10 Books Every History Buff Should Read

With the interest in history growing in recent years, literature on the subject is also on the rise. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel to the uncensored narrative of D-Day through German Eyes, we give you the 10 books every history buff should buy and read.

10. A Little History of the World

By E. H. Gombrich

Books Every History Buff Should ReadPresented in a simple and lively format, A Little History of the World chronicles the entire span of human history. First published in 1935, the book was specifically aimed at children but found popularity among all ages. Compiled into 40 short concise chapters, the book is a timeless piece that takes the reader from the Stone Age to the Atomic age in a beautifully crafted little story one can quickly fall in love with. A recommended read for both kids and adults alike.

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9. Histories

By Herodotus

Books Every History Buff Should ReadConsidered as amongst the earliest works of historical literature in the west, Histories offer readers a glimpse into a world long dead, brilliantly brought to life by Herodotus’ skillful writing.   The book gives extensive coverage into the lives, customs and history of nations that existed during Herodotus’ time. The translated edition from Penguin Classics does justice to the original work all the while assisting readers in separating truth from fiction with the generous addition of endnotes.

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 8. Headstrong

By Rachel Swaby

Collection of brisk, bright biographies —The Washington Post

Books Every History Buff Should ReadCovering noble prize winners and pioneering inventors, Swaby’s book introduces to 52 of the history’s brightest female minds at their best, detailing their profiles with absolute rigor and clarity. Headstrong – 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World is an inspiring collection of those women who made deep impacts in the realm of science, presenting role models to today’s generation of female scientists.

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7. Rise and fall of Great Powers

By Paul Kennedy

Books Every History Buff Should ReadIn his book, Kennedy takes the reader on a 500 years history of grand strategy, providing a convincing argument behind the rise and decline of post-Renaissance powers. It explores the links between economic strength and military power of a nation – and how they played a role in its relative decline. However, the real strength of this book lies not in its overarching argument but rather, in the sheer synthesis and presentation of so much useful historical data on great powers of modern history, from 16th century Portugal to the Cold war era superpowers.

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6. Guns, Germs and Steel

By Jared Diamond

Books Every History Buff Should ReadWinner of the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, Guns, Germs, and Steel sets you on a journey encompassing 13,000 years of human history.  Artfully written, the books tries to explain geography and environmental differences as the reason why Eurasian civilizations rose to technological prominence and why others did not. The book gives strong refutation against outdated theories of genetics, race and culture as the cause of the divergence and attempts at providing a unifying theory of human history. This is a book I would personally recommend.

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5. Why Nations Fail

By Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Books Every History Buff Should ReadWhere Jared Diamond’s book explained the rise of Eurasia, Why Nations Fail explains why it was Western Europe and its offshoots that ultimately became the global hegemons. The Books attempts to answer why some nations historically failed and remained underdeveloped while others prospered and grew powerful. An underlying theme in the book is the role of institutions and their impact on a nation’s trajectory.  Comprising 15 years of research, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson provide a compelling answer with plenty of historical evidence to the age-old question of Why Nations Fail.

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4. D-DAY through German Eyes

By Holger Eckhertz

Books Every History Buff Should ReadWith most accounts written through allies’ perspective, D-DAY Through German Eyes gives readers fresh details of the conflict through a different lens, humanizing the soldier on the other side of the line. The book vividly sheds light on the thoughts and experiences of German soldiers stationed in Normandy as they faced the largest seaborne invasion in military history.  One word of warning before you read this book; some accounts are very intense and graphic. Be prepared!

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3. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

 By Mary Beard

 “Beard tells this story precisely and clearly, with passion and without technical jargon…SPQR is a grim success story, but one told with wonderful flair.” – Wall Street Journal

Books Every History Buff Should ReadBy the end of the 1st century CE, the lands under Rome stretched from the coasts of Iberia to the borders of Persia, unrivaled in sophistication and power.  Mary Beard’s original piece brilliantly explores the details of Roman history, from its start as a tiny hamlet to the prelude of the third-century crisis. Touching on subjects otherwise ignored by contemporary literature, Mary gives her readers insight into the lives of Romans, including such famous figures such as Julius Caesar as well those untold.  The book will help readers separate facts from fiction and challenge common assumptions about what we know today as ancient Rome.

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2. Stalingrad

By Antony Beevor

The colossal scale of Stalingrad, the megalomania, the utter absurdity, the sheer magnitude of the carnage … are marvelously captured in Antony Beevor’s new history, ”Stalingrad. – New York Times

Books Every History Buff Should ReadWinner of the Wolfson History Prize, Beevor’s bestseller narrates the story of events leading to and around the decisive battle of Stalingrad waged between Germans and Soviets. Regarded as the bloodiest conflict in the history of warfare, nearly 2 million lives were lost in the fighting. Combining academic rigor with skillful storytelling, Stalingrad is an amazing work that accurately captures the brutal details of the battle while never losing the interest of the reader.

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1. The Guns of August

By Barbara Tuchman

 “More dramatic than fiction . . . a magnificent narrative—beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained.”—Chicago Tribune

Books Every History Buff Should ReadThe Pulitzer-prize winning classic vividly brings back to life the grim details and events that led up to the outbreak of World war I. Showing extensive knowledge on the subject and extraordinary skill with writing, Barbara spectacularly turns a work on specialized history into an enchanted piece of fine literature. The book will provide insight on what led up to the war, how it started and why it could have been avoided.  Overall The Guns of August is a work that will remain relevant for ages to come.

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Abdur Rafay Usmani

I admit that I live in the past, 
but only because housing is so much cheaper.

8 thoughts on “10 Books Every History Buff Should Read

  • November 3, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    They are on my to-read list as well. Especially Guns, Germs and Steel. Reading history opens your horizons.

  • November 3, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I’m not a historian but I am interested in the world histories. Thanks for compiling this list. Some of them are now on my wish list!

  • November 2, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    With respect to ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, I wonder what everyone thinks about Diamond’s assertion that some human groups are superior to others in intelligence for genetic reasons. It may be true, but I don’t think he provides any serious evidence for it — it’s just his subjective opinion. I think we’d better do a lot of rigorous research before reaching such conclusions.

    • November 6, 2016 at 4:18 am

      nobody chooses to be born, nobody chooses his gender when born, nor his colour, nor his intelligence – the only thing that intelligent people can do is act as examples for others and having respect for others

  • November 2, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    You are a humble person, Michael. Books increase thy depth of knowledge, an option still unparalleled in modern times. Thus (feeling like Shakespeare), I will get my hands on these beauties as well 😀

  • October 28, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Interesting, and a hint at how limited my knowledge of history is. With the exception of ‘Stalingrad’ which I only saw the film version of and therefore the lazy option, I must start spreading my historical interests to more global and extended time lines

    • November 6, 2016 at 4:15 am

      it is not necessary to read them all thoroughly – when you have them at hand, you can read a few relevant pages and think those pages over in relation with other information – on that way I’m reading now SPQR in relation of my Greek-Latin stuedies in my youth


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