History as Literature

History books with real literary merit. That is works of (primary or secondary source) history. NOT historical novels, please. We love historical novels (and also epic poems) as much as anyone, but there are plenty of lists for them already. They do not belong on this one. Sorry about the caps, but ALL NOVELS, PLAYS AND EPIC POEMS WILL BE DELETED.
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flag this list (?)
423 books · 360 voters · list created July 29th, 2008 by Antoine (votes) .
109 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Antoine 949 books
148 friends
Jane 2887 books
47 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 2733 books
590 friends
Jami 2011 books
51 friends
David 1693 books
397 friends
Emma 632 books
32 friends
Tim 199 books
151 friends
Erik 159 books
22 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Oliver (new)

Oliver I haven't read most of these, which is problematic when assessing their literary worth.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Is this list intended for nonfiction books only, or also for fiction?


message 3: by Antoine (new)

Antoine I meant it to be for actual works of history, not for historical fiction. Let alone Homeric epic. Listopia was relatively new when I started the list, and I didn't spell things out as clearly as I should. I suppose I should weed it, but I feel weird about taking out a book (The Odyssey in this case) that 39 voters feel belongs here.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Yes, I'd been wondering about that as well ... (How 'bout pruning the list down to nonfiction and leaving only those fiction titles that a really large number of people have voted for?)


message 5: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Nov 15, 2010 02:17PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I have serious doubts about The Odyssey.

You want the list "pruned," Antoine?

ETA: Gah, that's a lot of historical fiction in the top 20! Wow.


message 6: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Hi Susanna— I could prune it myself, but if you are willing go right ahead. It isn't as if there is a shortage of lists for historical fiction. Be ruthless.

BTW, I see the Huxley and the Sellar and Yeatman as legit. Homer and Vergil are historically important, but are not history.


message 7: by Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) (last edited Nov 17, 2010 05:17AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) I've started to do the honors on the back pages. Removed, for not being historical nonfiction (i.e., either not nonfiction, or nonfiction not primarily concerned with historical events):

The Dream of Scipio, Lavinia, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Historical Romances: The Prince & the Pauper/A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court/Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, The Lay Of The Last Minstrel And The Lady Of The Lake, Walden, or Life in the Woods, I Married a Communist, The Red Badge of Courage, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Kite Runner, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, Freedom, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, American Pastoral, The Joke, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (Parts 1 and 2), Animal Farm, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Atonement, Forever, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Crucible, Cat's Cradle, Mother Night, The Great Gatsby, Middlesex, Catch-22, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Farewell to Arms, The Winds of War, Sea of Poppies, 1876: A Novel, 1984, Annette Vallon, Empire: A Novel, Leo Africanus, El Sueño del Celta, The Jump Artist, The Rage of Achilles and Samarkand.

Will leave page 1 for Susanna's expert hands!

I also left a few books, btw, that I wasn't sure about because, although not written by historians looking back, they do contain an analysis of historic events (e.g. Orwell's "Hommage to Catalonia" and "Burmese Days"). Also, what to do about Elie Wiesel's "Night"? Yes, it's in part fictionalized, but that's arguably merely a writer's tool employed to shield himself from the brutality of the memory ... and the facts recounted in the book as such are clearly the historic truth.

Whatever we do about the "borderline" cases, though, I have a feeling that this list is going to end up being little more than half as long as it used to be before!


message 8: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Thanks Themis! I would say, in borderline cases, leave them be. "Night" and Orwell's reportage works seem wholly appropriate to the spirit of the list. I will edit the front matter in keeping with these changes.


message 9: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Nov 17, 2010 10:59AM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I see Night in particular as borderline and would tend to keep it. It's a difficult case, that one.

Antoine, do you want to prune the front page? I'll do it otherwise.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Some people apparently can't read. Removed AGAIN, for the same reasons as before:

The Kite Runner, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, I Married a Communist, as well as The Poisonwood Bible and The Thorn Birds.


message 11: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Egad. I'll set to on first page. I am sorry, but epic poetry doesn't belong on this list.


message 12: by Antoine (new)

Antoine OK, so I have heavily purged the top 100 books. Let me clear— I love epic poems, historical novels, and history plays. I am on my tenth reading of the Odyssey right now, but that we love the books, or that they have historical value, or historical content does not make them works of History.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Yikes. In some people's minds this list seems to have been irrevocably catalogued as one for fiction (regardless whether historical or merely notable as a piece of literature). Removed, for not meeting the list parameters now even stated up front IN CAPS:

The Killer Angels, Burr, Uncle Tom's Cabin, All the King's Men, Doctor Zhivago and Of Mice and Men.

So how's the Odyssey going, Antoine?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Antoine wrote: "OK, so I have heavily purged the top 100 books. Let me clear— I love epic poems, historical novels, and history plays. I am on my tenth reading of the Odyssey right now, but that we love the boo..."

Well put.


message 15: by Booklovinglady (last edited Jul 17, 2012 01:39PM) (new)

Booklovinglady One Dutch book (In a dark wood wandering) and one Flemish book (Het China van Gaspar) deleted, as both are historical novels.


message 16: by Manray9 (new)

Manray9 I guess some people don't understand the difference between fiction versus nonfiction?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Evidently not.


message 18: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Jan 10, 2015 09:11PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Removed:

Orchard of Dust - blurb states it is fiction
The Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels - fiction, as is apparent from title
A Terrace On The Tower Of Babel - blurb indicates it is fiction
Angels Fallen - genre is "thriller," blurb indicates novel
Katherine - I like this historical novel, too; but it is a novel


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