With a seemingly endless selection, every history buff faces the daunting challenge of finding that perfect book that captures the essence of its subject matter, and leaves the reader with both a factual and emotional understanding of the events described.
With that in mind, we at The Archive selected 10 books which have proven to be the most popular amongst our dedicated history readers. Because who better to decide what's worth investing time and effort into reading than you–our readers?
Below is a list of 10 must-haves for every history fan.
Much like the Industrial Revolution, the Renaissance was a time of discovery, invention, and great social change. But only one of these pivotal eras is heralded as the beginning of our modern era. Rediscover the time that laid the foundations of modernization through the lens of four of history's most dynamic world leaders: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, and Suleiman. Each of these monarchs led their respective nations during the Renaissance and helped pave the way for the modern world we know today. "Bad behavior makes for entertaining history" in this one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
End of a Berlin Diary
This vivid depiction of the end of WWII explores how Nazi Germany finally crumbled through the eyes of one eyewitness. Radio broadcaster and journalist William Shirer was on assignment in Berlin during the end of the war, and his diary affords an unparalleled glimpse into daily life there as Nazi troops and German civilians retreated into Berlin, knowing full well the Soviet onslaught was fast approaching. The book includes passages on the Nuremberg trials, copies of captured Nazi documents, and an eyewitness account of Hitler’s last days. This follow-up to Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which offered the first full-record depiction of Nazi Germany's rise, is both vivid and remarkable.
MLK: An American Legacy
Pulitzer Prize-winning author David J. Garrow traces the evolution of one of America's most famous citizens, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this three-book anthology, Garrow illustrates King's rise from young firebrand pastor to national civil rights icon. Garrow also focuses on the powerful enemies King made during his ascent to stardom, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who led one of the nation's most invasive surveillance operations in an effort to destroy King's reputation–due to what many felt was a personal vendetta against King himself. This anthology is a must-read for anyone interested in the civil rights movement and Dr. King's legacy.
Eichmann in My Hands
Follow along on "one of history's great manhunts" as legendary Mossad agent Peter Z. Malkin and his team track Adolf Eichmann, the so-called architect of the Holocaust, to Buenos Aires. In a dangerous, covert operation, the Mossad team kidnapped Eichmann in broad daylight and smuggled him to Israel, where he stood trial for his crimes against humanity. Eichmann's capture shocked the world and led to one of the most famous trials in history, where a Nazi war criminal finally came face-to-face with justice.
It's one of the most famous assassinations in history–not only because it happened on live television, but because of the conspiracy theories which have persisted to this day. Was Lee Harvey Oswald a lone gunman, or was he part of a nefarious cabal? If the latter, then who really killed Kennedy? Was it the Russians, the Cubans, the mob, or perhaps it was America's own military/intelligence service?
We may never know the full truth, but this expose by Peter Dale Scott investigates the connections between the military-industrial complex, private business, and the people who make up the bureaucracy of our government. Scott proposes that Kennedy, a threat to the system that has grown more corrupt over the years, was eliminated on behalf of the powers-that-be. Whatever your stance on the assassination of JFK, this book will make you think twice about what really happened on that fateful 1963 day in Dallas.
The Rock of Gibraltar stood as the gateway to the fortress of Europe for many centuries. Sought after by every great nation in Europe, Asia, and Africa, Gibraltar was captured, re-captured, and besieged over a dozen times throughout history, as powerful navy forces vied for control of its ramparts. Bradford's book offers compelling insights into everything from the geological creation to the historical ramifications of what amounts to a few square miles of rock in the Mediterranean.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
In one of the most powerful autobiographies ever written, ex-slave-turned-abolitionist Frederick Douglass depicts the everyday horrors of slavery through the telling of his own life story. Douglass was born a slave in Maryland, and displaying immense courage, he secretly taught himself how to read and write (a crime punishable by lashing or even death), until he eventually escaped to New York City and found freedom. Douglass spent his later years advocating for issues such as abolition and full emancipation. This extraordinary autobiography does his profound legacy justice.
West with the Night
Ernest Hemingway called this "a bloody wonderful book." High praise indeed, but when you read the biography of Beryl Markham, you'll see that it is well-deserved. Markam was a British-born female pilot in Africa during a time when most Africans had never seen an airplane. As one of the great aviators in history, Markam took on the challenge of Amelia Earhart's greatest feat in reverse: traversing the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. Her successes and failures, are vividly recounted in what the New York Times called “the sort of book that makes you think human beings can do anything."
Jack and Rochelle
Can lover really conquer all? In this triumphant memoir, two young Poles meet at a youth dance, where the boy fails to impress. Pretty standard stuff, except that the time is 1940s Poland. Jack and Rochelle soon witness the horrors of Nazi occupation, including ghettoization, forced labor, and mass killings. The duo escape individually into the forest, and as fate would have it, are reunited as partisans who fall in love during a time of resistance against evil. As said by USA Today, this dramatic retelling is “a story of heroism and of touching romance in a time of fear and danger.”
A Place to Stand
What is life like inside a maximum security prison? Jimmy Santiago Baca’s harrowing, brilliant memoir shares a slice of life that few will ever know. Baca recounts how he entered prison an illiterate drug dealer, and how he ultimately emerged as one of the world's foremost poets. Since his release, Baca has won the American Book Award, the Hispanic Heritage Award, the Southwest Book Award, and more.
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