In these tumultuous times, it can seem like everywhere you turn only uncovers more bad news. With television screens, newspapers, and social media inundated with the petty politics, negative spins, and fear-mongering reporting, we could all use some distractions. For the history buffs who are looking to be taken away from it all for a few hours, why not try some entertaining nonfiction audiobooks that will get your mind off the news and put you in the wonder of the past? Here are 8 great history audiobooks to help clear your mind.
The Miracle of Dunkirk
On May 24th, 1940, victory was within the grasp of Hitler and his armies. Around 400,000 Allied troops were pinned along the coast of Dunkirk, and defeat seemed imminent. However, after 11 remarkable days, 338,000 of the men were safely evacuated to England. In this account of one of the greatest moments of World War II—a maneuver which inspired the popular Christopher Nolan film, Dunkirk—listeners are immersed in the harrowing efforts of survival among the dunes of northern France.
Mr. Lincoln's Army
In this first volume of a Pulitzer Prize–winning collection by historian Bruce Catton, listeners are brought back to the exciting and tumultuous early years of the Civil War. From the beginning of General George McClellan’s controversial command to the bloody Battle of Antietam, narrator Kevin T. Collins delivers a heart-pounding historical tale. With immediacy, striking insight, and deep humanity, this audiobook gives shapes to the strengths and weaknesses of the Union’s earliest days.
A False Spring
For sports history buffs looking to get away from it all, this memoir by Pat Jordan traces the downward trajectory of a soaring baseball career. Jordan got his start as a “bonus baby” for the Milwaukee Braves organization, launching a promising career as a pitcher. As listeners are taken through America’s small towns as Jordan navigates the minor-league baseball circuit, Jordan must also battle with a lack of maturity in his personal struggles. A man who once seemed destined for nothing but glory watches major-league dreams disintegrate before him due to his lack of personal consistency in one of our favorite baseball books.
This audiobook takes listeners back to the beginning of mankind—100,000 years ago, when six different species of humans coexisted. Dr. Yuval Noah Harari’s account launches forward from the start of modern cognition and examines the way our species has evolved and historically progressed. From a look at the global ecosystem to the rise and fall of empires, history collides with science in this thorough look back at our past. But as we look back, this knowledge compels us to look forward as well.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
Author Mary Beard delivers an enthralling history of Ancient Rome, narrated by Phyllida Nash. 2,000 years ago, Rome’s unprecedented spike in civilization leant itself to technological advancements which stand as pillars still in today’s society. But how did a booming and luxurious metropolis full of art, philosophy, and murder bloom out of a simple Italian city? Put comfortable historical theories aside and reintroduce yourself to the ancient world as you know it through Beard’s illuminating work.
If you can’t get enough of the cast album of the hit Broadway show Hamilton, then don’t miss out on the audiobook of the work that inspired it. Chernow’s biography of one of America’s finest founding fathers follows the turbulent, yet outstanding, life of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton is a historical figure that is often misunderstood, and Chernow aims to set the record straight and give credit where it has been hard earned. From his life as a self-taught orphan in the Caribbean to his role as the first Treasury Secretary of the United States and beyond, this book frames Hamilton’s legacy in a time of critical national growth.
Related: 12 Books for Fans of Hamilton
The Disappearing Spoon
Science Magazine reporter Sam Kean recounts the exciting history behind some of man’s most significant scientific advancements. The quest for knowledge is full of passion, obsession, adventure, and failure, and in this audiobook listeners are immersed in the outstanding tales of wild science. From the jealousy Marie Curie would inspire in the wives of her colleagues as she invited them to gawk at her experiments to a bizarre gold rush which began with tellurium, uncover the role of science in the history of mythology, war, art, and the personal lives of notable figures.
Princesses Behaving Badly
The princesses of modern fairy tales and cartoons are soft and virtuous women who often achieve perfect happy endings, but the princesses of history are often far from these ubiquitous depictions. While history isn’t devoid of benevolent female leaders, oftentimes the quest for power required these ruling ladies to be ruthless. From Princess Rani Lakshmibai who carted her toddler son on her back as she waged war on the battlefield to Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe who worked as a Nazi spy, this audiobook uncovers the gritty truth of dozens of incredible female royals.