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.
101

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3.87 avg rating — 8,004 ratings
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102

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4.16 avg rating — 22,945 ratings
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103

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3.90 avg rating — 28,055 ratings
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104

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4.29 avg rating — 2,908 ratings
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105

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3.91 avg rating — 23,092 ratings
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106

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4.24 avg rating — 647 ratings
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107

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4.32 avg rating — 5,585 ratings
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108

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4.17 avg rating — 30,313 ratings
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109

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4.07 avg rating — 8,141 ratings
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110

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3.87 avg rating — 6,641 ratings
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111

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4.32 avg rating — 2,658 ratings
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112

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3.92 avg rating — 487 ratings
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113

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4.27 avg rating — 1,727 ratings
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114

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4.15 avg rating — 1,899 ratings
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114

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4.23 avg rating — 12,176 ratings
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116

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3.93 avg rating — 1,358 ratings
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117

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4.12 avg rating — 26,155 ratings
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118

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3.99 avg rating — 8,276 ratings
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119

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4.04 avg rating — 10,075 ratings
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120

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4.08 avg rating — 5,037 ratings
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121

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3.86 avg rating — 2,986 ratings
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122

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4.42 avg rating — 9,027 ratings
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123

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4.24 avg rating — 3,944 ratings
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124

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4.05 avg rating — 6,367 ratings
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125

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4.41 avg rating — 35,519 ratings
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126

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4.29 avg rating — 3,598 ratings
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127

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4.39 avg rating — 10,608 ratings
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128

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4.09 avg rating — 42,369 ratings
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129

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4.05 avg rating — 21,073 ratings
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130

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4.05 avg rating — 1,694 ratings
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131

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4.12 avg rating — 1,224 ratings
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132

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4.18 avg rating — 2,152 ratings
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133

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4.16 avg rating — 6,898 ratings
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134

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4.11 avg rating — 2,621 ratings
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135

by
4.15 avg rating — 4,170 ratings
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136

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4.05 avg rating — 6,454 ratings
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137

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3.85 avg rating — 12,150 ratings
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138

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4.08 avg rating — 784 ratings
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139

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3.85 avg rating — 1,509 ratings
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140

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4.07 avg rating — 503 ratings
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141

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4.14 avg rating — 30,220 ratings
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142

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3.95 avg rating — 2,181 ratings
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143

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4.19 avg rating — 3,079 ratings
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143

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4.50 avg rating — 6,102 ratings
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145

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4.26 avg rating — 1,591 ratings
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146

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3.62 avg rating — 792 ratings
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146

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4.18 avg rating — 3,089 ratings
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148

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4.09 avg rating — 2,401 ratings
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149

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4.36 avg rating — 16,134 ratings
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150

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4.08 avg rating — 14,140 ratings
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151

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3.80 avg rating — 5,048 ratings
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152

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4.28 avg rating — 98,336 ratings
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153

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4.25 avg rating — 1,051 ratings
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154

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4.27 avg rating — 1,554 ratings
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155

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4.11 avg rating — 8,807 ratings
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156

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4.06 avg rating — 22,045 ratings
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157

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4.29 avg rating — 4,178 ratings
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158

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3.97 avg rating — 108,529 ratings
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159

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4.27 avg rating — 3,052 ratings
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160

by
4.14 avg rating — 12,533 ratings
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161

by
4.11 avg rating — 1,426 ratings
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162

by
4.12 avg rating — 380 ratings
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163

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4.09 avg rating — 1,846 ratings
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164

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4.08 avg rating — 16,173 ratings
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165

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4.32 avg rating — 4,240 ratings
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166

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4.33 avg rating — 16,363 ratings
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167

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4.06 avg rating — 9,920 ratings
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168

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3.93 avg rating — 8,890 ratings
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169

by
4.14 avg rating — 50,983 ratings
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170

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4.15 avg rating — 2,770 ratings
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171

by
4.19 avg rating — 4,088 ratings
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172

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4.23 avg rating — 4,214 ratings
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173

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3.89 avg rating — 5,871 ratings
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174

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4.09 avg rating — 1,862 ratings
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175

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4.15 avg rating — 4,089 ratings
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176

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4.29 avg rating — 5,403 ratings
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177

by
3.86 avg rating — 654 ratings
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178

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3.82 avg rating — 45 ratings
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179

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4.14 avg rating — 2,072 ratings
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180

by
4.25 avg rating — 7,172 ratings
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181

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4.17 avg rating — 1,737 ratings
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182

by
4.08 avg rating — 1,023 ratings
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183

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4.29 avg rating — 1,853 ratings
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184

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3.95 avg rating — 13,830 ratings
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185

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4.17 avg rating — 2,376 ratings
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186

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4.29 avg rating — 5,322 ratings
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187

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3.96 avg rating — 13,628 ratings
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187

by
really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 4,130 ratings
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189

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4.08 avg rating — 8,251 ratings
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190

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3.57 avg rating — 4,686 ratings
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190

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4.38 avg rating — 7,581 ratings
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192

by
4.12 avg rating — 617 ratings
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193

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4.18 avg rating — 1,851 ratings
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194

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4.03 avg rating — 3,279 ratings
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195

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4.15 avg rating — 1,918 ratings
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196

by
4.04 avg rating — 806 ratings
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197

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3.79 avg rating — 1,419 ratings
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198

by
3.99 avg rating — 4,166 ratings
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198

by
4.29 avg rating — 42,894 ratings
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200

by
4.17 avg rating — 1,010 ratings
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1,792 books · 1,773 voters · list created January 16th, 2009 by Abi (votes) .
696 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Abi 378 books
5 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 2733 books
590 friends
Bettie☯ 13425 books
199 friends
Bonnie 4687 books
71 friends
Susanne 200 books
17 friends
Kris 302 books
8 friends
Fat 725 books
0 friends
Susie 1016 books
31 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-38 of 38) (38 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.


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