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The Best Biography & History Books

Last updated on January 8, 2024
Best Biography & History Books

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Our Picks For The Top Biography & History Books

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Product Overview
Key Takeaway
  The Best Overall
  The Best Value

Tara Westover Educated: A Memoir

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Tara Westover

Educated: A Memoir

"Educated: A Memoir," written by Tara Westover, is an awe-inspiring story that leaves readers talking about it for months afterwards. The talented Westover has received critical praise for her incredible perceptiveness on her own childhood and family. Her incredibly compelling story has also won over readers who don't typically gravitate to non-fic...

Overall Take

"Educated: A Memoir," written by Tara Westover, is an awe-inspiring story that leaves readers talking about it for months afterwards. The talented Westover has received critical praise for her incredible perceptiveness on her own childhood and family. Her incredibly compelling story has also won over readers who don't typically gravitate... Read More

 True Crime

David Grann Killers of the Flower Moon

David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon

Excellent research and unparalleled descriptions of a truly mysterious crime story leaves readers racing through the "Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann. Elaborate details will keep you gripped on this chronicling of the historical murders. Some have said they found it hard to keep track of the many characters.. But overall, the book makes ...

Overall Take

Excellent research and unparalleled descriptions of a truly mysterious crime story leaves readers racing through the "Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann. Elaborate details will keep you gripped on this chronicling of the historical murders. Some have said they found it hard to keep track of the many... Read More

 Black History

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

Kendi & Blain

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America

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.

Overall Take

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

 Middle East History

Simon Montefiore Jerusalem: The Biography

Simon Montefiore

Jerusalem: The Biography

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.

Overall Take

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

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.

What to Look For

  • 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.

More to Explore

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.

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