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"readable" historical non- fiction

(20 Posts)
fatowl Tue 22-Mar-16 08:04:09

I love historical fiction, (Bernard Cornwell, Philippa Gregory, Shardlake series etc) but am getting more drawn to reading the actual history around the novels I enjoy.

I've read Britan BC and now reading Brtitan AD by Frances Pryor, and found them very accessible and readable.

I've read some Tudor history books before and found them really tough going (David Starkey I'm looking at you!)

Any other authors you can recommend that are factually correct but enjoyable reads (rather than academic tomes) ?

bibliomania Tue 22-Mar-16 16:02:28

A couple of books I loved:

AD500 by Simon Young.

Under Another Sky, by Charlotte Higgins

If you like the Tudors, it might be worth trying The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer.

bibliomania Tue 22-Mar-16 16:04:15

Oh, and I see you like Philippa Gregory, so I'd suggest giving Alison Weir a go.

NapoleonsNose Tue 22-Mar-16 16:07:00

I like Dominic Sandbrook's books - Never Had It So Good, White Heat and State of Emergency that chronicle the post war period in Britain. I'm currently reading Red Love by Maxim Leo about his parents and grandparents and their lives in the former East Germany.

MegMez Tue 22-Mar-16 16:21:24

Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything

What about Schindler's List, Band of Brothers, The Monuments Men? I read a book called The Boys about children who survived the holocaust when I was about 17 that stayed with me and was very readable.

Autobiographies I know come into their own genre but I enjoyed The Railway Man. Twelve Years a Slave isn't an easy read as the language is so dated but it's factual.

Philomena was fascinating and not the story I was expecting - a lot to be learnt about 20th Century in it.

I'll scan my dad's shelves too - he loves both historical fiction and non-fiction.

bibliomania Tue 22-Mar-16 16:22:47

Meg's post reminded me that Bill Bryson's book Home is a very readable domestic history.

Jenijena Tue 22-Mar-16 16:24:47

I'm really enjoying Pompeii, Mary Beard's book, and it's cheap this month on the kindle (which is why I downloaded it).

Bill Bryson's Home is excellent.

onemouseplace Tue 22-Mar-16 16:26:34

Alison Weir on the Tudors is good.

Also Amanda Foreman is great as well - Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is a great biography.

I also find some of the social histories more readable (and interesting) - Judith Flanders is great for this on the Victorians.

Also try Claire Tomalin - she has written a number of excellent biographies on various people (Mary Wollstonecraft, Pepys, Charles Dickins, Thomas Hardy) that are very readable and well written.

RustyBear Tue 22-Mar-16 16:40:39

Liza Picard's series of books on the history of London are fascinating in their detail and very readable - Elizabeth's London, Restoration London, Dr Johnson's London and Victorian London.

I enjoyed Maureen Waller's Ungrateful Daughters, (about Mary II and Anne who both became queen in turn after their father James II was forced off the throne) and her Sovereign Ladies, about England's Queens is on my 'to read' pile.

DelphiniumBlue Tue 22-Mar-16 16:42:54

Anything by Peter Ackroyd.

BoGrainger Tue 22-Mar-16 16:48:59

Alison Weir's Lancaster and York is an extremely readable and non-academic book about the War of the Roses.

GrouchyKiwi Tue 22-Mar-16 16:49:31

Tom Holland is excellent. I really enjoyed Persian Fire, about the Persian Empire. I knew very little about it beforehand but it was very readable.

Agree with Alison Weir.

The massive tome on Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore is fascinating if depressing. So many awful events.

Muskey Tue 22-Mar-16 16:56:57

I second and third possibly fourth Alison Weir she is very readable although her latest book the lost Tudor princess imo is not her best book. If you are looking for the run up to The Tudors then Dan Jones is your man (very accessible writer). If you want a general introduction to British History Simon Sharmer is actually. Extremely readable.

LittleCandle Tue 22-Mar-16 17:13:48

Dan Jones' books about the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses are great. Very readable. I'm currently reading his new one Realm Divided, a year in the life of Plantagenet England. Very good.

Alison Weir can be a bit hit or miss in my opinion and she seems to be turning out books more quickly and her research has suffered a bit from this and it is not just me thinking this. I have seen professional historians saying the same thing. (Rather like Phillipa Gregory IMO)

Yes to Home.

You might like Judith Flanders, as others have said. I really enjoyed Consuming Passions but am finding her writing style harder to tolerate nowadays.

I'm currently reading and enjoying A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley, although so far there's little in it that I haven't already read elsewhere. I'm hoping that there will be more 'new stuff' as she moves through time.

fatowl Wed 23-Mar-16 13:42:15

thanks for all your suggestions.
I can't believe I didn't think of Alison Weir, I've read some of hers.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 23-Mar-16 20:38:46

If you like social history, Ruth Goodman's How To Be A Tudor and How To Be A Victorian are great.

MegMez Tue 29-Mar-16 14:41:42

Yep - another lover of Bryson's Home here

OrlandaFuriosa Tue 29-Mar-16 19:07:05

The time traveller's guides are very good, not just the Tudor one. You prob know most of it, but good to have in one place.

Readable classics, going back to the 20s,

Eileen Power, Mediaeval people. The book that started people off thinking that there was more to history than kings and wars.

Montaillou. History of the cathars. Can't recall author but background to all those da Vinci code type books.

Religion and the decline of magic, Keith Thomas

The making of the English working class. Thompson. Disputed, heavily, but seminal

Anything by Neil Ascherson. Black Sea.

If you are interested in religion or the reformation, the stripping if the altars.

Anything by Lisa Jardine ( died recently)

Ditto Asa Briggs ( ditto)

Most things by Sebag-Montefiore.

Biography is fun.

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Tue 29-Mar-16 19:11:14

Anything by CV Wedgwood, but especially her biography 'William the Silent'. She is old-fashioned in a good way-clear prose and a dashing narrative.

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