Anyone have any Recommendations?

  • History of...
  • ...Athens, specifically development of Athen's political system
  • ...Spain
  • ...Europe
  • ...Ideas
  • ...Ireland and/or the British Isles
  • ...the Middle Ages (has anyone read The Year 1000?)
  • ...America before Columbus
  • ...Sports
  • Folktales of...
  • ...the United States
  • Biographies of...
  • ...George Washington
  • ...Richard Nixon
  • ...William Wallace
  • Languages of the World
  • (description of unique features of different languages)
  • Cultures of the World
  • (describing societies of different peoples)
  • Creative Writing
Author Comments: 

I hope that this kind of list is ok. I'm not going to put any actual book titles, but rather am looking for recommendations for books on these topics. Something that is well written, factually accurate and isn't limited to just one side's view. Any recommendations?

This type of list is certainly welcome.

I thought I could help you with "History of the Americas before Columbus." But I remembered incorrectly. Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy (1, 2, 3) is marvelous, but it begins in 1492.

Thanks Jim. I'm also interested in post-Columbus American history, it's just that I've already read some of that and not so much of pre-Columbus history. But, I will definitely take a look at the Memory of Fire books.

Thank you for the recommendation. :)

My favorite sources for early 20th century European history are two books by Barbara Tuchman, THE PROUD TOWER and THE GUNS OF AUGUST.

Thanks for the recommendation, sk. I took a look at the reader reviews at and her books receive nothing but the highest praise from everyone. I will definitely get these. Thank you very much.

Re. 'History of Ideas'. As you may know, there is a difference between 'History of Ideas' and 'History of Philosophy' - they are distinct if closely related disciplines. But if history of philosophy will do, I can recommend THE PASSION OF THE WESTERN MIND by Richard Tarnas. It's fairly wide-ranging within Western philosophy, and I found it very informative. It's a bit heavy going in places, though. However, if you want something lighter, briefer, and that steps outside of the traditional bounds of Western philosophy, try A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY by Robert C.Solomon and Kathleen M.Higgins.

Thanks for the recommendations, bertie. I am somewhat interested in philosophy and the history of philosophy as well. It's not quite what I had in mind when I made my original list, but I think it is something that I will definitely check out.


An interesting book that touches upon the history of ideas is A History of Knowledge by Charles Van Doren. It is written for the average reader. A wonderful book about the history of science and philosophy and the effects movements in these fields have on people and each other is Science and the Modern World by Alfred North Whitehead; the book is difficult, and you may not agree with Whitehead's neo-Platonism that seeps through in parts, but you won't waste your time reading it.

For a history of philosophy, I find it hard to beat John Passmore's sadly out-of-print Hundred Years of Philosophy. Despite its title, the book traces most ideas far enough back to provide a pretty solid understanding of Western philosophy.

Just a few suggestions. Have you read J. M. Roberts' History of the World or the Durants' Story of Civilization? I love Story; I am halfway through Roberts' book, and so far, it is the best one-volume attempt at a complete world history I have encountered.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Interestingly enough I found A History of Ideas to be irritating and condescending. I put it down. Perhaps I"ll pick it up again sometime later.

Who is the author of this? I tried to do a search on Amazon for this title and there wasn't anything with exactly this title.

Thanks. :)

Oops. I meant A History of Knowledge by Charles Van Doren.

A Van Doren tangent . . . The movie Quiz Show is worth renting.

I haven't read Roberts' book, but I have seen that he has written this and a history of Europe which have both gotten good reviews. I was tempted to get the history of Europe book, but the size was a bit bigger than I wanted at the moment (my only real reading time right now is on the bus and I was looking for shorter reads so it wouldn't take me a year to read it :)

I did just finish Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, which looks at the history of the world in a broader sense than individual events. I found it very itneresting.

Thank you for your other suggetions, L. Bangs. I will definitely look in to them.

I don't know if this is what you intended when you created the Listology, Jim, but my "to read" list is growing exponentially... :) Thanks.

A man after my own heart: I love one-volume histories of the world; I have several. I've read the Roberts twice (no bull). Isn't the Durants' a multi-volume, or did they do a boiled-down version too? I was sorely tempted by a re-release of Van Loon as I was browsing a bookshop the other day. Also, I'd like to get hold of H.G.Wells's OUTLINE OF HISTORY one day (he wrote two: a long and a short; I've read the short).

The Durants' Story of Civilization is an 11 volume work.

I also have been after that longer Wells' work. The used bookstore around here are littered with the shorter version, but I crave that complete outline!

So, what did you think about Roberts? I'm guessing since you have read it twice, you must not completely despise it!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

The Roberts is superb. Very quotable (I'll have to look some up (I have them marked: I'm not afraid to write on books - my own).) Also, the illustrations are wonderful and most were unfamiliar - lots of handy maps, too. In the edition I have, there is one-line summary of each page at the top of each page - very helpful. The overall tone of the work struck me as being pessimistic (in the preface he refers to H.G.Wells's late-in-life pessimism), but it's a great read. Hope you will agree next year when you've finished it.

:) No doubt, it will be next year when I finish it, especially since I am also reading Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Aristotle's Poetics, The Silent Language, and Grand Meneuse (yes, I probably didn't spell that French word correctly.) at the same time! That's the best way I've found to continue reading at a brisk pace - lots of variety.

I also hope I will agree with you in the end. So far, as I noted, it is shaping up to be my favorite one-volume history yet (my former first, William McNeil's Rise of the West, is slipping fast). That one-line summary at the top of each page is emmensely helpful.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Obviously, I can't spell English words either!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Have either of you two (bertie and lbangs) read any of Roberts' other books? He has one on the History of Europe and one on the History of the Twentieth Century. You both seem to have enjoyed his History of the World and I was wondering how those stacked up to it?

Sorry, buber, can't help you there.

I have read portions of his History of Europe, which I liked. I have not read his newer History of the Twentieth Century yet. A friend of mine who has complained that it falters a bit toward the end. She claimed that his lack of understanding of newer developments such as the Internet made passages a bit laughable. I have no idea how apt her observations are, but there you go.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

For U.S. History (with possible applications to other country's histories, if you buy the theory), I thought Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe was fascinating. You can read it for the history, which is sound (AFAIK), or the theory, which is interesting, but perhaps too general to be useful.

Thanks, Jim. This does look like an interesting book. I'll add it to my wish list. :)

If I could suggest a series about modern Great Britian, it would be one of my favorites, the "Pax Britannica" series by James/Jan Morris. It is about the Second British Empire and is a joy to read. I mention it esp because several chapters in the third volume "Farewell the Trumpets" concern themselves with the Easter Uprising in Ireland. The series is only about this Second Empire, however, so if it is earlier history you are interested in, I'm afriad this won't help. PS--James Morris changed his gender in the 1970's and now goes by Jan, but "Pax..." should be under James

Thanks for the recommendation. I looked on and it was unclear how many volumes are in this series. Also, I am not so familiar with British history. What period is the Second Empire?

The Second Empire was accumulated by Great Britian in what one historian called "an absence of mind". GB, anti-empire since their loss of the American colonies, suddenly started to acquire foreign lands as a means to create new markets for all their manufactured goods. The jewel in the crown was India, and most of the other world-spanning colonies were used as lifelines to that subcontinent. Morris' books focus on this time period, starting around 1825 and climaxing with the 60th aniversary Diamond Julibee of Queen Victoria to the throne. The series ends with the death of Sir Winston Churchill, who lived through the pinnacle of Empire and saw its dissolution as well. There are three short volumes of the "Pax Britannica" series: "Heaven's Command", "Pax Britannica", and finally, "Farewell the Trumpets". Very smooth writing, very evocative anecdotes.

for creative writing: Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing

Thanks kbuxton! I'll definitely look for it.

an excellent creative writing book is "bird by bird" by Anne Lamott; she is a published writer, extremely funny and self-depricating. Makes you feel better knowing that other people are just as neurotic and weird as you.

Thanks ender22d. I will also look like that.

I bet it's pretty common amongst the folks that hang out here, but I've gotten bit by some writing bug and want to try to develop my skills in that area.

Hey, just wanted to say that I bought Everything But the Kitchen Sink a few years ago and I really enjoy it. It's a book on creative writing that promotes experimenting with a writing journal, etc. and trying the various exercises to get some inspiration. I'm pretty positive that I have the title exactly, but my copy is at school and I'm at home, so I can't be sure. It's got an orange cover, anyway.

I don't know if you could consider it a book about "creative" writing. In my opinion, one has to know the rules of writing first. Some people mistake trying to be clever with creativity. Anyway, if you can get a copy of William Zinsser's book "On Writing" you will have yourself a great text on writing with excellent style, simplicity and clarity. He follows his own advice and is a joy to read. In addition to that, Stephen King wrote a good one too. He shares his own experience and some good advice about discipline in writing. good luck.