>There are some jobs which scene as always jobs because they can be subjective. They depend on factors like economic factors, experience, skills, and demand for that job, etc. They offer high packages, which is more than the other salary package in society. Compensation for all those professions is because of the contract between employees and employers.</span></p>

7. Elon Musk

Another great name you must know, Elon Musk, is the founder of Tesla Electric cars and now the owner of Twitter, also known as “X.” He reveals that he read hundreds of books for knowledge to apply in his business. His passion for reading and learning never stops despite his busy routine and overloaded work schedule. In a recent interview with the New Yorker, he said that he reads science and fiction-based books, and the books he recommends are “The Lord of the Rings and the Foundation series. 

<p>Discovering the joys of reading earlier is something a wise individual wishes they had known earlier. They've found that books are a source of relaxation, new knowledge, and personal growth. Reading has broadened their perspectives and deepened their understanding of the world, making them more empathetic and well-rounded. Moreover, they've noticed that reading before bed promotes better sleep and a refreshed start to the day.</p>

8. Jane Austen

The famous English novelist in the 18th century is no less than a celebrity for the 21st-century generation. She was recognized for her outstanding work, including Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Lady Susan, and others. Many of Her works praised by famous writers include Sense and Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice. Also, she recommends her favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice, to learn about 18th-century people’s culture and traditions. 

<p><span>Harry Potter is one of the biggest successes of Hollywood. It has worldwide lovers who praise every actor in the movie series. Emma Watson is famous for her role as Hermoine Granger in Harry Potter. She is the most beloved actor worldwide. But Emma still has many haters. The reason for her hate groups is her success from such a young age that many others envy her.</span></p>

9. Emma Watson

The famous Harry Potter girl, outspoken feminist, and renowned actress Emma has a special love for books. Besides her acting career, she gave her extra time to read resourceful books targeting equality rights. Her long reading list mainly covers women’s fight for equality. One of her favorite books is My Life on the Road, which was the best-selling book author by Gloria Steinem. Also, she recommends this book, especially to women in developing countries. 

<p>Despite divorcing in 2007, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe have placed a high priority on the welfare of their kids. Their two children, Ava Elizabeth, and Deacon Reese, were born into the couple. Witherspoon and Phillippe have a reputation for being agreeable co-parents and have been spotted together at their kids’ sporting events and extracurricular activities.</p>

10. Reese Witherspoon

The last famous reader, Resse, is a well-known Hollywood gem and an avid reader who started her own book club in 2017. She is a fast reader and completes one book in two days. Starting a book club was to keep yourself engaged with books, especially in Lockdown. Her top recommendation book is “Dad is Fat” by Jim Gaffigan. The book is hilarious and points out the horrors of parenthood.

<p>At time Boomers have some good pieces of advice for the young folks. Here are 10 pieces that others have heeded to a positive result.</p>

  • “Normal For Boomers In The 80s And Taboo Today” 10 Unacceptable Things Boomers Did That Would Never Happen Now

The society in which you live today has some specific norms. If you compare it to the Boomers’ generation, you’ll realize that you can’t do everything that they did in their time. There are many things baby boomers enjoyed as a part of their childhood.

Gen Z or Gen Alpha can’t even imagine doing those things, as it is way unacceptable in this era. Here are a few things Baby Boomers got away with but is a common thing today:

<p><span>If you are moving on or want to visit Birmingham, Alabama, you should think twice about making a decision. You should be aware of the security issues you may face here. Though Birmingham has been trying to decrease the criminal rate, more efforts are still needed. Stay alert and aware, especially if you go to any urban area there.</span></p>

  • “The South Isn’t Friendly” 12 Dangerous U.S. Cities You May Want To Move To Before Visiting, Don’t Make That Mistake

Being a well-developed and reputed kingdom, the United States tends to attract many people to visit or migrate. This kingdom has many beautiful states and cities. Their charm attracts people all around the World. But along with these modernized and developed cities, some cities are notorious for their insecure environment. Living or moving to this city may indulge you in difficulties.

<p>Kanye West has always been a trendsetter, from his catchy beats to his avant-garde fashion sense. And it looks like he’s setting a new trend by publicly backing Donald Trump. With his controversial Oval Office meeting and bold statements, Kanye has become a poster child for the unlikely alliance between hip-hop and the Republican party.</p>

  • “She Supports Donald Trump?” 10 Surprising Stars Who Support The Former President

There are many stars who support the former president that will surprise you.

<p>A previous McDonald’s employee confessed their dislike for the task of refilling the ice cream dispensers. They described the ice cream base as oily and possessing an unpleasant odor reminiscent of sour milk and vomit. The inconvenience of cleaning up spills, which sometimes took up to an hour, and the lingering foul smell throughout their shift, made this activity highly unappealing to the employee.</p>

  • “Please, God, Don’t Order That” 10 Menu Items Fast Food Workers Dread Preparing

Fast food workers encounter a wide variety of customer requests and menu items every day, but there are certain orders that they simply dread making. These items can be particularly challenging or time-consuming to prepare, causing frustration among the employees.

<p>Regarding complex and thought-provoking storytelling, few shows can rival <em>Orphan Black</em>. The pilot episode is a tour de force of acting, with Tatiana Maslany delivering a performance that is nothing short of incredible. As she portrays multiple characters with distinct personalities and appearances, viewers are drawn into intrigue and mystery. The episode perfectly introduces the show's complex storyline, leaving viewers wanting to know more about the characters and the strange and dangerous world they inhabit.</p>

  • “Thrilling From The First Episode” 10 TV Shows That Will Kill Boredom

A pilot episode can make or break a series. Here are 10 iconic pilot episodes.

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Florence Ballard (right) as part of the Supremes in 1965.

The Rejects by Jamie Collinson review – almost famous

From Pete Best to Florence Ballard and the guy who managed to get fired from both Nirvana and Soundgarden, a history of rock and pop’s also-rans

T here’s a fragile alchemy to a band – a blend of musical affinity, shared ambition, friendship and rivalry – that often transforms the project into something greater than the sum of its parts. But that mix is inherently unstable – the magic doesn’t usually last for long, and things hardly ever end well: eventually somebody gets kicked out. Being in a band is all about trust, until it’s all about betrayal.

The Rejects offers a new history of pop told from the perspective of the ones who got left behind, often on the very brink of the big time. Those early sackings are sometimes equivalent to the jettisoning of ballast – getting rid of a member who might otherwise hold you back. “Musical relationships are often forged in youth,” writes Jamie Collinson, “and a breaking of them appears emblematic of a terrible, adult hardening.”

Some of the stories are familiar: many people will have a passing knowledge of what the Beatles did to Pete Best or how Brian Jones ended up outside the Rolling Stones . Others feature people and bands you may never have heard of, depending on your musical tastes. Collinson, who worked in the music industry for 20 years, has an expert’s understanding of the hair-splitting that divides one subgenre from another, and he’s good at making these distinctions accessible to the untutored reader. We need to know, because creative differences – often petty ones – are at the root of many abrupt personnel changes.

If there is a single lesson to be drawn from this catalogue of sackings, it’s that no one is safe. Florence Ballard was the teenage founder of the Supremes, recruiting two friends to join her: Mary Wilson, from school, and Diane Ross, from church. By the time of their first No 1 single Diane had changed her name to Diana. By the time of their 10th, the group’s name had been changed to Diana Ross & the Supremes. In 1967, Ballard, who struggled with drinking and her weight, was fired, paid off, forced to relinquish royalty rights and banned from referring to herself as a former Supreme. The Supremes, with Cindy Birdsong in Ballard’s place, continued to thrive. Ballard died at the age of 32.

The roster of Rejects includes everyone ever sacked from Fleetwood Mac (five in all, counting Lindsey Buckingham in 2018) and a few repeat offenders – Jason Everman, for example, got himself kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden. Many but not all of the rejects offer cautionary tales of addiction. A depressing number are no longer with us.

The bitterest breaks are usually about money, but sometimes they’re just the result of an awkward fit or the wrong look. Pavement, 1990s purveyors of saw-toothed indie rock, started out with a 40-year-old drummer called Gary Young, a former hippy with prog-rock sensibilities who was fond of doing handstands on stage while the rest of the band – boys in their 20s – stared at their shoes. The mix was ultimately unsustainable. It’s usually about more than one thing, though. Young, in addition to being out of step, was also out of control, an alcoholic who required a backup percussionist in case he was unable to keep time. Bands don’t have HR departments, and they tend to be more tolerant of substance abuse than they should be. It’s difficult to get fired from a band such as Guns N’ Roses for doing too many drugs (though Steven Adler managed it). As Collinson points out, you’re more likely to get kicked out for doing the wrong kind of drugs – ie different ones to everyone else.

While most of these tales have darkly funny moments, none of them are funny all the way through. Taken as a whole, the litany of wrecked lives and shattered dreams can be a little relentless, and Collinson wisely devotes extra attention to those rare reject stories that feature happy endings: Everman, the ex-Nirvana guy, had an unlikely second career in the US special forces, and today sounds like the closest thing to a fulfilled human being the music industry ever produced.

On this showing, band bust-ups seem to be an overwhelmingly male pursuit (apart from Ballard, the list of female rejects includes two members of Destiny’s Child, one Sugababe and Kim Shattuck, briefly of Pixies , fired for performing a stage dive on tour). But there remains something universal in these stories of rejection. You don’t have to be in a band to feel the cold hand of fear on your shoulder. Everyone, after all, is replaceable.

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After Toby Keith’s death, doctors warn that stomach cancer signs are easy to miss

Country singer Toby Keith died Monday night at age 62, more than two years after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer .

In June 2022, Keith announced on X that he had been diagnosed in fall 2021 and had already received chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. 

Then last June, he told The Oklahoman newspaper of Oklahoma City that his tumor had shrunk by a third and that he was continuing chemotherapy. He also received immunotherapy, he said — medicine that helps the immune system destroy cancer cells.

His death has sparked renewed calls from doctors to pay attention to signs of stomach cancer, which include heartburn, acid reflux, anemia, nausea, ulcers, pain after eating, sudden weight loss or feeling full after eating small amounts.

“A lot of these things are relatively innocuous. But of course with a cancer, that’s how it gets you,” said Dr. Fabian Johnston, the division chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Johnston said doctors and patients may be inclined to dismiss symptoms like acid reflux as harmless, which can delay diagnoses. By the time symptoms appear, many already have advanced disease, he said.

The average age of diagnosis is 68 , and men have a slightly higher risk. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 27,000 new cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed this year, though the disease is still relatively rare: It makes up around 1.5% of new cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Overall rates of stomach cancer diagnoses have also declined slightly over the last 10 years. But rates among adults younger than 50 are rising , for reasons that aren’t clear.

“There’s something that’s going on — something we’re eating, something we’re ingesting, some combination of factors that’s modern and present — which is resulting in these increased cancers in young people,” said Dr. Ben Schlechter, a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Schlechter said alcohol and tobacco — once common contributors to stomach cancer — are now associated with a minority of cases in the U.S., perhaps because people are smoking less .

Instead, many new cases are found in people with chronic acid reflux or infections with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, which can cause inflammation in the stomach. However, scientists haven’t pinpointed why certain people with those conditions get stomach cancer and most do not.  

For many patients right now, “it’s a disease of bad luck,” Schlechter said. “Maybe there’s an association with H. pylori infection. Maybe there’s a history of heartburn or reflux, but usually it’s not as clear.”

Schlechter said stomach cancer is generally aggressive compared to other cancers. 

“It doesn’t mean that people are imminently dying. It just means that the tools that we have to cure them are pretty limited,” he said. “People do pretty well compared to 15 years ago, but we are hardly at the level of, say, breast cancer, where the commanding majority of people are cured with surgery and chemotherapy and things like that.”

Up to 95% of stomach cancers in the U.S. are adenocarcinomas, which start in the innermost lining of the stomach. From there, the cancer may spread to the stomach wall, the body of the stomach or the lymph nodes. 

Patients whose cancer hasn't spread often undergo or receive chemotherapy or immunotherapy or a combination of these options, said Dr. Rutika Mehta, a medical oncologist in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

"In more advanced cases, we are not yet at a point where we can offer patients a ‘cure,’” Mehta wrote by email. However, she added that chemotherapy or immunotherapy may help prolong lives. 

Doctors are also getting better at matching patients with treatments that target specific proteins associated with stomach cancers. For instance, some stomach cancers express a gene called HER2, which is also linked to breast cancer.

“The drugs that work in HER2 breast cancer to some degree work in HER2 gastric cancer. So we can now give those drugs to people with stomach cancer and substantially boost their benefit from treatment," Schlechter said.

Though outcomes of the disease are "generally poor," he said, they're "much better than they used to be."

famous books in history

Aria Bendix is the breaking health reporter for NBC News Digital.

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COMMENTS

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    1. What Is History? by Edward Hallett Carr Buy on Amazon Add to library Famous for his hefty History of Soviet Russia, E. H. Carr's foray into historiography (that is, the study of written history) was panned by critics at first.

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    Written by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, the eight-part towering work of fiction tells the story of two major characters: a tragic, disenchanted housewife, the titular Anna, who runs off with her young lover, and a lovestruck landowner named Konstantin Levin, who struggles in faith and philosophy.

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  4. 100 Best Books of All Time: The World Library List

    On this list were four books bij J.R.R. Tolkien which did not belong here, as they are not on the original list, see Wikipedia's Bokklubben World Library. The books were added to this list as numbers 101, 102, 103 1nd 104, even though it cleary says at the top "This is a pre-established list.PLEASE DO NOT ADD ANY BOOKS TO THE LIST".

  5. The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written

    The list starts in order with the first ten books: the I Ching (an ancient Chinese divination text), the Hebrew Bible (a version of which serves as the "Old Testament" of the Christian Bible ), the Iliad and Odyssey, the Upanishads (a collection of ancient Indian philosophical texts), the Tao Te Ching, the Avesta, the Analects, the History of th...

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    The Republic, Plato. Written around 380 BCE, this text is considered to be one of the most influential pieces ever written. The Republic observes justice in man and politics and discusses the role of the philosopher in society.

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    Listopia The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today (1998) is a book of intellectual history written by Martin Seymour-Smith, a British poet, critic, and biographer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_Most... flag All Votes Add Books To This List

  8. The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list

    Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe. The first English novel. Robert McCrum's 100 best novels: Robinson Crusoe. 4. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift. A wonderful satire that still works for all ages ...

  9. The 60 Best History Books of All Time (to Read at Any Age)

    Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday. Best History Books About Climate Change & Population Growth. 48. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. 49. The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. 50. Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker & John Ibbitson. Best History Books With a Self-Help Angle.

  10. Top 10 books about the Roman empire

    1. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. This six-volume history (first published between 1776 and 1789) is now read more by scholars of the Enlightenment than ...

  11. 50 best history books of all time

    50 best history books of all time 23/01/2024 8 minutes to read 50 best history books of all time Spanning both centuries and continents, discover our edit of the best non-fiction history books. As the oft-repeated quote by George Santayana goes, 'Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'

  12. The 20 Most Popular Books of All Time, According to Goodreads

    According to Goodreads, some of the most popular books of all time include "The Great Gatsby," "Pride & Prejudice," and "The Hunger Games." Amazon; Rachel Mendelson/Insider When you buy through...

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    This page provides lists of best-selling books and book series to date and in any language. "Best-selling" refers to the estimated number of copies sold of each book, rather than the number of books printed or currently owned. Comics and textbooks are not included in this list.

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    The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. Incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation in 1971, and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum is tied to no political, partisan or national interests.

  16. Best History Books (3482 books)

    Listopia Best History Books Proper nonfiction history books, not historical fiction, about any period, event, area or topic you like. Just well-written, well-researched, informative and interesting books for historians, history students and history enthusiasts.

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    50 best historical fiction books of all time Historical fiction allows us to immerse ourselves in eras long past. Our edit of the best historical fiction books is perfect reading inspiration for when you want to lose yourself with a cast of characters in another time and place.

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    Recommended by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, James Altucher and 49 others. The President Of PakistanWhile revealing his 10 favorite books for year 2022, President Dr. Arif Alvi has recommended "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari (@harari_yuval). The book tells the history of humankind from a completely fresh perspective.

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    by Rebecca Skloot (2010) Henrietta Lacks was a black American who died in agony of cancer in a "coloured" hospital ward in 1951. Her cells, taken without her knowledge during a biopsy, went on ...

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    America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s by Elizabeth Hinton. Between July 1964 and April 2001, almost 2,000 urban rebellions sparked by racially ...

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    Agrippina: Empress, Exile, Hustler, Whore by Emma Southon (2018) A history professor and host of the always educational and oftentimes hilarious podcast History Is Sexy, Southon paints a ...

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