I love historical books, whether it’s a biography or historical fiction. If it’s about the past, I’ll read it. I’ve always been fascinated by history. Learning about the way our ancestors lived and how they impacted our way of life today intrigues me. Like how a handful of men managed to change the course of human events by creating a new form of government, and how multiple countries modeled their own government after it. It blows my mind. So, if you’re like me, a complete history nerd, here are some books you need to read.
The Bliven Putnam Naval Adventure Series by James L. Haley
Follow the dashing great nephew of the Revolutionary War hero, Israel Putnam, on his sea voyage adventures. In The Shores of Tripoli: Lieutenant Putnam and the Barbary Pirates, Bliven Putnam starts out as a midshipman on the U.S.S Enterprise during the conflict with the Barbary Pirates in 1801. He proves himself with valor and is promoted to lieutenant. The second book, A Darker Sea: Master Commandant Putnam and the War of 1812, takes place at the beginning the War of 1812. A distinguished sailor, Putnam is placed in charge of the U.S.S Tempest, and he must overcome an old enemy who has taken his friend prisoner.
The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor by Angela Elwell Hunt
At the turn of the 20th century, Kathleen O’Connor is writing a paper about hair pigmentation because she has a strange streak of white in her flaming red hair. An old professor comes up to her, commenting on her strange hair. The professor tells her about an Irish woman from the 13th century, and her oath that her descendants would break from their courses and restore good to the world, each one having a white streak in her red hair. Intrigued, Kathleen writes four manuscripts about the women. The first book, The Silver Sword, is about Anika O’Connor, disguised as a man in order hide from unwanted advances from a lord, who becomes a knight in the 15th century. The Golden Cross, the second book, tells the story of Aidan O’Connor, a young woman in the 17th century raised in a brothel who has the remarkable ability to paint. A well-known cartographer sees her paint and hires her, dressed as a boy, to travel with him and to decorate his map with flora and fauna. In the third book, The Velvet Shadow, Flanna O’Connor, from Charleston, South Carolina, is a medical student in Boston, Massachusetts at the onset of the Civil War. Desperate to return home to Charleston, she enlists in the Union Army as Franklin O’Connor and serves as a medic as the army moves South. The fourth and final book, The Emerald Isle, tells the story of both Kathleen and Cahira, dividing the book into four separate sections, two about Kathleen, and two about Cahira.
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Now a TV series on Masterpiece, Victoria is about the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign and the drama that went along with it. Leaning heavily on her advisor, Lord Melbourne, and falling in love with him, despite the fifty year age gap, Victoria makes some decisions that rock her already shaky rule. While the majority of the book is dedicated to Victoria and Melbourne’s relationship, Prince Albert, the Queen’s future husband, makes his appearance about two-thirds into the novel.
The Prisoners of Voronesh by David Inglesant
The Prisoners of Voronesh is a transcribed and edited version of a diary written by Sergeant George Newman, 23rd Regiment of Foot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was a British soldier taken prisoner at the battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War. He tells of his treatment by his Russian captors and gives vivid details to life as a prisoner of war. Newman is very funny, and there were multiple times where I felt like I knew him personally.
The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan
This book is a biography of Thomas Meagher, known as the Immortal Irishman. He was part of the failed Irish Revolution of 1848, sentenced to life imprisonment on the Tasmanian prison colony. He manages to escape two years later from the island to New York, where he marries one of the most eligible bachelorettes in the city. During the Civil War, Meagher forms the Irish Brigade for the Union, and it was known for its ferocity in battle. From there, he travels to Montana where he is named governor of the new territory. However, he mysteriously disappears from a boat, baffling people to this day. However, Egan comes up with an interesting solution that you’ll have to read about to find out what it is.
The Captured by Scott Zesch
Scott Zesch’s great-great-great uncle, Adolph Korn, was kidnapped by a tribe of Native Americans. After being returned to his German family who had settled in Texas, he was never the same. He refused to sleep indoors and eventually moved into a cave away from his family. Curious about his ancestor’s behavioral traits after returning to society, Zesch investigates eight other cases of children being kidnapped by Native Americans. He notices that each and every one of them had extreme trouble readjusting to white society. The longer they stayed with the Native Americans, the harder it took for them to get used to white civilization. There is one instance, where a boy was so heartbroken from being removed from his Native American family, that he died three years after being returned to his natural one.
Basically anything by Erik Larson
Erik Larson has an amazing ability to bring history to life. I have only read The Devil in the White City, the story about the Chicago World’s Fair and H.H.Holmes, and Dead Wake, which is about the sinking of the H.M.S Lusitania and how it affected America and its entry into World War I. However, I have heard great things about his other books, primarily In the Garden of Beasts, a book about an American family in Nazi Germany, and Thunderstruck, which is about England’s second most notorious murderer, Hawley Harvey Crippen, and the chase that ensued to catch him.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Now a movie directed by Angelina Jolie and staring Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini, this book is a biography about Zamperini, who participated in the long distance track events during the Berlin Olympics in 1936. During World War II, he was a lieutenant in the United States Air Force. His bomber plane went down in the Pacific Ocean, and after floating on a life boat for 47 days, he was picked up by the Japanese. A prisoner of war, he had to endure the infamous Japanese POW camps. He was freed at the end of the war and returned home.