5 Great Books For History Majors

Home/Lists/5 Great Books For History Majors

Books For History Majors

  • The Tudors
  • A People's History Of The United States
  • Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea
  • Games Without Rules
  • The March Of Folly: From Troy To Vietnam

According to the history department at UCLA, historical memory is the key to identity of self. Although history majors learn plenty during their degree programs, supplemental reading is important. These are some excellent books for history majors.

1. The Tudors

This book by G.J. Meyer details the history of the historic royal family. Popular legends paint a skewed picture of the family, because of their actions toward people who opposed them. However, Meyer sheds light on the reality of some of the notorious characters and their acquaintances. The love story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn encircled a struggle for money, and Queen Mary was actually more tolerant and sympathetic than assumed. It also provides a realistic view of the royal courts, church issues and various relatives of the famous Tudor family.

2. A People's History Of The United States

Howard Zinn's famous book was featured in "Good Will Hunting" and is a must-read on every political buff's book list. Although the book does not contain an optimistic view of American history, it provides a very realistic one. It is long and dense, but gives insight about some important and forgotten figures in American history. From indentured servitude of European immigrants to the forced slavery of African natives, the book also offers an in-depth look at a sinister side of the country's history. It creates a more realistic picture of America's social progress across the decades.

3. Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea

Many history majors are interested in the history of communism and how it affected people. However, most books focus on Russian or Chinese communism. This book presents an eye-opening account of life in one of the most secretive and bizarre communist countries. It shows how political changes affected people who were helpless. Barbara Demick's book follows several Koreans over the span of 15 years. While some lived in life-threatening situations and poverty, others lived in wealth. The book portrays their views of different situations and especially various forms of deprivation.

4. Games Without Rules

This book by Tamim Amsary is a gripping account of Afghanistan's history and culture. The title of the book refers to a violent game in which participants on horseback drag a goat carcass toward a specific destination. There are few rules, and the game may persist for days. This metaphor implies that people who do not understand the game should not be on the field. It sums up the author's view of various military occupations and modernization attempts throughout history and why they failed. This book helps history majors better understand the desire of Afghans to preserve their country from change.

5. The March Of Folly: From Troy To Vietnam

Barbara Tuchman's book is full of great quotes and unique views. It also provides a look at something that most history books fail to point out, which is why countries pursue policies contrary to their own interests and what happens when they do that. From Great Britain's policies to tax the American colonies to the greed of the Renaissance popes, the author sheds light on some of the biggest mistakes and their consequences. She also writes about the questionable logic employed by the United States to fuel the belief that communism would spread without military action toward Vietnam.

Related Resource: 10 Most Affordable Online History Master's Degrees

With independent reading of non-scholastic history books, students can expand their knowledge and gain insight into uncommon or applied topics. Supplemental reading also strengthens knowledge of topics in classes and can give students interesting resources for starting discussions with their peers.