Best History Books of All Time

Last updated on 12/24/2015
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Best History Books of All Time recommended by Google. See the list here: Best History Books of All Time

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A Theory of Justice

Since it appeared in 1971, John Rawls's A Theory of Justice has become a classic. The author has now revised the original edition to clear up a number of difficulties he and others have found in the original book.

Rawls aims to express an essential part of the common core of the democratic tradition--justice as fairness--and to provide an alternative to utilitarianism, which had dominated the Anglo-Saxon tradition of political thought since the nineteenth century. Rawls substitutes the ideal of the social contract as a more satisfactory account of the basic rights and liberties of citizens as free and equal persons. "Each person," writes Rawls, "possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override." Advancing the ideas of Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, and Lincoln, Rawls's theory is as powerful today as it was when first published.

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A Tale of Two Cities

It was the time of the French Revolution — a time of great change and great danger. It was a time when injustice was met by a lust for vengeance, and rarely was a distinction made between the innocent and the guilty. Against this tumultuous historical backdrop, Dickens' great story of unsurpassed adventure and courage unfolds.
Unjustly imprisoned for 18 years in the Bastille, Dr. Alexandre Manette is reunited with his daughter, Lucie, and safely transported from France to England. It would seem that they could take up the threads of their lives in peace. As fate would have it though, the pair are summoned to the Old Bailey to testify against a young Frenchman — Charles Darnay — falsely accused of treason. Strangely enough, Darnay bears an uncanny resemblance to another man in the courtroom, the dissolute lawyer's clerk Sydney Carton. It is a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once. Brilliantly plotted, the novel is rich in drama, romance, and heroics that culminate in a daring prison escape in the shadow of the guillotine.

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The Longest Day
The classic account of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan's unsurpassed account of D-Day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly recreates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany.

This book, first published in 1959, is a must for anyone who loves history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand how free nations prevailed at a time when darkness enshrouded the earth.
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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Immediately recognized as a revelatory and enormously controversial book since its first publication in 1971, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is universally recognized as one of those rare books that forever changes the way its subject is perceived. Now repackaged with a new introduction from bestselling author Hampton Sides to coincide with a major HBO dramatic film of the book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is Dee Brown's classic, eloquent, meticulously documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. A national bestseller in hardcover for more than a year after its initial publication, it has sold over four million copies in multiple editions and has been translated into seventeen languages.

Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the series of battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them and their people demoralized and decimated. A unique and disturbing narrative told with force and clarity, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee changed forever our vision of how the West was won, and lost. It tells a story that should not be forgotten, and so must be retold from time to time.

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The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Stein's most famous work; one of the richest and most irreverent biographies ever written.
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In the Heart of the Sea
From the author of the forthcoming book, Valiant Ambition, the riveting and critically acclaimed bestseller, soon to be a major motion picture on December 11, 2015, directed by Ron Howard

Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson will star in a new film based on this National Book Award–winning account of the true events behind Moby Dick.

In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents and vivid details about the Nantucket whaling tradition to reveal the chilling facts of this infamous maritime disaster. In the Heart of the Sea—and now, its epic adaptation for the screen—will forever place the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.
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The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Twenty-five years after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the definitive history of nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. From the turn-of-the-century discovery of nuclear energy to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan, Richard Rhodes's Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the science, the people, and the socio-political realities that led to the development of the atomic bomb.

This sweeping account begins in the 19th century, with the discovery of nuclear fission, and continues to World War Two and the Americans' race to beat Hitler's Nazis. That competition launched the Manhattan Project and the nearly overnight construction of a vast military-industrial complex that culminated in the fateful dropping of the first bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Reading like a character-driven suspense novel, the book introduces the players in this saga of physics, politics, and human psychology—from FDR and Einstein to the visionary scientists who pioneered quantum theory and the application of thermonuclear fission, including Planck, Szilard, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Teller, Meitner, von Neumann, and Lawrence.

From nuclear power's earliest foreshadowing in the work of H.G. Wells to the bright glare of Trinity at Alamogordo and the arms race of the Cold War, this dread invention forever changed the course of human history, and The Making of The Atomic Bomb provides a panoramic backdrop for that story.

Richard Rhodes's ability to craft compelling biographical portraits is matched only by his rigorous scholarship. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail that any reader can follow, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a thought-provoking and masterful work.
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Great Expectations

In this unflaggingly suspenseful story of aspirations and moral redemption, humble, orphaned Pip, a ward of his short-tempered older sister and her husband, Joe, is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman. And, indeed, it seems as though that dream is destined to come to pass — because one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of "great expectations." In telling Pip's story, Dickens traces a boy's path from a hardscrabble rural life to the teeming streets of 19th-century London, unfolding a gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, and love and loss. Its compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride.
Written in the last decade of Dickens' life, Great Expectations was praised widely and universally admired. It was his last great novel, and many critics believe it to be his finest. Readers and critics alike praised it for its masterful plot, which rises above the melodrama of some of his earlier works, and for its three-dimensional, psychologically realistic characters — characters much deeper and more interesting than the one-note caricatures of earlier novels. "In none of his other works," wrote the reviewer in the 1861 Atlantic, "does he evince a shrewder insight into real life, and a cheaper perception and knowledge of what is called the world." To Swinburne, the novel was unparalleled in all of English fiction, with defects "as nearly imperceptible as spots on the sun or shadows on a sunlit sea." Shaw found it Dickens' "most completely perfect book." Now this inexpensive edition invites modern readers to savor this timeless masterpiece, teeming with colorful characters, unexpected plot twists, and Dickens' vivid rendering of the vast tapestry of mid-Victorian England.

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Dream of the Red Chamber
The Story of the Stone (c. 1760), also known by the title of The Dream of the Red Chamber, is the great novel of manners in Chinese literature.

Divided into five volumes, The Story of the Stone charts the glory and decline of the illustrious Jia family. This novel re-creates the ritualized hurly-burly of Chinese family life that would otherwise be lost and infuses it with affirming Buddhist belief.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Tales of the Jazz Age
'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' sees a baby born in 1860 begin life as an old man and then age backwards. F. Scott Fitzgerald hinted at this kind of inversion when he called his era 'a generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken'. Perhaps nowhere in American fiction has this 'Lost Generation' been more vividly preserved than in Fitzgerald's short fiction. Spanning the early twentieth-century American landscape, this collection captures, with Fitzgerald's signature blend of enchantment and disillusionment, America during the Jazz Age.
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The Radicalism of the American Revolution
In a grand and immemsely readable synthesis of historical, political, cultural, and economic analysis, a prize-winning historian depicts much more than a break with England. He gives readers a revolution that transformed an almost feudal society into a democratic one, whose emerging realities sometimes baffled and disappointed its founding fathers.
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China Marine
“Eugene Sledge became more than a legend with his memoir, With The Old Breed. He became a chronicler, a historian, a storyteller who turns the extremes of the war in the Pacific—the terror, the camaraderie, the banal and the extraordinary—into terms we mortals can grasp.”—Tom Hanks

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In The Wall Street Journal, Victor Davis Hanson named With the Old Breed one of the top five books on epic twentieth-century battles. Studs Terkel interviewed the author for his definitive oral history, The Good War. Now E. B. Sledge's acclaimed first-person account of fighting at Peleliu and Okinawa returns to thrill, edify, and inspire a new generation.

An Alabama boy steeped in American history and enamored of such heroes as George Washington and Daniel Boone, Eugene B. Sledge became part of the war's famous 1st Marine Division—3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Even after intense training, he was shocked to be thrown into the battle of Peleliu, where “the world was a nightmare of flashes, explosions, and snapping bullets.” By the time Sledge hit the hell of Okinawa, he was a combat vet, still filled with fear but no longer with panic.

Based on notes Sledge secretly kept in a copy of the New Testament, With the Old Breed captures with utter simplicity and searing honesty the experience of a soldier in the fierce Pacific Theater. Here is what saved, threatened, and changed his life. Here, too, is the story of how he learned to hate and kill—and came to love—his fellow man.

“In all the literature on the Second World War, there is not a more honest, realistic or moving memoir than Eugene Sledge's. This is the real deal, the real war: unvarnished, brutal, without a shred of sentimentality or false patriotism, a profound primer on what it actually was like to be in that war. It is a classic that will outlive all the armchair generals' safe accounts of—not the 'good war'—but the worst war ever.”—Ken Burns
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Founding Brothers
In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award—winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.

The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr's deadly duel, Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams' administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin's attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison's attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams' famous correspondence–Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation's history.
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The Path Between the Seas
The National Book Award–winning epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal, a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat that was filled with both tragedy and triumph, told by master historian David McCullough.

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Truman, here is the national bestselling epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal. In The Path Between the Seas, acclaimed historian David McCullough delivers a first-rate drama of the sweeping human undertaking that led to the creation of this grand enterprise.

The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. Applying his remarkable gift for writing lucid, lively exposition, McCullough weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating tale.

Winner of the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs), The Path Between the Seas is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, the history of technology, international intrigue, and human drama.
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Complete Maus
On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its first publication, here is the definitive edition of the book acclaimed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker).

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father's story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek's harrowing story of survival is woven into the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century's grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.
release date: Sep 01, 1984
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A Distant Mirror
Barbara W. Tuchman—the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic The Guns of August—once again marshals her gift for character, history, and sparkling prose to compose an astonishing portrait of medieval Europe.
 
The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony. In this revelatory work, Barbara W. Tuchman examines not only the great rhythms of history but the grain and texture of domestic life: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serf, noble, and clergy alike. Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries, and guilty passions, Tuchman re-creates the lives of proud cardinals, university scholars, grocers and clerks, saints and mystics, lawyers and mercenaries, and, dominating all, the knight—in all his valor and “furious follies,” a “terrible worm in an iron cocoon.”
 
Praise for A Distant Mirror
 
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”The New York Review of Books
 
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary
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Origin Of The Second World War
A presentation of material maintaining that diplomatic blunders, not Hitler's acts, caused World War II.
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