To understand today, you have to look back at yesterday. Pearl Buck, an American novelist and humanitarian, said that, but these days, who has time to go back and look for things from yesterday? We know you’re busy, so we’ve done the work for you and found 10 great historical books that will help you understand both the past and the present.
The Greatest Generation
It’s a great book that Tom Brokaw wrote. It tells the story of a generation: the American citizens who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America.
Citizens of London
Among the people who lived in London during World War II were Edward R. Murrow, the head of CBS News in Europe; Averell Harriman, the millionaire who ran FDR’s Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain. The author of Troublesome Young Men talks about how the U.S. and Britain formed their alliance in this book. Winston Churchill was a big part of each man’s life. So much so that each became romantically involved with a member of the prime minister’s family.
The War That Ended Peace
The War That Was Over In Peace, the military leaders, politicians, diplomats, and bankers who tried to stop Europe from going to war are brought to life. They include Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the chief of the German General Staff, Helmuth von Moltke, or “Moltke the Younger.” In Austria-Hungary, Emperor Franz Joseph I, who worked hard to keep his empire from going to pieces, is also shown.
Andrew Jackson, his close friends, and the times he lived in are at the heart of this amazing book about the man who rose from nothing to become the first president of the United States. Andrew Jackson was both loved and hated, revered and despised. He was an orphan who fought his way to the top of the government, bending the country to his will in the name of democracy. New and long-lasting changes began when Jackson was elected president in 1828. People, not distant elites, were in charge of politics in the United States for a long time.
From 1963 to 1966, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan were two of the biggest names in American politics. Jonathan Darman tells their stories in this riveting book of narrative nonfiction. He shows how these two men, both the same age and with the same heroic goals, changed American politics forever.
The Fateful Lightning
New York Times best-selling author Jeff Shaara has written the last book in his Civil War series, which began with A Blaze of Glory and continued with A Chain of Thunder and The Smoke at Dawn. This book is about Sherman’s March.
After the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three (Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau) met in Paris for six months in 1919 to work on a long-term peace. Margaret MacMillan’s book is a classic of narrative history. In it, she tells the story of those pivotal days, when new political entities were born out of the ruins of empires and the modern world’s borders were redrawn.
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
In this book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings to life an extraordinary man and his extraordinary times. Thomas Jefferson said: Art of Power shows us Jefferson the politician and president, a great person who was always in the middle of the wars of his time. Philosophers think; politicians move around. Jefferson was great because he was both and could do both at the same time. Such is the skill of power.
Unbroken (Movie Tie-in Edition)
When an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean on a May afternoon in 1943, it left only a trail of debris and a trail of oil, gasoline, and blood behind it. This is what happened: There was also a face on top of the water. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who tried to get on a life raft and get on the plane with him. So, one of the most amazing journeys of the Second World War began right then and there.
Flags of Our Fathers
The real story behind the picture that has become a symbol of American courage and strength.
In February 1945, American Marines jumped into the sea at Iwo Jima, and into history, as well. Through a barrage of machine-gun and mortar fire, they fought their way to the top of the island. In the middle of hell, they climbed up and raised a flag.
1491 by Charles C. Mann
This is what we know from the school rhyme. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Then he “found” the Americas. This, of course, is a true picture of history only if you don’t care about the millions of people who were already living in complex societies when he arrived. Mann not only dispels the myth of Columbus’s discovery in this book, but he also talks about the different civilizations that lived in North, Central, and South America. He explains their customs and cultures, giving us a glimpse into a lost way of life, and reminding us that history is usually told by the winners rather than the losers.
Precolonial Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop
“Westerners” are the majority of people who read about the history of Africa. So, they get a very narrow view of the continent’s history. Here, the famous Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop takes readers into the history of many African civilizations that aren’t as well-known as they should be. He shows how these civilizations played a big part in the development of the world we live in today, not just their history.
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
There have been very few events that have had a big impact on world history like World War I. People don’t know why or how the war even started in the first place. There were clear enemies and causes for World War II. The origins of the “war to end all wars,” on the other hand, were much less clear. Here, Tuchman looks at the month before the tragic conflict, unraveling its many threads and describing the day-to-day events with clarity and intensity that is unlike any book that comes before it.