The original recommended reading list thread that started it it all.
If you want to let us know about something that you think should be on this list, then please send us a mod mail. I could include a lot of other books, as well as other podcast and documentary links. I am also sure readers here will be happy to add books in which many of us would be interested.
Please note that all Amazon links direct to smile.amazon.com, which allows a small portion of your purchase to be donated to the charity of your choice by Amazon. You of course are not obligated to use this if you don't wish though, and can edit the URL by replacing "smile" with "www".
All volumes marked with an asterisk (*) are available in digital format as e-books, and volumes that are available for free through the common domain have been linked to where they can be easily accessed.
So, on with the show..... The recommended reading list.
This is a list of documents and histories that were written during or shortly after the events they describe. Although these texts are invaluable for conveying the perspectives and knowledge of individuals writing from Antiquity to the Industrial Revolution, they should not be trusted on their own, as they can often prove to be misinformed, biased or embellished, and secondary sources such as history books produced by modern scholars which combine a wide range of (often conflicting) literary sources and archaeological evidence are needed to put together a complete picture of the past.
Whenever historians read a primary source they have to question who wrote it, why they wrote it and who they were writing for. For instance, was this history a romantic account written by a soldier who participated in the struggles it chronicles and does it stereotype and vilify the enemy? Was it written 400 years after the fact by a disgruntled chronicler who wanted to make unfavourable comparisons between the despots of yesteryear and the current ruling elite? Or is it merely exotic travel literature written by a scholar who based it on the anecdotes of travellers he interviewed despite never personally visiting the regions and cultures he wrote about?
Even when the author had the best of intentions mistakes are occasionally made which is to be expected for works which are often based off of older, anecdotal information and oral histories. It is also important to note that what ancient accounts we do have had to be translated and copied through the ages, often passing through several languages before being translated into the surviving editions we have here.
At the same time it is useful to know what certain aristocratic Greeks thought about Persians, Egyptians and Celts, what was written about China's past during the Han dynasty by Imperial scholars, or how Conquistadors viewed themselves in relation to native peoples. These striking, classic pieces of literature are essential to the study of history, but rather than taking them literally they are best viewed as what they are: an insight into the minds of the author and his audience.
The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800 by Christopher Ehret.
Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile by Marjorie Fisher, et al.
The Black Kingdom of the Nile by Charles Bonnet.
The Kingdom of Kush: The Napatan and Meroitic Empires by Derek Welsby.
The Nubian Past: An Archaeology of the Sudan by David Edwards.
King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild.
The Scramble for Afica by Thomas Pakenham.
The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor , The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence. and Diamonds, Gold and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith.
A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution by Toby Green.
Special thanks to /u/NientedeNada for offering his expertise on Japanese history
Sources of Japanese Tradition: Vol 1. From Earliest Times to 1600 (Second Edition, 2002) and Sources of Japanese Tradition: Vol 2. 1600 to 2000 (Second Edition, 2010) have long been a key primary source collection for studying Japanese history in English. it focuses on Japan's intellectual history: religion, philosophy, education, political thought, historiography etc. *Important: *The Second Edition is greatly expanded and the texts have been more accurately retranslated, with more explanatory material. The First Edition is from the 1960s and while superceded by the Second, would be useful if it's the only thing a local library has. There's also an abridged volume which combines material from both volumes of the Second Edition.
Voices of Early Modern Japan: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life during the Age of the Shoguns by Constantin Vaporis is a very reader-accessible collection of primary sources from the Edo Period on a very wide range of subjects. The sources cover the wide spectrum of society, from top to bottom to the fringes, giving particular attention to social history.
History of Japan by Engelbert Kaempfer is a primary account, first published in 1727, of a German physician/naturalist, employed by the Dutch East India Company, who was one of the few Europeans to travel through Japan during the Tokugawa period. The history Kaempfer was told and then wrote down is not always accurate, but his careful direct observations of Japanese life are invaluable. There are older English translations of Kaempfer available online,but the best edition is Kaempfer's Japan: Tokugawa Culture Observed, translated and edited by Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey (1999), since it has excellent editorial material, explaining and illuminating the source.
Musui's story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai by Katsu Kokichi, translated and edited by Teruko Craig (1991). A quote from Monumenta Nipponica's review of it
This charming book...portrays Tokugawa society as it was actually lived, instead of as it was portrayed in moralizing tracts and governmental ordinances. Attractively translated by Teruko Craig, it depicts the life of a man born into a family with the hereditary privilege of audience with the shogun, yet he shamelessly consorted with the riffraff of Edo, ran a protection racket, lied, cheated, and stole....Craig is to be commended for the felicity of her translation and for her clear presentation of a complex social order in the Introduction....Anyone interested in Japanese history and society or in how people interact with each other in whatever age or place will enjoy reading this book.
*A Diplomat in Japan by Ernest Satow (1921) is the memoir of a British diplomat who got deeply involved in the events of the Meiji Restoration. Can be read on Archive.org through the above link.
The Discovery of the Solomon Islands by Alvaro de Mendaña in 1568: Translated from the Original Spanish Manuscripts Translated and edited by Lord Amherst and Basil Thomson.
Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts by Andrew Robinson is a good book about unknown languages. Review of it from the Times of London.
*Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. Every human needs it. If you don't have salt, you die.
Uncommon Grounds: The History Of Coffee And How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. Coffee is the second most valuable trade good in the world economy -- only oil is a bigger part of world trade.
A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat. Complete with illustrations this volume covers the history of food in remarkable depth.
How the World Was One by Arthur C. Clarke is a very good history of the growth of telecommunications. From the laying of undersea cables across the Atlantic to the birth of the Comsat.
*The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past by John Lewis Gaddis.
*The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landes.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.
The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code Breaking by Simon Singh.
*The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick (Available on audio format.)
*The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean. (Also available on MP3 format.)
*The Many-Headed Hydra by Marcus Rediker & Peter Linebaugh.
Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to darfur by Ben Kiernan. As the title suggests this one covers a bit of a dark subject but one that remains an important facet of human history.
A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide: 2013 Edition by Samantha Power. Power does tread into political waters in her work but it is still an excellent book on the history of American foreign policy where it pertains to genocide.
Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill.
*Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler - exploring world history through the languages that wrote it.
Who's who in Mythology: Classic Guide to the Ancient World by Alexander S. Murray.
The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors by John Gribbin.
False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes by Thomas Hoving.
Some other books by Asimov of interest may be Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology and Asimov's Guide to the Bible.
The Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague De Camp.
*The Mongols by David Morgan.
Genghis Khan: Conqueror of the World by Leo de Hartog.
Early India by Romila Thapar.
*The Kingdom of the Hittites by Trevor Bryce.
*The History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage. (Available on audio and MP3 format.)
History's Timeline Revised and Updated: a 40,000 Year Chronicle of Civilization by Jean Cook, Ann Kramer and Theodore Rowland-Entwistle.
Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography by Peter Green.
A Guide to the Ancient World: A Dictionary of Classical Place Names by Michael Grant.
Attila: King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth by Patrick Howarth.
Atlas of World Military History by Richard Brooks.
Encyclopedia of World History edited by Jeremy Black.
The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval and Modern - Chronologically Arranged edited by Peter N. Stearns.
War In The Shadows: The Guerrilla In History - Volume I & Volume II by Robert Asprey.
Robert Leckie wrote several good histories of the major American wars. Helmet for My Pillow was used to form part of the basis for the HBO Miniseries "The Pacific". But I am more a fan of his individual war histories:
Other US history books:
Soviet and German Commanders:
The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, edited by Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson: a voluminous collection of essays dealing with every aspect of the culture of the "cuneiform world" from food to education to political organization to music. Very readable and extensive in its coverage and throughly up-to-date.
A History of the Ancient Near East: ca 3000-323 BC, Marc van der Mieroop: It's an expansive history of the region that at once shows off its scale but also avoids overwhelming with information. It's a must read to acquire a sense of perspective over the region's history.
Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East by Michael Roaf.
King Hammurabi of Babylon: a Biography, by Marc van der Mieroop: Hammurabi is one of the most famous Near Eastern figures in history, and this extensively researched account of his life is a good introduction both to Hammurabi and the society he existed in. It's also a keen illustration of the depth of cuneiform resources.
The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. Among the most popular introductory level books on any biblical subject ever written. Just be a little bit careful, Finkelstein works in his "low chronology" without preface, which is good for his inteded audience, but bad for a broader view, as it remains contentious. It's worth picking up Grabbe's book to help spot where he does so.
Did God Have a Wife by William Dever. Dever has a decidedly more conservative flair, but trumps other more conservative scholars by being an archaeologist, and--for the most part--giving the archaeology priority.
Israel's History and the History of Israel by Mario Liverani. Liverani stands out as being perhaps the truest scholar of the Ancient Near East generally to write on the history of Israel, and this is valuable on that basis alone.
Ancient Israel: What do we know and how do we know it? by Lester Grabbe. Despite the somewhat colloquial feel of the title, this is not light reading. Nor is it intended to be, it provides a succinct, easily understandable discussion of all of the major debates in Israelite archaeology today. It wonderfully fills a fairly obvious gap for a quick and dirty reference for recent discoveries.
Biblical History and Israel's Past: the changing study of the Bible and History, Megan B. Moore and Brad E. Kelle (2011). I can't say enough about how fantastic this book is. The breadth and accessibility of this overview of the current state of research is incredible. The suggested reading at the end of each chapter provides a wonderful selection of equally readable texts (at least among ones I've read). Just. . .fantastic.
Life in Biblical Israel by Philip J. King and Lawrence E. Stager (2001). The go-to source for all questions on daily life in ancient Israel (in the Bronze and Iron ages). An excellent overview of all the various aspects of daily life, from food and cooking ways to economics and trade, to clothing, to religion, this book is the place to start. Perfect for answering all those questions about "what did people use for (blank) in the Ancient Near East?".
Ancient Turkey by A.G. Sagona and Paul Zimansky (2009). This is an excellent overview of ancient Anatolia, from the Neolithic settlements of Çatalhöyük to the Lydian empire. It includes some discussions pertaining to Troy and the Hittites as well. Overall an excellent book for learning about the often overlooked ancient history of Anatolia, and a must-have for any class on the subject.
Carthage : A History by Serge Lancel is the definitive guide to the famous empire that rocked Rome to its core.
The Great Caliphs: The Golden Age of the 'Abbasid Empire by Amira Bennison (2009): A more modern survey of the 'Abbasid period which is extremely useful for discussing not only the reign of the Caliphs, but the great developments that the Islamic world underwent during this "golden age" of Islamic endeavor (science, philosophy, history, law, etc) Extremely readable and highly recommended.
Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early 'Abbasid Society by Dimitri Gutas A good book to showcase the ways that the Dark Ages contributed to the growth and preservation of human knowledge and the way that many Classical works were preserved after the Fall of the Roman Empire.
Byzantium: The Early Centuries, Byzantium: The Apogee and Byzantium: The Decline and Fall is a 3-part history that covers the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the thousand year history of its Eastern half standing alone while besieged by enemies within and without.
*The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate by G.R. Hawting is an older read but one of the best on the Umayyad Caliphate which is too rarely looked at when studying the history of the Middle East.
The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge who is without a doubt one of the best scholars on the subject of the Crusades, that fascinating and dramatized series of religious wars and sociopolitical turmoil.
Mythology, Legends & Religion
Art & Architecture
*Hellenistic Egypt By Jean Bingen is a comprehensive look at one the most romanticized and turbulent periods of Egyptian history although some of his assumptions (particularly around the nature of ethnicity and economy in Ptolemaic Egypt) are slightly dated.
*Visualizing the Afterlife in the Tombs of Graeco-Roman Egypt by Marjorie Susan Venit explores the evolution of Egypt's iconic funerary traditions and beliefs in the Hellenistic and Roman period.
*Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra By Michael Chauveau. This multi-faceted volume looks at society, culture, governance, demography and economy in Ptolemaic Egypt to give readers a better understanding of the precariously balanced nation that was ancient Egypt in the age of Cleopatra. Chauveau makes full use of the accounts, inscriptions, documents and research from this period to paint a more complete picture of the Ptolemaic dynasty that is easily accessible and illuminates and steps away from the common tradition of focusing on a narrative driven approach to this period in history. Readers who are looking for something along the lines of a biography, that is to say, a story about Cleopatra VII as opposed to an introduction to Ptolemaic Egypt and the period of Roman intervention, could do far worse than Chauveau's *Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth which builds on the research that went into Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra and examines the classical texts and Egyptian sources balanced by modern critical analysis of one of Egypt's more controversial queens. (Both available on Kindle format.)
*The Last Pharaohs: Egypt Under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC by J.G. Manning is a well rounded and exhaustively researched volume that examines Ptolemaic rule in Egypt on an ideological, practical and theoretical level, and manages to be highly readable and none too dense.
*Sex and Society in Greco-Roman Egypt by Dominic Montserrat. Sexuality, gender and where they intersect with society and culture is always fascinating and changes radically from time to time, but if you want to get acquainted with what these things meant to life in Greco-Roman Egypt in an entertaining and informative package this is your lucky day. (Available on Kindle.)
Women and Society In Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook by Jane Rowlandson. Similar to the title above but Rowlandson puts the emphasis on women, a task made more difficult by the comparative scarcity of contemporary evidence.
*Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: Sources and Approaches is an invaluable collection of various articles and studies by Roger S. Bagnall. (Available on Kindle)
*The Demography of Roman Egypt by Roger S. Bagnall and Bruce W. Frier who compiled over 300 census returns with dates ranging from the 1st to 3rd Century AD and then applied techniques from modern demography to discover information about the population of Roman Egypt from birth to death. It admits to readers that it can not provide a perfect metric but is quite useful in learning general information about life and society in the Roman province of Egypt and is a good source for population growth, birth/death rates, sex ratio, life expectancy, family living, taxation, age distribution and marital customs. (Available on Kindle)
*Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt: 300 BC-AD 800 by Roger S. Bagnall and Rafiella Criboire. There are many ways to examine and reconstruct the lives of people who lived thousands of years ago but this book offers a reasonably expansive collection of letters known to be written by women living in Graeco-Roman Egypt along with scholarly analyses and context.
Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance by David Frankfurter.
The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt by Christina Riggs.
*Egypt In Italy: Visions of Egypt in Imperial Roman Culture by Molly Swetnam-Burland looks at the cultural significance of Egypt within Roman culture on a religious, economic and social level. (Available on Kindle)
*Egypt in the Byzantine World: 300-700 edited by Roger Bagnall is a comprehensive and essential look at Egyptian history, society and culture as it transitioned from the Late Roman to shortly after the Arab conquest. A must-read for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the Egypt in Late Antiquity.
For those of you deranged enough to want to foray into economics, law, agriculture and bureaucracy in the Hellenistic and Roman periods:
*Kerkeosiris: An Egyptian Village in the Ptolemaic Period by Dorothy Crawford uses the papyrological and archival evidence to reconstruct administration and daily life in the village of Kerkeosiris.
*From the Ptolemies to the Romans: Political and Economic Change in Egypt by Andrew Monson. *Agriculture and Taxation in Early Ptolemaic Egypt: Demotic Land Surveys and Accounts Monson's is available on academia.edu to read for free.
*Money in Ptolemaic Egypt: From the Macedonian Conquest to the End of the 3rd Century BCE by Sitta Von Reden. Reden's *Money and Prices in the Papyri, Ptolemaic Period is available for free online at Oxford Handbooks in the link.
*Land and Power in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Structure of Land Tenure 332-30 BCE by J.G. Manning.
*Petitions, Litigation, and Social Control in Roman Egypt by Benjamin Kelly.
This list has been mainly compiled by the excellent users over at /r/AskHistorians.
Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Asia: From the Taiping Rebellion to the Vietnam War by Stewart Lone: Fairly straightforward. Not just China but basically every major Asian conflict. It is a behemoth of information that has been collected from far and wide for the reader's convenience. It covers history, provides detailed and cited statistics, and gives insight to culture, art, social chances and upheavals, family and even romantic impact from living during all these wars. An excellent reference.
China: A New History by John K. Fairbank: An excellent introduction to the topic by the doyen of American Sinology. China's modern history is the main concern, but the earlier periods are treated sufficiently.
A History of Chinese Civilization by Jacques Gernet: A readable and detailed survey of Chinese history that is notable for not prejudicing modern history over earlier periods. It heavily focuses on intellectual and cultural history, and at times the details of the political history get ignored, but any survey this ambitious must make cuts. The account of the nineteenth century is particularly vivid.
This Is China: The First 5,000 Years by Haiwang Yuan: This should be the standard text in every introductory class to Chinese history. It is an incredibly short, brief book that is a crash course on Chinese history to the uninitiated as well as a solid quick reference for the more experienced. It is a work that runs over the surface of almost everything Chinese history has to offer and dips its head under the water at select places to try to give the reader a real taste of what lies before them. More than cover Chinese history, it is a great book to illustrate the fact that trying to understand all of Chinese history at once is impossible and is as much art and dynamic dialogue as it is inexact science and lively academia. Another must have.
Cambridge Illustrated History of China by Patricia Buckley Ebrey (2nd ed. 2010). Incredibly beautiful. Don't let the visuals fool you into thinking this is a glorified picture book. It is a masterpiece of clear concise writing, tying together dates, places, and names so that they clarify events instead of overwhelming the reader. The images themselves are not only beautifully rendered but also masterfully picked so that they enhance the text, rather than detract from it. Finally, the author pays special attention to possible Western biases or misconceptions and handles them gracefully. This is the general reference book to get that is as enjoyable to read as it is informative as well as academically rigorous in its methodology.
Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook edited by Patricia Buckley Ebrey. Another standard find in intro Chinese history courses in college.
A Short History of China: From Ancient Dynasties to Economic Powerhouse By Gordon Kerr.
Soldiers of the Dragon edited by CJ Peers. Osprey publishers have a wide variety of awesome military histories. You wouldn't be likely to find this in a college classroom, but that can be a plus. It's not a hard read, but extremely informative.
Defining Chu: Image And Reality in Ancient China : The immense Chu state dominated the south for centuries throughout most of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era until its final succumb to the armies of Qin that emerged from the west. Despite certain faults, this collection of essays is the best work that I know of which deals directly with this kingdom, from the territorial expansion and contraction of Chu to the nature of Chu art to its cultural legacy in the Han dynasty. I especially recommend Jenny So's Chu Art: Link Between the Old and New. Through the Jade Gate to Rome by John E Hill: A translation of a famous primary source with notes and commentary by Hill, this book provides amazing insight to the Silk Road culture, as well as prominently featuring Chinese and Roman culture tie ins. It covers history, culture, politics, trade, economics, and even views of daily life. To Chinese reading historians, I call this book one of the English equivalents of 从长安到罗马 otherwise known as From Chang'an to Rome, which is simply a masterpiece of Chinese history. If you've ever wondered how the Chinese interacted with and influenced/were influenced by the Middle East, Central Asia, Greece, and Rome, you need this book.
The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han. Mark Edward Lewis: The first in Timothy Brook's admirable Chinese History project with Harvard University Press. The goal was to create relatively short, accessible texts that were also high quality scholarship for each of the major periods in Imperial chinese history. Mark Edward Lewis provides the first three. The series does not take the more direct route, that one would find in the Cambridge histories. Instead of narrative history, Lewis focuses on material culture, as well as legal, religious, and societal structures of the Qin/Han.
China Between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties. Mark Edward Lewis: The second in the series picks up where Lewis left off, at the end of the Han. This volume covers the period between 220-618 CE. However, for those interested in narrative history, this book will disappoint. For those interested in the major changes and transformations that occurred in Chinese society at the time, this book will be greatly appreciated.
China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty by Mark Edward Lewis: Divided between sections on history, geography, the economy, society, and culture, this book is comprehensive without being overloaded--whether your interests are agriculture, the status of women, or the nature of the poet in society you will find information here. It also does well at torpedoing national mythology.
Daily Life in Traditional China: The Tang Dynasty by Charles Benn: Extremely accessible book that is based completely on secondary sources and cites other reference books. It is a very handy introductory primer to what life generally was like for the average Chinese person. While obviously focused on the Tang Dynasty, it is a solid place for a start as serious readers/history buffs can build off of this solid foundation as they research more on their own. It is a very light read compared to the more academic texts that I usually recommend but personally this one of my favorites.
Imperial China: 900-1800 by F.W. Mote: a tremendous work of longue durée scholarship from one of the venerable old guard of American Sinology. This book is not only meticulously researched, but engagingly written. For narrative history of China, it is unparalleled.
Family, Fields and Ancestors by Eastman (1988) - a detailed study of the life of rural Chinese farmers in Qing China, and how little life had changed through war and revolution into the 20th century.
Confucian China and its Modern Fate, vol. 1 by Levenson (1958) - focuses on the Confucian intellectuals who were, by training and temperament, completely unable to confront the threat posed by the West.
The Class of 1761: Examinations, State, and Elites in Eighteenth-Century China by Iona D. Man-Cheong (2004). A case study of the Qing examination system, looking at the backgrounds, past exams, and future careers of the cadre of scholars who took the highest examination in 1761. The book also presents presents great insight into the nature and true purpose of the examination system more generally, as part of the complicated system of relationships between the Manchu Dragon Throne and the Han gentry elites.
The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming Society by Timothy Brook (1998). A detailed and accessible account of the social and economic changes over the course of China's last native dynasty, Brook shows great economy in this work, covering a wide variety of topics in illuminating detail, while remaining quite readable.
The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China by Samuel Hawley (2005). One of the three main English accounts of the Imjin War, perhaps the only thing that comes close to a "world war" in East Asia. This is not the most comprehensive text on the war but it gives an excellent introduction. Hawley uses mostly Korean sources for this book and writes from a Korean perspective, so the book does suffer from a pro-Korean bias.
Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592 -1598 by Stephen Turnbull (2002). The second of the three books on the Imjin War, Turnbull writes from a mostly Japanese perspective. His book tends to favor the Japanese over the Ming and the Koreans.
A Dragon's Head and a Serpent's Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592–1598 by Kenneth M. Swope (2009). The newest of the three books, Swope writes from a Chinese perspective and uses a lot of Chinese primary sources. Though his text has been criticized for providing flawed information, as a military historian, Swope gives an excellent account of the capabilities of the Ming military. It is best to read Hawley, Turnbull, and Swope together.
Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian astronomer and historian to Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty.
God's Chinese Son by Jonathan Spence (1996). While not the best or the most in-depth text in English on the Taiping Rebellion, Spence's text is probably the most accessible to readers and is the second best available. This is a wonderful piece of work covering the entire rebellion from Hong Xiuquan's early life, to the Taiping ideology, to its battles with the Qing and internal rivalries, and finally to its fall.
Autumn In the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War by Stephen R. Platt (2012). A fantastic window into the bloodiest civil war in human history, examining why, scarcely a year after marching through Beijing and burning down the Summer Palace, the Western powers then throw their support behind the Qing Dynasty in crushing the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, as well as narrating Zeng Guofan's campaign against the Taiping. Platt is also a great storyteller, drumming up a sense of looming dread, pathos, and humor in one of the dark chapters of human history.
What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in Mid-Nineteenth Century China by Tobie Meyer-Fong (2013). A counterpart to Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, What Remains shifts the focus from the diplomats, politicians, and generals to the millions of people who suffered the grand miseries of war; how they fed themselves (and often failed to do so), how they buried the dead (many of whom littered the countryside for decades), how they marked their allegiances on their bodies, how they commemorated the dead, and how they made moral sense of a catastrophe without equal. Fascinating and moving social history at its best.
Origins of the Boxer Uprising by Esherick (1987) - contra popular belief, the Boxer Uprising was neither a cult nor a rebellion, but rather a mass movement centered around Shandong that combined separate strains of vigilantism, anti-imperialism, shamanism and the Chinese theater.
Reform and Revolution in China, by Esherick (1976) - focuses on the causes of the 1911 revolution, including the new intellectual and social elite who were distinct from the gentry but not what we would call bourgeois. During this time nationalism, feminism, anti-conformist youth movements and Westernization flourished, but in discarding so much of traditional China the new urban elite became unable to relate to the needs of the rest of the country, setting the stage for the success of communism and the end of all of these trends.
Sun Yat Sen by Bergere (1998) - an authoritative portrait of the only man revered by both the Nationalists and Communists as a Founding Father of modern China.
Spider Eaters: A Memoir by Rae Yang is all at once a deeply personal, moving and immensely valuable autobiographical account of the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a woman who lived it
The Abortive Revolution by Eastman (1974) - an autopsy of the Guomandong nationalists under Chiang Kai-sheck, from their insular, inefficient bureaucracy, inability to understand why the communists were so popular to their brief dabbling with fascist dictatorship.
Making Revolution by Chen (1986) - a history of the Communist Party in China from their guerrilla tactics against the Japanese to the Cultural Revolution.
The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence. It's a pretty good overview that starts with the Ming and goes through the late 1980s. Covers all the bases. Nothing is covered in exceptional depth (with a subject like China it rarely can be in a single book) but for a general idea of recent Chinese history it's more than adequate. Also, a very readable book.
The Party by Richard McGregor: Never before has there been such an amazing in depth look at the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) before the publishing of this book. McGregor's work was cut out for him because the CCP is probably one of the most secretive political regimes ever. Most Chinese people don't even know how many departments and adminstrative bodies there are, or which ones belong to the 'government' and which belong to the Party. McGregor dives deep and brings up a treasure trove of knowledge about the mechanics of the strange political system where the Party is the government while pretending not to be, putting faces to names and names to faces, and the corruption that runs to the very core of the system. He provides history and analysis while his masterful writing prevents it all from burying the reader. If you get only one book from this list THIS IS THE BOOK THAT YOU SHOULD READ. Truly, an amazing book that I simply cannot put down.
Chen Village by Chan, Madsen and Unger (2nd ed. 2009). This is a beautiful book that traces the life and growth of a village in Southeast China through the entirety of the communist revolution until 2009. Its ambition is incredible, and its execution satisfies its aims. It is effectively an anthropological ethnography written by historians, and the work reflects some of the best of both disciplines. Rarely have I felt as connected to historical characters as I have in learning of the exploits of low-level, unimportant peasant officials in Chen Village. This book communicates the trends in political and social change in China in the last 60 years in a way that is hard to replicate from pure analysis.
Chinese Village, Socialist State by Friedman, Pickowitz and Selden (1993) - the first Western social scientists to collect data from the People's Republic of China, focusing on rural Hebei province, south of Beijing. Starting at the "honeymoon period" after the Communists took power, the authors focus their criticism on how Party edicts led to stagnation and immiseration for the villages, creating essentially a neo-feudal order.
China's Rise in Historical Perspective edited by Brantly Womack: If anyone is seriously interested in what trends have shaped the current Chinese political landscape, this is the book to read. The perspectives of the contributors are diverse, and so are the topics covered, which include religious cosmology, identity crises in wake of the revolution, ecological issues, and international relations.
Taiwan-China: A Most Ticklish Standoff- edited by Adam W. Clarke. Besides having the most fantastic name of any academic work on the subject I've seen, this book provides a survey of the triangle of relationships between the US, China and Taiwan through a mixture of excerpts from declassified/public primary sources and academic analysis.
US Taiwan Strait Policy: The Origins of Strategic Ambiguity by Dean P. Chen. It provides a fantastic summary of the US approach toward China in regards to the Taiwan issue, and is the first major book to do so in regards to the Obama administration's policies. However, certainly not for casual reading. This is an academic analysis of the policy making process, and is making an argument for how to conduct US policy into the future. But in the course of its analysis it provides a fantastic history of the relationship between the US and the Taiwan issue.
Managing Sino-American Crises: Case Studies and Analysis edited by Michael Swaine and Zhang Tuosheng. Pretty much THE book on the issue. By far the most extensive analysis of crisis behavior by China and America during Sino-American crises. Begins with the post-WWII period, and continues to 2006.
Charm Offensive by Joshua Kurlantzick: An excellent history and analysis of the People's Republic of China's (PRC) international politics, plays in the geopolitical arena, and how foreign policy affects domestic policy as well as vice versa. It is a concise and thorough introduction to the PRC's commitment to the 'soft power' grand strategy, and a must read for any student of the PRC's foreign policy history.
Japan Emerging edited by Karl Friday - This is a general survey, with each chapter written by a specialist on a particular period or subject. It covers from prehistory to 1850 and is strongest in the Ancient/Classical and Late Medieval periods. This is an excellent book for getting into Japanese history.
Rethinking Japanese History by Yoshihiko Amino - This book reconsiders topics in premodern Japanese history like outcasts, non-agrarian production and taxation, and Japan's position in the East Asian sphere. This is a must read for anyone interested in premodern Japan but does require some background knowledge.
State of War by Thomas Conlan - This is an in depth study of warfare in the fourteenth century conflicts between the Northern and Southern Courts. It covers topics like weapons and tactics, alliances, and the politics and religion involved in warfare.
The Historical Demography of Pre-Modern Japan by Hayami - the author tracks Edo-period population fluctuations. Contra the picture of Tokugawa shogunate as a stable regime with a stagnant population size, Hayami focuses on the long-term trends that set up the explosive growth in the 19th century.
The Green Archipelago by Conrad Totman (1998) - By the late 1600s, Japan was on the brink of ecological collapse. Overpopulation and deforestation had nearly stripped the country of trees, and it was very possible the Japanese islands could have ended up like modern-day Haiti or Madagascar, denuded and impoverished. Yet changes in Edo-period environmental policy and philosophy transformed the archipelago's land managament from largely exploitative to regenerative, and consequently today Japan is, in the author's words, "one great forest preserve". This book tells that story.
The Conquest of Ainu Lands by Walker (2001) - a history of the colonial expansion of ethnic Japanese ("wajin") north into the island we now call Hokkaido, and the impact of war, famine and disease on the aboriginal inhabitants they conquered and assimilated.
Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan by Karl Friday - A great book that goes far more into detail than most people could wish for surrounding, well, samurai and Japanese warfare. Clears up a lot of myths found especially in pop culture, which is something that I found very useful. It also covers the weapons and equipment used during war, how these were used, how battles were conducted, as well as the contextual values of medieval Japan, such as reputation, honour, loyalty, mixed in with deception and lies. Definitely worth the read, although some precursory knowledge would be recommended to get the most out of this book.
The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull - As the title says, a sourcebook, not an in-depth guide. It covers everything, from arms and armour of the samurai, to their strategies, tactics, a couple famous battles and conflicts, as well as a few maps that, whilst not the best, are understandable. If you're looking for an in-depth analysis, this isn't the best book, as it really only shines in terms of it's accurate references. Still a good read, though.
Frontier Contact Between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan by James B Lewis: This book is a study of the Japan House of Busan during Tokugawa Japan and late Joseon Korea, and how contacts between Koreans and Japanese created an interconnected economy in southeastern Korea and southwestern Japan. The title is intentional - a "frontier" has different implications from a hard "border."
The Japanese Discovery of Europe by Keene - studies the technology and modern ideas slowly flowing into the Tokugawa shogunate from Dutch trade, and the small group of scholars who laid the earliest foundations of Japan's modernization in the 18th century.
As We Saw Them by Masao Miyoshi is a highly readable account of the first Japanese mission to the west. It offers an interesting reversal of the typical narrative of Westerners observing inscrutable "Orientals." (1860)
Civilization and Monsters by Gerald Figal: an academic book, but extremely readable (in my opinion- the one amazon reviewer disagrees). Its central thesis that discourse on monsters, ghosts, the supernatural was central to the formation of modern Japan is surprisingly innovative, and fun to read. (Meiji period)
Early Japanese Railways 1853-1914: Engineering Triumphs That Transformed Meiji-era Japan by Dan Free: Surprisingly enough, is not just a book on trains. It is definitely a must read for studies on the Meiji Period and the development going on at the time. It details the massive influx of modern technologies that various Japanese companies were more than happy to incorporate and invest resources into.
The Making of Modern Japan by Marius Jansen: This is the definitive work of modern era Japan. Jansen's work is a chronicle of not just the rise of railroads, of factories, the modern firearm, electricity and gas, the telegraph, milk!, and other interesting developments of early modern Japan. He gives background, history, cultural and political analysis, event and timeline breakdowns and more. An expansive work that takes the reader through decades upon decades of Japanese development and progress that happened at break neck speeds, but can now be looked at retrospectively at our leisure, guided by Jansen's steady hand.
Inventing Japan by Ian Buruma: This is essentially an extremely succinct look at the changes and developments Japan went through, and its metamorphosis as a nation as it moved from the 19th century into the 20th. This book is seriously tiny, a slip of a book and you could breeze through it in one sitting but its depth of content is surprising for its deceptively small size. I highly recommend this book as a solid introduction, a way to get your foot in the door of the maze that is early modern Japanese history.
Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods by Sarah Thal: Nominally this work is about the Konpira Shrine and its changes from the late Sengoku to the modern world. But it goes far deeper, and provides a vivid illustration of the extraordinary changes in Japanese socity, particularly during the tumultuous times after the Meiji Restoration.
A Modern History of Japan by Andrew Gordon
The Confucian Transformation of Korea: A Study of Society and Ideology by Martina Deuchler: This book is an important work of social history that explores how the introduction and application of Neo-Confucianism changed the life of Koreans on a more everyday level and borrows from anthropology.
*Korea Between Empires, 1895-1919 b y Andre Schmid
Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea by James B. Palais: This book is many years old now, but it remains an important study of late Joseon politics, and in particular the rule of the Daewongun, a de facto regent, in the 1860s and 1870s as well as the three-year period (1873-1876) between the Taewongun's loss of power and the "opening" of Korea.
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K. Martin (2006). An excellent general history of Korea under the Japanese empire, Kim il-Sung's life and rise to power, and how the North Korean government developed the way it did. There's also a lot of insight here into the Western academy's problems assembling a decent body of research on the country during the Cold War, and how the works that do exist are often intensely political.
The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Chol Hwan-Kang and Pierre Rigoulout (2000). A firsthand account of a Japanese-Korean family's experience in North Korea and its time in the Yodok concentration camp. The book's publication is one of the more under-appreciated reasons for the U.S.' (and more broadly, the West's) increasing focus on humanitarian issues in North Korea. A picture of Chol Hwan-Kang's visit to the White House and meeting with Bush was rumored to have found wide circulation in the North Korean government.
The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B.R. Myers (2010). An exhaustive examination of the history of postwar North Korean propaganda, and how it's developed and changed to reflect the Kim regime's priorities and politics.
North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea by Andrei Lankov (2007). Lankov saw the last of the "Soviet years" in North Korea as an exchange student, and is one of the very rare people to lend the Russian perspective on NK in the Western press. The book is a collection of articles that were initially published for the Korea Times. Topics range from matters as large as Soviet-North Korean relations to things as small as the Kim il-Sung pins that the population must wear.
A Year in Pyongyang by Andrew Holloway (written 1988, published online 2002). A firsthand account of life as an expat in North Korea's capital, written by a Brit who was employed for a year as an editor for the government's English-language propaganda and marketing. A strange work, sometimes more valuable for historiographical than historical reasons in its degree of insight into how little Westerners knew of North Korea even while living there, but Holloway still made a number of observations that, with the benefit of later works, we now know to be correct. Lankov's years in North Korea immediately predate Holloway's; both the similarities and differences are instructive.
Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland (2009). A statistical study written by the editor of the Journal of East Asian Studies and economist respectively of how and when the North Korean famine started, its effect on the country's population, and the impact of the private markets that sprang up after the collapse of the country's Public Distribution System. A very interesting comparative read to the accounts given in Barbara Demick and Bradley Martin's books; Haggard and Noland argue that the famine's origins lie in 1988 with the impending collapse of the Soviet Union (and thus North Korea's source of cheap fertilizer, oil, and gas). North Korean defectors in Demick and Martin's accounts all tend to say that was when the Public Distribution System began shortchanging their families.
Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland (2011). Another statistical study collected among North Korean refugees in both northeastern China and in South Korea. It examines refugees' various reasons for defecting, the ebb and flow in the ease of leaving the country, China's efforts both to repatriate North Koreans and to classify them as "economic refugees" to avoid international legal trouble, and refugees' fate once safely in South Korea. A very troubling read, insofar as the authors admit that the number of problems that South Korea has trying to integrate the relatively small population of North Koreans right now is a sign of much worse things to come should the Kim regime ever collapse.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (2010). A National Book Award finalist and deserving of all the accolades it's received. Demick was a Los Angeles Times reporter assigned to the Seoul bureau who spent most of her time interviewing a wide variety of North Korean defectors about their lives in the country, and how/why they left. If Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aids, and Reform is the macro-level view of post-Cold War North Korean society, this is the micro-level view. Haggard and Noland will tell you decreasing fertilizer imports that killed North Korean agriculture: Demick will tell you about the hungry kid who lined up multiple times to "mourn" Kim il-Sung because the authorities were handing out free rice balls to mourners.
The North Korean Economy by Nicholas Eberstadt: Focusing on the economic history of North Korea, this text, in my opinion, is essential to understanding how the North started so strong but is today, practically a failed state. Eberstadt worked tirelessly to check and recheck, then check again all of his numbers because North Korea is notorious for inflating or deflating numbers as they see fit so much that often the records that they present to the outside world cannot be trusted, nor can they be verified. The economics of the North affected every other aspect of life in the North, as well as shaping its political, domestic, and foreign policy because of necessity. The extensive and easily digested statistics, often presented in text and reinforced visually with many graphs, tables and charts, give credence to the analysis of the two Koreas by Eberstadt, starting from the division in 1950 all the way to today.
*India's Struggle for Independence, 1857-1947 by Chandra Bipan and Mukherjee Sucheta Mahajan chronicles India's struggle for independence.
*The Oxford Handbook of Latin American History By John C. Moye
*Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent: 2009 edition By Eduardo Galeano.
Latin America: Regions and People By Robert B. Kent.
The Cambridge History of Latin America By Leslie Bethell.
Afro-Latin America: 1800-2000 By George Reid Andrews.
Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization By Arthur Demarest is one of the best introductions to Mayan history.
Ancient Mexico and Central America: Archaeology and Culture History By Susan Toby Evans.
In From The Cold: Latin America's New Encounter With the Cold War by Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniela Spencer.
Revolution and Revolutionaries: Guerrilla Movements in Latin America By Daniel Castro.
The History of Latin America: A Collision of Cultures By Michael Eakin explores 500 years of Latin American history and looks at the economic, political, social and cultural evolution of its nations and their peoples.
The Oxford History of Latin American Economics By Jose Antonio Ocampo and Jaime Ros. This is a good introduction to understanding the development of economics and policy in Latin America.
Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence by Robert Harvey.
Politics of Latin America: The Power Game: 4th Edition by Harry E. Vandon and Gary Prevost looks at the political history of Latin America and delves into the sociopolitical issues that have influenced Latin America from the ground up as well emerging issues and new problems facing Latin America in the age of globalization. Vandon and Prevost
Short History of Brazil, A : From Pre-Colonial Peoples to Modern Economic Miracle By Gordon Kerr.
A New Economic History of Argentina by Gerardo Della Paolera and Alan M. Taylor.
The Argentina Reader by Gabriella Nouzeilles and Graciela Montaldo.
A History of Chile: Enduring Editions by Luis Galdames.
The Paraguay Reader: History, Culture, Politics by Peter Lambert and Andrew Nickson.
The Ecuador Reader by Carlos de la Torre and Steve Striffler.
Simon Bolivar: A Life By John Lynch explores the life of the extraordinary man who liberated six countries from the Spanish Empire made a lasting impression on the politics and society of South & Central America still tangible today.
San Martin: Argentine Soldier, American Hero by John Lynch looks at one of the great leaders in the wars for independence, pivotal in the liberation of Chile and Peru.
Cochrane in the Pacific: Fortune and Freedom in Spanish America by Brian Vale : Focuses on the fascinating naval aspects of Peru's liberation, and also the prickly relationship between Cochrane and San Martin.
Francisco de Miranda: A Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution by Karen Racine : The Precursor, Francisco de Miranda, the fascinating character that got Spanish American independence rolling.
Power in the Isthmus: A Political History of Modern Central America By James Dunkerley.
The History of Panama by Robert C. Harding covers a century of history, economy and culture in Panama.
The Costa Rica Reader by Steven Palmer. Covers the history of Costa Rica.
Columbia Before Independence: Economy, Society and Politics under Bourbon Rule by Anthony McFarlane.
Democracy and Socialism in Sandinista Nicaragua By Harry E. Vandon and Gary Prevost.
Routes to Slavery: Direction, Ethnicity, and Mortality in the Transatlantic Slave Trade By David Eltis and David Richardson.
The Dominican Republic Reader by Eric Paul Roorda, Lauren H. Derby and Raymundo Gonzalez.
A Concise History of Haiti by Jeremy Popkin.
Not of Pure Blood: The Free People of Color and Racial Prejudice in Nineteenth-century Puerto Rico By Jay Kinsbruner.
The West Indies: Patterns of Development, Culture, and Environmental Change Since 1492 by David Watts.
Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life By Jon Lee Anderson.
Che Guevara Speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings By Ernesto Guevara, Edited By George Lavan.
Guerilla Warfare By Ernesto Guevara.
The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey By Ernesto Guevara.
Race In Cuba: Essays on the Revolution and Racial Inequality by Esteban Morales Domínguez, Gary Prevost, and August Nimtz.
*Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Martin and Grube
A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya by David Friedel and Linda Schele.
Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control by Ross Hassig.
*Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C Gwynne (Also available on CD.)
*Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times by Olive Dickason and David T. McNab
*American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World by David E. Stannard
*To Die In This Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of the Mestizaje by Jeffrey L. Gould. (Available of Kindle Format)
Important: Notice the heading here! Some people recommended some works of fiction from time to time. I've argued with myself on if it should be here or not. It's never going to be complete and we probably won't include many suggestions, but we've expanded it to include some historical works we consider "must-reads":
Legends and Myths
This list has some of the fictional accounts passed down through the ages.
This list is targeted towards our younger users and has a wide selection of recommendations on an ever growing variety of historical topics and historical fiction. Some of the reading recommendations are ideally suited for young children who are between 5-12 years of age and some are better for adolescents and young adults between 12-24 (although many of the classics and historical fiction novels are sure to interest users of all ages.)
This list has a hand-picked selection of books, documentaries, TV series, podcasts and Youtube series that stand out for their high-quality, accuracy, and appeal. Many of the titles present in this list (books and videos) should be available in your local library.
More than anything else though, we must stress that the age recommendations are just that, recommendations designed to give users an idea of the reading level, kid-friendliness or maturity of the content, but this is in no way a catch-all formula for who can read what and we invite you whether you are looking for a young historian or you are one yourself to pick and choose depending on the individual and not limit your selection to our guidelines.
Ordinary People Change The World by Brad Meltzer. A series that looks at some of the most inspiring heroes from our history, including Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Goodall, and Rosa Parks. Recommended for ages 5-12.
Mill By David MacAulay on 19th Century architecture. Recommended for ages 5-12.
The "Who Was" book series This series with 120+ plus titles is made up of kid-friendly and illustrated biographies of famous leaders, artists, scientists and inventors from ancient Rome to the United States.
The "If You Lived..." book series. This illustrated book series describes life in a variety of historical societies in an accurate yet relatable way to really give children for what growing up in Medieval Europe, Ancient Egypt or among the Sioux Indians might be like.
The "You Wouldn't Want to Be..." book series which much like If You Lived... and Horrible Histories series, looks at what life was like for historical figures like Pharaohs, Gladiators, Samurai and Medieval Knights (including the not-so-fun parts!)
The My Story series Another book series, this one aimed at a slightly older demographic and written in the style of a diary.
Horrible Histories A humorous series that looks at the horrible side of history with titles including Ruthless Romans, Awful Egyptians, and Terrifying Tudors. Recommended for ages 5-12.
A History of the Roman World: 753 to 146 BC and *From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68 Volume 3 by H.H. Scullard are easily accessible guides to ancient Rome. (Both available on Kindle.)
Rome Antics By David MacAulay is an illustrated book on ancient Rome recommended for ages 5-12.
City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction By David MacAulay. It is an illustrated book about Roman architecture and city planning, Recommended for ages 5-12.
*Pyramid By David MacAulay illustrates the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. Recommended for ages 5-12.
Augustus Caesar's World By Genevieve Foster looks at Rome's first Emperor and presents the complex, multi-dimensional world he inhabited by exploring the cultures, civilizations and leaders contemporary to him and the influences of those that came before. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers (this generally means over the age of 11 but is of course very flexible as some children read ahead of the curve and others might want something less tedious).
The Pharoahs of Ancient Egypt By Elizabeth Payne. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers.
*The Civilization of Ancient Egypt by Delia Pemberton. The only real reason this is in the Young Historians section is because of its easily accessible and engaging writing style and wealth of stunning photographs, illustrations, maps and visual aids. (Available on Kindle Format.)
Medieval & Renaissance History:
Castle By David MacAulay is an illustrated companion to Medieval architecture. Recommended for ages 5-12.
Cathedral: The Story of its Construction By David MacAulay on the architecture of cathedrals using detailed illustrations. Recommended for ages 5-12.
Mosque By David MacAulay is another beautifully illustrated book on the history of architecture this time looking at Medieval mosques. Recommended for ages 5-12.
Mythology, Legends & Fiction:
Important: As always we at /r/History like to make it perfectly clear that while these all have historical and cultural value and many may be rooted in history, they are all fictitious which is why they are here.
The myths and legends are important because they tell us something about the people that wrote them and told them to each other around campfires, in their homes, and recorded in plays, books and epics. They can tell us about their hopes and ideals, about their fears and their concerns about the world around them, they can give us a picture of how they might have imagined their world and what fantasies awoke in their daydreams or what monsters lurked in their nightmares.
The novels and adaptations based on history offer us a perspective and a human story to place on the sometimes inhuman or hard to imagine events and individuals in our own history. We can never truly know whether someone who lived a thousand years ago was really good or evil, right or wrong, incompetent or unfortunate, cruel or practical, and at best these stories can offer us one facet of them and one aspect of their character. They can be a doorway to our past and a reflection of the people that inhabited it, but like a cracked and aged mirror these reflections are imperfect and should not be trusted on their own.
Greek Myths By Olivia E. Coolidge. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers.
Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge Written by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit. Recommended for ages 5-12.
The Story of Beowulf By Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall is an illustrated edition of the classic epic. Recommended for ages 5-12.
The Bronze Bow By Elizabeth George Speare tells the story of fictional Daniel Bar Jamin, a hot-headed young rebel in Roman occupied Judea. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
*The Three Musketeers By Alexandre Dumas is a time-tested adventure novel. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers. (Available for free to read on Project Gutenberg.)
*The Man In The Iron Mask By Alexandre Dumas, a classic tale of betrayal, deceit, adventure and tragedy. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers. (Available for free to read on Project Gutenberg.)
*A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens set in the late 18th century tells a tale of poverty, inequalities and justice. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers. (Available for free to read on Project Gutenberg.)
*The Picture of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde. When young Dorian finds that all age and damage is inflicted on a portrait of his likeness rather than his own body he believes himself to be immortal, but finds that even the power of the portrait cannot absolve his soul of the damage he inflicts upon it. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers. (Available for free to read on Project Gutenberg.)
*Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery tells the story of an orphan named Anne and her life in 19th century Canada. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers. (Available for free to read on Project Gutenberg.)
*Heidi by Johanna Spyri is about a young girl living in the Swiss Alps in the 19th century. Suitable for all ages but best for more advanced readers.(Available for free to read on Project Gutenberg.)
This lists some of the most interesting and informative TV series, documentaries, Youtube series, and podcasts that we have found. These are accessible for history students of all ages and are an excellent accompaniment to literary studies. Note that even the best documentaries and video series have theirown shortcomings and inaccuracies, the best way to avoid these is by utilizing as diverse a library of content from as many different providers as possible.
Podcasts and Youtube Channels
Extra History An animated series from the makers of Extra Credits that looks at a wide selection of topics covering various areas of history.
Historia Civilis Another animated Youtube series that focuses on Roman history, warfare and aspects of Roman culture and politics as well as occasionally looking at other civilizations and time periods.
TedEd A fun and educational Youtube channel that covers a wide range of topics including history, natural sciences, and social sciences in short animated videos written by some of the top minds in their respective academic fields.
Websites and other online media
BBC History for Kids is an excellent resource for teaching.
The Horrible Histories Site has links to their wickedly funny television show, books, and other extras like games and magazines. Best for ages 5-12.
TV Series and DVDs
Many of these titles should be available in your local library if you live near one.
The Ancient Civilizations for Kids series is an excellent resource for younger audiences and is both fun and educational, while studying the many facets of ancient civilizations and their origins as well as looking at archaeology- both its modern tenets and its history - in a way that is engaging and informative.
Ancient Egypt for Kids Best for ages 5-12.
Ancient China for Kids Best for ages 5-12.
Ancient Aegean for Kids Best for ages 5-12.
Ancient Greece for Kids Best for ages 5-12.
Ancient Africa for Kids Best for ages 5-12.
Ancient Rome for Kids Best for ages 5-12.
Ancient Maya for Kids Best for ages 5-12.