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Novels which help you learn new things

(24 Posts)
bedelia Wed 15-Mar-17 09:01:12

Having just finished Tana French's The Secret History, I'd love some recommendations of other novels which can spark an interest in, or help me to learn new things.

What I really enjoyed about TSH is that there were many references to things which I wanted to learn more about. All the classical references, quotes, etc. I found myself highlighting things, using the Kindle dictionary and making copious notes for things to look up later.

Other books which have sparked such an interest include:

Gentlemen and Players - for the Latin
The Hedgehog - Very dense reading, but loads of references
The Essex Serpent
(To an extent) The Watchmaker of Filigree Street - For the Victoriana

The Housemaid and the Professor is probably my favourite of this type so far.I learned some fascinating things about mathematics from it!

Can anyone recommend other titles in a similar vein?

coxsorangepippin Wed 15-Mar-17 09:38:13

Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture

highinthesky Wed 15-Mar-17 09:41:11

What an excellent idea for a thread! Will be following with interest.

The most thought-provoking book I've read is A Fine Balance (social history).

SpringyFlowery Wed 15-Mar-17 09:56:37

Dick Francis for the horse racing?!

Hygellig Mon 20-Mar-17 10:49:05

I learned a lot about Mary Anning and fossils from Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.

weegiemum Mon 20-Mar-17 11:24:43

Pillars of the Earth and World Without End by Ken Follet for the meticulous medieval details.

mugglebumthesecond Mon 20-Mar-17 16:20:36

Which book did you read OP? Was it the secret place?

WholeL0ttaRosie Tue 21-Mar-17 13:41:32

Martin Cruz Smith - several set in Russia, probably quite dated now but I loved reading them twenty-odd years ago.

Gone With The Wind - thought I knew what it was about purely from watching the film but there's more historical depth to the novel rather than just the love story.

Sadik Tue 21-Mar-17 17:52:16

The Dispossessed by Ursula le Guin - sparked a lot of further reading about anarchist philosophies

Mrs Gaskell's novels esp Mary Barton and North & South - I studied economic history back in the day as part of my degree, but actually learnt far far more about real world conditions at the time from her books.

MiddlingMum Tue 21-Mar-17 20:02:48

highinthesky I read Family Matters recently and it got me reading a lot about the history of the Parsi faith.

SmurfPants Sun 26-Mar-17 12:06:39

Oh this IS a good thread!

I enjoyed This Thing of Darkness which is about the HMS Beagle's surveying trip around Tierra Del Fuego with Captain Fitzroy and Charles Darwin aboard. Really fascinating stuff.

squashyhat Sun 26-Mar-17 12:13:15

Arthur Ransome for the sailing (and you can tell from my user name that I'm a fan) grin

squashyhat Sun 26-Mar-17 12:15:29

Uncle Tom's Cabin and To Kill a Mocking bird - slavery, segregation and racism.

gottachangethename1 Sun 26-Mar-17 16:43:21

The Bees. Fiction book but can't remember author. Very interesting stuff and a great novel too.

Thegiantofillinois Sun 26-Mar-17 16:46:13

Just came onto Sat The Bees. Beaten to it!

Thegiantofillinois Sun 26-Mar-17 16:47:35

I'll do English Passengers by Matthew Kneale. Learned about the Manx and the genocide in Tasmania.

leddeeburdee Sun 26-Mar-17 16:54:21

I really enjoyed learning about Russia and its wartime history in The Bronze Horseman trilogy.

Bisquitine Sun 26-Mar-17 17:03:06

Anything by Khaled Hosseini - The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns or And The Mountains Echoed. Fascinating insights about life in Afghanistan, especially women's lives.

bedelia Fri 31-Mar-17 20:53:21

Wow, thank you all for the recommendations! I've downloaded Uncle Petros to begin with, it looks fascinating. Gotta and Thegiant - thanks for the reminder of "The Bees" - I've been meaning to read that for ages smile

For those who mentioned Russian history, I can strongly recommend "A Gentleman in Moscow" - I was swayed by that beautiful cover and just finished it today. Absolutely marvellous novel, through which I've learned a lot about the social and cultural changes in the early 20th century.

Shoulddobetta123 Mon 03-Apr-17 20:26:48

Ken Follet trilogy starting with Fall of Giants, an amazing read, packed with modern history. Didn't want them to end

tea4two4three Mon 03-Apr-17 21:08:38

I love Anya Seton for this. I was recently able to join in a conversation with three ex history teachers about the Jacobite Rebellions due to having just read Devil Water, and Katherine is one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read and gives boundless information on medieval England and the Plagentine line.

highinthesky Mon 03-Apr-17 21:23:08

MiddlingMum I found Family Matters was a bit disappointing compared to A Fine Balance (don't get why it didn't win the Booker Prize). I thought I'd read all his stuff, but found "Tales From Firozsha Baag" in the library this weekend and am enjoying it. Again it's very Parsi-centric, am Googling left right and centre as I read so I understand the italics!

kelpeed Sun 09-Apr-17 04:21:25

I enjoyed "Longitude" by Dava Sobel. Very easy to read.

excerpt from wiki on why measuring longitude was important:

Before the 18th century ocean navigators could not find an accurate way of determining longitude. This failure caused ships to miss their destination, many times crashing into rocks and killing their crews. A practical solution came from a gifted carpenter, John Harrison, who solved one of the most difficult problems of his time by creating an accurate chronometer. The best scientists of the time, including Isaac Newton, thought it impossible. Harrison spent four decades perfecting a watch that would earn him compensation from Parliament (although not the prize established by the Longitude Act of 1714) thanks to the recognition and influence of King George III of England.

Bookreader2403 Tue 11-Apr-17 16:10:02

My favourite book, of all-time, has to be Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I just love the descriptiveness of her work. Love it.

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