Best history books 2022: Must-have titles for history buffs

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There is nothing better than a good history book. With the entirety of human history and beyond to uncover, historians around the world have long delivered beautifully crafted accounts of humanity, war, and everything in between. Whether you’re a bonafide historian or just starting out, there’s never been a better time to pick up one of the best history books on the market. Our list of nine people below is just the tip of the iceberg that is the volume of historical knowledge on offer today.

We’ve included fiction, autobiographies, and first-hand accounts written by revered historians and Pulitzer Prize winners. Whether you like spy thrillers, social stories or epic war tales, choose from titles handpicked by our editors to keep you turning the page for hours.

Amazon offers a slew of titles, including all of those listed below, at competitive prices. However, the majority of the books below are also available from most major online retailers and local bookstores. And if physical copies of the books aren’t your bag, we’ve also provided links to download electronic copies of each title through Amazon’s Kindle platform.

There’s not much you need to know before buying one of the best history books. So fire up the kettle, settle in with a brew, and browse our selection of the best history books to see what piques your interest.

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Best history books: at a glance


The best history books to buy

1. A History of Britain by Simon Schama: The Best Book on British History

Price: £17-£20 (Three volumes, all paperbacks) | Buy now on Amazon

The great epic of Simon Schama A story of Brittany is packed with historical detail, so much so that it comes in three separate volumes: At the end of the world; The British Wars and The fate of the empire. Tracing over 5,000 years of British history, from antiquity through the Roman invasion and into the 21st century, Schama’s trilogy stands as one of the finest narrative histories of the British Isles ever written. The acclaimed accompanying TV series, which brings the gifted storyteller’s masterpiece to life, is also available on Amazon on DVD for just over £33.

Key Specs – Length: 416 pages (vol. 1), 448 (vol. 2 & 3); Editor: BBC Books (vol. 1), Bodley Head (vol. 2 & 3); First published: October 25, 2000 (vol. 1), October 17, 2001 (vol. 2), December 18, 2002 (vol. 3); Number formats: Kindle vol. 1, vol. 2 & vol. 3 (£10-£11)

2. Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad: The Best WWII History Book

Price: £7.69 (Paperback) | Buy now on Amazon

The definitive account of the infamous campaign that proved to be the turning point of the Eastern Front of World War II, Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad is a gripping and heartbreaking account of the eponymous battle. With masterful skill, Beevor interweaves the well-documented decision-making processes of WWII’s most famous generals with chilling testimonies from soldiers in the field, from a Russian and German perspective. At 544 pages in length, you’ll find yourself unable to put Stalingrad down; and once you do, you certainly won’t forget it.

Key Specs – Length: 544 pages; Editor: Penguin; First post: July 1, 1998; Number formats: Kindle (£6)

3. Max Hastings’ Catastrophe: The Best World War I History Book

Price: £11 (Paperback) | Buy now on Amazon

Issued on the 100th anniversary of the eve of the Great War, Max Hastings’ Disaster chronicles Europe’s descent from relative prosperity to the grim reality of trench warfare, all in the span of a single year: 1914. Renowned historian Hastings breathes new life into the accepted historical theory according to which Austria and Germany were primarily responsible for starting World War I, before going into illuminating detail about the battles that defined the first year of one of Europe’s bloodiest conflicts. Disaster chronicles the beginnings of a hugely complex conflict with sumptuous ease, and for that reason alone, it’s worth a read (or two).

Key Specs – Length: 672 pages; Editor: William Collins; First post: September 12, 2013; Number formats: Kindle (£6)

4. SPQR by Mary Beard: The best book on Roman history

Price: £7.69 (Paperback) | Buy now on Amazon

You might recognize Mary Beard from one of her many BBC TV appearances – the Cambridge classic is widely regarded as one of the leading voices working in the field of Roman history today. SPQRthe Sunday time Top 10 Bestseller, is Beard’s most renowned written work, spanning over 1,000 years of history to shed new light on why ancient Roman culture still captivates us to this day. This is the definitive account of the Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, the Roman abbreviation for the name of their state from which this brilliantly written book takes its title.

Key Specs – Length: 623 pages; Editor: Profile Books; First post: October 19, 2015; Number formats: Kindle (£4.27)

5. A Short History of Almost Everything by Bill Bryson: The Best Natural History Book

Price: £7.69 (Paperback) | Buy now on Amazon

Considered the self-proclaimed “greatest popular science book of the 21st century”, Bill Bryson’s A Brief History of Almost Everything is the product of a true master at work. American author Bryson has a knack for making complicated subjects remarkably simple, and in his most famous book he confronts arguably his greatest challenge: answering the existential questions humans have long asked about the universe and ourselves. Despite the seriousness of such a topic, Bryson’s wit, charm, and wry sense of humor are enough to keep any reader engaged through each of the book’s 672 pages.

Key Specs – Length: 672 pages; Editor: Black Swan; First post: May 6, 2006; Number formats: Kindle (£7)

6. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom: The Best Historical Autobiography

Price: £11 (Paperback) | Buy now on Amazon

Absolutely essential reading, much of long walk to freedom is a secretly written reflection of the deepest thoughts of legendary South African leader Nelson Mandela during his grueling 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island during the apartheid era. Throughout nearly 800 pages, Mandela reveals the man behind the myth, while showing the reader what it takes to transcend politics and become one of the great modern leaders of our time. At once tragic, edifying and thrilling, long walk to freedom is one of the most inspiring books you will ever read.

Key Specs – Length: 784 pages; Editor: Abacus; First post: October 1, 1995; Number formats: Kindle (£7)

7. The Silk Roads of Peter Frankopan: The best book for an ambitious reimagining of modern history

Price: £12.79 | Buy now on Amazon

Contrary to our Western-centric biases, Peter Frankopan’s Silk Roads reframes world history from the perspective of those living in Eastern Europe and beyond. In the age of division catalyzed by Brexit and Trump, this major reassessment of everything we thought we knew is instead focused on strengthening ties and building cooperation. Following the success of The Silk Roads, Frankopan also wrote a sequel, The New Silk Roads, which follows a similar theme in the context of modern geopolitics.

Key Specs – Length: 656 pages; Editor: Bloomsbury; First post: June 1, 2016; Number formats: Kindle (£5.89)

8. The Empire Project by John Darwin: The best history book on the British Empire

Price: £19.49 | Buy now on Amazon

In The Empire Project, Oxford historian John Darwin offers a detailed yet highly readable overall history of the last 140 years of the British Empire. Whether you are a scholar or a casual reader, there is something for everyone in this book which analyzes the three main driving forces of Britain’s global status during the 19th and 20th centuries: cultural, commercial and military. Widely considered one of the most important books ever written on the subject, the themes explored in The Empire Project are still as relevant today as they were when it was originally released in 2009.

Key Specs – Length: 816 pages; Editor: Cambridge University Press; First post: September 24, 2009; Number formats: Kindle (£13)

9. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: The Best Funny Story Book

Price: £6.30 | Buy now on Amazon

Okay, I admit this entry isn’t technically a history book, but few factual stories have ever captured the madness of war so eloquently as Joseph Heller’s classic satire Catch-22. in 1961. Widely considered one of the greatest novels ever written, Catch-22 follows protagonist Yossarian as he does everything possible to avoid being killed during the final months of World War II. Despite the seemingly serious subject matter, Catch-22 provides a one-minute laugh as Yossarian tries to elude the orders of his nemesis Colonel Cathcart to perform what he sees as our hero’s military duty. A true cornerstone of American literature, and not to be missed.

Key Specs – Length: 544 pages; Editor: Vintage Classics; First published: Nov. 10, 1961; Number formats: Kindle (£6)

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