Best history books: 25 books to read and explore the past


Austerity Great Britain: 1945-1951 by David Kynaston

The first volume of Tales of a New Jerusalem, a vast history of Britain from Victory Day until Thatcher’s election, teeming with contemporary voices (since followed by Family Britain and Modernity Britain, bringing history back until 1962).

Books about growing up under communism recommended by novelist Olja Knežević

Nobody’s Home, or the culture of lies by Dubravka Ugrešić

Readers not only get the intellectual pleasure of learning something of the kind of writing that treats them like friends gathered around a table, they get the big picture with the melancholy and fierce tone of growing up, socialize, love and hate the area. of the former Yugoslavia.

Dogs and others by Biljana Jovanović

Biljana Jovanović’s acerbic and shameless writing voice, even translated, makes readers believe that they have known the author personally for years. It was a very courageous thing to be a female writer in Serbia in the 20th century, but being the first queer female writer was, and still is, worthy of magnificent respect.

Yugoslavia, my homeland by Goran Vojnović

A young man seeks the truth about his presumed deceased father, a former Yugoslav People’s Army officer, who the son discovers when he is in fact a fugitive war criminal.

Family Stories: Belgrade by Biljana Srbljanović (published in Eastern Promise: seven plays from Central and Eastern Europe)

This surprisingly original, clever and absurd but true play won the award for best new play in 1998, and was subsequently staged in Germany, Poland, the United States, France… The most unique modern playwright in the area is at its best here.

Wild Woman by Marina Šur Puhlovski

While not primarily a book about growing up in Communist Yugoslavia, the parts of this novel set in the narrator’s childhood are masterfully written and true, like anything written by this revered author.

Books on Protestant history in Northern Ireland, recommended by author John Chambers

Dirty war of Martin Dillon

By its very nature, the work of undercover operatives is shrouded in secrecy, and during the unrest, the British security forces were experts in covert operations designed to eliminate, recruit and monitor NI paramilitary groups. Some of these operations became common knowledge, but the vast majority remained shrouded in the fog of war. This book lifts the lid and sheds some light in the dark.

Paddy Mayne: Lt Col Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne, 1 Sas Regiment by Hamish Ross

A complex and troubled soul, Paddy Mayne’s personal life has long been an enigma. This wrapped biography will to some extent separate fact from fiction; a captivating account.

The Shankill Butchers by Martin Dillon

A gruesome and disturbing tale of some of the most brutal sectarian killings during the unrest and throughout British criminal history. Not for the faint of heart; really the stuff of nightmares.

Loyalists by Peter Taylor

An unbiased examination of Loyalist history and culture as told by those on the front lines. Politicians, loyalist leaders and killers tell firsthand the madness that has haunted the streets of NI during 30 long years of terror.

The Loyal Tribe: An Intimate Portrait of Loyal Institutions by Ruth Dudley Edwards

An insightful and intimate look at the Orange Order. The fact that the author is a Catholic woman from Dublin adds a delightful irony to the story of a tribe dominated by men of Protestant ancestry.

Books on war heroes recommended by military historian Robert Lyman

Fighters in the shadow of Robert Gildea

This is an accessible assessment of resistance in France, showing that it was the dispossessed – Communists, Jews, immigrants and women – who stood up against the Germans.

Robert Lyman’s Operation Suicide

My book is the story of a band of heroes who sailed up the Gironde to Bordeaux in December 1942, in homemade canoes to sink enemy ships.

In the jaws of Robert Lyman’s death

Likewise, who would think of stuffing an old destroyer with explosives and bringing it to the German docks of St Nazaire to prevent the Tirpitz from using it as a bolt hole? My book, Into the Jaws of Death, tells the story of this crazy adventure.

Fergal Keane’s Bone Route

The small group of brothers who held the small Naga village of Kohima against the Japanese during their invasion of India in 1944 is not well known today. Fergal Keane’s Road of Bones brilliantly tells the story on both sides.

Flashman by George Macdonald Fraser

The antics of the anti-hero Harry Flashman, the product of the late George Macdonald Fraser, remain as funny today as they were when they were written. They also raise a serious point: what do we really know about our heroes? Fraser asks this question in a hilarious adventure series by a man we know to be a teenager, but his (fictional) world considered a hero.

Books detailing the ins and outs of Victorian history, chosen by writer Michelle Morgan

The Ripper of Waterloo Road by Jan Bondeson

This book investigates the unsolved murder of a prostitute called Eliza Grimwood, in 1838. Bondeson puts together a good dossier of who might be the prime suspect, and there are plenty of gruesome illustrations too!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

While not necessarily a detective book, there are certainly some dark and spooky aspects to it. I read this book as a kid and now I like to collect different editions and covers.

Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

It’s like a real Agatha Christie novel. He is investigating the murder in 1860 of a young child in a country mansion. The characters include suspicious family members and creepy servants. Who doesn’t love a Victorian country mansion thread?

Mr Briggs Hat by Kate Colquhoun

A gripping look at the bizarre story of Thomas Briggs, who was murdered in a train car in 1864. The bizarre thing about the crime was that the body disappeared from the train and the murder was only discovered. because of a blood soaked seat, a walking stick and a leftover top hat!

The Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay

Mary Emsley was almost like a real-life Scrooge: an acerbic woman who spent her evenings counting her money. Emsley had a rough end in 1860, and this book examines who may have murdered him and why.


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