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  1. #1
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    Learning more about history?

    I realized recently that I am woefully lacking in historical and geographical knowledge, so one of my ny resolutions was to learn more about history, esp us history.

    I was wondering if you had any non-fiction recommendations?

    I'm interested in first getting a good general foundation, then later reading books that are more focused on particular eras/events.

    So far I listened to "Don't Know Much About History" on CD, which I liked, and I'm reading "Lies my teacher told me", about some of the larger myths that are taught in high school us history classes - a very good read. I'm also listening to Cokie Roberts' "Founding Mothers" but not liking it as much as I'd hoped - she could have made it a whole lot more interesting.

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  3. #2
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    If you were interested in Canadian history, I would reccommend A Short History of Canada by Desmond Morton. It's on amazon here. Really good.

    But I suspect you are looking for American history or Global history ... ? Not much advice for you there, except maybe Wikipedia, which gives great info on specific events.

    e.g. Wikipedia article on World War II.

  4. #3
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    Guns, Germs and Steel is an interesting tromp through history - the video is good too but not as detailed, of course. He has a new book too, but I haven't read it.

  5. #4
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    Many people enjoy Zinn's People's History of The United States.

    James Patterson's Grand Expectations is also very good.

    Do you have a particular topic you are interested in? Women's history? Relligious history? Environmental history? Military history?

    I'm not good at broad suggestions, but give me a topic and I can think up 20 books :)

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by kindarana
    Guns, Germs and Steel is an interesting tromp through history - the video is good too but not as detailed, of course. He has a new book too, but I haven't read it.
    i second this rec. :-)

  7. #6
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    Sitting in my office right now-

    For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English.

    A History of Their Own by Bonnie S. Anderson and Judith P Zinsser. Everything old is new again- according to the experts, feminism makes you masculine, poor women who stay home with kids are evil but middle class women without careers should get medals, and women who make men feel inadequate will destroy society. They've been saying that for a long time. And don't forget the bicycles will make you into a lesbian (Hey! Where's my bicycle?). Yet somehow, those pesky women seem to manage to run kingdoms, go to war, write books and do all kinds of things. Read this, and then read The Feminine Mystique or anything by Andrea Dworkin- all of a sudden, you may find that Betty Friedan sounds like a whiner, and Ms. D seems like an hysterical crybaby. Women used to have it a lot worse.

    Europe and the People Without History, by Eric R Wolf. Have you ever wondered why whole groups of people around the world are treeated like they don't have a history? Now you'll know why.

    Low Life, by Luc Sante. A very quick read, and a rollicking history of vice, crime and corruption in a far-away place called 19th century New York City. If you start this, expect to stay up until you finish it- it's that good.

    The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding, by Robert Hughes. How did a large remote island filled with kangaroosget to be what it is now? The word 'transportation' will have a new meaning for you after this one.

    Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in World History, by Sidney W. Mintz. How did we end up with sugar in almost everything we eat, and how did that change in diet affect the rest of the world? This book tells you.

    The Scramble for Africa: White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912, by Thomas Pakenham. I cannot reccomend this book enough- it's an adventure story, a cautionary tale, a bit of everything. It also explains a lot about why large sections of the world are angry at Westerners.

    King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochschild. (WARNING- despite your temptation, take a break between these two unless you want to either kill someone or commit suice. They are excellent, but a bit depressing. Vastly recommended for Tarzan fans.)

    Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, by James McPherson. Possibly the best single volume history that finally made the various states into one nation. This book will make a lot of American history fall into place.


    You deserve a freebie- one of the best atlases available to learn geography. Go to googleearth.com. It's free, online, and despite some political issues related to Chinese censorship, it's a fabulous site. Have fun!

  8. #7
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    I just thought I would tell you some of my all-time faves (and I've been reading history so long I should have a PhD):

    anthrogirl is so right about The Battle Cry of Freedom. Great book. I would also add, under the general heading of the Civil War, Shelby Foote's 3-volume Narrative History, and the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. And "All for the Union," the journals and letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes. Beware, though--the Civil War is an era that can suck you in for a lifetime. Like a giant black hole.
    The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, by John Steele Gordon. Fear. loathing and the Erie Railway Wars in 1880's New York.
    The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. World War 1.

    Once I get home and take a look at my bookshelves, I'll probably be back with some more recommendations.

  9. #8
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    Speaking of Barbara Tuchman- The First Salute (a history of American naval power during the Revolutionary War) and A Distant Mirror (which explains how the Middle Ages were a lot stranger, and more like today, tha you might think).
    I also recommend Lady Antonia Fraser- I love her biography of Elizabeth I.

    And spiderlady- you are right about the Civil War. I'm going to add to your list- The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; any version of Mary Chesnut's diaries; I could go on and on. Even though it's fiction, one should read Uncle Tom's Cabin, to understand why people were riled up. Also, Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, which has some, shall we say, interesting views regarding blacks and Indians.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthrogirl
    For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English.
    While I agree this is an important book (and it had a large influence on me), it is very problematic as a history text. There are many claims that they make that are left unsupported by any textual evidence.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by brdgt
    Quote Originally Posted by anthrogirl
    For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English.
    While I agree this is an important book (and it had a large influence on me), it is very problematic as a history text. There are many claims that they make that are left unsupported by any textual evidence.
    Thanks for bringing that up. It's a good place to start, but it needs to be cross read with other books. I haven't read it in ages- I think the last time I did was in college, for fun. It's what got me interested in history as it relates to women.


 
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