I have a confession — I love nonfiction books about history.
While it’s not hard to tell from the majority of the books I review that I read a ton of historical fiction, what is less apparent is my love of well-written nonfiction.
Luckily, there is a plethora of amazing and informative nonfiction works out there.
There is actually a pretty hefty list of titles I hope to get to in my lifetime, so I thought I’d highlight a few.
“Jane Austen’s England,” by Roy and Lesley Adkins
This social history, written by a husband-and-wife team of historians and archaeologists, details English culture during the late 18th and 19th centuries.
The book details the daily lives of the gentry and commoners.
“The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London,” by Judith Flanders
As a huge fan of Charles Dickens, I think I would greatly enjoy this book chronicling London in all its splendor and squalor.
It deals with the realities of life in the city, from travel to child labor.
Flanders also wrote “The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime,” which also is on my to-be-read list.
“Life in a Medieval Village,” by Frances and Joseph Gies
This actually is a series of books — “Life in a Medieval Village,” “Life in a Medieval City” and “Life in a Medieval Castle” — written by this husband-and-wife team of historians.
Each book focuses on a real location during the Middle Ages and details what everyday life would have been like for the citizens.
George R.R. Martin, author of the bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire series, has said these books are a resource he used when researching the series.
“How to be a Victorian,” by Ruth Goodman
Goodman is a historian of British social and domestic life. She draws on her experiences living in recreated Victorian conditions.
She also examines the life of the common family, which generally is overlooked in history books.
“The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England,” by Dan Jones
This follows the first Plantagenet kings who shaped England into a country that at one time spanned from Scotland to Jerusalem.
It touches on Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart and the Magna Carta, and much more.
Jones also wrote “War of the Roses,” which also is on my list of to-read books.
“The Devil in the White City,” by Erik Larson
Written by a former Wall Street Journal staff writer, “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America” focuses on the Chicago World Fair of 1893 and H.H. Holmes, who is commonly thought of as America’s first serial killer.
Larson also has written “Dead Wake,” about the sinking of the Lusitania, which I hope to read soon.
“Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea,” by Tim McGrath
This book covers the founding of the American Navy during the American Revolution.
It follows the five converted merchantmen who became the warriors who had the courage to face the world’s mightiest floating arsenal.
McGrath also wrote “John Berry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail,” a brilliant biography I read in 2010.
“The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century” by Ian Mortimer
This is blurbed as not being a typical history book. It aims to answer the questions people have regarding the time period, but to which they rarely actually find answers.
Mortimer also has written “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England.”
“Valiant Ambition,” by Nathaniel Philbrick
This best-selling author has written some of the most talked-about books on history published in recent years, including “In the Heart of the Sea,” which was released as a movie starring Chris Hemsworth last year.
Philbrick has written about the Mayflower, George Custer and Bunker Hill.
This year, he published the much-acclaimed “Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution.”
It’s fairly obvious by the title what this book is about. I have heard nothing but good things about this book and I hardly can wait to dive in.
“How the Other Half Lives,” by Jacob A. Riis
This one is a bit of a cheat because it is not really a book about history, but rather a book that was published in 1890.
It chronicles the lives of the poor masses who lived in the squalid tenements of New York City, near the turn of the century.
“The Beautiful Cigar Girl,” by Daniel Stashower
This book deals with the murder of Mary Rogers, a 24-year-old cigar girl who was found floating in the Hudson River in 1841. Her unsolved death inspired Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” the second C. Auguste Dupin mystery.
Do you like to read nonfiction? Do you love books on history? Have suggestions for me to add to my list? Let me know by commenting or sending me an email.