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

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4.06 avg rating — 183,553 ratings
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2

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4.06 avg rating — 110,301 ratings
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3

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4.18 avg rating — 30,780 ratings
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4

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4.30 avg rating — 89,168 ratings
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5

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4.13 avg rating — 55,750 ratings
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6

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4.08 avg rating — 1,792,177 ratings
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7

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4.20 avg rating — 39,682 ratings
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8

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4.32 avg rating — 18,094 ratings
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9

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4.12 avg rating — 19,823 ratings
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10

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3.98 avg rating — 166,061 ratings
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11

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4.08 avg rating — 114,207 ratings
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12

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4.42 avg rating — 421,978 ratings
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13

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4.21 avg rating — 32,232 ratings
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14

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3.96 avg rating — 28,039 ratings
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15

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3.97 avg rating — 309,536 ratings
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16

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3.95 avg rating — 8,308 ratings
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17

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4.18 avg rating — 182,172 ratings
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18

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4.26 avg rating — 38,201 ratings
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19

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3.85 avg rating — 22,650 ratings
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20

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4.22 avg rating — 8,155 ratings
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21

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 37,100 ratings
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22

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4.28 avg rating — 17,718 ratings
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23

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4.07 avg rating — 7,182 ratings
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24

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4.56 avg rating — 5,355 ratings
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25

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4.07 avg rating — 15,549 ratings
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26

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3.95 avg rating — 39,486 ratings
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27

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4.23 avg rating — 23,887 ratings
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28

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4.13 avg rating — 5,229 ratings
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29

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4.28 avg rating — 602,992 ratings
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30

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3.86 avg rating — 23,961 ratings
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31

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4.04 avg rating — 11,653 ratings
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32

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4.04 avg rating — 29,604 ratings
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33

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4.42 avg rating — 60,851 ratings
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34

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4.34 avg rating — 45,719 ratings
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35

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4.11 avg rating — 18,784 ratings
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36

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4.12 avg rating — 21,323 ratings
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37

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3.91 avg rating — 57,754 ratings
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38

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 21,083 ratings
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39

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4.15 avg rating — 26,113 ratings
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40

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4.16 avg rating — 22,241 ratings
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41

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4.24 avg rating — 18,325 ratings
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42

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4.16 avg rating — 8,729 ratings
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43

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4.17 avg rating — 15,785 ratings
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44

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4.14 avg rating — 22,158 ratings
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45

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3.80 avg rating — 26,657 ratings
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46

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3.84 avg rating — 66,823 ratings
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47

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4.34 avg rating — 2,700 ratings
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48

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3.92 avg rating — 36,347 ratings
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49

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4.30 avg rating — 11,800 ratings
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50

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4.03 avg rating — 3,611 ratings
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51

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3.72 avg rating — 34,979 ratings
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52

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4.13 avg rating — 11,334 ratings
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53

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4.06 avg rating — 65,696 ratings
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54

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4.17 avg rating — 2,894 ratings
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55

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3.91 avg rating — 43,964 ratings
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56

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4.16 avg rating — 50,954 ratings
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57

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4.38 avg rating — 17,698 ratings
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58

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4.33 avg rating — 17,654 ratings
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59

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4.21 avg rating — 4,358 ratings
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60

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4.26 avg rating — 8,463 ratings
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61

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3.91 avg rating — 24,904 ratings
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62

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4.11 avg rating — 9,731 ratings
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63

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4.26 avg rating — 2,105 ratings
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64

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3.94 avg rating — 37,802 ratings
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65

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4.18 avg rating — 9,749 ratings
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66

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4.31 avg rating — 5,332 ratings
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67

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3.89 avg rating — 24,071 ratings
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68

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4.02 avg rating — 2,766 ratings
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69

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4.38 avg rating — 5,293 ratings
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70

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4.15 avg rating — 7,782 ratings
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71

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4.25 avg rating — 41,641 ratings
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72

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4.10 avg rating — 16,136 ratings
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73

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4.24 avg rating — 17,686 ratings
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74

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4.09 avg rating — 7,892 ratings
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75

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4.30 avg rating — 13,631 ratings
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76

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4.31 avg rating — 3,354 ratings
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77

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4.24 avg rating — 11,104 ratings
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78

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3.62 avg rating — 74,455 ratings
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79

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4.11 avg rating — 5,422 ratings
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80

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4.09 avg rating — 1,762 ratings
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81

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4.28 avg rating — 17,759 ratings
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82

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3.99 avg rating — 4,051 ratings
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83

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3.99 avg rating — 11,889 ratings
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84

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3.88 avg rating — 6,753 ratings
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85

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3.98 avg rating — 3,451 ratings
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86

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4.16 avg rating — 4,113 ratings
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87

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3.95 avg rating — 53,389 ratings
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88

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4.44 avg rating — 6,403 ratings
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89

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4.08 avg rating — 1,971 ratings
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90

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3.90 avg rating — 16,411 ratings
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91

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4.47 avg rating — 5,140 ratings
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92

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3.73 avg rating — 30,290 ratings
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93

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4.02 avg rating — 24,963 ratings
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94

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3.96 avg rating — 6,748 ratings
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95

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3.96 avg rating — 5,808 ratings
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96

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4.06 avg rating — 2,279 ratings
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97

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4.51 avg rating — 53 ratings
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98

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4.18 avg rating — 4,807 ratings
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99

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4.22 avg rating — 7,935 ratings
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100

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4.17 avg rating — 23,322 ratings
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1,816 books · 1,832 voters · list created January 16th, 2009 by Abi (votes) .
721 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Abi 378 books
5 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 2757 books
621 friends
Bettie☯ 13496 books
202 friends
Bonnie 4718 books
71 friends
Susanne 200 books
17 friends
Kris 417 books
8 friends
Fat 725 books
0 friends
Susie 1022 books
31 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-39 of 39) (39 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

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

Abi 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 Tracey (new)

Tracey 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 Davis 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 20: 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


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


message 22: by Steven (new)

Steven Royal Durant


message 23: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis 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 24: 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 27: 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!


message 30: by Ron (new)

Ron Johnson Wow, so many great sounding books that I've missed. Might have to read John Adams now, since it's at the top of the list. How about a history book that was just "fun" to read? Like "One of a Kind" about Stu Ungar, or "Vegas and the Mob," about, well, Las Vegas? Or are those too low-brow to admit at guilty pleasures?


message 31: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis Ron wrote: "Wow, so many great sounding books that I've missed. Might have to read John Adams now, since it's at the top of the list. How about a history book that was just "fun" to read? Like "One of a Kind" ..."
Not familiar with these, but in order to qualify as history books, they must refer to a period at least 50 years before the publication date...at least I think so. Susanna CBG would know for sure.

I'm having a terrible time whittling my choices down to 100!


message 32: by Socraticgadfly (new)

Socraticgadfly I wish I could pull books OFF this list. How about anything by Joseph Ellis is on this list is beyond me.


message 33: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis Socraticgadfly wrote: "I wish I could pull books OFF this list. How about anything by Joseph Ellis is on this list is beyond me."

Exactly how I feel when I see Gone With the Wind as "best" historical fiction, when it is myth, and not even benign myth. But on the other hand, the First Amendment right to say what books we like is even more critical.


message 34: by Sonny (new)

Sonny You don't give any reason for writing that Joseph Ellis shouldn't be on the list. At least one historian places him among the five best historywriters today (http://practicallyhistorical.net/2011...)


message 35: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis 1 duplicate found and removed.


message 36: by Cameron (new)

Cameron Siddhartha, being a novel, should be removed.


message 37: by David (new)

David A New Age Now Begins: A People's History of the American Revolution, Vol 1\
This 8 volume set written as a popular history is essential to understand the continuity of the development of the United States. This history is readable, does not focus on politics, politicians or generals and warfare. Rather all the above are included as they apply to the social fabric, and cultural development that caused America to become what it has. Here you will understand why normal people did what they did and the events that impacted peoples lives for good or evil. This set can be collected for about $8 or less per volume in used book stores. If you have any interest in history find any volume in a library and read a chapter.


message 38: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis Cameron wrote: "Siddhartha, being a novel, should be removed."
Open ended listopia such as this one rely largely upon volunteer librarians, such as myself. If a title is misplaced on this list and you want to see it removed, please indicate on what page of the list you found it. This is a very long list, and I can't see scrolling through 18+ pages searching for 1 book, but I will zap it if I know where it is. Thanks.


message 39: by Jonas (new)

Jonas Gehrlein page 2 Neil Shubin Your Inner Fish is not a history book. The only way that it is historical is if broad-stroke paleontology can be classified as historical


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