As discussed yesterday in my post about genre fiction and romance, I mainly read for sheer enjoyment and escape. I’m happiest when a romance novel so thoroughly engages me that I can’t wait to talk about it, and if it provokes or challenges me in some way, so much the better. So mine is not a pure escapism; I enjoy the fantasy, yes, but I also enjoy critical and/or contextual analysis, and I’m willing to look at problematic aspects of the fantasy/ies I’m reading.
Which brings me to today’s Armchair BEA topic. Although I’m mostly reading romance, and don’t read much non-fiction anymore, I do still make time for reading history. Really, it goes hand in hand with my love of historical romance, and provides context for looking at challenging themes such as colonialism or other forms of oppression that historical fiction sometimes raises or addresses. I’m going to keep today’s post very simple and just suggest a few works of historical non-fiction that have captured my attention and/or imagination in the last several years.
Badass History Books I’m recommending:
The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity, by Jill Lepore
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick
Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution, by Alfred F. Young
The Wars of the Roses, by Alison Weir – this one I just read last year, in concert with all 5 Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin. Epic fun!
Out of bounds for today’s consideration of non-fiction, but very much worth your consideration as a captivating work of historical fiction, with a strong romance at the center — and a lengthy, almost-believable-for-once cross-dressing deception! — is Blindspot, by historians Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore.
One of my favorite things about this book is that it’s an epistolary novel, like Pamela! And the authors apparently also wrote it in epistolary fashion. An absorbing, fun read for anyone who enjoys 18th century American/ Revolutionary history and/or romantic historical fiction.
As an aside, I do also occasionally read a non-fiction book about parenting or child development. I am currently reading the excellent Teach Your Children Well, by Madeline Levine, about raising resilient kids and avoiding the “extra-curricular credentials” trap.
Oh my, you’ve listed a bunch of books that I haven’t read. I loooove nonfiction and I’m definitely going to check out some of your picks here. Thanks!
Thanks so much for stopping by – happy reading!
I’ve been wanting to read about The War of Roses because of ASOIAF! All of the historical books you mentioned sound really interesting to me, thank you for sharing!
So glad you stopped by and thanks for commenting! I had fun brushing up on Yorks and Lancasters while immersed in Starks and Lannisters, but unfortunately I’ve already started to forget who was who in real life history… of course the GoT characters are so memorable I’m having a much easier time remembering them! 🙂
Miss Bates loves nonfiction, though she doesn’t read as much as she used to. THE NAME OF WAR looks particularly interesting. Miss Bates has always been a tad obsessed with the Great War & Modernism & highly recommends the erudite reading to be found in Modris Eksteins’s RITES OF SPRING (really, he draws amazing connections between the ballet & the War) & Paul Fussell’s THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY. If you love the poetry of the Great War as much as Miss Bates, it’s a must-read. Her absolute favourite nonfiction reads, however, are two sublime books by Caroline Walker Bynum: HOLY FEAST AND HOLY FAST: THE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF FOOD TO MEDIEVAL WOMEN & THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY IN WESTERN CHRISTIANITY, 200 – 1336. These are not works of theology, but exciting, interesting history from women’s perspective.
Many thanks for these wonderful recommendations! Caroline Walker Bynum is an inspiring scholar indeed, and it’s been a long time since I have thought about her books, which I encountered back in my grad school days.
You’re most welcome!