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The Best Biography & History Books - 2021

Last updated on December 6, 2021

We looked at the top 6 Biography & History Books and dug through the reviews from 14 of the most popular review sites including and more. The result is a ranking of the best Biography & History Books.

Best Biography & History Books

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Our Picks For The Top Biography & History Books

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  Top Pick

Kendi & Blain Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval

Kendi & Blain

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America

Overall Take

An Extraordinary AccountThis illuminating book provides an enlightening array of perspectives.

Experts Included
DWYM Education Experts plus Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Good Housekeeping. Along with user reviews from Amazon, Walmart and Target.
Pros
" Ibram X Kendi and Keisha N. Blain did an amazing job if editing the history of African America for over four hundred years, with over 80 contributors in the form of poem, memoirs, bios and essays. If you are looking..."
  Runner Up

Chester Nez & Judith Avila Code Talker

Chester Nez & Judith Avila

Code Talker

Overall Take

Fascinating Tale of CourageAnyone who is interested in Navajo history and World War II will love this book.

Experts Included
DWYM Education Experts plus Good Reads, BookBub, Armchair General. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" The book not only tells of the development of the code, and the battles in which it was used, but shares the author’s life growing up on the Navajo reservation, and his life after the war. His humor, humility and..."
Cons
"A bit too much filler."
  We Also Like

Simon Montefiore Jerusalem: The Biography

Simon Montefiore

Jerusalem: The Biography

Overall Take

An Absorbing Historical ReadReaders will enjoy learning about the origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in this engaging tome.

Experts Included
DWYM Education Experts plus Good Reads. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" An intriguing read, full of interesting lesser known facts, personages and new angles. At times, it reads almost like a well-paced novel, and is as hard to put down. Certainly, it provides a timely, as well as carefully balanced, account..."
  Also Great

A. J. Baime The Accidental President

A. J. Baime

The Accidental President

Overall Take

A Past Leader's AccomplishmentsMasterfully written by A.J. Baime, this book is nearly impossible to put down.

Experts Included
DWYM Education Experts plus Book Reporter, Good Reads, Best Presidential Bios. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" His baptism-by-fire ascendancy to the presidency is well recorded here. History buffs and admirers of Truman will find this a most interesting and well-researched book."
Cons
"The book is gossipy, readable, uncritical, full of trivia and snapshots of fascinating characters from history, but not as authoritative as I'd hoped."
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Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: Good Reads, Bob's Books, Book Reporter, Best Presidential Bios, Three Books A Night.

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We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including

Our experts reviewed the top 6 Biography & History Books and also dug through the reviews from 14 of the most popular review sites including and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best Biography & History Books.

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The Best Overall

Kendi & Blain Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America


Our Expert Score

9.6
3 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

9.6
5,620 user reviews

Our Take

Ibram X. Kendi's "Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019" lays out the story of African American history from 1619 to the present day, seen from the eyes of 90 different writers. It's a powerful look at an important story.

What other experts liked

Ibram X Kendi and Keisha N. Blain did an amazing job if editing the history of African America for over four hundred years, with over 80 contributors in the form of poem, memoirs, bios and essays. If you are looking...
- Good Reads
An impeccable, epic, essential vision of American history as a whole and a testament to the resilience of Black people.
- Kirkus Reviews
It's a story of hope and struggle, of resistance and oppression, and historical icons and ordinary folks that dispels the idea that any one people are a monolith.
- Good Housekeeping

What other experts didn't like

Some of the chapters were not as strongly written.
- Good Reads

The Best Bang For Your Buck

A. J. Baime The Accidental President

Our Expert Score

6.3
3 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

9.4
5,389 user reviews

Our Take

World War II fans will also be drawn to this book that details President Harry Truman's first 120 days in office after FDR’s sudden death. Truman’s administration oversaw the fall of Berlin, the first atomic explosion, the end of the Nazis and the victory at Okinawa. There's a lot to learn about in this text.

What other experts liked

His baptism-by-fire ascendancy to the presidency is well recorded here. History buffs and admirers of Truman will find this a most interesting and well-researched book.
- Book Reporter
The book is well-written and meticulously researched. Baime is a journalist and the book is written in that style. Baime detailed a chronology as to how Truman transformed into a president and leader of the world. Baime makes history come alive and makes an enjoyable read.
- Good Reads

What other experts didn't like

The book is gossipy, readable, uncritical, full of trivia and snapshots of fascinating characters from history, but not as authoritative as I'd hoped.
- Good Reads
A serviceable but unexceptional review of Truman’s life up through the early months of his presidency. Readers unfamiliar with his life and legacy are likely to find this book generally interesting and insightful. But as a meaningful review of Truman’s life or legacy, or as a purposeful study of the...
- Best Presidential Bios

Overall Product Rankings

2. Chester Nez & Judith Avila Code Talker

Overall Score: 9.4
Reviews Included: 7

3. Simon Montefiore Jerusalem: The Biography

Overall Score: 8.5
Reviews Included: 6

4. Arlisha Norwood Black Heroes

Overall Score: 8.4
Reviews Included: 5

5. A. J. Baime The Accidental President

Overall Score: 8.3
Reviews Included: 7

6. Herman Lehmann Nine Years Among The Indians, 1870-1879

Overall Score: 8.2
Reviews Included: 5

Our Biography & History Book Findings


Kendi & Blain Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America

What We Liked: Ibram X. Kendi’s “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” lays out the story of African American history from 1619 to the present day, seen from the eyes of 90 different writers. It’s a powerful look at an important story.


Chester Nez & Judith Avila Code Talker

What We Liked: This memoir tells the tale of Chester Nez, a Navajo man who was recruited by the Marines during World War II to create a secret military language that helped the United States achieve their victory over Japan. It is filled with moments of intrigue, bravery and honor.


Simon Montefiore Jerusalem: The Biography

What We Liked: Simon Sebag “Montefiore’s Jerusalem: The Biography” details the 3,000-year history of this holy city, starting with King David up to the 21st century. People of all faiths will be fascinated by the colorful past of one of the world’s most important places.


Arlisha Norwood Black Heroes

What We Liked: Written by Arlisha Norwood, “Black Heroes” introduces young readers to 51 black role models and leaders from around the world and over many centuries.


A. J. Baime The Accidental President

What We Liked: World War II fans will also be drawn to this book that details President Harry Truman’s first 120 days in office after FDR’s sudden death. Truman’s administration oversaw the fall of Berlin, the first atomic explosion, the end of the Nazis and the victory at Okinawa. There’s a lot to learn about in this text.

Our Biography & History Book Buying Guide

Historical non-fiction books tell the stories of past ages with realistic details and facts. Some center around historical events, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the Holocaust, while others focus on powerful figures from history, like Martin Luther King, Jr. These books often depict broader views of past societies and reflect on how the events impacted peoples’ lives and brought us to our present reality.

Meanwhile, books of historical fiction transport readers back in time with made-up narratives set in real places and eras of history. Information about the traditions, manners and social norms are accurate and authentic, as are much of the events and people described.

But in the case of historical fiction, the setting, plot, dialogues, characters and conflicts can be a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Thus, these works can bring readers to another time and place, but at the expense of some accuracy.

Historical non-fiction and historical fiction are similar genres, but purists generally prefer non-fiction historical books, including personal accounts (memoirs) that retell exactly how things happened.

When shopping for historical books to buy as gifts, think about what the recipient’s hobbies and interests are. For example, a child who wanted to dress up as Cleopatra for Halloween might be interested in Egyptian history. Someone who is really into making their own clothes might like to read about Coco Chanel, and a biography about Malcolm X might be perfect for a reader who wants to learn more about African American history.

DWYM Fun Fact

It is widely thought that Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is the longest novel ever written. This heavy book is about Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia and tops out at 1,225 pages. Believe it or not, though, there are books that are much longer.

Madison Cooper’s “Sironia, TX” was written in 1952 and has 1,700 pages. It recounts life in that town in the early 1900s. The book “Venmurasu,” written by Jeyamohan, was completed in 2020 and has a whopping 26,000 pages.

The Biography & History Book Tips and Advice

  • Historical books make great holiday gifts for readers of all ages. However, if you are buying for children, make sure the book is suitable for the age and reading level of your young recipient. If it is too complicated or describes upsetting historical events, you might consider finding a different book.
  • World War II history buffs love to read books that detail the entire war, as well as more focused ones about specific battles, key players like Harry Truman and other war heroes.
  • Read the reviews on the back covers of these books. Typically, such reviews are from literary critics or other authors. This is a great source of insight about the texts.