Great Gifts for History Lovers 2018
Picking gifts for friends and family can be tough, but if your friend or family member loves history these suggestions may be helpful.
Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of American by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)
Custer is one of the most debated and controversial 19th century American military leaders. Stiles attempts to better understand a complicated man and shatter the mythology that has surrounded him. Stiles book shows that Custer helped shaped an era that he often struggled to adapt to. Custer's Trials was the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for history.The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, by Eric Foner (W.W. Norton & Company) A well-orchestrated examination of Lincoln's changing views of slavery, bringing unforeseeable twists and a fresh sense of improbability to a familiar story.
Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept Their History Alive by Camilla Townsend (Oxford Univ. Press, 2016)
"Annals of Native America brings alive, in ways both exacting and exhilarating, the social and linguistic worlds inhabited by the authors of Nahuatl-language yearly accounts in colonial Mexico. By following their trajectory from their inception as documents in Roman script to their manifold transformations in a 'golden age' of native historical writing, Townsend provides a fresh and compelling perspective on the most vibrant set of historical narratives by indigenous scholars in the colonial Americas." ---Historian David Tazarez
The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Rome by Jeremy Hartnett(Cambridge Univ. Press, 2017) By combining textual evidence, comparative historical material, and contemporary urban theory with architectural and art historical analysis, this book charts the street's key role in the social and political lives of Romans and restores its rightful place as the primary venue for social performance in the ancient world.
The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright by Ann M. Little (Yale Univ. Press, 2016)
Esther Wheelwright’s journey—from Puritan girl to Wabanaki captive, to mother superior of the largest Catholic convent in French Canada—is one of the most fascinating personal stories in the annals of what we call ‘colonial history.’ And now, as recounted by Ann Little, it offers something more. Deeply researched, and wonderfully contextualized, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright opens a wide window on three major cultural venues, whose interplay defined and shaped a whole era. --Historian John Demos
Understanding and Teaching American Slavery edited by Bethany Jay and Cynthia Lynn Lyerly (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2016) "Understanding and Teaching American Slavery purports to do what any thinking person in this country might consider an impossible task: provide an academic scheme for explaining the insidious institution of slavery in this country and its continuing ramifications within American culture. The book's editors--Bethany Jay, associate professor of history at Salem State University, and Cynthia Lynn Lyerly, associate professor of history at Boston College--have done just that." --John Senger
Newsprint Metropolis: City Papers and the Making of Modern Americans by Julia Guarneri (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2017)
"As social history, Newsprint Metropolis offers a deeply sourced and engaging account of the complicated relationship between newspapers and cities, and the ways in which the two intersected. . .One of the strengths of Newsprint Metropolis is Guarneri's holistic approach with primary sources. She dives beyond front pages and intro newspaper folds, examining Sunday sections, comics, advice columns, theater sections, and business directories. And while large metropolitan dailies are covered, she does not forget the role weekly, African-American, and foreign language newspapers played in the lives of city dwellers." --American Journalism
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable (Viking)
An exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history, a work that separates fact from fiction and blends the heroic and tragic. "Manning Marable is the exemplary black scholar of radical democracy and black freedom in our time. His long-awaited magisterial book on Malcolm X is the definitive treatment of the greatest black radical voice and figure of the mid-twentieth century. Glory Hallelujah!" --Professor Cornel West
Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century by Tera W. Hunter (Belknap Press, 2017)
Bound in Wedlock is the first comprehensive history of African American marriage in the nineteenth century. Uncovering the experiences of African American spouses in plantation records, legal and court documents, and pension files, Tera W. Hunter reveals the myriad ways couples adopted, adapted, revised, and rejected white Christian ideas of marriage. Setting their own standards for conjugal relationships, enslaved husbands and wives were creative and, of necessity, practical in starting and supporting families under conditions of uncertainty and cruelty.
Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, by Kim Phillips-Fein (Metropolitan Books)
When the news broke in 1975 that New York City was on the brink of fiscal collapse, few believed it was possible. How could the country’s largest metropolis fail? How could the capital of the financial world go bankrupt? Yet the city was indeed billions of dollars in the red, with no way to pay back its debts. Bankers and politicians alike seized upon the situation as evidence that social liberalism, which New York famously exemplified, was unworkable. The city had to slash services, freeze wages, and fire thousands of workers, they insisted, or financial apocalypse would ensue. In this vivid account, historian Kim Phillips-Fein tells the remarkable story of the crisis that engulfed the city.
Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled N azi Plots Against Hollywood and America, by Steven J. Ross (Bloomsbury)
No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world. The Nazis plotted to kill the city's Jews and to sabotage the nation's military installations: plans existed for hanging twenty prominent Hollywood figures such as Al Jolson, Charlie Chaplin, and Samuel Goldwyn; for driving through Boyle Heights and machine-gunning as many Jews as possible; and for blowing up defense installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories along the Pacific Coast.
Featuring a large cast of Nazis, undercover agents, and colorful supporting players, Hitler in Los Angeles, by acclaimed historian Steven J. Ross, tells the story of Leon Lewis's daring spy network that infiltrated every fascist group in Los Angeles in a time when hate groups had moved from the margins to the mainstream.
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson (Vintage, 2017)
Blood in the Water investigates the Attica prison in September 1971 and its consequences. The Attica riot is key event in U.S. civil rights history. Thompson carefully reconstructs the events at the prison during the riot between September 9-13, 1971. The New York Times stated that the power of her book come "from its methodical mastery of interviews, transcripts, police reports and other documents covering 35 years." The book was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History.
Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It by Larrie D. Ferreiro (Alfred A. Knopf)
"This book will revive in an enlightened way an old controversy among Americans—both historians and educated laymen—concerning the American Revolution: Could it have been won without French and Spanish help? Professor Ferreiro’s answer is clearly given in the subtitle and throughout his book. The book is excellent—based on solid research and wide reading, argued with much spirit and insight. It is an illuminating and suggestive study deserving of a wide readership in and out of universities and colleges." -- Historian Robert L. Middlekauff
Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War, by Brian Matthew Jordan (Liveright/Norton)
In the model of twenty-first-century histories like Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering or Maya Jasanoff ’s Liberty’s Exiles that illuminate the plight of the common man, Marching Home makes almost unbearably personal the rage and regret of Union veterans. Their untold stories are critically relevant today.
"Yet another cautionary tale from the Civil War―that the pain of war endures long after the stacking of arms or the signing of an armistice. A fact that those who clamor for U.S. military intervention in every conflict too often forget.” -- Frank Reeves, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor, by James M. Scott (W.W. Norton & Company)
On April 18, 1942, sixteen U.S. Army bombers under the command of daredevil pilot Jimmy Doolittle lifted off from the deck of the USS Hornet on a one-way mission to pummel Japan’s factories, refineries, and dockyards in retaliation for their attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid buoyed America’s morale, and prompted an ill-fated Japanese attempt to seize Midway that turned the tide of the war. But it came at a horrific cost: an estimated 250,000 Chinese died in retaliation by the Japanese. Deeply researched and brilliantly written, Target Tokyo has been hailed as the definitive account of one of America’s most daring military operations.
The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire by Karl Jacoby (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017)
How did a former slave from Texas named William Ellis, transform himself into a fabulously wealthy Mexican millionaire named Guillermo Elliseo after the Civil War? Historian Martha A. Sandweiss stated that Jacoby's tale of William Ellis crafts "a powerful narrative about the porous borders of class, race, and national identity in late 19th and early 20th-century American life." Jacoby's book successfully illuminates both a life of a unique and fascinating American while addressing broader issues of race and the American borderlands. The book was also the recipient of the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the OHA.
Need more help? You can check out some of our most popular book lists for ideas.
- American Revolution Top Ten Booklist
- Alexander the Great Top Ten Booklist
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- The Greek Philosophers Top Ten Booklist
- Civil War Battles Top Ten Booklist
- American Civil War Biographies Top Ten Booklist
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- 2016 American Historical Association Book Awards
- 2017 Organization of American Historians Book Awards
- 2016 Organization of American Historians Book Awards
Almost everyone can now read books on laptops, smartphones, and tablets, but these options are often unsatisfactory options because the reading experience is typically a disappointment. It's hard to recommend reading serious history books on a phone or tablet over a paper book. The Kindle Paperwhite most closely mimics paper books. It's easier to read for long periods of time than phones and tablets. While you cannot take notes in the book the way you can with paper books, you can store an enormous number of books on the Paperwhite.
In an ideal world, paper books are the best solution, but the Paperwhite is a solid device for reading books and it's great for travel. Amazon has Kindles that range in price from $79.99 to $249.99. The Paperwhite at $119.99 is a great deal. It has more than enough storage and a great screen. That makes it hard to recommend the more expensive models.