Looking back on the centuries of conflict, plague, famine, imperial collapse, and therefore the rise and fall of civilizations, it’s a wonder we made it here in the least .
History is messy stuff, but much of it’s , in fact, not ugly. The more you recognize about it, the more the messes add up , both during a historical and modern context.
Even more of a wonder is that, beyond surviving, we came up with democracy and literature, sailed across thousands of miles of open ocean, underwent a Renaissance and an Enlightenment and a Jazz Age, and got guys on the moon.
Our top picks stretch across time and therefore the globe, but you’ll see many of our favorites are about Western culture , recent history, and therefore the us .
You could technically argue that these are 12 of the simplest history books out there since we’re featuring a three-part history of WWII together entry.
However, we’ll persist with 10 because a piece of writing about 10 books just sounds such a lot more neat and tidy, in contrast to the topic they cover: human history, which hasn’t been all that neat and tidy in the least .
1. The History of the traditional World by Susan Wise Bauer
he History of the traditional World: From the Earliest Accounts to the autumn of Rome, “guides readers on a fast-paced yet thorough tour of the traditional worlds of Sumer, Egypt, India, China, Greece, Mesopotamia, and Rome.”
I’d call that a fine summation. once you close this sweeping, nearly 900-page tome, you won’t know the blow-by-blow of the Battle of Thermopylae or the intimate details of the plot leading up to Caesar’s assassination, but you’ll have a keen sense of how each early civilization developed, grew, and ultimately fell (or a minimum of changed or merged with another) additionally to how they impacted each other .
If you’ve got forgotten the majority of your ninth-grade ancient history class (I haven’t, by the way, Mr. Farquahar!), then this book may be a good place to start out your re-education.
2. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies isn’t the history of 1 particular place, people, or period, it’s an examination of what happened to a variety of peoples during a host of places and times supported agriculture, disease, and other factors, like luck.
History happened the way it happened not because one group of individuals was innately better than the other , but just because some folks first developed better weapons or learned the way to grow more food than subsequent culture over.
Except for slight changes, it all could are different. (Not necessarily better, mind you, just different.)
3. A World Lit Only by Fire written by William Manchester
In A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and therefore the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age, historian William Manchester humanizes many of our centuries-old forebears, bringing to life those people we all know only from paintings wrought in odd profile with expressionless gaze, tapestries faded by the years, or from etched visages staring down sternly at us from glass windows.
He vilifies those deserving of harsh treatment and illuminates the cruel absurdity of torture and death administered within the name of faith , the centuries that saw civilization fail to advance, and therefore the savagery of Medieval warfare.
The book spans from the collapse of Rome through the Middle Ages and up until the Renaissance, with much of the main target on the High Middle Ages.
4. The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge
I have read Thomas Asbridge’s magisterial work, The Crusades, 3 times , and after each reading I come away with more knowledge of and insight about the years spanning from the late 11th century to the late 13th. (Three times. Seriously.)
The single-volume book is as equally impressive for the quantity of doggedly researched information because it for its easy readability. Asbridge not only covers all of the main campaigns and battles of the Crusade era, painting vivid portraits of all the main players involved (Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, and therefore the Sultan Baybars being notable examples), he also places the Crusades in context, both elucidating what led up to the various clashes and the way their legacy changed the face of the planet .
The author does a superb idea of presenting things from both a Christian and Muslim perspective without passing judgment on who was right or wrong, righteous or sinful.
5. Over the sting of the planet by Laurence Bergreen
If you would like to understand what crazy is, read Lauren Bergreen’s Over the sting of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the world . And for the record, I’m not saying crazy as insane, I mean it as wild, amazing, horrifying, hilarious, and a plethora of other words that are faraway from hyperbole when discussing a three-year sailing trip through parts largely unknown that commenced back in 1519.
In some ways , it’s crazy that Magellan began to sail round the world in and of itself. It’s nuts the way he died. It’s a shock that variety of his men actually made it back again.
Beyond the gripping narrative of the particular journey, an account made possible because of a crewman’s journal, Bergreen sets the voyage into the larger story of the Age of Exploration, an era that also, of course, had revealed this so-called New World across the Atlantic.
You may also read Historical Places You Must Visit
6. 1491 by Charles C. Mann
As we all learned in class , Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But FYI, there was history happening within the Americas before that year. If you would like to find out about pre-Columbian history, 1491: New Revelations of America Before Columbus may be a good place to start out .
Charles Mann reveals civilizations much more advanced than most are given credit, a fact caused by the near-complete obliteration of the communities contacted by the ecu “explorers” of the 16th century.
He brings to life the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, a city larger than any in Europe at the time the Europeans reached it.
He reveals societies with complex organization and advanced agricultural prowess but equally as violent as the other civilization. It’s a dense read, but a rewarding one.
7. 1776 by David McCullough
Ah, David McCullough, dropping knowledge on us for many years . as was common together with his books, 1776 unpacks almost everything you would like to understand about its subject — during this case, we’re talking about the formation of the us of America, a nation forged within the fires of war but crafted by ideals.
In these pages, General Washington is not any mythic figure, he’s flesh and blood, but no less impressive for it. And British commander Sir William Howe is not any villain, either, but a formidable and worthy adversary. McCullough’s writing is authoritative yet readable.
8. Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
It’s important that you simply note the subtitle of James McPherson’s book Battle Cry of Freedom: The war Era.
For while this celebrated tome covers all the main battles and features all the main officers on each side of the war, it also spreads wider, watching the politics of the war years, the events that preceded the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, and therefore the ramifications of America’s deadliest conflict. this is often one among the simplest single-volume histories ever written about the war and could be one among the simplest single-volume histories on any topic of so large a scale.
9. The Guns of August by Tuchman
The horrific cataclysm that was once referred to as the good War, now war I, left scars so deep they’re hardly healed today.
It shattered empires and nations, it ripped apart the land, and it left some 17 million people dead and tens of millions with life-changing injuries.
And it’s ridiculous that the damn thing happened.
To hide everything of the war, you’re getting to got to read several books, but to realize an appreciation for a way and why the conflict started, you would like to read Barbara Tuchman’s seminal work The Guns of August.
The title refers to August 1914, the month during which active hostilities commenced.
10. The Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson
Rick Atkinson didn’t write the book about war II, he wrote the books. His three-volume series, a military at Dawn: The War in North Africa , 1942-1943, The Day of the Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, and therefore the Guns eventually Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, is about the simplest resource you’ll invite when it involves a comprehensive telling of America’s role within the entirety of the Western Theater of WWII.
In reading the books, it’s shocking to find out initially how ill-prepared America was for war and amazing just how good we got at waging it in but half a decade.
Through the course of the books, you follow generals and GIs as, slowly but steadily, the tide turns from a harrowing defensive fight against Axis forces to a particular and total victory.