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10 Immersive Guides to Bygone Eras

These books break down what it was like to live in various time periods.

Victorian illustration of a chaotic picnic from the cover of the book 'A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England'

At the corner of Fiction Reading Enthusiasts Road and History Lovers Lane lies I Read To Get Away From The World For A While Avenue. And this is an important street; it’s the place where people who are so curious about bygone times that they would give up a day to live in them come to find their reading material. These books are for the folks who choose to explore historical eras over futuristic ones when asked the question, “Would you rather go back in time 200 years, or go forward in time?”

Sometimes it’s not any particular event that piques your curiosity, but instead a whole era. For those who appreciate the everyday lives of regular civilians from the past, this list of books is dedicated to understanding them using a selected period of time as a catalyst. From Ancient Egypt to Jane Austen’s England to Hitler’s Munich, these books will transport you to a bygone era, page by page.

A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England

A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England

By Monica Hall

A Visitor’s Guide to Georgian England is precisely what it says it is: a guide to all things Georgian, controversial or otherwise. In it, you’ll learn everything you need to know about living in Georgian England for a day; the laws, customs, appropriate dress, where and how to live, appropriate behavior, how to avoid getting sick, and how to make a living.

This book features diaries, illustrations, letters, prose, poetry, actual 18th century laws, and archives to explore the nitty gritty of the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, the British Empire, and Romantic poets and other art of the time.

A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England

A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England

By Sue Wilkes

Bringing Jane Austen’s romantic world to life, A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England uses anecdotes, diaries, illustrations, letters, novels, travel literature, and archives to introduce us to what life was like from 1775 (the year Miss Austen was born) to 1820. It answers the questions we had while reading her books, such as: Were all unmarried, wealthy men really in want of a wife? Did Lizzy Bennett have to worry about bed bugs while traveling? And even better, did Mr. Darcy wear a corset? 

A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England

A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England

By Michelle Higgs

A Visitor’s Guide to Victorian England is an exploration of Charles Dickens’ England. Using a wide range of sources, this book answers all your burning questions, as well as questions you never even thought to ask, like how to get in and out of a vehicle while wearing a crinoline. Whether you’re a history fanatic or a costume drama lover, this guide to Victorian daily life is sure to please.

A Visitor's Guide to Shakespeare's London

A Visitor's Guide to Shakespeare's London

By David Thomas

It may surprise you that London as we know it today isn’t as drastically different from the London of Shakespeare’s time as you may have thought. Though fire, war, and developers have destroyed some of the city that Shakespeare enjoyed, there are still some buildings standing that he would recognize if he were here today. And there are still plenty of pick-pockets to look out for; this book will advise you on how they used to be avoided and dealt with.

If you’re looking to travel back in time over 400 years to see what Shakespeare ate and drank; visit the royal palace, the Tower of London, and St. Paul’s Cathedral; and enjoy London’s theaters, sports, and shopping, you’ve found your next read.

A Visitor's Guide to the Ancient Olympics

A Visitor's Guide to the Ancient Olympics

By Neil Faulkner

While the Olympics are now an easily accessible televised event with several seasons of sports, the Ancient Olympics were a whole different story. For five days in the heat of August, 388 BCE, naked athletes competed in foot races, the pentathlon, horse and chariot races, wrestling, boxing, and the violent pankration. 

A detailed account of the sweaty, male-only event, A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics explains the religious rituals associated with the games, as well as the types of attendees, and the sights, smells, and sounds of the Olympics (whether you want to know them or not). 

A Year in the Life of Ancient Egypt

A Year in the Life of Ancient Egypt

By Ann Rosalie David

In a similar vein to the previous books on our list, A Year in the Life of Ancient Egypt explores Egypt’s rich culture through the lives of various characters based on mummies from the Manchester Museum, from nobles and royals to craftsmen and peasants. 

It also provides an overview of ancient Egypt’s various kingdoms and dynasties, as well as the everyday habits of its residents. There’s an introduction to planting, growing, and harvesting food, religious rituals and events, and information about how they thought about and treated the ideas of life and death. 

the time traveler's guide to restoration britain book cover

The Time Traveler's Guide to Restoration Britain

By Ian Mortimer

Returning to England, this novel chronicles an era of British history that you would think would be more commonly discussed: the Restoration Era. There are so many fascinating topics: the Great Fire of London, Christopher Wren’s architecture, Henry Purcell’s music, Isaac Newton’s scientific genius, the crude and scandalous dealings of Charles II, and of course, powdered wigs. 

With the years of 1660-1700 being perhaps a more comical display of England in the media, it’s important to get down to the facts. How much would one of those ridiculous wigs cost you? Does drinking fresh cow’s urine actually cure your gout? And why are you unlikely to get a fair trial in court?

a guide to hitler's munich book cover

A Guide to Hitler's Munich

By David Mathieson

For those eager to learn more about WWIIA Guide to Hitler’s Munich is the immersive experience that will do it for you. Beginning with a description of Munich’s beautiful cobblestone streets, transitioning to the tradition of Oktoberfest, and drawing to a close with the city's unique role in the ascent of Nazism, this book seamlessly covers all the bases, from the politics that developed out of the turbulence of the First World War to the fall of the Third Reich. 

the time traveler's guide to medieval england book cover

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

By Ian Mortimer

Nothing piques my curiosity quite like the idea of Medieval England’s version of haute couture. Upon analyzing the rest of England’s culture in the Middle Ages, readers find out what it’s like to live through the horrors of leprosy and war, and they also learn about the trivial things, like the cultural trends and the sheer number of roasted larks that were actually consumed during this time period.

the time traveler's guide to elizabethan england book cover

The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England

By Ian Mortimer

Elizabethan England, also known as a golden age in British history, lasted from 1558 to 1603. With so many English explorations on our list, you may begin to think that all English eras are the same; but they’re not. 

To explore Elizabethan England is to explore the world…literally. It was in this era that the British circumnavigated the globe, saw developments in theater and other art forms, and came to terms with the Reformation. A most contradictory era, this book introduces the thin line between glory and destruction.