Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Every History Nerd Should Read

Top Ten Tuesday topics come from The Broke and the Bookish.

1: The Historian by  Elizabeth Kostova

“Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.”

I love this book so much.  It has been too long since I last read it.  It is about Dracula, in a new, interesting twist.  Fantastic, historical to a point, and quick paced, I have often sung its praises to my friends.  I also love the book Dracula, as well.  To be sure, not all of my friends have fallen in love with it as I did, and my sister didn’t even read all of it. But I promise, you need to at least pick it up.

2: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – My Review

“When Janie, at sixteen, is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with sixty acres. Janie endures two stifling marriages before meeting the man of her dreams, who offers not diamonds, but a packet of flowering seeds …”

I read this in my Southern Literature class. I loved it. We also had quite a debate about it. “Historic Criticism does not enter into every novel, nor does history effect every story to the same degree.  Having said that, I think understanding even a basic idea of the history helps the reader know where each character is coming from in this novel.  Having a better understanding of this history even furthers that knowledge.  Take for example Mrs. Taylor.  I think the history to her background is very important in why she acts as she does.  I won’t say anything else to spoil it.”

3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My Review

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior—to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.”

I love this book. Love, love, love it. I’ve heard it’s praises sung and I’ve spoken to many people who hate it. BUT I LOVE IT.  And, no, I have read Go Set A Watchman. Haven’t had the money to buy it… or the willpower for it to possibly love a book I love so much. I read this first in high school and have read it several times since.

4. The King’s Deception by Steve Berry

“Blake Antrim, the CIA operative in charge of King’s Deception, is hunting for the spark that could rekindle a most dangerous fire, the one thing that every Irish national has sought for generations: a legal reason why the English must leave Northern Ireland. The answer is a long-buried secret that calls into question the legitimacy of the entire forty-five-year reign of Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, who completed the conquest of Ireland and seized much of its land. But Antrim also has a more personal agenda, a twisted game of revenge in which Gary is a pawn. With assassins, traitors, spies, and dangerous disciples of a secret society closing in, Malone is caught in a lethal bind. To save Gary he must play one treacherous player against another—and only by uncovering the incredible truth can he hope to prevent the shattering consequences of the King’s Deception.”

I really loved this book. I devoured it in two days.  It is a mix between historical fiction, a spy novel, and a detective novel.  I met Steve Berry when he came to the local library and he credits the genre to Dan Brown, because the spy novel had died out before.  The history in it is amazing.  It is full of wonderful details, that many probably do not know, and it is actually centered around an actual legend in England surrounding Elizabeth I.  As a Tudor fanatic, I LOVED IT ALL. In the end he actually gives a reference to where he changed historical facts to go with the story, which I think is awesome.  Really, you should read it.  The characters work very well, the plot moves along at a nice pace, and it generally flows perfectly. He weaves history lessons in very well, and the pieces fall together wonderfully. Plus, SPOILERS, the bad guys get what they deserve!!!! – I need more Steve Berry books!-

5. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

This unusual fictional account – in good part autobiographical – narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-out of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, or plongeur. In London, while waiting for a job, he experiences the world of tramps, street people, and free lodging houses. In the tales of both cities we learn some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and society.”

This was assigned book for one of my history classes long ago. This book was way better than I ever expected. The story is well written and he tells the simple truths of life.  From being so poor that you have to beg for money (which is illegal), sell yourself, sell your possessions, try to get any job possible, or simply wander around from spike to spike, forced to ramble because of government rules against tramps.  It’s heatbreaking, soul-searching pain, full of memories, tears, and the compelling force that just makes someone want to live.  Really, read it. Even if you aren’t interested in history (heck, I’m not even fond of modern history), it’s an amazing story.

6. The Nightingale by Kirstin Hannah My Review

“In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.”

First, let me say that this is the kind of book you do not read lightly. It is not a quick read. It is not… overly joyful. It is heartrending in some places. It is hard to continue at others. And yet… it is a lesson to your soul, a story that needs to be told, needs to be heard, needs to be lived.

7. Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir My Review

This is the first ever full biography of Mary Boleyn.  I have to say, Alison Weir is one of my absolute favorite historians and authors.  She makes history as interesting as possible, and I think it helps that she writes historical fiction as well.  Everything always flows and she knows how to write with important details. In this biography she has plainly made clear that the legend of Mary of being an “infamous whore” holds no ground when researched and that she was not perhaps the whore she is famous for being. I learned many things, as well as more information about the Boleyn family as a whole. I’m excited by this book, and it just once more proves my love of history. I think that it would be interesting to look into a life that is famously misrepresented, and you can tell the care that Weir puts into everything she researches and writes, basing everything upon fact.

Basically, read anything by Weir. I love her.

8. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton – My Review

“After seeing the death of his younger brother in a terrible home accident, fourteen-year-old Kevin and his grieving mother are sent for the summer to live with Kevin’s grandfather. In this peeled-paint coal town deep in Appalachia, Kevin quickly falls in with a half-wild hollow kid named Buzzy Fink who schools him in the mysteries and magnificence of the woods. The events of this fateful summer will affect the entire town of Medgar, Kentucky.

Medgar is beset by a massive mountaintop removal operation that is blowing up the hills and back filling the hollows. Kevin’s grandfather and others in town attempt to rally the citizens against the “company” and its powerful owner to stop the plunder of their mountain heritage. When Buzzy witnesses a brutal hate crime, a sequence is set in play that tests Buzzy and Kevin to their absolute limits in an epic struggle for survival in the Kentucky mountains.”

I LOVE THIS BOOK.  Great history of KY mixed in.  Read it.

9. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by  by Fiona Carnarvon

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes’s Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war.

If you loved Downton Abbey you need to read this book. It’s also a nice way to pretend the show is not over yet… I loved the history of it, the recounting of her life, and the history of the Abbey/Castle.

10. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

“Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined. Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation.”

Again, this is another book I LOVE.  It is truly wonderful, and the history woven in about Salem is perfect. I want to go there as badly as I want to go to Disney World and the Wizarding World of HP (never been).  Katherine Howe writes beautifully and the story sucks you straight into it until you realize you have been up all night.  I also met Katherine Howe last year at the SOKY Bookfest, and she will be back this year as well!


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