Best History Books
Proper 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. I didn't mean this to be a list of pop history, but I think it's too late now, so you might as well go ahead.
1 John Adams
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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12 avg rating — 118,266 ratings
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2 1776
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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06 avg rating — 77,579 ratings
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3 The Guns of August
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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20 avg rating — 19,635 ratings
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4 Team of Rivals: The Politic...
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4.35 of 5 stars 4.35 avg rating — 58,957 ratings
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5 The Rise and Fall of the Th...
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 35,296 ratings
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6 A Distant Mirror:  The Cala...
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 14,395 ratings
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7 Battle Cry of Freedom: The ...
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4.32 of 5 stars 4.32 avg rating — 13,538 ratings
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8 Bury My Heart at Wounded Kn...
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4.19 of 5 stars 4.19 avg rating — 31,248 ratings
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9 The Diary of a Young Girl
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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06 avg rating — 1,319,347 ratings
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10 The Histories
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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 avg rating — 20,901 ratings
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11 Undaunted Courage: The Pion...
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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20 avg rating — 24,459 ratings
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12 The Decline and Fall of the...
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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 avg rating — 6,990 ratings
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13 A People's History of the U...
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 75,974 ratings
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14 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The...
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 134,771 ratings
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15 Truman
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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 30,442 ratings
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16 The Devil in the White City...
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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96 avg rating — 239,930 ratings
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17 Unbroken: A World War II St...
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4.43 of 5 stars 4.43 avg rating — 234,772 ratings
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18 The History of the Peloponn...
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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84 avg rating — 17,019 ratings
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19 Peter the Great: His Life a...
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4.23 of 5 stars 4.23 avg rating — 5,565 ratings
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20 The Civil War: A Narrative
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4.58 of 5 stars 4.58 avg rating — 4,048 ratings
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21 The Proud Tower: A Portrait...
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 3,947 ratings
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22 1491: New Revelations of th...
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4.01 of 5 stars 4.01 avg rating — 26,071 ratings
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23 Lies My Teacher Told Me
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 34,812 ratings
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24 Paris 1919: Six Months That...
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 5,269 ratings
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25 A Short History of Nearly E...
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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17 avg rating — 130,771 ratings
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26 The Rape of Nanking
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 10,985 ratings
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27 The Twelve Caesars
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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02 avg rating — 8,755 ratings
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28 Stalingrad: The Fateful Sie...
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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28 avg rating — 12,428 ratings
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29 Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase f...
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 16,690 ratings
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30 The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
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4.22 of 5 stars 4.22 avg rating — 17,962 ratings
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31 Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Ac...
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 16,219 ratings
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32 Mayflower: A Story of Coura...
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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85 avg rating — 17,912 ratings
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33 Rubicon: The Last Years of ...
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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15 avg rating — 5,899 ratings
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34 Genghis Khan and the Making...
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4.01 of 5 stars 4.01 avg rating — 12,035 ratings
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35 The Worst Hard Time: The Un...
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 21,625 ratings
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36 The March of Folly: From Tr...
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 2,805 ratings
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37 How the Irish Saved Civiliz...
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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79 avg rating — 20,065 ratings
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38 Salt: A World History
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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71 avg rating — 25,275 ratings
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39 Europe
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 2,073 ratings
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40 Theodore Rex
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 18,125 ratings
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41 Empire of the Summer Moon: ...
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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09 avg rating — 12,584 ratings
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42 Nicholas and Alexandra
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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 13,867 ratings
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43 Band of Brothers: E Company...
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4.41 of 5 stars 4.41 avg rating — 43,283 ratings
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44 King Leopold's Ghost: A Sto...
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 15,252 ratings
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45 Endurance: Shackleton's Inc...
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 31,069 ratings
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46 Washington's Crossing
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 6,686 ratings
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47 Citizen Soldiers: The U S A...
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 11,762 ratings
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48 His Excellency: George Wash...
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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91 avg rating — 16,630 ratings
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49 Hitler, Vol 1: 1889-1936 Hu...
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4.32 of 5 stars 4.32 avg rating — 1,845 ratings
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50 The Professor and the Madma...
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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84 avg rating — 47,829 ratings
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51 Collapse: How Societies Cho...
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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90 avg rating — 38,185 ratings
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52 With the Old Breed: At Pele...
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4.39 of 5 stars 4.39 avg rating — 11,772 ratings
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53 The Path Between the Seas: ...
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 5,921 ratings
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54 1066: The Year of the Conquest
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4.01 of 5 stars 4.01 avg rating — 1,954 ratings
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55 The Prize: The Epic Quest f...
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4.37 of 5 stars 4.37 avg rating — 3,609 ratings
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56 A People's Tragedy: The Rus...
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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 1,485 ratings
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57 Mornings on Horseback
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 11,040 ratings
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58 The Fall of Berlin 1945
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4.24 of 5 stars 4.24 avg rating — 6,266 ratings
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59 Marie Antoinette: The Journey
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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89 avg rating — 20,602 ratings
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60 No Ordinary Time: Franklin ...
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4.34 of 5 stars 4.34 avg rating — 13,030 ratings
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61 The Coming of the Third Rei...
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4.21 of 5 stars 4.21 avg rating — 3,032 ratings
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62 Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)
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4.26 of 5 stars 4.26 avg rating — 455,812 ratings
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63 Catherine the Great: Portra...
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 36,585 ratings
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64 The Making of the Atomic Bomb
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4.29 of 5 stars 4.29 avg rating — 8,944 ratings
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65 The Gulag Archipelago 1918-...
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 9,329 ratings
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66 April 1865: The Month That ...
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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15 avg rating — 5,911 ratings
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67 Columbine
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4.24 of 5 stars 4.24 avg rating — 30,415 ratings
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68 Longitude: The True Story o...
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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93 avg rating — 27,746 ratings
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69 Blackamoores: Africans in T...
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4.66 of 5 stars 4.66 avg rating — 38 ratings
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70 From Beirut to Jerusalem
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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08 avg rating — 6,585 ratings
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71 Einstein: His Life and Univ...
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 55,471 ratings
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72 In the Heart of the Sea: Th...
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 29,908 ratings
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73 Persian Fire: The First Wor...
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 2,728 ratings
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74 A Midwife's Tale: The Life ...
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 3,296 ratings
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75 The Zimmermann Telegram
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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06 avg rating — 1,666 ratings
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76 The Island at the Center of...
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 3,838 ratings
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77 Bloodlands: Europe Between ...
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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28 avg rating — 3,310 ratings
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78 Hiroshima
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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88 avg rating — 24,355 ratings
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79 We Were Soldiers Once... an...
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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 13,417 ratings
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80 D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Ba...
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4.24 of 5 stars 4.24 avg rating — 13,881 ratings
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81 The Last Lion 2: Winston Sp...
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4.53 of 5 stars 4.53 avg rating — 3,041 ratings
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82 The Last Stand: Custer, Sit...
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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 avg rating — 4,879 ratings
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83 Cleopatra: A Life
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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60 avg rating — 53,043 ratings
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84 The Monuments Men: Allied H...
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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72 avg rating — 19,039 ratings
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85 Young Stalin
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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12 avg rating — 1,849 ratings
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86 Stilwell and the American E...
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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 1,376 ratings
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87 At Home: A Short History of...
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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93 avg rating — 39,036 ratings
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88 Citizens: A Chronicle of th...
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 2,521 ratings
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89 A Night to Remember
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 8,868 ratings
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90 American Sphinx: The Charac...
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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90 avg rating — 11,550 ratings
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91 Longest Day
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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30 avg rating — 9,778 ratings
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92 The Annals of Imperial Rome
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 4,401 ratings
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93 The Last Lion 1: Visions of...
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4.47 of 5 stars 4.47 avg rating — 3,964 ratings
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94 The History of the Ancient ...
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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12 avg rating — 975 ratings
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95 The Great Bridge: The Epic ...
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4.22 of 5 stars 4.22 avg rating — 5,443 ratings
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96 The Mediterranean and the M...
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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27 avg rating — 435 ratings
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97 Hitler, Vol 2: 1936-1945 Ne...
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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30 avg rating — 2,333 ratings
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98 Georgiana: Duchess of Devon...
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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77 avg rating — 10,579 ratings
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99 The Coldest Winter: America...
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 3,566 ratings
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100 The Federalist Papers
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4.0 of 5 stars 4.00 avg rating — 19,393 ratings
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flag this list (?)
1,359 books · 1,298 voters · list created January 16th, 2009 by Abigail (votes) .
271 likes · like
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Abigail
Abigail
371 books
5 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
2451 books
469 friends
☯Bettie☯
☯Bettie☯
10923 books
153 friends
Bonnie
Bonnie
4102 books
52 friends
Susanne
Susanne
200 books
15 friends
Kris
Kris
302 books
6 friends
Fat
Fat
725 books
0 friends
Susie
Susie
931 books
33 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-32 of 32) (32 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

message 1: by Abigail (last edited Apr 24, 2010 02:41AM) (new)

Abigail I really wish I could disqualify anything that has the words 'epic story' in the title. Great history books make an argument based on an interpretation of the past; a history book that just tells you a story has a seriously limited value.


message 2: by Trak (new)

Trak I cant seem to add books to the list but could I suggest A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich.


message 3: by Antoine (new)

Antoine I went ahead and did disqualify a couple of works of fiction. But really, I don't think the "epic story" label should eliminate a work from consideration. You could start with Herodotus and Thucydides whose work is undeniably epic, but also epochal, in that we would have no history without them. Serious history has scholarly obligations, but it has artistic ones as well. If the matter isn't interesting, then ultimately no one is going to care about the footnotes or the argument.


message 4: by John (new)

John Everett Water for Elephants is most emphatically not a work of history.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Removed for being fiction:

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

I am of two minds about The Devils of Loudun, so I left it.


message 6: by Antoine (new)

Antoine The Devils of Loudun is really not a novel, despite Huxley's reputation as a novelist. It is as "literary" as Barbara Tuchman. If you are thinking of the dreadful Ken Russell film based on the book, all I can say is, please don't.


message 7: by Ted (new)

Ted Adding "Benedict Arnold's Navy" by James Nelson.

Had it not been for Horatio Gates, who stole Arnold's genius at Saratoga and threw him to the wolves causing Arnold to "turn coat", Benedict Arnold could quite possibly been a greater American Hero than George Washington.

This book is of Benedict Arnolds building of a small fleet in the harbor of Skenesborough (modern day Whitehall, NY) to sail north and interdict the British fleet arriving via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Richelieu river.

The ensuing "Battle of Valcour Island" is considered to be the very first naval engagement by the American Navy.


message 8: by Bill (new)

Bill Whitaker All of the Edward Rutherfurd books on the list (Sarum, London, Russka, New York) are novels. If you include them, you have to open the field to Michener.


message 9: by Antoine (new)

Antoine I was only able to find Russka. I have deleted it. Cheers.


message 10: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Apr 17, 2011 12:46PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I found the others, on page 3. I'll delete them.

ETA: Also removed "The Great Indian Novel." Because it, too, is a novel.


message 11: by Alin (new)

Alin Too much american history.You're not the world y'know ?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads You could, of course, add works about non-American history to the list.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Removed: The Killer Angels - a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.


message 14: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Nov 02, 2011 10:34AM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Removed for being novels:

Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian
Chesapeake, by James A. Michener

Removed for being poetry:

The Ballad of the White Horse, by G.K. Chesterton


message 15: by Kate (new)

Kate Sherrod Where is the Venerable Bede?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads You could add him. It's easy to add books to lists; at the top of the page, at the tab next to "all votes."


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads David & Russ - any clue as to what book "Unknown Book 9379560" is at No. 147 on this list? You were the ones who voted for it.


message 18: by Donna (new)

Donna The Guns of August is a great, great book...but it is HISTORICAL FICTION. It is strong, well-researched historical fiction, but it is fiction This list is supposed to be strictly nonfiction.


message 19: by Donna (new)

Donna The list is a little ethnocentric. Just a thought...if you know of a good book that is also the history of women, or Native Americans, or any other underrepresented group, you may want to add it. I added a few, but it could still use some rounding out.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads D. wrote: "The Guns of August is a great, great book...but it is HISTORICAL FICTION. It is strong, well-researched historical fiction, but it is fiction This list is supposed to be strictly nonfiction."

It is most certainly not historical fiction. What is your evidence that it is?

It won the Pulitzer for "general nonfiction."


message 21: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Oct 02, 2012 09:49PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Removed, for being novels:

Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield
The Pale Criminal, by Philip Carr
Queen Margot, by Alexandre Dumas
A Philosophical Investigation, by Philip Kerr


message 22: by Donna (new)

Donna Susanna wrote: "D. wrote: "The Guns of August is a great, great book...but it is HISTORICAL FICTION. It is strong, well-researched historical fiction, but it is fiction This list is supposed to be strictly nonfic..."
Whoops. Let me go back and look at my copy...I taught this book years ago, thought I would remember...going.


message 23: by Donna (new)

Donna Okay, mea culpa! I had been thinking it was fiction that appeared real, and if you just review the blurbs on the back of the paperback version, it says something along the lines of her making characters seem like real people. I turned to the Library of Congress page: nothing at all, no listing for fiction or nonfiction. But reading the preface, it was right there on the first page.

I am glad to know that at least I didn't misinform my students! (I also used All Quiet on the Western Front). I required them to read the preface, and mentioned which events they were to watch for, and then we discussed it. I would have been more on the ball back then. Thanks for catching my error...now I will go back and vote for it!


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Oh, it's a great book. It really does "read like a novel."


message 25: by Steven (new)

Steven Royal Durant


message 26: by Donna (new)

Donna Revisited Feb 10 and asked the system to find duplicates, because I spotted one (Sherman's memoirs). The system found and removed 5 duplicates.

I sympathize with the person who pointed out there is too much American history here. I went back and found some good books I had read (primarily Russian Revolution and Cuba) and added those; I can't reasonably add anything I haven't read, but have added some "want to reads" from the wider world.


message 27: by John (new)

John Well said


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads And this is one of the times when I wish I had more than 100 votes!


message 30: by Ahmed (new)

Ahmed I admire your fantastic library of golden books. Thank you.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I only had a hundred books I could add!


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