The best history books that will wake you up

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent twenty years as a book publishing executive learning how the trade works before launching myself as a full-time author wanting to make the world a better place. My books use state-of-the-art scholarship for history you can read on the beach, and focus on ‘hinge’ moments, great turnings of the world, as well as on forgotten and unsung heroes.


I wrote...

V Is for Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II

By Craig Nelson,

Book cover of V Is for Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II

What is my book about?

In this epic and definitive history of the American homefront during World War II, New York Times bestselling historian Craig Nelson reveals how FDR confronted a nation antagonistic to war in Europe, skillfully won their support, and pushed government and industry to build the miraculous arsenal of democracy—the secret weapon that won the war.

Revealing an era when Detroit was Silicon Valley, Ford was Apple, and Sears Roebuck was Amazon, while filled with reflections on our own time, V is for Victory draws on five years of research to create a powerful and essential narrative largely overlooked in conventional histories of the war but which, in Nelson’s skilled, authoritative hands, becomes an illuminating and important work destined to become an American history classic.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America

Craig Nelson Why did I love this book?

Albion’s Seed charts how four different British groups migrated to North America and brought their cultures with them.

It reveals that a great many things that we think of as uniquely American—from work ethic, to language, to education, to lifestyle, to food—instead arrived alongside the Puritans to New England, the Quakers to Pennsylvania, the Cavaliers to Virginia, and the borderland settlers to the backwoods. Fischer’s cumulative power will make you fully question what makes Americans, and their nation, unique.

By David Hackett Fischer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Albion's Seed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eighty percent of Americans have no British ancestors. According to David Hackett Fischer, however, their day-to-day lives are profoundly influenced by folkways transplanted from Britain to the New World with the first settlers. Residual, yet persistent, aspects of these 17th Century folkways are indentifiable, Fischer argues, in areas as divers as politics, education, and attitudes towards gender, sexuality, age, and child-raising. Making use of both traditional
and revisionist scholarship, this ground-breaking work documents how each successive wave of early emigration-Puritans to the North-East; Royalist aristocrats to the South; the Friends to the Delaware Valley; Irish and North Britons to the…


Book cover of The Book of All Books

Craig Nelson Why did I love this book?

Using state-of-the-art scholarship and his own vast erudition, Calasso reveals the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament)—the foundational text of Judaism and Christianity—in a whole new way.

You will time and again be shocked by this book, and swear that he must be making things up, that these wild tales can’t possibly be in the Bible… yet indeed, all of them are there. A revolutionary book on a revolutionary religion. 

By Roberto Calasso, Tim Parks (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book of All Books as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A book that begins before Adam and ends after us. In this magisterial work by the Italian intellectual superstar Roberto Calasso, figures of the Bible and its whole outline emerge in a new light: one that is often astonishing and disquieting, as indeed―more than any other―is the book from which they originate

Roberto Calasso’s The Book of All Books is a narration that moves through the Bible as if through a forest, where every branch―every verse―may offer some revelation. Where a man named Saul becomes the first king of a people because his father sent him off to search for…


Book cover of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Craig Nelson Why did I love this book?

What ideas do you have about what the first peoples were like, and how human society developed?

Maybe you’ve even read the popular authors on this topic such as Diamond, Harari, Pinker, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Prepare to have all of your notions and received opinions upended and turned to dust by David Graeber (a man universally acknowledged as a genius) and the book he worked on for the last ten years of his life, which brings revolutionary ideas to 30,000 years of civilization.

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Dawn of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction…


Book cover of When We Cease to Understand the World

Craig Nelson Why did I love this book?

What does it take to make huge leaps forward in thinking and understanding?

Can such feats only be reached when the minds of our greatest scientists and mathematicians quaver between ecstasy and sacrifice… between the brilliant and the mad… and when the membrane separating truth from fiction is permeable?

Labatut balances the innate chill of physics and math with a powerful Sturm und Drang in his exploration of epochal breakthroughs, revealing, such as in his opening tale, the true blackness of black holes, and the dual nature of fertilizer as both savior from hunger and grotesque chemical weapon. Your own mind may never recover. 

By Benjamin Labatut, Adrian Nathan West (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked When We Cease to Understand the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When We Cease to Understand the World shows us great minds striking out into dangerous, uncharted terrain.

Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schroedinger: these are among the luminaries into whose troubled minds we are thrust as they grapple with the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, they alienate friends and lovers, they descend into isolated states of madness. Some of their discoveries revolutionise our world for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear.

At breakneck pace and with wondrous detail, Benjamin Labatut uses the…


Book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Craig Nelson Why did I love this book?

Entropy. The Uncertainty Principle. Schrodinger’s Cat. Such examples of the aligning of mathematical and verbal paradoxes rise to a wholly new level under the wings of Doug Hofstadter.

In this great classic, the incomplete math of Gödel twirls across the contradictions of Zen philosophy and the nucleotides of DNA, falling into the mesmerizing art of Escher and Magritte and then landing on the thematic acrobatics of Bach (one of whose melodies spells “BACH”). If you have any geek inside, you will be obsessed.

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Gödel, Escher, Bach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Goedel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.


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Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

Book cover of Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

Patrick G. Cox Author Of Ned Farrier Master Mariner: Call of the Cape

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

On the expertise I claim only a deep interest in history, leadership, and social history. After some thirty-six years in the fire and emergency services I can, I think, claim to have seen the best and the worst of human behaviour and condition. History, particularly naval history, has always been one of my interests and the Battle of Jutland is a truly fascinating study in the importance of communication between the leader and every level between him/her and the people performing whatever task is required.  In my own career, on a very much smaller scale, this is a lesson every officer learns very quickly.

Patrick's book list on the Battle of Jutland

What is my book about?

Captain Heron finds himself embroiled in a conflict that threatens to bring down the world order he is sworn to defend when a secretive Consortium seeks to undermine the World Treaty Organisation and the democracies it represents as he oversees the building and commissioning of a new starship.

When the Consortium employs an assassin from the Pantheon, it becomes personal.

Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

What is this book about?

The year is 2202, and the recently widowed Captain James Heron is appointed to stand by his next command, the starship NECS Vanguard, while she is being built. He and his team soon discover that they are battling the Consortium, a shadowy corporate group that seeks to steal the specs for the ship’s new super weapon. The Consortium hires the Pantheon, a mysterious espionage agency, to do their dirty work as they lay plans to take down the Fleet and gain supreme power on an intergalactic scale. When Pantheon Agent Bast and her team kidnap Felicity Rowanberg, a Fleet agent…


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