100 books like Personal History

By Vincent Sheean,

Here are 100 books that Personal History fans have personally recommended if you like Personal History. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Red Star over China: The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism

John Maxwell Hamilton Author Of Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting

From my list on by foreign correspondents.

Why am I passionate about this?

A large part of my career has been devoted to foreign affairs. Edgar Snow, Negley Farson, and others whom I read as a young man kindled my interest. I have reported from overseas and at one point developed a specialty in reporting connections between American communities and events overseas. I have published a number of foreign correspondents’ memoirs that were buried in achieves or have been out-of-print and ignored. Most recently I wrote a history of foreign reporting. So, one can say that I have made a career of enjoying books like these. 

John's book list on by foreign correspondents

John Maxwell Hamilton Why did John love this book?

In the mid-1930s a young journalist slipped past Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces into the northwest of China to find out if the Communists were Red Bandits or a legitimate political movement. Edgar Snow found they were the latter.

His eyewitness account – which read like an adventure story reverberated around the globe and catapulted him to the top of his profession. As a correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post, he roved the world during World War II.

His career came crashing down with McCarthyism, but for two decades Snow remained one of the few American links with the People’s Republic of China. I was so inspired by Snow’s book that I later wrote his biography. In doing the research I was struck by how many Americans of his generation wanted to be like him. 

By Edgar Snow,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Red Star over China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first Westerner to meet Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communist leaders in 1936, Edgar Snow came away with the first authorised account of Mao's life, as well as a history of the famous Long March and the men and women who were responsible for the Chinese revolution. Out of that experience came Red Star Over China, a classic work that remains one of the most important books ever written about the birth of the Communist movement in China.

This edition includes extensive notes on the military and political developments in China, further interviews with Mao Tse-tung, a chronology covering…


Book cover of The Way of a Transgressor

John Maxwell Hamilton Author Of Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting

From my list on by foreign correspondents.

Why am I passionate about this?

A large part of my career has been devoted to foreign affairs. Edgar Snow, Negley Farson, and others whom I read as a young man kindled my interest. I have reported from overseas and at one point developed a specialty in reporting connections between American communities and events overseas. I have published a number of foreign correspondents’ memoirs that were buried in achieves or have been out-of-print and ignored. Most recently I wrote a history of foreign reporting. So, one can say that I have made a career of enjoying books like these. 

John's book list on by foreign correspondents

John Maxwell Hamilton Why did John love this book?

I vividly recall reading Farson’s book when I was a budding journalist.

Farson worked for the Chicago Daily News, a newspaper that is gone now, but was pioneer in modern American journalism, not only for its principled reporting but also its talented staff. The Daily News was the first to field a substantial corps of American reporters abroad. (The New York Times only did so much later.)

Farson was everywhere, which did not distinguish him from many other correspondents, but he was legendary for the high quality of his writing. His colleagues said he was a “combination Childe Harold and Captain from Castile.” 

Unhappy with the request that he come back to Chicago to work awhile, he quit and went to Dalmatia to write Way of the Transgressor.  

By Negley Farson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way of a Transgressor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1984, Paperback, 447 pages


Book cover of Journey of an American

John Maxwell Hamilton Author Of Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting

From my list on by foreign correspondents.

Why am I passionate about this?

A large part of my career has been devoted to foreign affairs. Edgar Snow, Negley Farson, and others whom I read as a young man kindled my interest. I have reported from overseas and at one point developed a specialty in reporting connections between American communities and events overseas. I have published a number of foreign correspondents’ memoirs that were buried in achieves or have been out-of-print and ignored. Most recently I wrote a history of foreign reporting. So, one can say that I have made a career of enjoying books like these. 

John's book list on by foreign correspondents

John Maxwell Hamilton Why did John love this book?

When the Great Depression hit and jobs were scarce, there was no point in hanging around at home. 

“Prices in Europe were down to rock bottom,” wrote Albion Ross of his first overseas trip in 1930. “In addition, Mussolini’s government, for some inscrutable Fascist reason, was offering students a fantastic third-class railway ticket that took you from the Channel ports round and about through France and Italy for next to nothing.”

He found a spot in Berlin with the New York Evening Post and later The New York Times. Apart from a stint in the military during the war, he remained an overseas reporter for years.

His memoir is extraordinary because it is short on derring-do and long on sensitivity about what he witnessed. It is perhaps for this reason that neither Ross nor his book are much remembered. I would not have known about it if he had…

By Albion Ross,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Journey of an American as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A highly personal account by a New York Times foreign correspondent on restlessness of modern mankind


Book cover of Still Time To Die

John Maxwell Hamilton Author Of Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting

From my list on by foreign correspondents.

Why am I passionate about this?

A large part of my career has been devoted to foreign affairs. Edgar Snow, Negley Farson, and others whom I read as a young man kindled my interest. I have reported from overseas and at one point developed a specialty in reporting connections between American communities and events overseas. I have published a number of foreign correspondents’ memoirs that were buried in achieves or have been out-of-print and ignored. Most recently I wrote a history of foreign reporting. So, one can say that I have made a career of enjoying books like these. 

John's book list on by foreign correspondents

John Maxwell Hamilton Why did John love this book?

Though largely forgotten, Jack Belden is one of the best war reporters in American history.

A tormented man, he had PTSD before the term existed. While recovering from wounds sustained during the Allied invasion of Italy, he wrote Still Time to Die. He wrote, “My life, more than that of anyone I know, has been spent in lonely wanderings among the dreary wastelands of war.”

He lived a raw life with regular Chinese soldiers. Of his sensations during a shelling with them, he wrote, “I was not only tingling with delirious excitement, but, to my great astonishment, I realized that I was almost panting with a sexual kind of pleasure, and I found myself leaning against the wind, surrendering to the rough caress of the sand, pulsing and throbbing and thrilling to the crashing, tumultuous orchestration of the shells which were now beating the earth about us with a…

By Jack Belden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Still Time To Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


Book cover of Last Waltz in Vienna

Martin Fletcher Author Of Promised Land: A Novel of Israel

From my list on the refugee experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my work as a news reporter and war correspondent, I met people on the worst day of their lives. I always wondered: What now? How will they get on with life? My own parents faced that dreadful dilemma. Penniless refugees, their families murdered in the Holocaust, unemployed in London, how on earth did they find the strength to carry on? One day at a time, they just did what they had to do. That is the subject of my fiction, always trying to answer that existential question: How do we live with trauma, and still find love and happiness?

Martin's book list on the refugee experience

Martin Fletcher Why did Martin love this book?

A sensitive yet relentless story of his family’s failed assimilation that ends in its annihilation. Clare ends up in the UK, seeking meaning, in vain. His story so closely mirrors the real-life story of my own family, also Jewish refugees from Vienna who found refuge in the UK, that it sent a chill down my spine. Beautifully written and evocative. Clare concludes with Voltaire’s verdict: “History never repeats itself, man always does.”

By George Clare,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Waltz in Vienna as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On Saturday 26 February, 1938, seventeen-year-old Georg Klaar took his girlfriend Lisl to his first ball at the Konzerthaus. His family were proudly Austrian. They were also Jewish. Just two weeks later came the Anschluss. A family had been condemned to death by genocide.

This new edition of George Clare's incredibly affecting account of Nazi brutality towards the Jews includes a previously unpublished post-war letter from his Uncle to a friend who had escaped to Scotland. This moving epistle passes on the news of those who had survived and the many who had been arrested, deported, murdered or left to…


Book cover of The Morning Gift

Rachel McMillan Author Of The Mozart Code

From my list on set in Vienna and will create a lifelong love for the city.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of the Herringford and Watts mysteries, the Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries, and the Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese-set romances. I am also the author of The London Restoration. My non-fiction includes Dream, Plan and Go: A Travel Guide to Inspire Independent Adventure and A Very Merry Holiday Movie Guide. I live in Toronto, Canada.

Rachel's book list on set in Vienna and will create a lifelong love for the city

Rachel McMillan Why did Rachel love this book?

Recalling Ibbotson’s personal experience of leaving Austria for England before Hitler’s Anschluss, The Morning Gift is a witty and warm marriage of convenience story between a witty and intrepid archaeologist, Quinton Somerville, and a brilliant professor’s daughter Ruth Berger. When Ruth is accidentally left behind in Vienna after her family has emigrated to England, Quin marries Jewish Ruth and protects her from oncoming Nazi occupation: under the condition that they will part ways when both are safely back in London. But Quin and Ruth continue to run into each other again and again and again. A deliciously Austrian-flavoured book. Ibbotson’s Viennese set-sequences and memories are a love letter to her city.

By Eva Ibbotson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Morning Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The Morning Gift is a beautiful, classic romance from much loved author, Eva Ibbotson.

Eighteen-year-old Ruth lives in the sparkling city of Vienna with her family, where she delights in its music, energy and natural beauty. She is wildly in love with the brilliant young pianist Heini Radik and can't wait until they are married.

But Ruth's world is turned upside down when the Nazis invade Austria and her family are forced to flee to England, and through a devastating misunderstanding she is left behind. Her only hope to escape Vienna comes from Quin, a young English professor, who unexpectedly…


Book cover of Ruth Maier's Diary: A Jewish girl's life in Nazi Europe

Christine Foster Meloni Author Of Growing Up in Mussolini's Fascist Italy: The Story of Andrea Marcello Meloni

From my list on the dangers of living under Hitler and Mussolini.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became very interested in this topic when I moved to Italy and met and married Andrea Meloni. I had never been particularly interested in wars and battles but, when he began to tell me about his very personal experience growing up in Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, I was captivated and felt that his unique story was important. I, therefore, encouraged him to write his memoirs. My book is based on them, and so it is more his book than mine. However, I did extensive research to set his story in a coherent historical context. 

Christine's book list on the dangers of living under Hitler and Mussolini

Christine Foster Meloni Why did Christine love this book?

Ruth Maier was a Jew born in Germany. Kristallnacht, an infamous Nazi pogrom, took place in 1938. Ruth was able to flee to Norway shortly thereafter.

She soon became fluent in Norwegian, finished high school, and began her university studies. However, the Germans occupied Norway in 1940. She, therefore, lived in constant fear of being arrested and kept a very detailed diary of how she lived through these two dangerous years. She was then arrested in 1942 at age 22 and deported to Auschwitz, where she was immediately put to death. 

By Ruth Maier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ruth Maier's Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ruth Maier was born into a middle-class Jewish family in interwar Vienna. Following the Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, her world collapsed. In early 1939, her sister having left for England, Ruth emigrated to Norway and lived with a family in Lillestrom, near Oslo. Although she loved many things about her new country and its people, Ruth became increasingly isolated until she met a soulmate, Gunvor Hofmo, who was to become a celebrated poet. When Norway became a Nazi conquest in April 1940, Ruth's effort to join the rest of her family in Britain became ever more urgent.

Ruth…


Book cover of Night Falls On The City

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Author Of Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

From my list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first learned about life in 1930s Vienna from my grandfather’s memoir: Reminiscences of the Vienna Circle and the Mathematical Colloquium. I was fascinated by the time and place and began to read more about the era, which ultimately served as a setting for my forthcoming novel, The Expert of Subtle Revisions.

Kirsten's book list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did Kirsten love this book?

Spanning seven years in six hundred pages, Gainham’s Night Falls On The City is a richly detailed depiction of the stress and madness of life in Vienna after the German annexation.

Onstage or off, the novel’s protagonist, Julia Homburg, must always act, and the strain of this performance, under escalating violence and increasingly difficult circumstances, takes a harsh toll. A compelling and memorable story.

By Sarah Gainham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Night Falls On The City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vienna, 1938. Beautiful actress Julia Homburg and her politician husband Franz Wedeker embody all the enlightened brilliance of their native city. But Wedeker is Jewish, and just across the border the tanks of the Nazi Reich are primed for the Anschluss.

When the SS invades and disappearances become routine, Franz must be concealed. With daring ingenuity, Julia conjures a hiding place. In the shadow of oppression, a clear conscience is a luxury few can afford, and Julia finds she must strike a series of hateful bargains with the new order if she and her husband are to survive.

A highly…


Book cover of Mother's Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times

Irene Wittig Author Of All That Lingers

From my list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era.

Why am I passionate about this?

World War II has been the background of my life. My Viennese family fled the Nazi regime. My childhood was peopled with Holocaust survivors and other people displaced by war. My uncle was a refugee and was trained as a Ritchie Boy and sent to war. I have been inspired by how people can survive traumatic times and come out stronger and kinder.

Irene's book list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era

Irene Wittig Why did Irene love this book?

This biography of the author’s mother and role model is as much a portrait of an intelligent, cultured, resilient woman as it is a well-researched history of the hundred-and-one years she lived through. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna she lived through World War I, post-war depression, antisemitism, and the violent rise of Nazism. With courage and determination she found a way to escape the worst horrors of the Holocaust (although many in her family did not) and faced the challenges of building a new life in a new culture.

By Richard L. Hermann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mother's Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mother’s Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times is the “bio-history” of Margarete Sobel Hermann, the author’s mother and role model, who lived 101 tumultuous and productive years. Her life spanned 95 percent of the twentieth century, during which she and her family experienced much of the good, the bad and the exceptionally ugly that marked that most violent of eras. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Imperial Vienna, she survived the First World War, famine and starvation, runaway inflation, political turmoil that makes what we are undergoing today pale in comparison, discrimination, street violence, the Great Depression,…


Book cover of The Tortoises

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Author Of Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

From my list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first learned about life in 1930s Vienna from my grandfather’s memoir: Reminiscences of the Vienna Circle and the Mathematical Colloquium. I was fascinated by the time and place and began to read more about the era, which ultimately served as a setting for my forthcoming novel, The Expert of Subtle Revisions.

Kirsten's book list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did Kirsten love this book?

Roaming turtles are branded with swastikas and Nazi soldiers burn synagogues to the ground in Veza Canetti’s The Tortoises, which follows Eva and her husband Andreas, who are trapped in the country without departure visas.

Informed by her experience of the time and place (Canetti wrote the novel shortly after she herself left Vienna in 1938), Canetti paints a vivid and terrible picture of life under Nazi occupation. Published posthumously many years after her death, the novel’s road to publication is a story in and of itself. 

By Veza Canetti, Ian Mitchell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A renowned writer and his wife live quietly in a beautiful villa outside Vienna, until the triumphant Nazis start subjecting their Jewish "hosts" to ever greater humiliations. Veza Canetti focuses on seemingly ordinary people to epitomize the horror: one flag-happy German kills a sparrow before a group of little children; another, more entrepreneurial Nazi brands tortoises with swastikas to sell as souvenirs commemorating the Anschluss.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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