Created by the reddit/History community
The Classics | Primary Sources | Ancient Mediterranean | Africa | Asia | Middle Ages/Late Antiquity | Age of Discovery | General | World History | European History | Roman Empire | Russia (including USSR | Ireland | US History | United States Civil War | World War I and II | World War II books | Eastern Front | Memoirs | Middle East | The Middle East Throughout the Ages | The Ancient Near East | Carthage/Phoenicia | The Medieval Middle East | Ottoman to Modern Era | Africa | General | Colonial Africa | Ancient Egypt | Asia | China | Modern China | China Throughout the Ages | Early to Imperial China | Late Imperial to Modern China | Japan | Pre-Modern Japan | Modern Japan | Korea | North Korea | South Korea | India | Early History | Latin American/Caribbean History | General | South America | Central America | Caribbean | Cuba | Australia | Native American History | Historiography | Fiction
All volumes marked with an asterisk (*) are available in digital format as e-books, and volumes that are available for free through the common domain have been linked to where they can be easily accessed.
- *The Aeneid by Virgil. Disclaimer: This entry is a work of literary fiction.
- *The Odyssey by Homer (Fitzgerald translation) Disclaimer: This entry is a work of literary fiction.
- *The Iliad by Homer *Disclaimer: This entry is a work of literary fiction.
- *The History of the Church by Eusebius.
- The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant, is an eleven-volume (12 if you count The Story of Philosophy, which the set I have includes) to covers the wide-breath of history. It is a little out of date now. The last volume was published in 1975, and Durant passed away in 1981.
This is a list of documents and histories that were written during or shortly after the events they describe. Although these texts are invaluable for conveying the perspectives and knowledge of individuals writing from Antiquity to the Industrial Revolution, they should not be trusted on their own, as they can often prove to be misinformed, biased or embellished, and secondary sources such as history books produced by modern scholars which combine a wide range of (often conflicting) literary sources and archaeological evidence are needed to put together a complete picture of the past.
Whenever historians read a primary source they have to question who wrote it, why they wrote it and who they were writing for. For instance, was this history a romantic account written by a soldier who participated in the struggles it chronicles and does it stereotype and vilify the enemy? Was it written 400 years after the fact by a disgruntled chronicler who wanted to make unfavourable comparisons between the despots of yesteryear and the current ruling elite? Or is it merely exotic travel literature written by a scholar who based it on the anecdotes of travellers he interviewed despite never personally visiting the regions and cultures he wrote about?
Even when the author had the best of intentions mistakes are occasionally made which is to be expected for works which are often based off of older, anecdotal information and oral histories. It is also important to note that what ancient accounts we do have had to be translated and copied through the ages, often passing through several languages before being translated into the surviving editions we have here.
At the same time it is useful to know what certain aristocratic Greeks thought about Persians, Egyptians and Celts, what was written about China’s past during the Han dynasty by Imperial scholars, or how Conquistadors viewed themselves in relation to native peoples. These striking, classic pieces of literature are essential to the study of history, but rather than taking them literally they are best viewed as what they are: an insight into the minds of the author and his audience.
- *The Histories by Herodotus. (Available for free on Project Gutenberg)
- *The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides (Available for free on Project Gutenberg)
- *Plutarch’s Lives by Plutarch (Available for free on Project Gutenberg).
- *History of Rome by Livy. (Available for free from the University of Virginia)
- *The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar. (Available for free online from Project Gutenberg and MIT)
- *The works of Tacitus. (Available for free online from Project Gutenberg)
Special thanks to /u/NientedeNada for offering his expertise on Japanese history
- Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian
- Sources of Japanese Tradition: Vol 1. From Earliest Times to 1600 (Second Edition, 2002) and Sources of Japanese Tradition: Vol 2. 1600 to 2000 (Second Edition, 2010) have long been a key primary source collection for studying Japanese history in English. it focuses on Japan’s intellectual history: religion, philosophy, education, political thought, historiography etc. *Important: *The Second Edition is greatly expanded and the texts have been more accurately retranslated, with more explanatory material. The First Edition is from the 1960s and while superceded by the Second, would be useful if it’s the only thing a local library has. There’s also an abridged volume which combines material from both volumes of the Second Edition.
- Voices of Early Modern Japan: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life during the Age of the Shoguns by Constantin Vaporis is a very reader-accessible collection of primary sources from the Edo Period on a very wide range of subjects. The sources cover the wide spectrum of society, from top to bottom to the fringes, giving particular attention to social history.
- History of Japan by Engelbert Kaempfer is a primary account, first published in 1727, of a German physician/naturalist, employed by the Dutch East India Company, who was one of the few Europeans to travel through Japan during the Tokugawa period. The history Kaempfer was told and then wrote down is not always accurate, but his careful direct observations of Japanese life are invaluable. There are older English translations of Kaempfer available online,but the best edition is Kaempfer’s Japan: Tokugawa Culture Observed, translated and edited by Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey (1999), since it has excellent editorial material, explaining and illuminating the source.
- Musui’s story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai by Katsu Kokichi, translated and edited by Teruko Craig (1991). A quote from Monumenta Nipponica’s review of it
This charming book…portrays Tokugawa society as it was actually lived, instead of as it was portrayed in moralizing tracts and governmental ordinances. Attractively translated by Teruko Craig, it depicts the life of a man born into a family with the hereditary privilege of audience with the shogun, yet he shamelessly consorted with the riffraff of Edo, ran a protection racket, lied, cheated, and stole….Craig is to be commended for the felicity of her translation and for her clear presentation of a complex social order in the Introduction….Anyone interested in Japanese history and society or in how people interact with each other in whatever age or place will enjoy reading this book.
- *A Diplomat in Japan by Ernest Satow (1921) is the memoir of a British diplomat who got deeply involved in the events of the Meiji Restoration. Can be read on Archive.org through the above link.
Middle Ages/Late Antiquity
- *Chronicles by Jean Froissart. The classic work of the 14th century, Froissart covers the early Hundred Years War, along with discussions of life in the nobility and some truly excellent (and strange) anecdotes about his time with various nobles. Geoffrey Brereton edited an excellent abridged Penguin translation linked above.
- *The Chronicles of the First Crusade by Christopher Tyerman. This is a compilation of multiple chroniclers who wrote about the First Crusade, including but not limited to Fulcher of Chartres, Raymond of Aguilers, Ralph of Caen, and the Gesta Francorum. Each of those accounts is probably worth a look on their own, but this volume binds together the best bits of all of them into a nice, affordable package.
- *Chronicles of the Crusades by Geffroy Villehardouin and Jean Joinville, translated by Margaret Shaw. An older translation is available at Archive.org.
- *The Book of Contemplation by Usama ibn Munqidh (trans. by Paul Cobb). This is a great book. Basically a series of meandering anecdotes and observations written by a fascinatingly well traveled and experiences Muslim man living in the time of the Crusades. He provides fascinating insight into the views of Muslim elites towards the Crusader States, as well as life in general at the time.
- *Toxophilus by Roger Ascham. This ones from 1545, so not really medieval, but still really interesting. It’s a book on archery written for the future King Edward VI, and it provides a sort of backward looking view of the practice of archery as it was conducted in previous centuries, and the value in continuing with it (despite the maturation of gunpowder as a technology). The whole thing is written as a Greek dialogue, which makes it a tough read, but also interestingly weird. (Available as an ebook for free on Google Books).
- *Arab Historians of the Crusades by Francesco Gabrieli gathers excerpts from seventeen different authors to create a vibrant picture of the Crusades from an Arab perspective.
Age of Discovery
- Letters From Mexico, by Hernán Cortés to King Charles V of Spain. Here is an open access ebook of George Folsam’s 1843 translation, although it is a bit more dated.
- *The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea. Vol. I and Vol II by Zurara/Azurara. Is an account of early Henrican voyages of discovery (until 1450) by Henrican offical chronicler Zurara (or Azurara). English translation (available free from Gutenberg) from text originating in ~1450s.
- Original Journals of the Voyages of Cada Mosto by Cadamosto originally written ~1460. English translation n “General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels Volume II” by R.Kerr (1824). Alternative translation in G.R. Crone, ed. (1937)
- *The Voyages of Cadamosto and other documents on Western Africa in the second half of the fifteenth century. First hand, reliable account of several voyages to Senegal and Gambia in 1450s by venetian merchant Alivse Cadamosto in service of Henry the Navigator. (Available on Google Books and other sites).
- *A Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama 1497–1499. (English translation by Hakluyt Society, 1898 available on Archive.rog). Journal of Vasco Da Gama journey to India and back.
- *The Suma oriental of Tome´ Pires : an account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, written in Malacca and India in 1512–1515 Portuguse travellers account of the lands and countries in Asia in early 16th century, some visited, some just recorded from others. Description of each country, their rulers and military strength, and commercial and trade analysis. (1944 English Translation available on Archive.org)
- The Discovery of the Solomon Islands by Alvaro de Mendaña in 1568: Translated from the Original Spanish Manuscripts Translated and edited by Lord Amherst and Basil Thomson.
- Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts by Andrew Robinson is a good book about unknown languages. Review of it from the Times of London.
- Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. Every human needs it. If you don’t have salt, you die.
- Uncommon Grounds: The History Of Coffee And How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. Coffee is the second most valuable trade good in the world economy — only oil is a bigger part of world trade.
- A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat. Complete with illustrations this volume covers the history of food in remarkable depth.
- How the World Was One by Arthur C. Clarke is a very good history of the growth of telecommunications. From the laying of undersea cables across the Atlantic to the birth of the Comsat.
- *The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past by John Lewis Gaddis.
- *The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landes.
- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.
- The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code Breaking by Simon Singh.
- *The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick (Available on audio format.)
- *The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean. (Also available on MP3 format.)
- *The Many-Headed Hydra by Marcus Rediker & Peter Linebaugh.
- Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to darfur by Ben Kiernan. As the title suggests this one covers a bit of a dark subject but one that remains an important facet of human history.
- A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide: 2013 Edition by Samantha Powell. Powell does tread into political waters in her work but it is still an excellent book on the history of American foreign policy where it pertains to genocide.
- Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill.
- Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler — exploring world history through the languages that wrote it.
- Who’s who in Mythology: Classic Guide to the Ancient World by Alexander S. Murray.
- The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors by John Gribbin.
- False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes by Thomas Hoving.
- The New History of the World by J. M. Roberts is probably the best single volume history of the world out there. I own several editions of this book.
- *Twentieth Century: The History of the World, 1901 to 2000 also by J. M. Roberts. (Also available on audio format.)
- Ancient History: From the First Civilizations to the Renaissance also by J. M. Roberts.
- Modern History: From the European Age to the New Global Era also by J. M. Roberts.
- The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History by Michael Hart is an interesting book. It is a list of 100 short (~ 3–10 page) biographies of who the author believes are the most influential persons from human history. He ranks Mohammad at #1.
- The Military 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Leaders of All Time by Lt. Col Michael Lee Lanning is a similar ranking of military leaders from world history.
- In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth by J. P. Mallory is very good. English, Latin, Greek, Russian, Farsi (Iranian), Hindi, etc. are all closely related. Understanding the origins of the worlds largest language family is important.
- Atlas of World History by John Haywood provides a lot of good maps.
- *After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires by John Darwin.
- Asimov’s Chronology of the World: The History of the World From the Big Bang to Modern Time by Isaac Asimov.
- It’s companion piece if Asimov’s Chronology of Science & Discovery: Updated and Illustrated.
- Some other books by Asimov of interest may be Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology and Asimov’s Guide to the Bible.
- The Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague De Camp.
- *The Mongols by David Morgan.
- Genghis Khan: Conqueror of the World by Leo de Hartog.
- Early India by Romila Thapar.
- *The Kingdom of the Hittites by Trevor Bryce.
- *The History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage. (Available on audio and MP3 format.)
- History’s Timeline Revised and Updated: a 40,000 Year Chronicle of Civilization by Jean Cook, Ann Kramer and Theodore Rowland-Entwistle.
- Alexander of Macedon 356–323 B.C.: A Historical Biography by Peter Green.
- A Guide to the Ancient World: A Dictionary of Classical Place Names by Michael Grant.
- Attila: King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth by Patrick Howarth.
- Atlas of World Military History by Richard Brooks.
- Encyclopedia of World History edited by Jeremy Black.
- The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval and Modern — Chronologically Arranged edited by Peter N. Stearns.
- War In The Shadows: The Guerrilla In History — Volume I & Volume II by Robert Asprey.
- J. M. Roberts also wrote a good History of Europe as well as The Triumph of the West. (Both available on CD/Cassette format)
- The Illustrated History of Europe by Frederic Delouche is pretty good.
- A History of the Middle Ages by Joseph Dahmus is pretty straight forward normal history. But it does account for the effect of Islamic influence on Europe.
- The Making of the Middle Ages by R. W. Southern.
- *The Making of the English Working Class by E.P. Thompson.
- The Royal Touch: Monarchy and Miracles in France and England by Marc Bloch.
- Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, translated by Barbara Bray.
- The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller by Carlo Ginzburg, and translated by John Tedeschi and Anne C. Tedeschi.
- The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Vol. 1 and 2 by Fernand Braudel.
- The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity by Peter Brown.
- The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity by Peter Brown.
- Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 by Caroline Walker Bynum.
- *Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages by R. W. Southern.
- The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought by Heiko Augustinus Oberman.
- The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400–1200 by Mary Carruthers.
- *The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture by Mary Carruthers.
- A History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill.
- *The Oxford History of the French Revolution by William Doyle.
- *Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed. It’s about the Great Depression in Europe. (Also available on audio and MP3 format.)Review of it from the NY Times Book Review.
- The Thirty Years War by Peter H. Wilson
- *Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades by John J. Robinson.
- Barbarian West 400–1000 by J. M. Wallace-Hadrill.
- Who’s Who In the Middle Ages by John Fines.
- Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics by Chas S. Clifton.
- *The Secret History by Procopius. Very biased, but an interesting perspective.
- Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph by Alan Palmer.
- Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England by Juliet Barker.
- Napoleon: The Final Verdict edited by Philip J. Haythornthwaite.
- The Celts: The People Who Came Out of the Darkness by Gerhard Herm.
- A.D. 1000: A World on the Brink of Apocalypse by Richard Erdoes.
- *A History of Wales by John Davies.
- *Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956 by Anne Applebaum.
- The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturlason
- Empires and Barbarians by Peter Heather (Also available on MP3 and CD format.)
- The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology by Kevin Crossley-Holland
- *Empires of the Sea: the Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World by Roger Crowley (Also available on MP3 and CD format.)
- The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. (Also available on audio and MP3 format.)
- John Julius Norwich wrote a good 3-volume history of the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire. Constantine the Great was very important to the development of Christianity.
- *Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland. Also his book on Persia — Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West is good. (Both are also available on audio and MP3 format.)
- Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt. (Also available on audio format.) Good piece at Salon about this book.
- Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor also by Anthony Everitt. (Available on audio and CD format.)
- The Roman Emperors: A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome 318 B.C. — A.D. 476 by Michael Grant.
- *SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
Russia (including USSR):
- A History of Russia by Walter Moss.
- The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States Ronald Suny.
- A History of Russia by Nicholas Riasanovsky & Mark Steinberg.
- The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
- *Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia by Martin Malia.
- *Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed. (Available for free on Project Gutenberg.)
- Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers by Stephen F. Cohen & Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
- Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick. (Available on audio and Cassette format.)
- The IRA: A History by Tim Pat Coogan.
- Behind the Mask: The IRA and Sinn Fein by Peter Taylor.
- A Secret History of the IRA by Ed Moloney.
- Ireland in the Middle Ages by Sean Duffy
- Ireland by Thomas Bartlett
- Modern Ireland 1600–1972 by R. Foster.
- *George Washington’s War: The Saga of the American Revolution.
- From Sea to Shining Sea: From the War of 1812 to the Mexican War; The Saga of America’s Expansion.
- None Died in Vain: The Saga of the American Civil War.
- *The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Free online version here)
- *Crazy Horse and Custer by Stephen Ambrose
Other US history books:
- A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn has a lot of fans on Reddit. /r/askhistorians is critical of it. This link may be an on-line edition.
- Complete Book of U.S. Presidents by William DeGregorio provides a biography of each US President, and is one of the best books that try and rank the US Presidents.
- *Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. It is about Theodore Roosevelt. (Available on audio format.)
- Two other books by Morris also about TR are *The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Colonel Roosevelt. (Colonel Roosevelt is available on audio format.)
- *Truman by David McCullough. (Also available on audio format.)
- *A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt by Geoffrey C. Ward.
- *No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by Doris Kearns Goodwin. (Available on audio and CD format.)
- Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands. (Available on audio and CD format.)
- Also by Kearns Goodwin, *Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. (Also available on audio format.)
- *Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
- *The Fifties by David Halberstam. (Also available on cassette format.)
- *The Very Best Men: The Daring Early Years of the CIA by Evan Thomas.
- *Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow. (Available on audio and CD format.)
- Andrew Carnegie (Biography) by Joseph Frazier Wall.
- *The Life of P. T. Barnum, Written by Himself by…… Oh, I think you’ll figure it out.
- *Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. (Available on audio format.)
- *Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. (Available for free on Project Gutenberg.)
- *Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class by Jefferson R. Cowie.
- *Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy by Bruce Watson. (Also available on MP3 format.)
- Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein.
- *Goldwater by Barry Goldwater and Jack Casserly. This autobiography is very good, although it is rather one-sided. But that’s to be expected.
- Man of the House: The Life & Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O’Neill by Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.
- Tip O’ Neill and the Democratic Century: A Biography by John A. Farrell.
- *In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow. A bit too much opinion for my tastes, but nonetheless an entertaining read and great starting point for the subject.
- *Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush by Paul F. Boller, Jr.
- *Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character by Roger G. Kennedy.
- *Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, And The Future Of America by Thomas Fleming.
- Almanac of American History by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
- Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg. (Available on cassette format.)
- *1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America by Andreas Killen.
- Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg. (Available on audio and cassette format.)
- Test of Loyalty: Daniel Ellsberg and the Rituals of Secret Government by Peter Schrag.
- Wild Man: The Life and Times of Daniel Ellsberg by Tom Wells.
- A Year Of Disobedience And A Criticality Of Conscience by Joseph Daniel and others.
United States Civil War
- *The Civil War Triology by Shelby Foote
- *The Fiery Trial by Eric Foner (Also Available on CD format.)
- *Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 by Eric Foner (Also available on MP3.)
- The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861 by David M. Potter
- The Iron Brigade: a Military History by Alan T. Nolan
- The Life of Billy Yank and *The Life of Johnny Reb both by Bell Irvin Wiley
- Battlecry of Freedom by James McPherson
World War I and II
- The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.
- *The First World War by Hew Strachan.
- *The Origins of the First World War (New Approaches to European History) by William Mulligan.
- Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II by Robert Leckie . IMHO is the best one-volume history of WW2 that exists.
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer.
- The Second World War by Winston Churchill.
- *Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning.
- Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan by Ronald Spector.
- War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War by John Dower.
- Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider by Peter Gay.
- Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1922–1945 by William Sheridan Allen.
- The Weimar Republic Sourcebook by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg.
- The Weimar Republic by Detlev J. K. Peukert.
- Between Two Fires: Europe’s Path in the 1930s by David Clay Large.
- *The Coming of the Third Reich and The Third Reich in Power both by Richard J. Evans. (Both are also available on audio format.)
- *The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze.
- *Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis.
- *With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge. (Also available on audio format.)
- *The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel. (Also available on audio and cassette format.) Also of interest may be Recordings from the Good War from the authors web page.
- *Crusade in Europe by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
- Spandau: The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer.
- *World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, The Nazis and the West by Lawrence Rees.
- The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939–1941 by Anthony Read and David Fisher.
- The Red Army and the Wehrmacht by Yuri L. Djakov and Tatyana Bushuyeva.
- *The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War by Martin Gilbert.
- *After the Holocaust by Michael Brenner. Translated by Barbara Harshav. (Also available on audio format.)
- *Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt.
- *Germany 1945: From War to Peace by Richard Bessel.
- *Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe. (Also available on MP3.)
World War II books provided by /u/WARFTW
- When Titans Clashed by David M. Glantz and Jonathan House A good introductory account of the clash between the Wehrmacht and Red Army based on post-Cold War research and archival materials. Dispels a few myths from the Cold War era and allows for a more nuanced understanding of the Eastern Front from the Soviet point-of-view.
- Russia at War by Alexander Werth This is a ‘classic’ account of the Eastern Front from a Russian born British journalist and war correspondent. It’s filled with eye-witness accounts but also is prone to repeating propaganda from the time period it is covering.
- Thunder in the East by Evan Mawdsley A more up-to-date introduction to the Eastern Front by an academic. This builds on ‘When Titans Clashed’ by taking the most up to date secondary literature in Russian and crafting a very accessible, fact rich synthesis of the Eastern Front.
- Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War by Chris Bellamy Bellamy was a student of John Erickson and is/was in the military. “Absolute War” is a substantial tome that encompasses some of the more recent literature on the war and includes interesting case studies of organizations like the NKVD. Unfortunately, 1941 and 1942 are overly represented, whereas the rest of the war seems to be somewhat skimmed over.
- Hitler’s War in the East, 1941–1945: A Critical Assessment by Rolf-Dieter Muller and Gerd R. Ueberschar There are many myths that exist about the Eastern Front, especially revolving around the Wehrmacht and how the Germans waged war. This text is a good start in discussing some of those myths.
- *The Road to Stalingrad and The Road to Berlin by John Erickson These two books are the foundation of literature on the Eastern Front. Written during the Cold War they showcase the tremendous amount of information that was available at the time and the complexity of the Eastern Front. Although Erickson tried his best, he was still somewhat influenced by Soviet propaganda in some of his accounts. Nonetheless, this is still a staple to this day for understanding the Eastern Front.
- A Writer at War by Vasily Grossman Grossman was a war correspondent and an author. He has recently been ‘rediscovered’ in both Russia and the west and his “Life and Fate” is at times compared to Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. In ‘A Writer at War’ the reader is presented with eye-witness accounts from the duration of the war, including some of the most powerful articles/reports from Stalingrad and Treblinka.
- *The Role of the Soviet Union in the Second World War: A Re-examination by Boris Sokolov This is a post-Cold War effort by a controversial Russian author. The arguments presented are not meant for the layman, but thrust the reader into the midst of current Russian debates on the Eastern Front, including Lend Lease and casualties in both the war as a whole and, more specifically, during the Battle of Kursk.
- Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought: The Red Army’s Military Effectiveness in World War II by Roger R. Reese Reese attempts to explain why Red Army soldiers continued to fight in the face of numerous defeats and catastrophic set backs during 1941 and 1942, analyzing their effectiveness from the Winter War throughout the Eastern Front of the Second World War. Reese is an expert on the Red Army and presents many original arguments based on recent literature, memoirs, and archival findings. This is an especially important text for understanding why the Wehrmacht was successful in 1941.
- Blood on the Shores by Viktor Leonov. This is one of the best memoirs written about the Eastern Front. The author was twice Hero of the Soviet Union and served in the precursor to today’s Spetsnaz forces, naval infantry reconnaissance. He fought against both the Germans in the Baltic and against the Japanese in the Pacific.
- Over the Abyss by Ilya Starinov. Starinov was a demolitions expert and participated in partisan operations from the Russian Civil War, through the Spanish Civil War, and the Eastern Front of the Second World War. He trained partisan forces in the German rear and helped wage war against the Wehrmacht.
- *Red Sniper on the Eastern Front by Joseph Pilyushin. The majority of the action takes place on the Leningrad Front and encompasses a lot more than just Pilyushin’s sniper activity. In some ways it showcases the fluid nature of being in the Red Army during the Second World War. This memoir offers a lot of insight into the mentality of Red Army soldiers, showcases the ingenuity of the Red Army, portrays quite well the chaos of war.
- *GUNS AGAINST THE REICH: Memoirs of an Artillery Officer on the Eastern Front by Petr Mikhin. The author took part in the fighting around Rzhev, Kharkov, and Kursk, among other locations. There aren’t many memoirs featuring artillery observers, so this recollection offers an important portrayal of the role artillery plays in war, especially the reliance the Red Army placed on artillery support.
- *PANZER DESTROYER: Memoirs of a Red Army Tank Commander by Vasiliy Krysov. Krysov served in both tanks (KV and T-34) and self-propelled artillery guns (SU-122 and SU-85). This account offers a fascinating portrayal of the Red Army’s tank park at war, including their ingenuity on the field of battle and the deprivations they suffered from as they advanced on empty stomachs and with little to no sleep day after day.
- Through the Maelstrom: A Red Army Soldier’s War on the Eastern Front, 1942–1945 by Boris Gorbachevsky. This is somewhat of a well known title in Russia. Gorbachevsky served around Rzhev and participated in what some would describe was a ‘human wave attack’. This memoir doesn’t contain as much action as some of the above mentioned texts, but since Gorbachevsky was a political officer, it offers a different kind of insight into the thinking of political officers and the role they played in the Red Army.
- *Red Road From Stalingrad: Recollections Of A Soviet Infantryman by Mansur Abdulin. This is a well written account of the Eastern Front filled with battles and locations that few would have heard of (aside from Stalingrad) and the sacrifices Red Army soldiers regularly made for their comrades in arms and their country.
- *Red Star Against the Swastika: The Story of a Soviet Pilot over the Eastern Front by Vasily Emelianenko. Emelianenko offers a glimpse into the life of Soviet pilots and the drastic actions some had to take. The Soviet Air Force (VVS) is often overlooked and this memoir gives a good account of what the Red Army asked of its pilots.
- *Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943–45 by Alexander V. Pyl’cyn. There are very, very few memoirs from penal formations as they suffered grievous losses throughout the war. This memoir is by a regular Red Army officer who was put in charge of a penal company (made up of Red Army officers) and discusses what life was like for Red Army penal formations, and the officers that commanded them.
- Through Hell for Hitler by Henry Metelmann. One of the few memoirs written by a Wehrmacht soldier that serves as an interesting reflection of the crimes the German army committed on the Eastern Front. All too often German military memoirs gloss over the genocidal nature of the war they waged against the Soviet Union, Metelmann brings those atrocities into focus.
- *A Stranger to Myself: The Inhumanity of War : Russia, 1941–1944 by Willy Peter Reese. Reese did not survive the Eastern Front. This candid memoir reveals what everyday life in the German army was like and the transformation some soldiers undoubtedly underwent as they were forces to wage a genocidal war on behalf of the Third Reich.
- War Without Garlands: Barbarossa 1941/42 by Robert Kershaw. Kershaw offers an excellent account of the initial invasion of the Soviet Union through eye-witness accounts from both the Red Army and the Wehrmacht.
- *BARBAROSSA DERAILED: THE BATTLE FOR SMOLENSK 10 JULY-10 SEPTEMBER 1941 VOLUME 1: The German Advance, The Encirclement Battle, and the First and Second Soviet Counteroffensives, 10 July-24 August 1941 and Barbarossa Derailed: The Battle for Smolensk 10 July-10 September 1941 Volume 2: The German Offensives on the Flanks and the Third Soviet Counteroffensive, 25 August-10 September 1941 by David Glantz. This is the first and second volume in a trilogy that discuss the battle for Smolensk, what some consider to be a German failure that eventually set the stage for operation Typhoon and the defeat of the German Army outside Moscow. They are not for the layman and the narrative is written around battle reports from the Red Army to a large extent. Glantz offers some of his own analysis and conclusions, but that makes up a rather small portion of the overall text.
- *Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East, Kiev 1941, *Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941 by David Stahel. These three texts offer a new and more nuanced version of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, the battle for Kiev, and the eventual German lunge toward Moscow in Operation Typhoon. Most histories present 1941, when speaking of the Wehrmacht, as a year of triumph when the Germans could do no wrong. Stahel shows the numerous mistakes committed by the German high command and the resulting deficiencies that plagued the Wehrmacht as Germany invaded the Soviet Union and set the stage for her eventual defeat outside Moscow.
- *THE VIAZ’MA CATASTROPHE, 1941: The Red Army’s Disastrous Stand against Operation Typhoon by Lev Lopukhovsky. Lopukhovsky offers a look at 1941 and one of the lesser known encirclement operations by the Germans in October of 1941. Lopukhovsky concentrates mainly on the Russian side of things, including showcasing Soviet/Red Army weaknesses on the eve and throughout the first months of the war, but presents a good amount of information from/on the German side that makes for a more balanced look at the Eastern Front.
- *What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa by David E. Murphy. Murphy does an excellent job showcasing the intelligence the Soviet Union received on the eve of Operation Barbarossa but also explaining the ambiguous nature of the information that was sent through intelligence channels.
- *War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941 by Geoffrey P. Megargee. This is a slim volume that’s meant to show the Wehrmacht’s complicity in the genocidal campaign that was waged throughout the opening phase of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
- Germany and the Second World War: Volume IV: The Attack on the Soviet Union by Horst Boog, et al. This is volume IV of a planned ten volume history entitled ‘Germany and the Second World War’. Most of the volumes are around 1,000 pages and are oriented toward researchers, scholars, and experts in the field. If you have a good grounding on the Eastern Front, this will enhance your understanding of Germany’s war effort(s).
- Stalingrad: How the Red Army Survived the German Onslaught by Michael Jones. Jones attempts to analyze the motivation behind the Red Army and what was responsible for keeping up their morale throughout the siege of the Stalingrad. He corrects quite a few of Anthony Beevor’s mistakes and offers an engaging narrative of the battle, including eye-witness accounts from surviving veterans.
- *Leningrad: State of Siege By Michael Jones. Similar to his book on Stalingrad, Jones once more takes a look at what motivated Leningraders and the Red Army defenders of Leningrad to continue to struggle against the Wehrmacht when surrounded and facing famine conditions on a daily basis for months at a time.
- *Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad by William Craig. This volume was first published in the 1970s and offers a good and accessible introductory account of the Battle for Stalingrad. (Also available on audio.)
- To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942 and Armageddon in Stalingrad: September-November 1942 by David M. Glantz and Jonathan House. These two volumes offer the definitive account on the battle of Stalingrad from the operational side of things. The concentration is mainly on the Red Army but the German point of view is present as well. This is not aimed at the novice or layman and relies on a large amount of after action reports and battle journals of the units involved in the battle.
- Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East, 1942–1943 by Joel Hayward. This is an important text that showcases the role of the Luftwaffe in the German advance to Stalingrad and how the German air force helped sustain the 6th Army for as long as it could after Paulus and his forces were encircled within the confines of Stalingrad.
- The 900 Days: The Siege Of Leningrad by Harrison E. Sailsbury. Salisbury was a journalist and offers a very moving introductory account to the siege of Leningrad. This is one of the first and more famous narratives on the siege of Leningrad and in many respects holds up to this day in terms of portraying a suffering the city of Leningrad and its population had to endure during the close to 900 days the Germans had them surrounded.
- The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House. Another volume by Glantz that serves as a good introductory to the battle of Kursk. It isn’t without its problems and issues, but for someone new to the field, it’s a good starting place.
- Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle at Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943: An Operational Narrative by Valeriy Zamulin. Zamulin is an historian who works at the Kursk museum. One of his first publications was on Prokhorovka, and this is a translation of that massive tome. He’s since put out a few more volumes, all of similar length, on other aspects of Kursk and all are recommended but, unfortunately, they are only available in Russian at the moment. This is a volume for those already familiar with the Eastern Front and Kursk as it delves into many minor nuances with evidence and information from both the German and Soviet side. A must read for those interested in the Red Army’s performance at Prokhorovka.
- Barbarossa: The Air Battle July-December 1941, Stalingrad: The Air Battle: 1942-January 1943, Kursk: The Air Battle, July 1943, Bagration to Berlin: The Final Air Battles in the East 1944–1945 by Christer Bergstrom. These four volumes offer an excellent introduction and description of the air war on the Eastern Front from both the German and Soviet point of view.
- Black Cross/Red Star : Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa 1941, Black Cross / Red Star: The Air War Over The Eastern Front, Vol. 2 — Resurgence: January — June 1942, Black Cross Red Star: The Air War Over the Eastern Front Volume 3 by Christer Bergstrom and Andrey Mikhailov. Similar to Bergstrom’s four volumes, these three volumes offer an in-depth look at the air war over the Eastern Front and include descriptions and stories from both the German and Soviet side, including archival information and eye-witness testimonies.
- War of Extermination: The German Military in World War II Edited by H. Heer and K. Naumann. This is one of the few texts that examines the role of the Wehrmacht in the ‘war of extermination’ that was unleashed against the Soviet Union with Opreation Barbarossa. The concentration here is on examining and disproving the myth about the ‘Wehrmacht with clean hands’.
- *Hitler’s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich by Omer Bartov. Bartov tries to showcase the impact Nazi ideology had on the German Army and how the war on the Eastern Front and German propaganda helped shape a new type of German Army.
- The Myth of the Eastern Front: The Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture by Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies ll. This book offers an interesting look at the infatuation American culture has with the war on the Eastern Front and the German Army in general (including the SS). Too often one hears about how the ‘victors write the history books’ but in this case the history of the war and the German Army was heavily influenced by the defeated officers and soldiers in the post-war period. The myths they created are still prevalent in how many view the German army and the war on the Eastern Front in general.
- *The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality by Wolfram Wette. This is another interesting look at how the veterans of the German Army helped create the narrative of the war many are familiar with today, including the role of the Army in the holocaust/genocide in the East.
- *The Unknown Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht and Hitler’s Foreign Soldiers by Rolf-Dieter Müller. There are many reasons for why the German army was as successful as it was against the Red Army on the Eastern Front. One of the most important is the assistance that was rendered the Wehrmacht by Germany’s allies. All too often that assistance is dismissed as being of limited value, but the truth is that without her allies Germany would never have been able to reach Stalingrad, less so hold out against the Red Army until May of 1945. This text explains the impact Germany’s allies and foreign volunteers had on the German war effort.
- *Defiance by Nechama Tec. This is the book the movie with the same title is based on. In general the Jewish narrative of the Second World War is embedded in the ‘victim’ mentality and yet there were numerous instances of Jewish resistance, from partisans to revolts within ghettos and concentration/death camps. This showcases the former, a band of Jewish partisans that did more than just fight the German occupation, they made it a rule to save as many women, children, and the elderly as they could. (Also available on audio format.)
- Stalin’s Guerrillas: Soviet Partisans in World War II by Kenneth Slepyan. Slepyan is an academic and this monograph is an in-depth look at the partisan war effort on the Eastern Front, concentrating on the creation of the partisan movement and the complex nature of war on occupied territory and in the rear of the German Army.
- *Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff. Berkhoff offers an in-depth look at the German occupation of Ukraine, a territory that endured some of the worst excesses of the German Army’s advance, the Einsatzgruppen that followed, and the partisan war that followed in its wake. Both collaboration and resistance is discussed as part of everyday life of those under occupation.
- *Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine by Wendy Lower. This monograph looks at the German occupation of Ukraine but places it in the greater context of German ‘Empire-Building’ and how that mindset facilitated the excesses of the Holocaust on Ukrainian territory. (Also available on audio and MP3 format.)
- *Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine by Omer Bartov. Bartov explores the erasure of memory, including the Holocaust and Jewish history in general, throughout Western Ukrainian territory as the recently created state of Ukraine tries to come to terms with its past while crafting a new memory and history for its indigenous population.
- The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization edited by Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower. This is an anthology concentrating on the Holocaust in Ukraine, mainly aimed at/for academics. Ukraine has a very complex history, in great part influenced by the fact that parts of today’s Ukraine were once part of the Habsburg Empire while other territories belonged in various times to Poland and Russia/the Soviet Union. Topics covered include German Military administration and complicity in the Holocaust, Jewish-Ukrainian and German-Ukrainian relations in Galicia, as well as Romania’s role in the Holocaust.
Soviet and German Commanders:
- *Stalin’s Generals Edited by Harold Shukman. This is an excellent introductory/starting point for those interested in some of the more famous Red Army commanders and their roles in the war on the Eastern Front.
- Red Army Tank Commanders: The Armored Guards by Richard N. Armstrong. Armstrong is a military officer who knows Russian and wrote this monograph on the six tank armies of the Red Army and their respective commanders. Well worth the read to understand how Red Army commanders handled their tank forces and in general how armored formations were employed throughout the war on the Eastern Front.
- *Marshal of Victory: The Autobiography of General Georgy Zhukov by Georgy Zhukov and Geoffrey Roberts. This is a must if you have an interest in the Red Army. Zhukov’s memoirs present some problems, having gone through 13 editions, but Roberts is an excellent historian who’s written on Zhukov himself so he presents something of a balance.
- *Stalin’s General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov by Geoffrey Roberts. Zhukov is a somewhat controversial figure in today’s Russia and Roberts has taken it upon himself to meticulously go through the various editions of Zhukov’s memoirs and his personal archive to take apart the various ‘myths’ that made it into the pages of Zhukov’s memoirs.
- *Field Marshal von Manstein: The Janus Head / A Portrait by Marcel Stein. Manstein is often made out to be the greatest German commander of the Second World War but there is more than one side to the man that most like so much to laud. Although Stein’s portrait of Manstein presents some limitations and weaknesses, overall it is a step in the right direction that few others have taken as they seem to be too enamored with Manstein, and the German officer corps in general.
- *Hitler’s Commander: Field Marshal Walther Model — Hitler’s Favorite General by Steven H. Newton. Model is a well known German commander but he’s more significant and visible in the latter part of the Second World War. He was Hitler’s ‘defensive’ general and a fanatical Nazi. Newton does a good job in analyzing Model’s rise through the ranks and the role he played in delaying various Red Army offensives up until his defeat and suicide on the Western Front.
The Middle East Throughout the Ages
- A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani.
- The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf
- The Arabs: A History by Eugene Rogan.
The Ancient Near East
- The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, edited by Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson: a voluminous collection of essays dealing with every aspect of the culture of the “cuneiform world” from food to education to political organization to music. Very readable and extensive in its coverage and throughly up-to-date.
- A History of the Ancient Near East: ca 3000–323 BC, Marc van der Mieroop: It’s an expansive history of the region that at once shows off its scale but also avoids overwhelming with information. It’s a must read to acquire a sense of perspective over the region’s history.
- Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East by Michael Roaf.
- King Hammurabi of Babylon: a Biography, by Marc van der Mieroop: Hammurabi is one of the most famous Near Eastern figures in history, and this extensively researched account of his life is a good introduction both to Hammurabi and the society he existed in. It’s also a keen illustration of the depth of cuneiform resources.
- The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. Among the most popular introductory level books on any biblical subject ever written. Just be a little bit careful, Finkelstein works in his “low chronology” without preface, which is good for his inteded audience, but bad for a broader view, as it remains contentious. It’s worth picking up Grabbe’s book to help spot where he does so.
- Did God Have a Wife by William Dever. Dever has a decidedly more conservative flair, but trumps other more conservative scholars by being an archaeologist, and — for the most part — giving the archaeology priority.
- Israel’s History and the History of Israel by Mario Liverani. Liverani stands out as being perhaps the truest scholar of the Ancient Near East generally to write on the history of Israel, and this is valuable on that basis alone.
- Ancient Israel: What do we know and how do we know it? by Lester Grabbe. Despite the somewhat colloquial feel of the title, this is not light reading. Nor is it intended to be, it provides a succinct, easily understandable discussion of all of the major debates in Israelite archaeology today. It wonderfully fills a fairly obvious gap for a quick and dirty reference for recent discoveries.
- Biblical History and Israel’s Past: the changing study of the Bible and History, Megan B. Moore and Brad E. Kelle (2011). I can’t say enough about how fantastic this book is. The breadth and accessibility of this overview of the current state of research is incredible. The suggested reading at the end of each chapter provides a wonderful selection of equally readable texts (at least among ones I’ve read). Just. . .fantastic.
- Life in Biblical Israel by Philip J. King and Lawrence E. Stager (2001). The go-to source for all questions on daily life in ancient Israel (in the Bronze and Iron ages). An excellent overview of all the various aspects of daily life, from food and cooking ways to economics and trade, to clothing, to religion, this book is the place to start. Perfect for answering all those questions about “what did people use for (blank) in the Ancient Near East?”.
- Ancient Turkey by A.G. Sagona and Paul Zimansky (2009). This is an excellent overview of ancient Anatolia, from the Neolithic settlements of Çatalhöyük to the Lydian empire. It includes some discussions pertaining to Troy and the Hittites as well. Overall an excellent book for learning about the often overlooked ancient history of Anatolia, and a must-have for any class on the subject.
Carthage : A History by Serge Lancel is the definitive guide to the famous empire that rocked Rome to its core.
The Medieval Middle East
- The Great Caliphs: The Golden Age of the ‘Abbasid Empire by Amira Bennison (2009): A more modern survey of the ‘Abbasid period which is extremely useful for discussing not only the reign of the Caliphs, but the great developments that the Islamic world underwent during this “golden age” of Islamic endeavor (science, philosophy, history, law, etc) Extremely readable and highly recommended.
- Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ‘Abbasid Society by Dimitri Gutas A good book to showcase the ways that the Dark Ages contributed to the growth and preservation of human knowledge and the way that many Classical works were preserved after the Fall of the Roman Empire.
- Byzantium: The Early Centuries, Byzantium: The Apogee and Byzantium: The Decline and Fall is a 3-part history that covers the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the thousand year history of its Eastern half standing alone while besieged by enemies within and without.
- *The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate by G.R. Hawting is an older read but one of the best on the Umayyad Caliphate which is too rarely looked at when studying the history of the Middle East.
- The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge who is without a doubt one of the best scholars on the subject of the Crusades, that fascinating and dramatized series of religious wars and sociopolitical turmoil.
Ottoman to Modern Era
- A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire by M. Şükrü Hanioğlu takes a comprehensive and macroscopic look at the struggles faced by the Ottoman Empire in its late period.
- Turkey: A Modern History by Erik J. Zurcher..
- *A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Mark Tessler.
- *Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Michael B. Oren.
- *The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe.
- *The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East by Abraham Rabinovich.
- *Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East by David Hirst.
- *The Middle East by Bernard Lewis
- Armies in the Sand: the Struggle for Mecca and Medina by John Sabini. Concerns the battle between Ottoman Egypt and the first Saudi State for control of the two most important cities in Islam from 1811–1818.
- *The Decline & Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer.
- King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild.
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch.
- *Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith.
- *The State of Africa by Martin Meredith.
- *Through the Dark Continent by Henry Morton Stanley.
- *The Washing of the Spears by Doonald R. Morris. Written in 1960, some of the research and opinions are dated; e.g. “hottentots” is no longer considered PC. Still, the basis of all subsequent research on the Anglo-Zulu War.
- The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective by Crawford Young examines the roots of current strife in Africa by looking at the long history of European colonialisation of Africa and its effects on an administrative, social, cultural, economic and political level.
- The Twilight of Ancient Egypt this volume takes a look at the last millenium of Ancient Egypt prior to being conquered by Alexander the Great and chronicles the shifting cultural, economic and sociopolitical landscape as Persian, Libyan, Kushite and Greek dynasties rise to power in the land of pyramids.
- *The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson is one of the definitive compendiums of Egyptian history and a definite must read.
- A History of Ancient Egypt by Nicolas Grimal. Informative and comprehensive in scope, this volume is a good refresher on Egyptian history.
- *The Cost of Death: The Social and Economic Value of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Art in the Ramesside Period By renowned researcher and archaeologist Dr. Kathlyn Cooney, known in popular media by her pseudonym Kara Cooney. (Available for free on PDF format)
- Commerce and Economy in Ancient Egypt: Proceedings from the 3rd International Congress for Young Egyptologists, 2009 By András Hudecz and Máté Petrik.
- *The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Dr. Kara Cooney follows the life of one of Egypt’s most extraordinary and unlikely rulers who paved the way for the likes of Cleopatra and was almost erased from history by a mysterious and sweeping form of damnatio memoriae mere decades after her death.
- *The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, I have to admit, I recommend Oxford publications a little more than is necessary, but this is a must read for anyone looking for an easy introduction to Ancient Egyptian history.
- *The Story of Egypt by Joann Fletcher is sweeping in scope and covers not only the religion and culture of Dynastic Egypt, but traces the beginnings of its inhabitants and their slow development of civilization to the pre-Dynastic period and Neolithic Revolution. It looks at the geography, demography and culture that emerged before tracing Egyptian history through all the socio-political and economic twists and turns to the end of the Ptolemaic Era. Fletcher also authored *Chronicle of a Pharaoh: The Intimate Life of Amenhotep III and *The Search for Nefertiti. (All available on Kindle format.)
- *Open Encyclopedia of Egyptology — UCLA The University of California has been building this site up and adding peer-reviewed articles and entries since 2008 and at the time this list was annotated contains 153 entries. There is a parallel site by UCLA, hosting the ‘full’ version of the Encyclopedia can be found here and features new tools and resources such as the ability to browse by subject, time period and geographic location, full image gallery, in-text links, breakdowns of terminology to make reading easier on non-professionals and more.
Mythology, Legends & Religion
- *Gods and Men in Ancient Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE by Françoise Dunand, Christiane Zivie-Coche and David Lorton. This volume is meant to be accessible to casual historians and examines the functions, meanings and rituals of religion in ancient Egypt from the early dynastic to the Late Roman period and looks not only at the traditional pantheons of ancient Egypt but at the various religions that came to be practiced in Egypt be they Near Eastern, Greco-Roman or Abrahamic. Dunand also collaborated with Lorton on Mummies and Death in Ancient Egypt which is about…mummies and death.
- Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch is a handy resource for anyone looking to come to grips with Egyptian mythology. Pinch also authored Magic in Ancient Egypt, I leave it to the community to decipher what this title might pertain to.
- Akhenaten and the Religion of Light by Erik Hornung and David Lorton explores the life of Akhenaten, the pharaoh who radically transformed Egyptian religion and culture (if only for his lifetime). Hornung has also authored The Secret Lore of Egypt which looks at the legacy of Egyptian thought, culture and religion in the modern world and Conception of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many examines spiritual and philosophical thought in ancient Egypt which is more complex and paradoxical than it may at first appear.
- *Exploring the Life, Myth and Art of Ancient Egypt by Joann Fletcher. (Available on Kindle format.)
- *The Instructions of Ptahhotep and The Instructions of Ke’Gemni, translation by Battiscombe George Gunn in 1906. These are a series of didactic texts outlining maxims for leading a prosperous and virtuous life which date to the Fifth and Fourth Dynasty respectively. This is an older translation but it is available and easily accessible for free on Project Gutenberg, these texts will hopefully prove useful for readers interested in Egyptian spiritual writings.
Art & Architecture
- The Complete Pyramids by Mark Lehner. The Pyramids at Giza are one of the most iconic landmarks in the world and have sent a powerful message of awe and power echoing through millenia. Lehner’s book takes readers through their construction and the logistics surrounding them as well as their cultural, social, and religious significance. But do not expect a mere guide to Giza, Lehner takes a look at the lesser known burial pyramids throughout Egypt.
- The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt by W. Stevenson Smith is a perfect guide to the iconic architecture and imagery of Ancient Egypt.
- The Art of Ancient Egypt: Revised Edition by Gay Robins, is an excellent resource that takes a sharp look at Egyptian art from the early dynastic to the Hellenistic period in all its most iconic and mysterious forms.
- Naukratis: Greek Diversity In Egypt — Studies on East Greek Pottery and Exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean by Alexandra Villing and Udo Schlotzhauer. Naukratis has opened up all kinds of doors for understanding Greek trade in Egypt as it was established as a Greek port city in Egypt for trading by the 6th Century BCE and this aptly named title makes full use of the discoveries made there as well as the research surrounding them.
- Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism by Ian S. Moyer. Moyer does a good job of exploring the historiography of Hellenic culture in Egypt and the exchange of culture, knowledge and traditions that this is worth a look even with all the literature already available on the subject.
- *Hellenistic Egypt By Jean Bingen is a comprehensive look at one the most romanticized and turbulent periods of Egyptian history although some of his assumptions (particularly around the nature of ethnicity and economy in Ptolemaic Egypt) are slightly dated.
- *Visualizing the Afterlife in the Tombs of Graeco-Roman Egypt by Marjorie Susan Venit explores the evolution of Egypt’s iconic funerary traditions and beliefs in the Hellenistic and Roman period.
- *Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra By Michael Chauveau. This multi-faceted volume looks at society, culture, governance, demography and economy in Ptolemaic Egypt to give readers a better understanding of the precariously balanced nation that was ancient Egypt in the age of Cleopatra. Chauveau makes full use of the accounts, inscriptions, documents and research from this period to paint a more complete picture of the Ptolemaic dynasty that is easily accessible and illuminates and steps away from the common tradition of focusing on a narrative driven approach to this period in history. Readers who are looking for something along the lines of a biography, that is to say, a story about Cleopatra VII as opposed to an introduction to Ptolemaic Egypt and the period of Roman intervention, could do far worse than Chauveau’s *Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth which builds on the research that went into Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra and examines the classical texts and Egyptian sources balanced by modern critical analysis of one of Egypt’s more controversial queens. (Both available on Kindle format.)
- *The Last Pharaohs: Egypt Under the Ptolemies, 305–30 BC by J.G. Manning is a well rounded and exhaustively researched volume that examines Ptolemaic rule in Egypt on an ideological, practical and theoretical level, and manages to be highly readable and none too dense.
- *Sex and Society in Greco-Roman Egypt by Dominic Montserrat. Sexuality, gender and where they intersect with society and culture is always fascinating and changes radically from time to time, but if you want to get acquainted with what these things meant to life in Greco-Roman Egypt in an entertaining and informative package this is your lucky day. (Available on Kindle.)
- Women and Society In Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook by Jane Rowlandson. Similar to the title above but Rowlandson puts the emphasis on women, a task made more difficult by the comparative scarcity of contemporary evidence.
- *Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: Sources and Approaches is an invaluable collection of various articles and studies by Roger S. Bagnall. (Available on Kindle)
- *The Demography of Roman Egypt by Roger S. Bagnall and Bruce W. Frier who compiled over 300 census returns with dates ranging from the 1st to 3rd Century AD and then applied techniques from modern demography to discover information about the population of Roman Egypt from birth to death. It admits to readers that it can not provide a perfect metric but is quite useful in learning general information about life and society in the Roman province of Egypt and is a good source for population growth, birth/death rates, sex ratio, life expectancy, family living, taxation, age distribution and marital customs. (Available on Kindle)
- *Women’s Letters from Ancient Egypt: 300 BC-AD 800 by Roger S. Bagnall and Rafiella Criboire. There are many ways to examine and reconstruct the lives of people who lived thousands of years ago but this book offers a reasonably expansive collection of letters known to be written by women living in Graeco-Roman Egypt along with scholarly analyses and context.
- Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance by David Frankfurter.
- The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt by Christina Riggs.
- *Egypt In Italy: Visions of Egypt in Imperial Roman Culture by Molly Swetnam-Burland looks at the cultural significance of Egypt within Roman culture on a religious, economic and social level. (Available on Kindle)
- *Egypt in the Byzantine World: 300–700 edited by Roger Bagnall is a comprehensive and essential look at Egyptian history, society and culture as it transitioned from the Late Roman to shortly after the Arab conquest. A must-read for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the Egypt in Late Antiquity.
For those of you deranged enough to want to foray into economics, law, agriculture and bureaucracy in the Hellenistic and Roman periods:
- *Kerkeosiris: An Egyptian Village in the Ptolemaic Period by Dorothy Crawford uses the papyrological and archival evidence to reconstruct administration and daily life in the village of Kerkeosiris.
- *From the Ptolemies to the Romans: Political and Economic Change in Egypt by Andrew Monson. *Agriculture and Taxation in Early Ptolemaic Egypt: Demotic Land Surveys and Accounts Monson’s is available on academia.edu to read for free.
- *Money in Ptolemaic Egypt: From the Macedonian Conquest to the End of the 3rd Century BCE by Sitta Von Reden. Reden’s *Money and Prices in the Papyri, Ptolemaic Period is available for free online at Oxford Handbooks in the link.
- *Land and Power in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Structure of Land Tenure 332–30 BCE by J.G. Manning.
- *Petitions, Litigation, and Social Control in Roman Egypt by Benjamin Kelly.
This list has been mainly compiled by the excellent users over at /r/AskHistorians.
- The Search For Modern China by Jonathan Spence. A Chinese history textbook that is somehow more readable than a lot of novels. Also, written by one of the foremost English-Language scholars on the topic.
- Science and Civilisation in China by Joseph Needham
- Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Asia: From the Taiping Rebellion to the Vietnam War by Stewart Lone: Fairly straightforward. Not just China but basically every major Asian conflict. It is a behemoth of information that has been collected from far and wide for the reader’s convenience. It covers history, provides detailed and cited statistics, and gives insight to culture, art, social chances and upheavals, family and even romantic impact from living during all these wars. An excellent reference.
- China: A New History by John K. Fairbank: An excellent introduction to the topic by the doyen of American Sinology. China’s modern history is the main concern, but the earlier periods are treated sufficiently.
China Throughout the Ages
- A History of Chinese Civilization by Jacques Gernet: A readable and detailed survey of Chinese history that is notable for not prejudicing modern history over earlier periods. It heavily focuses on intellectual and cultural history, and at times the details of the political history get ignored, but any survey this ambitious must make cuts. The account of the nineteenth century is particularly vivid.
- This Is China: The First 5,000 Years by Haiwang Yuan: This should be the standard text in every introductory class to Chinese history. It is an incredibly short, brief book that is a crash course on Chinese history to the uninitiated as well as a solid quick reference for the more experienced. It is a work that runs over the surface of almost everything Chinese history has to offer and dips its head under the water at select places to try to give the reader a real taste of what lies before them. More than cover Chinese history, it is a great book to illustrate the fact that trying to understand all of Chinese history at once is impossible and is as much art and dynamic dialogue as it is inexact science and lively academia. Another must have.
- Cambridge Illustrated History of China by Patricia Buckley Ebrey (2nd ed. 2010). Incredibly beautiful. Don’t let the visuals fool you into thinking this is a glorified picture book. It is a masterpiece of clear concise writing, tying together dates, places, and names so that they clarify events instead of overwhelming the reader. The images themselves are not only beautifully rendered but also masterfully picked so that they enhance the text, rather than detract from it. Finally, the author pays special attention to possible Western biases or misconceptions and handles them gracefully. This is the general reference book to get that is as enjoyable to read as it is informative as well as academically rigorous in its methodology.
- Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook edited by Patricia Buckley Ebrey. Another standard find in intro Chinese history courses in college.
- A Short History of China: From Ancient Dynasties to Economic Powerhouse By Gordon Kerr.
- Soldiers of the Dragon edited by CJ Peers. Osprey publishers have a wide variety of awesome military histories. You wouldn’t be likely to find this in a college classroom, but that can be a plus. It’s not a hard read, but extremely informative.
Early to Imperial China
- The Archaeology of China: From the Late Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age by Li Liu and Xingcan Chen: Only recently having finished reading this myself, I highly recommend this book for its compelling points about, well everything. It sheds light on topics ranging from the structures of societies, agriculture, tools and warfare, regional and inter-cultural influences on development, to even diet and health. Most of the research comes from archaeological studies as well as interpreting inscriptions, artifacts, and other reputable academic sources.
- Defining Chu: Image And Reality in Ancient China : The immense Chu state dominated the south for centuries throughout most of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era until its final succumb to the armies of Qin that emerged from the west. Despite certain faults, this collection of essays is the best work that I know of which deals directly with this kingdom, from the territorial expansion and contraction of Chu to the nature of Chu art to its cultural legacy in the Han dynasty. I especially recommend Jenny So’s Chu Art: Link Between the Old and New. Through the Jade Gate to Rome by John E Hill: A translation of a famous primary source with notes and commentary by Hill, this book provides amazing insight to the Silk Road culture, as well as prominently featuring Chinese and Roman culture tie ins. It covers history, culture, politics, trade, economics, and even views of daily life. To Chinese reading historians, I call this book one of the English equivalents of 从长安到罗马 otherwise known as From Chang’an to Rome, which is simply a masterpiece of Chinese history. If you’ve ever wondered how the Chinese interacted with and influenced/were influenced by the Middle East, Central Asia, Greece, and Rome, you need this book.
- The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han. Mark Edward Lewis: The first in Timothy Brook’s admirable Chinese History project with Harvard University Press. The goal was to create relatively short, accessible texts that were also high quality scholarship for each of the major periods in Imperial chinese history. Mark Edward Lewis provides the first three. The series does not take the more direct route, that one would find in the Cambridge histories. Instead of narrative history, Lewis focuses on material culture, as well as legal, religious, and societal structures of the Qin/Han.
- China Between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties. Mark Edward Lewis: The second in the series picks up where Lewis left off, at the end of the Han. This volume covers the period between 220–618 CE. However, for those interested in narrative history, this book will disappoint. For those interested in the major changes and transformations that occurred in Chinese society at the time, this book will be greatly appreciated.
- China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty by Mark Edward Lewis: Divided between sections on history, geography, the economy, society, and culture, this book is comprehensive without being overloaded — whether your interests are agriculture, the status of women, or the nature of the poet in society you will find information here. It also does well at torpedoing national mythology.
- Daily Life in Traditional China: The Tang Dynasty by Charles Benn: Extremely accessible book that is based completely on secondary sources and cites other reference books. It is a very handy introductory primer to what life generally was like for the average Chinese person. While obviously focused on the Tang Dynasty, it is a solid place for a start as serious readers/history buffs can build off of this solid foundation as they research more on their own. It is a very light read compared to the more academic texts that I usually recommend but personally this one of my favorites.
- Imperial China: 900–1800 by F.W. Mote: a tremendous work of longue durée scholarship from one of the venerable old guard of American Sinology. This book is not only meticulously researched, but engagingly written. For narrative history of China, it is unparalleled.
- Family, Fields and Ancestors by Eastman (1988) — a detailed study of the life of rural Chinese farmers in Qing China, and how little life had changed through war and revolution into the 20th century.
- Confucian China and its Modern Fate, vol. 1 by Levenson (1958) — focuses on the Confucian intellectuals who were, by training and temperament, completely unable to confront the threat posed by the West.
- The Class of 1761: Examinations, State, and Elites in Eighteenth-Century China by Iona D. Man-Cheong (2004). A case study of the Qing examination system, looking at the backgrounds, past exams, and future careers of the cadre of scholars who took the highest examination in 1761. The book also presents presents great insight into the nature and true purpose of the examination system more generally, as part of the complicated system of relationships between the Manchu Dragon Throne and the Han gentry elites.
- The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming Society by Timothy Brook (1998). A detailed and accessible account of the social and economic changes over the course of China’s last native dynasty, Brook shows great economy in this work, covering a wide variety of topics in illuminating detail, while remaining quite readable.
- The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China by Samuel Hawley (2005). One of the three main English accounts of the Imjin War, perhaps the only thing that comes close to a “world war” in East Asia. This is not the most comprehensive text on the war but it gives an excellent introduction. Hawley uses mostly Korean sources for this book and writes from a Korean perspective, so the book does suffer from a pro-Korean bias.
- Samurai Invasion: Japan’s Korean War 1592 -1598 by Stephen Turnbull (2002). The second of the three books on the Imjin War, Turnbull writes from a mostly Japanese perspective. His book tends to favor the Japanese over the Ming and the Koreans.
- A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592–1598 by Kenneth M. Swope (2009). The newest of the three books, Swope writes from a Chinese perspective and uses a lot of Chinese primary sources. Though his text has been criticized for providing flawed information, as a military historian, Swope gives an excellent account of the capabilities of the Ming military. It is best to read Hawley, Turnbull, and Swope together.
- Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian astronomer and historian to Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty.
Late Imperial to Modern China
- God’s Chinese Son by Jonathan Spence (1996). While not the best or the most in-depth text in English on the Taiping Rebellion, Spence’s text is probably the most accessible to readers and is the second best available. This is a wonderful piece of work covering the entire rebellion from Hong Xiuquan’s early life, to the Taiping ideology, to its battles with the Qing and internal rivalries, and finally to its fall.
- Autumn In the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War by Stephen R. Platt (2012). A fantastic window into the bloodiest civil war in human history, examining why, scarcely a year after marching through Beijing and burning down the Summer Palace, the Western powers then throw their support behind the Qing Dynasty in crushing the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, as well as narrating Zeng Guofan’s campaign against the Taiping. Platt is also a great storyteller, drumming up a sense of looming dread, pathos, and humor in one of the dark chapters of human history.
- What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in Mid-Nineteenth Century China by Tobie Meyer-Fong (2013). A counterpart to Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, What Remains shifts the focus from the diplomats, politicians, and generals to the millions of people who suffered the grand miseries of war; how they fed themselves (and often failed to do so), how they buried the dead (many of whom littered the countryside for decades), how they marked their allegiances on their bodies, how they commemorated the dead, and how they made moral sense of a catastrophe without equal. Fascinating and moving social history at its best.
- Origins of the Boxer Uprising by Esherick (1987) — contra popular belief, the Boxer Uprising was neither a cult nor a rebellion, but rather a mass movement centered around Shandong that combined separate strains of vigilantism, anti-imperialism, shamanism and the Chinese theater.
- Reform and Revolution in China, by Esherick (1976) — focuses on the causes of the 1911 revolution, including the new intellectual and social elite who were distinct from the gentry but not what we would call bourgeois. During this time nationalism, feminism, anti-conformist youth movements and Westernization flourished, but in discarding so much of traditional China the new urban elite became unable to relate to the needs of the rest of the country, setting the stage for the success of communism and the end of all of these trends.
- Sun Yat Sen by Bergere (1998) — an authoritative portrait of the only man revered by both the Nationalists and Communists as a Founding Father of modern China.
- Spider Eaters: A Memoir by Rae Yang is all at once a deeply personal, moving and immensely valuable autobiographical account of the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a woman who lived it
- The Abortive Revolution by Eastman (1974) — an autopsy of the Guomandong nationalists under Chiang Kai-sheck, from their insular, inefficient bureaucracy, inability to understand why the communists were so popular to their brief dabbling with fascist dictatorship.
- Making Revolution by Chen (1986) — a history of the Communist Party in China from their guerrilla tactics against the Japanese to the Cultural Revolution.
- The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence. It’s a pretty good overview that starts with the Ming and goes through the late 1980s. Covers all the bases. Nothing is covered in exceptional depth (with a subject like China it rarely can be in a single book) but for a general idea of recent Chinese history it’s more than adequate. Also, a very readable book.
- The Party by Richard McGregor: Never before has there been such an amazing in depth look at the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) before the publishing of this book. McGregor’s work was cut out for him because the CCP is probably one of the most secretive political regimes ever. Most Chinese people don’t even know how many departments and adminstrative bodies there are, or which ones belong to the ‘government’ and which belong to the Party. McGregor dives deep and brings up a treasure trove of knowledge about the mechanics of the strange political system where the Party is the government while pretending not to be, putting faces to names and names to faces, and the corruption that runs to the very core of the system. He provides history and analysis while his masterful writing prevents it all from burying the reader. If you get only one book from this list THIS IS THE BOOK THAT YOU SHOULD READ. Truly, an amazing book that I simply cannot put down.
- Chen Village by Chan, Madsen and Unger (2nd ed. 2009). This is a beautiful book that traces the life and growth of a village in Southeast China through the entirety of the communist revolution until 2009. Its ambition is incredible, and its execution satisfies its aims. It is effectively an anthropological ethnography written by historians, and the work reflects some of the best of both disciplines. Rarely have I felt as connected to historical characters as I have in learning of the exploits of low-level, unimportant peasant officials in Chen Village. This book communicates the trends in political and social change in China in the last 60 years in a way that is hard to replicate from pure analysis.
- Chinese Village, Socialist State by Friedman, Pickowitz and Selden (1993) — the first Western social scientists to collect data from the People’s Republic of China, focusing on rural Hebei province, south of Beijing. Starting at the “honeymoon period” after the Communists took power, the authors focus their criticism on how Party edicts led to stagnation and immiseration for the villages, creating essentially a neo-feudal order.
- China’s Rise in Historical Perspective edited by Brantly Womack: If anyone is seriously interested in what trends have shaped the current Chinese political landscape, this is the book to read. The perspectives of the contributors are diverse, and so are the topics covered, which include religious cosmology, identity crises in wake of the revolution, ecological issues, and international relations.
- Taiwan-China: A Most Ticklish Standoff– edited by Adam W. Clarke. Besides having the most fantastic name of any academic work on the subject I’ve seen, this book provides a survey of the triangle of relationships between the US, China and Taiwan through a mixture of excerpts from declassified/public primary sources and academic analysis.
- US Taiwan Strait Policy: The Origins of Strategic Ambiguity by Dean P. Chen. It provides a fantastic summary of the US approach toward China in regards to the Taiwan issue, and is the first major book to do so in regards to the Obama administration’s policies. However, certainly not for casual reading. This is an academic analysis of the policy making process, and is making an argument for how to conduct US policy into the future. But in the course of its analysis it provides a fantastic history of the relationship between the US and the Taiwan issue.
- Managing Sino-American Crises: Case Studies and Analysis edited by Michael Swaine and Zhang Tuosheng. Pretty much THE book on the issue. By far the most extensive analysis of crisis behavior by China and America during Sino-American crises. Begins with the post-WWII period, and continues to 2006.
- Charm Offensive by Joshua Kurlantzick: An excellent history and analysis of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) international politics, plays in the geopolitical arena, and how foreign policy affects domestic policy as well as vice versa. It is a concise and thorough introduction to the PRC’s commitment to the ‘soft power’ grand strategy, and a must read for any student of the PRC’s foreign policy history.
- A Modern History of Japan by Andrew Gordon
- The Economic Aspects of the History of the Civilization of Japan by Takekoshi Yosaburou: Exhaustive in its breadth and scope, it covers the economics of Japan throughout the centuries. A monstrous book filled with more numbers, names, places, and dates than one could ever hope to find in one consolidated text, this is everything you ever wanted to know about Japanese money, economics, and value and more.
- Japan Emerging edited by Karl Friday — This is a general survey, with each chapter written by a specialist on a particular period or subject. It covers from prehistory to 1850 and is strongest in the Ancient/Classical and Late Medieval periods. This is an excellent book for getting into Japanese history.
- Rethinking Japanese History by Yoshihiko Amino — This book reconsiders topics in premodern Japanese history like outcasts, non-agrarian production and taxation, and Japan’s position in the East Asian sphere. This is a must read for anyone interested in premodern Japan but does require some background knowledge.
- State of War by Thomas Conlan — This is an in depth study of warfare in the fourteenth century conflicts between the Northern and Southern Courts. It covers topics like weapons and tactics, alliances, and the politics and religion involved in warfare.
- The Historical Demography of Pre-Modern Japan by Hayami — the author tracks Edo-period population fluctuations. Contra the picture of Tokugawa shogunate as a stable regime with a stagnant population size, Hayami focuses on the long-term trends that set up the explosive growth in the 19th century.
- The Green Archipelago by Conrad Totman (1998) — By the late 1600s, Japan was on the brink of ecological collapse. Overpopulation and deforestation had nearly stripped the country of trees, and it was very possible the Japanese islands could have ended up like modern-day Haiti or Madagascar, denuded and impoverished. Yet changes in Edo-period environmental policy and philosophy transformed the archipelago’s land managament from largely exploitative to regenerative, and consequently today Japan is, in the author’s words, “one great forest preserve”. This book tells that story.
- The Conquest of Ainu Lands by Walker (2001) — a history of the colonial expansion of ethnic Japanese (“wajin”) north into the island we now call Hokkaido, and the impact of war, famine and disease on the aboriginal inhabitants they conquered and assimilated.
- Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan by Karl Friday — A great book that goes far more into detail than most people could wish for surrounding, well, samurai and Japanese warfare. Clears up a lot of myths found especially in pop culture, which is something that I found very useful. It also covers the weapons and equipment used during war, how these were used, how battles were conducted, as well as the contextual values of medieval Japan, such as reputation, honour, loyalty, mixed in with deception and lies. Definitely worth the read, although some precursory knowledge would be recommended to get the most out of this book.
- The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull — As the title says, a sourcebook, not an in-depth guide. It covers everything, from arms and armour of the samurai, to their strategies, tactics, a couple famous battles and conflicts, as well as a few maps that, whilst not the best, are understandable. If you’re looking for an in-depth analysis, this isn’t the best book, as it really only shines in terms of it’s accurate references. Still a good read, though.
- Frontier Contact Between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan by James B Lewis: This book is a study of the Japan House of Busan during Tokugawa Japan and late Joseon Korea, and how contacts between Koreans and Japanese created an interconnected economy in southeastern Korea and southwestern Japan. The title is intentional — a “frontier” has different implications from a hard “border.”
- The Japanese Discovery of Europe by Keene — studies the technology and modern ideas slowly flowing into the Tokugawa shogunate from Dutch trade, and the small group of scholars who laid the earliest foundations of Japan’s modernization in the 18th century.
- As We Saw Them by Masao Miyoshi is a highly readable account of the first Japanese mission to the west. It offers an interesting reversal of the typical narrative of Westerners observing inscrutable “Orientals.” (1860)
- Civilization and Monsters by Gerald Figal: an academic book, but extremely readable (in my opinion- the one amazon reviewer disagrees). Its central thesis that discourse on monsters, ghosts, the supernatural was central to the formation of modern Japan is surprisingly innovative, and fun to read. (Meiji period)
- Early Japanese Railways 1853–1914: Engineering Triumphs That Transformed Meiji-era Japan by Dan Free: Surprisingly enough, is not just a book on trains. It is definitely a must read for studies on the Meiji Period and the development going on at the time. It details the massive influx of modern technologies that various Japanese companies were more than happy to incorporate and invest resources into.
- The Making of Modern Japan by Marius Jansen: This is the definitive work of modern era Japan. Jansen’s work is a chronicle of not just the rise of railroads, of factories, the modern firearm, electricity and gas, the telegraph, milk!, and other interesting developments of early modern Japan. He gives background, history, cultural and political analysis, event and timeline breakdowns and more. An expansive work that takes the reader through decades upon decades of Japanese development and progress that happened at break neck speeds, but can now be looked at retrospectively at our leisure, guided by Jansen’s steady hand.
- Inventing Japan by Ian Buruma: This is essentially an extremely succinct look at the changes and developments Japan went through, and its metamorphosis as a nation as it moved from the 19th century into the 20th. This book is seriously tiny, a slip of a book and you could breeze through it in one sitting but its depth of content is surprising for its deceptively small size. I highly recommend this book as a solid introduction, a way to get your foot in the door of the maze that is early modern Japanese history.
- Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods by Sarah Thal: Nominally this work is about the Konpira Shrine and its changes from the late Sengoku to the modern world. But it goes far deeper, and provides a vivid illustration of the extraordinary changes in Japanese socity, particularly during the tumultuous times after the Meiji Restoration.
- A Modern History of Japan by Andrew Gordon
- The History of Korea by Djun Kil Kim: An overview of the history of the Korean peninsula from the earliest known inhabitants to the start of the 21st century. Clearly written and generally free of bias. A very good comprehensive introduction to the history of Korea.
- The Confucian Transformation of Korea: A Study of Society and Ideology by Martina Deuchler: This book is an important work of social history that explores how the introduction and application of Neo-Confucianism changed the life of Koreans on a more everyday level and borrows from anthropology.
- Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea by James B. Palais: This book is many years old now, but it remains an important study of late Joseon politics, and in particular the rule of the Daewongun, a de facto regent, in the 1860s and 1870s as well as the three-year period (1873–1876) between the Taewongun’s loss of power and the “opening” of Korea.
- Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K. Martin (2006). An excellent general history of Korea under the Japanese empire, Kim il-Sung’s life and rise to power, and how the North Korean government developed the way it did. There’s also a lot of insight here into the Western academy’s problems assembling a decent body of research on the country during the Cold War, and how the works that do exist are often intensely political.
- The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Chol Hwan-Kang and Pierre Rigoulout (2000). A firsthand account of a Japanese-Korean family’s experience in North Korea and its time in the Yodok concentration camp. The book’s publication is one of the more under-appreciated reasons for the U.S.’ (and more broadly, the West’s) increasing focus on humanitarian issues in North Korea. A picture of Chol Hwan-Kang’s visit to the White House and meeting with Bush was rumored to have found wide circulation in the North Korean government.
- The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B.R. Myers (2010). An exhaustive examination of the history of postwar North Korean propaganda, and how it’s developed and changed to reflect the Kim regime’s priorities and politics.
- North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea by Andrei Lankov (2007). Lankov saw the last of the “Soviet years” in North Korea as an exchange student, and is one of the very rare people to lend the Russian perspective on NK in the Western press. The book is a collection of articles that were initially published for the Korea Times. Topics range from matters as large as Soviet-North Korean relations to things as small as the Kim il-Sung pins that the population must wear.
- A Year in Pyongyang by Andrew Holloway (written 1988, published online 2002). A firsthand account of life as an expat in North Korea’s capital, written by a Brit who was employed for a year as an editor for the government’s English-language propaganda and marketing. A strange work, sometimes more valuable for historiographical than historical reasons in its degree of insight into how little Westerners knew of North Korea even while living there, but Holloway still made a number of observations that, with the benefit of later works, we now know to be correct. Lankov’s years in North Korea immediately predate Holloway’s; both the similarities and differences are instructive.
- Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland (2009). A statistical study written by the editor of the Journal of East Asian Studies and economist respectively of how and when the North Korean famine started, its effect on the country’s population, and the impact of the private markets that sprang up after the collapse of the country’s Public Distribution System. A very interesting comparative read to the accounts given in Barbara Demick and Bradley Martin’s books; Haggard and Noland argue that the famine’s origins lie in 1988 with the impending collapse of the Soviet Union (and thus North Korea’s source of cheap fertilizer, oil, and gas). North Korean defectors in Demick and Martin’s accounts all tend to say that was when the Public Distribution System began shortchanging their families.
- Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland (2011). Another statistical study collected among North Korean refugees in both northeastern China and in South Korea. It examines refugees’ various reasons for defecting, the ebb and flow in the ease of leaving the country, China’s efforts both to repatriate North Koreans and to classify them as “economic refugees” to avoid international legal trouble, and refugees’ fate once safely in South Korea. A very troubling read, insofar as the authors admit that the number of problems that South Korea has trying to integrate the relatively small population of North Koreans right now is a sign of much worse things to come should the Kim regime ever collapse.
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (2010). A National Book Award finalist and deserving of all the accolades it’s received. Demick was a Los Angeles Times reporter assigned to the Seoul bureau who spent most of her time interviewing a wide variety of North Korean defectors about their lives in the country, and how/why they left. If Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aids, and Reform is the macro-level view of post-Cold War North Korean society, this is the micro-level view. Haggard and Noland will tell you decreasing fertilizer imports that killed North Korean agriculture: Demick will tell you about the hungry kid who lined up multiple times to “mourn” Kim il-Sung because the authorities were handing out free rice balls to mourners.
- The North Korean Economy by Nicholas Eberstadt: Focusing on the economic history of North Korea, this text, in my opinion, is essential to understanding how the North started so strong but is today, practically a failed state. Eberstadt worked tirelessly to check and recheck, then check again all of his numbers because North Korea is notorious for inflating or deflating numbers as they see fit so much that often the records that they present to the outside world cannot be trusted, nor can they be verified. The economics of the North affected every other aspect of life in the North, as well as shaping its political, domestic, and foreign policy because of necessity. The extensive and easily digested statistics, often presented in text and reinforced visually with many graphs, tables and charts, give credence to the analysis of the two Koreas by Eberstadt, starting from the division in 1950 all the way to today.
- The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies by Michael Breen: This is the primer for all things South Korean history during the 20th century. Starting with the history and effects of the long embedded Japanese occupation, then moving through the Korean War, the rebuilding, the Korean economic development and social & political upheaval, the Seoul Olympics which was instrumental to South Korea’s rise to the global stage, and North & South relations through out. A must read.
- Strange Parallels, Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830 by Victor Lieberman is an unprecedented look at cultural and societal development in South East Asia.
- *India A History by John Keay.
- *Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 by Romila Thapar tells the story of India’s further past.
- *A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: from the Stone Age to the 12th Century by Upinder Singh
- *The Oxford History India from the Earliest Times to 1911 by Vincent Arthur Smith.
- *India’s Struggle for Independence, 1857–1947 by Chandra Bipan and Mukherjee Sucheta Mahajan chronicles India’s struggle for independence.
Latin American/Caribbean History
- *Born In Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America: Fourth Edition By John Charles Chasteeen. This edition was published in 2016 and features an improved set of maps and illustrations.
- *The Oxford Handbook of Latin American History By John C. Moye
- *Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent: 2009 edition By Eduardo Galeano.
- Latin America: Regions and People By Robert B. Kent.
- The Cambridge History of Latin America By Leslie Bethell.
- Afro-Latin America: 1800–2000 By George Reid Andrews.
- Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization By Arthur Demarest is one of the best introductions to Mayan history.
- Ancient Mexico and Central America: Archaeology and Culture History By Susan Toby Evans.
- In From The Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter With the Cold War by Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniela Spencer.
- Revolution and Revolutionaries: Guerrilla Movements in Latin America By Daniel Castro.
- The History of Latin America: A Collision of Cultures By Michael Eakin explores 500 years of Latin American history and looks at the economic, political, social and cultural evolution of its nations and their peoples.
- The Oxford History of Latin American Economics By Jose Antonio Ocampo and Jaime Ros. This is a good introduction to understanding the development of economics and policy in Latin America.
- Liberators: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence by Robert Harvey.
- Politics of Latin America: The Power Game: 4th Edition by Harry E. Vandon and Gary Prevost looks at the political history of Latin America and delves into the sociopolitical issues that have influenced Latin America from the ground up as well emerging issues and new problems facing Latin America in the age of globalization. Vandon and Prevost
- A Concise History of Brazil By Boris and Sergio Fausto.
- Short History of Brazil, A : From Pre-Colonial Peoples to Modern Economic Miracle By Gordon Kerr.
- A New Economic History of Argentina by Gerardo Della Paolera and Alan M. Taylor.
- The Argentina Reader by Gabriella Nouzeilles and Graciela Montaldo.
- A History of Chile: Enduring Editions by Luis Galdames.
- The Paraguay Reader: History, Culture, Politics by Peter Lambert and Andrew Nickson.
- The Ecuador Reader by Carlos de la Torre and Steve Striffler.
- Power in the Isthmus: A Political History of Modern Central America By James Dunkerley.
- Simon Bolivar: A Life By John Lynch explores the life of the extraordinary man who liberated six countries from the Spanish Empire made a lasting impression on the politics and society of Central America still tangible today.
- The History of Panama by Robert C. Harding covers a century of history, economy and culture in Panama.
- The Costa Rica Reader by Steven Palmer. Covers the history of Costa Rica.
- Columbia Before Independence: Economy, Society and Politics under Bourbon Rule by Anthony McFarlane.
- Democracy and Socialism in Sandinista Nicaragua By Harry E. Vandon and Gary Prevost.
- A Concise History of the Caribbean By B.W. Higman.
- The Caribbean: A Brief History By Gad Heuman.
- *Race, colonialism, and social transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean By Jerome Branche is a useful resource for making sense of the impacts of colonialism in the modern world as it affects racial and social divides.
- African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean looks at the slave experience and the trade itself in Spanish, Portuguese and French Latin America.
- Haiti: The Tumultuous History — From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation By Philip Girarde looks at the complicated and deep history of Haiti.
- Vodou in Haitian Life and Culture: Invisible Powers By Claudine Michel and Patrick Bellegarde Smith is an excellent introduction to the history of Haitian Voudou.
- Routes to Slavery: Direction, Ethnicity, and Mortality in the Transatlantic Slave Trade By David Eltis and David Richardson.
- The Dominican Republic Reader by Eric Paul Roorda, Lauren H. Derby and Raymundo Gonzalez.
- A Concise History of Haiti by Jeremy Popkin.
- Not of Pure Blood: The Free People of Color and Racial Prejudice in Nineteenth-century Puerto Rico By Jay Kinsbruner.
- The West Indies: Patterns of Development, Culture, and Environmental Change Since 1492 by David Watts.
- Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War By Ernesto Guevara.
- Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis and the Soviet Collapse By David A. Welch and Allyn Bight.
- Cuba under Castro: Ambassadorial Reflections By David Brighty.
- Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life By Jon Lee Anderson.
- Che Guevara Speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings By Ernesto Guevara, Edited By George Lavan.
- Guerilla Warfare By Ernesto Guevara.
- The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey By Ernesto Guevara.
- Race In Cuba: Essays on the Revolution and Racial Inequality by Esteban Morales Domínguez, Gary Prevost, and August Nimtz.
- *Dancing with Strangers by Inga Clendinnen
- *Van Diemen’s Land and 1837 by James Boyce
- Triumph of the Nomads and The Tyranny of Distance by Geoffrey Blainey
- Claiming a Continent by David Day
- The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery
- The Other Side of the Frontier by Henry Reynolds
- The Biggest Estate on Earth and The Broken Years by Bill Gammage
- The Australian Century edited by Robert Manne
- The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd
Native American History
- *1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (Available on CD.)
- *Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Martin and Grube
- A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya by David Friedel and Linda Schele.
- Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control by Ross Hassig.
- *Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C Gwynne (Also available on CD.
- *Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times by Olive Dickason and David T. McNab
- *American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World by David E. Stannard
- *To Die In This Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of the Mestizaje by Jeffrey L. Gould. (Available of Kindle Format)
- *The Idea of History by R. G. Collingwood, edited by Jan van der Dussen.
- *That Noble Dream: The ‘Objectivity Question’ and the American Historical Profession by Peter Novick
- Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe by Hayden White.
- What Is History? by Edward Hallet Carr.
- The Secret of World History: Selected Writings on the Art and Science of History by Leopold Von Ranke, edited by Roger Wines.
- The Past is a Foreign Country by David Lowenthal.
- The Historian’s Craft by Marc Bloch, translated by Peter Putnam.
- *I, Claudius by Robert Graves. (Also available on audio and cassette format.)
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury.
- Banjo: A Novel by Claude McKay.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson.
- *Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
- *Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Also available on audio and CD format.)
- *The Killer Angels and *Gods and Generals, by Jeff Shaara (Both available on audio format.)
- *The Last Full Measure, The Glorious Cause, *Rise to Rebellion, *A Blaze of Glory, and *A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara (All available on audio format.)
Legends and Myths
This list has some of the fictional accounts passed down through the ages.
- The Iliad, and The Odyssey Written by Homer. This classic epic is one of the seminal works of Greek literature and a must-read. (Available for free on Project Gutenberg)
- The Aeneid Written by the Roman author Virgil this play was meant to echo the earlier works of the Iliad and the Odyssey and chronicles the mythological origins of Rome. (Available for free on Project Gutenberg.)
- The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Mesopotamian epic written over 4000 years ago by an unknown author. (Available for free on Project Gutenberg.)
- *Beowulf (Also available on audio and CD format.) (A free English translation is available to read online at Project Gutenberg)
- *Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (Also available on audio format.)
- *Njal’s Saga by Leifur Eiricksson
- *The Saga of the Volsungs by Jesse L. Byock (Also available on audio format.)
- *King Harald’s Saga by Snorri Sturlason
- *The Saga of Hrolf Kraki by Jesse L. Byock
- *Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. (Also available on audio and CD format.)
- *Egil’s Saga by Leifur Ericksson and Svanhildur Oskarsdottir
- *The Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot
Categories: Literature & Fiction