History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

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Chromer
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History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Chromer » Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:46 am UTC

I never expected to fall in love with history books, for I am studying to become a teacher of mathematics.

I'm curious if others share the same sentiment, and, if that is so, we could compile a listing of books to form a useful literary canon for history.
Jahoclave suggests this is similar to New Historicism.

Perhaps if this becomes popular then we could separate the list into categories and subcategories: U.S. History, World History, different wars, etc.

Have a hard time recalling what you have read? No sweat, just try to answer these questions:
What books were you required to read in high school (and did those books educate you)?
What books were you required to read in college (likewise, did those books educate you)?
What books have you purchased, read, and enjoyed in your own free time (opinions)?
What books have you heard of but have not yet read (and how do you anticipate each will be)?
What other books do you know of that are required readings for other courses, perhaps with links for course syllabi?

Books that I am currently reading (or have finished):
*Note the left leaning and male bias with exception for the conservative nature of Austen and libertarian perspective of Rand.
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (conservative)
Primary Colors - Anonymous (the author, later revealed, is Joe Klein)
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (chilling dangers of genetic engineering from an author in 1931)
Overthrow - Stephen Kinzer
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (Steinbeck was a Communist)
Slave and Citizen - Nathan Irvin Huggins
The Twentieth Century - Howard Zinn (Zinn, Communist)
The United States: A Brief Narrative HIstory - Link Hullar and Scott Nelson (Link Hullar is liberal)
A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
Andrew Jackson and the Search for Vindication - James Curtis
Freedom Road - Howard Fast (Novel following the year after Reconstruction; fiction, Fast is a Communist)
The Mismeasure of Man - Stephen Jay Gould
Miss Jane Pittman - Ernest J. Gaines
Anthem - Ayn Rand
Dracula - Bram Stoker (Victorian literature, detailing the roles of blood/race/patriarchy in society)

More:
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
The Rape of Nanking - Iris Chang
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robery Oppenheimer - Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

Poster Suggestions

Suggested by Pez Dispens3r:
(textbook) Bentley and Ziegler's Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past
C.A. Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World: 1780-1914
Hobsbawm's Age histories

Suggested by LaserGuy:
Ken Follett's historical novels: Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and Fall of Giants

Suggested by _Axle_:
The Prince - Niccolò Machiavelli

Suggested by Sheikh al-Majaneen:
Lenin's Tomb - David Remnick
The Proud Tower - Barbara Tuchman
The Disturbing Story of the World at Peace - by Phillip Gibbs
Tamerlane - Justin Marozzi
The Search for Modern China - Jonathan Spence
The Landmark Herodotus
The Inheritance of Rome
Fall of the Roman Empire

Suggested by SurgicalSteel:
Twentieth Century Russia - Treadgold and Ellison
Kent State - James Michener
From Stalingrad to Pillau: A Red Army Artillery Officer Remembers the Great Patriotic War - Isaak Kobylyanskiy
On Killing - David Grossman
Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill - Jessica Stern
The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class Is the Key to Defeating Extremism
Last edited by Chromer on Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:38 am UTC, edited 17 times in total.

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Jahoclave
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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Jahoclave » Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:11 am UTC

Everything ever. You may be interested in New Historicism, since that's somewhat close to what you're advocating here. However, the idea of canon can be quite a tricky idea given you have to get past the oppressive nature of the canon in the first place. They're inherently exclusionary. Just looking at your list you're going to get a skewed perception of history based on your list being primarily left leaning authors.

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Mar 14, 2011 8:38 am UTC

I think "left-leaning" is the minor problem (especially considering it's a highly contextual accusation). Bar Austen, you've got exclusively male authors, and of those authors most of them appear to be American or British. That's not great for building a meaningful, holistic understanding of the past.

In any event, many of the books you would have been required to read at school were less than ideal, as history is often a highly politicized topic. Any narrative that doesn't affirm Western values tends to get labelled as Revisionist crap with a liberal agenda. Having said that, the best textbook I could recommend would be Bentley and Ziegler's Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Of all the textbooks I've read, it turns up the least inaccuracies or over-simplifications, it's wonderfully illustrated with primary source material, and it's written to be both informative and accessible. C.A. Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World: 1780-1914 is similarly commendable, and Hobsbawm's Age histories offer an unashamedly Marxist view of the past. But they're both more focused than Bentley and Ziegler.

I can't really recommend any fiction, because any novel will tell you something about the era and culture it was written in and it would be difficult to recommend one text over another. I could only suggest to read broadly, across cultures, times and, if at all possible, languages.
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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:29 pm UTC

On the fiction side of things, you may be interested in some of Ken Follett's historical novels: Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and Fall of Giants.

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Chromer » Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:00 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:Everything ever. You may be interested in New Historicism, since that's somewhat close to what you're advocating here. However, the idea of canon can be quite a tricky idea given you have to get past the oppressive nature of the canon in the first place. They're inherently exclusionary. Just looking at your list you're going to get a skewed perception of history based on your list being primarily left leaning authors.


These are a few books that I thought of as I made the post. Among these, Ayn Rand's books were not previously mentioned. I shall add those. Thanks for pointing out a serious flaw in the nature of the canon. I would also like to see perspectives from authors of differing ethnicity. Yes, the authors mentioned are more liberal. What books would you include that are more modern for conservatism (there are a few authors in some old notes that I will dig out for this purpose later)?

Pez Dispens3r wrote:I think "left-leaning" is the minor problem (especially considering it's a highly contextual accusation). Bar Austen, you've got exclusively male authors, and of those authors most of them appear to be American or British. That's not great for building a meaningful, holistic understanding of the past.

In any event, many of the books you would have been required to read at school were less than ideal, as history is often a highly politicized topic. Any narrative that doesn't affirm Western values tends to get labelled as Revisionist crap with a liberal agenda. Having said that, the best textbook I could recommend would be Bentley and Ziegler's Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Of all the textbooks I've read, it turns up the least inaccuracies or over-simplifications, it's wonderfully illustrated with primary source material, and it's written to be both informative and accessible. C.A. Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World: 1780-1914 is similarly commendable, and Hobsbawm's Age histories offer an unashamedly Marxist view of the past. But they're both more focused than Bentley and Ziegler.

I can't really recommend any fiction, because any novel will tell you something about the era and culture it was written in and it would be difficult to recommend one text over another. I could only suggest to read broadly, across cultures, times and, if at all possible, languages.


Thanks for the book suggestions. Yes, a modern literary canon must address male bias.

LaserGuy wrote:On the fiction side of things, you may be interested in some of Ken Follett's historical novels: Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and Fall of Giants.


Thanks for the suggestion, I'll add it to the top.

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:58 pm UTC

I dunno about conservative leaning books, I'm a raging liberal. One of the problems with history, especially coming out of some conservative realms is that they unabashedly fuck up accuracy. There's slant and then there's wrong. I was just pointing that out as an example of selection bias.

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Chromer » Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:04 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:I dunno about conservative leaning books, I'm a raging liberal. One of the problems with history, especially coming out of some conservative realms is that they unabashedly fuck up accuracy. There's slant and then there's wrong. I was just pointing that out as an example of selection bias.


I've noticed that the conservative viewpoint is either very slanted for a political agenda in historical literature, or it is extremely enlightening.

One of the few things I follow while reading a conservative novel is a list of ten conservative principles written by Russell Kirk:

1 - The Conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order
2 - The Conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity
3 - Conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription
4 - Conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence
5 - Conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety (I believe there is a clash between 1 and 5 among conservatives, hence the polarization of bias and accuracy)
6 - Conservatives are chastened by their principles of imperfectability
7 - Conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked
8 - Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism
9 - The conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions
10 - The thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society

I ask myself while reading from conservative authors, "does this author disagree with any of the above and why?"

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby _Axle_ » Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:24 am UTC

Not 100% if this fits exactly what you are looking for, but I would recommend :

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

I remember reading a few paragraphs from it in my high school text book, which later prompted me to find a translated copy to read. This book helped me 'design' my strategic RPG characters that I play :).
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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Chromer » Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:17 am UTC

_Axle_ wrote:Not 100% if this fits exactly what you are looking for, but I would recommend :

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

I remember reading a few paragraphs from it in my high school text book, which later prompted me to find a translated copy to read. This book helped me 'design' my strategic RPG characters that I play :).


Thanks for the suggestion :)

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Sun Mar 27, 2011 8:17 pm UTC

I have read (and attempted to read) a lot of history. I may have misunderstood the point, but I will provide books anyways. Everything I suggest is what I have read (all the way through) in my free time. A lot of it isn't quite modern-day socially relevant.

Nonfiction
Lenin's Tomb by David Remnick, about the last decade of the Soviet Union.
The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman (hey look a woman), is a series of essays about the late 1800s up to 1914, a fascinating time in history everywhere, full of worker riots, anarchist terrorism, and soul-searching.
Since Then: The Disturbing Story of the World at Peace, by Phillip Gibbs. It was written in 1930, when Hitler was almost a nobody, by a British journalist, and is a series of essays about what had happened in various countries since the end of the Great War. He was quite the pessimist, as you may imagine.
Tamerlane, by Justin Marozzi, whose goal is to be a modern-day Herodotos, is, as you might imagine, about Tamerlane, great grandson or something like that of Genghis Khan, whose empire stretched from Anatolia to Afghanistan.
The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence is a humongous tome about Chinese history from the Ming Dynasty until about Tienanmen Square. He also wrote a book about Hong Xiuquan's Taiping Tianguo, which I bought but didn't really read. That war was the absolute bloodiest of the 19th century, nothing else remotely compares.

I am currently reading The Landmark Herodotus (because Histories was mentioned in American Gods), The Inheritance of Rome, and the Fall of the Roman Empire.

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby SurgicalSteel » Mon Mar 28, 2011 5:37 am UTC

Non-fiction history:
Twentieth Century Russia (Treadgold and Ellison) - read this for a modern Russian history class. Covers, well, the 20th century. Spends a disproportionate amount of pages between the end of Czarist Russia and death of Stalin, but still incredibly interesting.

Kent State (James Michener) - Incredibly detailed account of the events leading up to and including the Kent State Massacre, including the Water Street riots and the burning of the ROTC building.

Autobiographical:
From Stalingrad to Pillau: A Red Army Artillery Officer Remembers the Great Patriotic War (Isaak Kobylyanskiy) - Memoirs of a Jewish soldier in the Red Army during WWII. Talks not only about the war, but also his life in Stalinist society and antisemitism in Russia. Sometimes it's obvious that Kobylyanskiy isn't a professional writer, and it gets kind of technical at times, but overall it feels like he's just talking with you about his experiences, not trying to write a clinical report of events.

I don't know if you want stuff that's more current events and sociology as well, in school they always lumped them together with history.
On Killing (David Grossman) - pretty much what it says on the tin: a bit of history of how the army has trained its soldiers to be able to kill, and psychological impact of both that training and the actual act.

Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill (Jessica Stern) - Stern traveled the world interviewing members of various religious terrorists groups to answer the question posed in the title. She interviews many different kinds of groups, from Christian terrorist groups in the American midwest to Muslim terrorist groups in Indonesia. Interesting on a sociological level, and also as a narrative of her journey. At times she has to hide the fact that she's Jewish, while some organizations try to recruit her.

I think my next non-fiction book is going to be "The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class Is the Key to Defeating Extremism "
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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Chromer » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:35 am UTC

Thank you for the additions.

I have also added a few books. Gotta love 3 dollar books from Amazon.

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby MrConor » Thu May 19, 2011 6:23 pm UTC

The Pelican History of the World, by JM Roberts (1976). Or, if you're buying books rather than borrowing them from other people who don't have the updated versions, you could get the latest edition, published as The New Penguin History of the World, by JM Roberts (2007). I presume that they're fairly similar, but obviously I can only vouch for the edition I've read.

It's useful for trying to keep different historical events in perspective.

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Re: History Books (Non-Fiction and novel) - Literary Canon

Postby Nattlinnen » Mon May 23, 2011 8:27 pm UTC

Without any regards to taste I'll rabble books that interested me in the historical field. All on the topic of Africa.

General History of Africa - Complied at the initiative of UNESCO it's an all covering series of book regarding the African continent from the very beginning to the very end. I've read part five and six, the first regards the period 16th to 18th century, the second the 19th century to 1880. A quite heavy read but good as a reference work.

Capitalism and Slavery - Important history literature. You don't have to agree but it's an interesting leftist (Marxist) view on Capitalism and Slavery (huh!). Written by Eric Williams in 1944. Also interested to read a quite old yet modern work of history. Can be acquired freely from Archive.org

How Europe underdeveloped Africa - By Walther Rodney. Must read. You don't have to agree with the rather radical (and Soviet-loving) views about the African continent but it's an interesting read. Has a lot of followers and a lot of haters. Me, I fall somewhere in between. Can be acquired freely but I don't remember where. Google!

That's it for now.


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