496 books directly related to Europe 📚

All 496 Europe books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds: Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

By Nick Albert,

Book cover of Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds: Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

Why this book?

As a doggy person, this sounded a fun book, an added attraction being that it is a memoir about moving overseas. The author, and his wife, Lesley, buy a property in a rural part of Ireland. Sounds simple enough, but having done the same ourselves, I guessed there might be challenges ahead. Nick skillfully draws the reader into his world. I felt as though I was alongside them as he describes the properties they visit and misadventures along the way. The anecdotes about their dogs are delightful. His descriptions conjure up pictures of a stunningly beautiful country filled with enchantingly quirky people. No wonder they quickly fall in love with it.

Nick’s sense of humour is infectious and wonderfully appealing. I finished wanting more. Luckily, through the success of this first book, he launched a series. I have read and loved each subsequent episode and look forward to his next publication.

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

By Tony Judt,

Book cover of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

Why this book?

My own background, process, and style have me reaching for ever-tinier stories that I think I can go deep on, in order to hopefully excavate something larger. Judt’s Postwar is the opposite: a colossal swing at a multi-decade period across European history. In this, he synthesizes political, economic, social, and cultural histories to guide the reader through Europe’s development after World War II. It’s a book where you find yourself going over each line a few times in order to make sure you’ve wrung all meaning from it and every sentence returns you to your notes.

The Anatomy of Fascism

By Robert O. Paxton,

Book cover of The Anatomy of Fascism

Why this book?

Fascism and Communism purported to explain all social and political phenomena and, on that basis, justified their authoritarian or totalitarian rule. The term ‘fascist’ tends to be loosely applied to intolerant and autocratic political behaviour, but the outstandingly lucid, and highly readable, book by Robert Paxton not only surveys fascism in practice – in Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany and in fascist movements and parties in many different countries – it also shows what its distinctive components are. What he calls the ‘mobilizing passions’ of fascism include the glorification of war and violence, expansionism, racism, a fixation on national solidarity, rejection of the legitimacy of diverse interests and values within a society, and, not least, a cult of the heroic leader, with the leader’s instincts counting for more than reasoned, evidence-based argument.

Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

By Bill Bryson,

Book cover of Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

Why this book?

I’m middle-aged and then some, and I’ve traveled to many places more than once. I was curious to compare my double experiences with Bryson’s. Would the Leaning Tower of Pisa be leaning even more? Would Paris disappoint on a second visit? I won’t tell, but bear in mind I hold a special place in my dark heart for snarky humor, which I find perversely amusing.

Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

By Doug Mack,

Book cover of Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

Why this book?

The author gets ahold of his mother’s copy of Frommer's 1967 Europe on Five Dollars a Day and uses it as his basis for a contemporary visit. Like his mother, I, too, did the tour in 1967. I was curious to see what had happened to Europe and to my view of it. Of course, most of the restaurants no longer exist, and $5 dollars a day was more like $50 dollars a day, but this travel memoir is full of funny, disastrous, and touching adventures. I admit to a fondness for funny disasters.

The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848

By Paul W. Schroeder,

Book cover of The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848

Why this book?

This masterful analysis of European foreign policy encompasses a period slightly larger than the life of Napoleon, but the core of the book is the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. On first reading this I was struck not only by the depth and breadth of Schroeder’s knowledge, but also by his uncanny ability to question standard interpretations and to present an original and oftentimes provocative evaluation. This book made me think about how best to write history. Elegantly written, this is an accomplished tome that will be read by students of foreign policy for many years to come. 

The Illuminated Manuscript

By Janet Backhouse,

Book cover of The Illuminated Manuscript

Why this book?

Any time you pick up a book with Illuminated Manuscript anywhere in the title, you know you’re in for a visual feast. If you’re just starting out with this unique medieval art form, this book is an excellent introduction. It’s not too long, so it won’t overwhelm you. This book provided the foundation for my first steps into researching medieval illumination for my historical romantic novel. What is illumination? Why were books illuminated and what types of books were considered worthy of illumination? Who were some of the most famous medieval illuminators? (Perhaps my heroine’s father had studied with one.) What kind of patrons might my heroine have encountered in her father’s workshop?

This book ignited my imagination while helping me discover the best answers for my story. (NOTE: So much of this art has been digitized that most of the B&W photos are now easy to find in color on the internet.)

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

By Mackenzi Lee,

Book cover of The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Why this book?

Speaking of disaster bisexuals, Monty is one of my favorites in all of literature! He goes on a delightful romp through Europe in this first book of a fantastic trilogy, all while harboring a crush for his best friend. Will these two get together? Will they get into a lot of trouble as they go on their Grand Tour? The answers to these questions are so worth the incredible journey of this book.

Orison for a Curlew: In Search for a Bird on the Edge of Extinction

By Horatio Clare,

Book cover of Orison for a Curlew: In Search for a Bird on the Edge of Extinction

Why this book?

Clare is another consummate wordsmith – he even managed to write an engaging book about spending months on container ships – but with Orison he manages to weave a fascinating story using beautiful prose and superb writing to bring intelligent discussions and good research to life while introducing us to key conservation personalities he meets during his journeys.
Clare sets out to search for the highly endangered and secretive slender-billed curlew in a range of wetlands in a troubled Eastern Europe and discovers inspiring if sometimes eccentric movers and shakers devoted to saving our wild places.
And how about this for a profound final sentence in a book: ‘Too much certainty is a miserable thing, while the unknowable has a pristine beauty and a wonder with no end.’

Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe

By Peter Heather,

Book cover of Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe

Why this book?

Peter Heather’s work is one of the broadest in scope on the topic of the European ‘Barbarians’, while still retaining enough detail to keep the reader’s attention pinned. A great starter for this period of history, encompassing the entire first millennium AD, the time when the heart of European civilization gradually moved from the Mediterranean South to the cold Barbarian North. It reads like a novel – but is supported by years of painstaking research. If you can only read one book on Barbarian Europe, this is the book.

Married Life in the Middle Ages, 900-1300

By Elisabeth Van Houts,

Book cover of Married Life in the Middle Ages, 900-1300

Why this book?

A marvellous book that explores the experience for men and women of being married during the Christian Middle Ages. It presents us with an analysis of individual lives and is a social history, a gender history, an emotional history, a sexual history, and much else besides. Among the many subjects treated are female agency within marriage, the extent to which it was possible to choose a married partner, and the history and personal experience of married clergy when such marriages were forbidden. 

Dark Star

By Alan Furst,

Book cover of Dark Star

Why this book?

Alan Furst specialises in thrillers set in pre-War Europe with all the moral ambiguity of that time. I loved that aspect of this book, and I wanted to capture some of that in The Fulcrum Files; the idea that the horrors to come were not as inevitable as they now seem.

Sculpture Parks in Europe: A Guide to Art and Nature

By Raul Rispa,

Book cover of Sculpture Parks in Europe: A Guide to Art and Nature

Why this book?

Both reference book and travel guide, this second edition includes over 90 sculpture parks in 27 European countries. The parks featured are those that have an ‘art and nature’ element, in which artists collaborate with nature, working in and with nature to create artworks and situations that help us think about and enjoy both. One to take with you on your next trip around Europe!

For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories

By Rick Steves,

Book cover of For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories

Why this book?

To be honest, this one is close to being a travel book. Rick Steves is a well-known traveler, with a large number of guide books and television shows sharing his exploits with the world. But, this book describes Europe in a way that no travel guide can. Rick is a master of sharing anecdotes of his travels through Europe, never failing to describe the flavours, sights, and sounds of the continent and the wonderful cities we all yearn to see. This was a wonderful escape during the 2020 lockdowns, a true lifesaver! 

The Triumph of the Dark: European International History 1933-1939

By Zara Steiner,

Book cover of The Triumph of the Dark: European International History 1933-1939

Why this book?

Surely the rise of Hitler and the impact of global depression gave an air of inevitability about the holocaust to follow? In this successor volume, Steiner makes clear many other factors were in play that might have altered Europe’s fate. She details the West’s overriding fear of Soviet communism, the crucial role Mussolini played as termite to the tentative international order built in the 1920s, and the deep internal divisions that French leaders ultimately were unable to overcome, divisions that played their own role in strengthening British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s decision to deal with Hitler at the Munich conference. 

Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia: Beliefs about Protection and Fertility

By Linda M. Welters (editor),

Book cover of Folk Dress in Europe and Anatolia: Beliefs about Protection and Fertility

Why this book?

This book is a rich source of information about how certain attire, especially the “string skirt” and its variants, has traditionally been drafted in Europe to promote women’s health and fertility, a tradition that we can trace back, through evidence, for some 20,000 years. Wonderfully illustrated, the data here range from Greece and Turkey in the south, through Central Europe to Latvia and Norway in the far north, as well as occasionally deep into Eurasia. And of course, such apparel was particularly donned for dancing on occasions where the wearer would be seen by all. (Being a show-off runs deep in humanity!)

The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914

By Richard J. Evans,

Book cover of The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914

Why this book?

It takes real historic breadth to write a comprehensive history of the nineteenth century and only a historian of the quality of Evans could pull it off so convincingly. Like his mentor Eric Hobsbawmbut unencumbered by the Marxian straight-jacketEvans masterfully draws the links not only between decades and between countries and continents but also between the social, the economic, and the political. His book is no demographic history, but it takes demography seriously. This really matters in a century in which the Malthusian bonds were broken for some of humanity, not all of it, making it a period of European global supremacy underpinned by demographic takeoff, the effects of which we are still feeling.

European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History

By Karen Offen,

Book cover of European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History

Why this book?

This provocative book covers 250 years of European history. I find something to argue with on pretty much every page but I have to admire Offen’s ambition in this sweeping narrative extending across the nations of Europe from Finland to Greece, from Portugal to Poland.

I so admired this book that I wrote to Karen Offen asking her if she would read some of the chapters of my book, which she did, making helpful suggestions which improved it no end.

Amphibious Warfare 1000-1700: Commerce, State Formation and European Expansion

By David J.B. Trim (editor), Mark C. Fissel (editor),

Book cover of Amphibious Warfare 1000-1700: Commerce, State Formation and European Expansion

Why this book?

Although most studies of amphibious operations focus on twentieth-century examples, the chapters in this anthology study ship-to-shore assaults throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern era. I think the introductory chapter is a tour de force in explaining how amphibious warfare plays out in tactics, operations, and strategy. The principles remain timeless regardless of terrain or technology. Subsequent chapters represent stand-alone studies of reasons for successes or failures in amphibious battles in the Baltic, Mediterranean, Ireland, and Europe, whether on seashores or along riverbanks. The sum of all the chapters is greater than their individual pieces. I grasped that amphibious warfare sometimes expanded beyond military objectives to include establishing footholds for commercial trade, state development, and imperial expansion. 

The Last Berserker: Fire Born 1

By Angus Donald,

Book cover of The Last Berserker: Fire Born 1

Why this book?

Like the Vikings? Want to read about real Vikings? Angus Donald’s first in a series takes you to the harsh realities of 8th century Europe and portrays the Vikings in all their aspects both violent and noble. He wears his impeccable research lightly though and it’s an explosive journey that is most compelling when dealing with the culture clash between Charlemagne’s growing empire and the Viking Dane warriors who listen to the beat of their own drum. “Beserkers” were a caste of Vikings who would supposedly work themselves into a fearsome frenzy of blood rage in battle. But Donald goes deeper than stereotypes, showing the mystical and religious underpinnings of this class of warrior and in so doing bringing reason, emotion, and honor to their struggles. 

Textiles and Textile Production in Europe: From Prehistory to Ad 400

By Margarita Gleba (editor), Ulla Mannering (editor),

Book cover of Textiles and Textile Production in Europe: From Prehistory to Ad 400

Why this book?

This excellent introduction to the latest archaeological textile studies should convince you that this is the most exciting field for new interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the past. There are 23 essays discussing finds from 16 counties, each telling intelligent but accessible stories about social, chronological, and cultural aspects of ancient societies. Well illustrated and with lots of further reading listed, you’ll end up wanting more.

The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe

By Patrick J. Geary,

Book cover of The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe

Why this book?

Whenever I travel across Europe, I make a point to stop by the local museum or history exhibition to see how the Early Middle Ages are presented to the public. It is striking how often the narrative presumes the continuity of people living today and their “ancestors” who have been dead for a thousand years. In The Myth of Nations, Patrick Geary sets out to show that this idea is not only complete nonsense but also incredibly dangerous in the hands of ethno-nationalist politicians. Part withering polemic and part careful scholarly study, Geary harshly rebukes historians and archaeologists who have helped to collapse the temporal distance between the past and present while offering his own account of the complex and nuanced ways in which social identity operated within the late Roman and early medieval worlds.        

How Europe Made the Modern World: Creating the Great Divergence

By Jonathan Daly,

Book cover of How Europe Made the Modern World: Creating the Great Divergence

Why this book?

A thousand years ago, a traveller to Baghdad, Constantinople, or China would find vast and flourishing cities of broad streets, spacious gardens, and sophisticated urban amenities; meanwhile, Paris, Rome, and London were cramped and unhygienic collections of villages. Europe was then a backwater. How, then, did it rise to world pre-eminence over the next several centuries? Having experienced China and its epic growth since being in Student in Shanghai in the early 1980s and then later as a banker, it seems there could be something to learn from history. Daly avoids the twin dangers of Eurocentrism and anti-Westernism, strongly emphasizing the contributions of other cultures of the world, as well as the vibrant and internal competition among cities and nations of Europe.

Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe

By Nick Crane,

Book cover of Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe

Why this book?

I followed Nick’s adventures from a young age, and he’s partially responsible for my wanderlust. I learned I didn’t have to conform to society’s expectations, that is was OK to follow my dreams, and to pursue what I wanted from life, not what others wanted for me. Nick’s book takes him on an epic hike across Europe, including walking through winter. He is a master storyteller. 

Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

By Robin Briggs,

Book cover of Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

Why this book?

This builds on the archives, on the sociology and anthropology, and on the politics, law and religion discussed so far, but its emphasis is on communities – what has been called (by my research supervisor, Keith Wrightson) ‘the politics of the parish’. If witch-hunting was shaped by the structures and relationships of the state, as in Levack’s book, it also belonged to the local political world of ordinary people, who helped each other out and joined forces to resist perceived enemies in their midst. And there was no enemy more frightening than the witch, who was the anti-neighbour, anti-mother, anti-Christian – the anti-everything, except envy, malice and spite.

Briggs is a superb historian. I remember reading this book when it came out, and being blown away by it. It takes the reader deep into a world of social obligations (and their breaches) and networks of people, mostly in economically fragile farming communities. Here, witches reflected the anxieties of their neighbours, who therefore, in a sense, made witches: you can’t have one without the other.

Witches and Neighbours is not a geographically comprehensive book: it concentrates mainly on the borderlands between France and Germany. But it is a powerfully insightful one, and beautifully written as well – full of neat formulations and memorable phrases.

A Tramp Abroad

By Mark Twain,

Book cover of A Tramp Abroad

Why this book?

In a travelogue which spends much of its time in the Alps, Twain delivers anecdotes of haplessness that will make readers smile, if not laugh out loud. Twain portrays himself as an American naif who thinks he understands everything while actually understanding nothing at all.

The Third Horseman: A Story of Weather, War, and the Famine History Forgot

By William Rosen,

Book cover of The Third Horseman: A Story of Weather, War, and the Famine History Forgot

Why this book?

The Third Horseman combines a discussion of climate change with a major disaster, the great famine of the fourteenth century. Vividly written and fast-paced, this well-written book makes history enjoyable. The author wears his research lightly, which makes for a rattling good story. Not a global book, but it will make you think.

Night Soldiers

By Alan Furst,

Book cover of Night Soldiers

Why this book?

God help me, along with my fascination with espionage I am a history buff. I long to discover how things became what they are today and Furst does it in this series. While seeing the forces that launched the Second World War unfold, he shows you see the seeds sown for the cold war that follows. While I picked book one from my bias toward watching a world being born, all the books in the series are a great read.

Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

By Michael Neiberg,

Book cover of Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

Why this book?

This book provides a radically alternative perspective on what this event meant for ordinary people. Using a wide range of letters, diaries, and memoirs, Neiberg reveals that most people had no idea what the war was about and saw no good reason for it, while the soldiers were often confused as to whom they were fighting and which part of the world they were in. It is a short book but an enlightening read.

The Culture of Food

By Massimo Montanari,

Book cover of The Culture of Food

Why this book?

A really satisfying read for anyone with an appetite for culinary history. Montanari, a medieval historian who teaches at the University of Bologna, describes the evolution of European cuisine as the clash between the wheat-, grape- and olive-based Mediterranean food traditions of the Roman Empire and the beer-, pork- and animal fat-based cooking of the Teutonic tribes that descended from the North. The invaders introduced their foods to Northern Italy, while the monks traveling north to spread the teachings of Christianity carried with them the wheat and grapes essential for celebrating the Eucharist. A slow assimilation ensued.

The History of Cartography, Volume 3: Cartography in the European Renaissance

By David Woodward,

Book cover of The History of Cartography, Volume 3: Cartography in the European Renaissance

Why this book?

You won’t be curling up in bed with this two-volume, 2,272-page encyclopedic history of cartography in the European Renaissance—but if you’ve got a passion for maps, or if you want the most comprehensive source of information on the cartography of the period, it’s a delightful and even essential work to consult. The essays are diverse and deeply informative, and the reproductions, including 80 gorgeous color plates, are a treat to spend time with.

Europe: A Natural History

By Tim Flannery,

Book cover of Europe: A Natural History

Why this book?

I have to deal, from time to time, with nervous would-be experts who have an abject fear of hybrid species in the sanctuary where I am a volunteer. One of the main lessons you take away from this ecological history is that hybrids drive a great deal of evolution, and trying to wipe out the hybrids is, in fact, an attempt to interfere with nature.

Looking at Europe as an evolutionary melting pot, we see that time and again, species migrated into the continent and were transformed, whether the immigrants were humans, elephants, or plane trees. Like all of Flannery’s books, Europe is food for thought, something to savour.

How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas

By Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega, Zahara Heckscher

Book cover of How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas

Why this book?

A comprehensive guide for potential volunteers wishing to make the world a better place. It includes first-hand stories, worksheets, and evaluative information about hundreds of volunteer organisations.

Written by veteran volunteers who are all founders of respected organizations, the book covers the whole process of volunteering, from how to decide if international volunteering is right for you, to choosing the right program, to what to do before and after you go abroad. It also covers the vital political and social contexts of people from the US volunteering abroad, and how to be aware of these factors to ensure you volunteer effectively.

The Book on the Bookshelf

By Henry Petroski,

Book cover of The Book on the Bookshelf

Why this book?

Why do our libraries, those at home, at university, or in the public library network, look the way they do? Many people would agree that books are best stored upright on shelves, spine out, but how did we come to that conclusion? This delightful book offers all the answers, and incidentally reveals more than you could ever think of to ask about the manner in which we take care of, store, and display books. It might even give you some inspiration on how to arrange your own collection.

The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914

By Philipp Blom,

Book cover of The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914

Why this book?

Philipp Blom has an exceptional mind. This book looks at the fourteen years prior to the outbreak of the First World War with a depth and breadth you won’t find anywhere else. It somehow captures the broad, transdisciplinary rush to knowledge, to comprehend the new, that at a deep level characterized this period. You learn something or get a fresh perspective on almost every page and you begin to understand the pre-war years for what they were - a powderkeg of change ready to burst across almost every established boundary.

The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s

By Amelia Rauser,

Book cover of The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s

Why this book?

The neoclassical style of dress—sheer, high-waisted muslin dresses that displayed a woman’s arms and eschewed traditional undergarments—that appeared in the late eighteenth century shaped European female fashions for nearly thirty years. Historians have often labeled the neoclassical movement associated with the Enlightenment and Age of Revolution as austere and masculine in its effects. However, Rauser effectively makes the case that women were at the center of 1790s neoclassicism in its most intense and embodied form, as creators and patrons—and that fashion, more so than other forms of art, reveals an era’s artistic and political culture.

From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

By Jacques Barzun,

Book cover of From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

Why this book?

This is the big one. 912 pages, from the Protestant Reformation to the end of the 20th Century. Barzun, a French-American historian who died in 2012 just short of his 105th birthday, actually lived for about 20% of the era covered. He finished this magnum opus when he was 93, better positioned than most to lend some perspective (and as the title indicates, not optimistic). Still, with so much ground to cover, it’s amazing how much time he gives to obscure yet pivotal personalities and events—hence all those pages, cross-referenced, linking forward and back, following threads within the weave. This is not something you’re going to read in one sitting. On the other hand, open it to any random page and instantly dive back in time.

The Black Death

By Rosemary Horrox,

Book cover of The Black Death

Why this book?

This is a wonderfully curated selection of sources drawn from many western European countries. They offer us a real sense of how individuals, groups, governments and the Church reacted to this, perhaps the most appalling natural disaster in European history. We learn not only of political but personal and psychological reactions to a plague which most contemporaries viewed as a manifestation of divine anger with a sinful world.

Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe: Gunpowder, Technology, and Tactics

By Bert S. Hall,

Book cover of Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe: Gunpowder, Technology, and Tactics

Why this book?

While the title of this book implies a pretty broad subject, its true focus is on the development of gunpowder weapons and the awkward, often halting, development of their use during the Renaissance. The scope and depth of Hall’s research is frankly arresting, which makes it so much fun to read. There is essentially nothing about the early days of gunpowder and the weapons it gave rise to that you won’t find in this book. You'll learn why artillerists became a highly paid guild of specialists, why urine was so crucial to gunpowder production, why the challenge of storing powder lead inadvertently to its dramatic increase in explosive force, and so much more.

Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide

By Nicky Gardner, Susanne Kries,

Book cover of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide

Why this book?

Back in the day, no self-respecting InterRail traveller would leave home without the iconic red Thomas Cook European timetable and while it’s still available in different formats these days, apps and websites have removed the urgency of travelling with a big book of timetables. But this sterling work, updated regularly, fills the gap between inspiration and destination – full of the nuts and bolts of European rail travel (what tickets, where, and how to buy) while featuring over fifty routes, complete with descriptions, diversions, recommendations, and discoveries. It’s brilliant for the armchair traveller, and invaluable for anyone eyeing a leisurely ride on the rails around Europe.

Black British History: New Perspectives

By Hakim Adi,

Book cover of Black British History: New Perspectives

Why this book?

New Perspectives shows us that Black British history is a complex field of historiography. No longer should we look at it as a sketchy, speculative, politically correct apologia for historical investigation. But rather see, that for more than three generations scholars have worked very hard to establish a vigorous pedagogy. It is a pedagogy that supports wider British histories, but subverts the traditional trajectories of those narratives. This book introduces us to some of the major developments in Black British history and it is an excellent place to start for a reader who knows very little about this subject.         

To Exist is to Resist: Black Feminism in Europe

By Akwugo Emejulu (editor), Francesca Sobande (editor),

Book cover of To Exist is to Resist: Black Feminism in Europe

Why this book?

While the Black freedom struggle is often approached through the activism of Black males, the history of the struggle in Europe—like in the United States and elsewhere in the world—owes much to Black women, Black female scholar-activists, and Black feminist and Queer networks. Yet they remain woefully underrepresented in scholarship and collective memory.

I, therefore, chose this edited volume, because it uniquely presents the stories, intersectional experiences, and visions of contemporary Black female activists, artists, and scholars from across the continent. This not only uncovers the significant intellectual, political, social, and cultural contributions of Black women, but also expands definitions of (political) activism to include, among others, motherhood and the home.

Afropean: Notes from Black Europe

By Johny Pitts,

Book cover of Afropean: Notes from Black Europe

Why this book?

Written in a riveting style, this book by Black British writer and photographer Johny Pitts likewise combines personal narrative with journalism and historical research. Pitts recounts his journey visiting numerous, often invisible Black urban communities across the European continent. By highlighting their lived experiences and identity formations, Pitts’ account challenges conventional understandings of ‘Black Europe’ and the ‘Black Atlantic.’ These are too often drawn from the Black British experience and its connections to the Americas, even though the majority of Europeans who identify (or are identified) as Black live on the continental mainland, speak languages other than English, and came to Europe after World War II. Memories of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade accordingly are not always central to their identities. Above all, the book uncovers the multi-layered and personal meanings of ‘Blackness,’ while underscoring the poignant ways in which those whom Pitts dubs as ‘Afropeans’ in individual European nations grapple with a sense of ‘double consciousness,’ similar to that described by W.E.B. DuBois in his Souls of Black Folk.  

Black Europe and the African Diaspora

By Darlene Clark Hine (editor), Trica Danielle Keaton (editor), Stephen Small (editor)

Book cover of Black Europe and the African Diaspora

Why this book?

As one of the first scholarly attempts to investigate the Black experience on a continental scale (as opposed to in individual European nations), this edited volume presents a good introduction to the multifaceted questions and approaches that emerge when studying this topic. Offering insights from various scholarly disciplines and 20th and 21st-century case studies from individual countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the Netherlands, it provides thoughtful essays that explore the meanings of ‘Blackness’ and belonging in Europe, and the roles the local, national, global, and metaphysical play within (imaginary) diasporic discourse and identity. As such, it invites critical thinking about the strengths and limitations of the usability of ‘Black Europe’ as a concept and unit of analysis.   

Mog and the Baby

By Judith Kerr,

Book cover of Mog and the Baby

Why this book?

“Mog loves babies!” says the poor cat’s owners but this is not strictly true. Mog just wants to snooze undisturbed but a visiting baby soon puts paid to that. Her expressions are brilliantly done as the baby takes more and more liberties. When Mog escapes out the window, the baby follows, with almost catastrophic results in the road outside. But Mog saves the day - and the baby - and is rewarded with a gigantic fish. 

Medieval Women

By Eileen Power,

Book cover of Medieval Women

Why this book?

Eileen Power was a pioneer in Women’s History and this was the first book I read when I went back to university. It’s an inspiring collection of essays on medieval ideas of women, working women in town and country, education, and nunneries. If you’re planning to write a book about women in the Middle Ages, start your research here.

Power refers to many diverse contemporary texts such as The Goodman of Paris and works by Chaucer and Christine de Pisan, which enabled me (or, which will enable you) to portray authentic detail in my own book. The essay on nunneries, which I drew on for my novel, is a summary of her seminal work on medieval English nunneries. There are also forty-two well-chosen illustrations that complement the text.

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

By David Levering Lewis,

Book cover of God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

Why this book?

The perfect book, beautifully written, for anyone who wants to understand Spain and Al-Andalus in the context of medieval European history. Most of us are taught the history of Medieval Europe to the strange exclusion of the brilliant culture of Al-Andalus, but it remains the case that the whole history of Europe cannot be understood without knowing the contributions of the convivencia across a very wide spectrum of subjects—commerce, mathematics, agriculture, philosophy, and medicine, to name a few. 


By Robert Charles Wilson,

Book cover of Darwinia

Why this book?

Darwinia was the first novel I read by Robert Charles Wilson, who I believe is the best modern-day science fiction writer. Darwinia was a novel I had to read twice to really grasp how brilliantly Wilson had woven everything together. This is one of those novels where the ending can sneak up on you and blow you away and you weren’t even remotely prepared, which is preferred over any ending that I can predict.

Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

By Josh Allen, Sarah J. Coleman (illustrator),

Book cover of Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

Why this book?

Writing a really good spooky short story is hard. Writing 13 of them is near-impossible. Yet Allen has put together an anthology of sheer terror, with each story hinging on something simple and mundane. Basically, Allen makes you afraid of everything, and does it with a smile.

Complicated Hearts (Complicated Hearts Duet Book 1)

By Ashley Jade,

Book cover of Complicated Hearts (Complicated Hearts Duet Book 1)

Why this book?

So, Ashley’s book isn’t exactly dark romance, but it is one of those duos that has an incredibly racy bite! When you consider the variables for a young adult m/f/m relationship that is riddled with angst and possibility, it’s easy to see why this book has all the scandal and heat you need to keep you bitten and trapped within the pages!

Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles

By Squatting in Europe Kollective,

Book cover of Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles

Why this book?

From 2009 to 2021, the Squatting Europe Kollective provided a platform for innovative research on squatting by both academics and activists. The group organized international meetings, created an interactive map of squatter actions in various European cities, and published a number of books. Their 2013 volume provided a state of the art of squatter research. The first chapter distinguishes between different modes (‘configurations’) of squatting; for example squatting as an alternative housing strategy, a strategy for saving monumental dwellings from demolition or squatting as a tactic for confronting neoliberalism. The subsequent chapters zoom into particular issues, such as the ways in which squatters organize the running of occupied places, respond to criminalization and form international travel networks. 

Cows Can't Jump

By Philip Bowne,

Book cover of Cows Can't Jump

Why this book?

Winner of the Spotlight First Novel Prize. The first thing to mention is that this is a debut novel. I tend to avoid them, the writing is usually sloppy, and it takes a few books for authors to learn the craft and get a feel for their style and voice. 

That is not the case with this book. The writing is excellent. This writing is up there at bestseller standard. I didn’t find a single typo or error in the book, not something I can say for most of the top names. I found half a dozen in the last King book I read. Browne is already at the top of his game. The story is sweet, the central character is an absolute tool, but you can’t help but love him, and you want the book to end well for him. He’s a character to root for.

I sometimes smile, or have an inward chuckle, but I’m a tough nut to crack when it comes to humour. This book made me laugh out loud more than once. It’s not my usual genre, I have psychological thriller in my DNA, but I loved this as a change from the norm. Would read this author again and am looking forward to seeing what he does in the future. A solid recommendation from me.

The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe

By Mark Mazower,

Book cover of The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe

Why this book?

There is no better scholar of modern Greece than Mark Mazower and his latest work on the Greek Revolution is a tour de force. As the title suggests, Mazower explores how the Greek Revolution, based on the “new politics” of national identity, overthrew Ottoman imperialism and established the world’s first true nation-state. The Greek Revolution gives us all the famous characters from 1821 in detail: Koloktronis, the brigand turned general who became a national hero. Ibrahim Pasha, the son of the Pasha of Egypt who dreamed of conquering Greece for himself. Ioannis Kapodistrias was a brilliant diplomat who became the first Greek head of state only to be murdered by his own people. And George Byron, the poet, turned adventurer, turned financer of the Greek Revolution who died of fever while campaigning for Greek freedom. At the same time, the book analyzes more universal characteristics of revolutions: their fundamental link to civil wars, the bloody, atrocity-filled realities of wars fought on the basis of nationalist principles, and the cynical complexities of geopolitics when the weak fight against the strong.

The Parasites

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of The Parasites

Why this book?

This novel, published in 1949, is about three grown-up siblings who are still dominated by the memory of their famous parents, both accomplished performers, and their atypical early years, which they spent playing in theaters across Europe. Though the majority of the novel takes place after the parents have died, the ties of family remain paramount for the three protagonists. At times each one feels desperate to escape those ties, but their shared past exerts an irresistible pull on all three. Unusually, the novel is narrated in the first-person plural: the narrative often refers to “us,” but tells each sibling’s individual scenes in the third person. With its three intertwined threads, The Parasites vividly explores the lifelong influence of family bonds.

Guard Your Daughters

By Diana Tutton,

Book cover of Guard Your Daughters

Why this book?

The true identity of Diana Tutton remains uncertain. She published three idiosyncratic novels in England in the 1950s, all of which have now fallen into obscurity. Of those, Guard Your Daughters is the best: it describes a loving family dedicated to protecting the children’s mother, whose poor health has led to an insular, overly sheltered lifestyle for her many daughters. Each of the girls is distinct and vividly drawn by Tutton, who has a keen eye for the traditions, tensions, and excitement of siblings in their teenage years. Over the course of the novel, the sisters gradually forge more connections with the outside world and discover not only their own larger desires but also the hidden truth of their family life.

Strangers in Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration

By David Miller,

Book cover of Strangers in Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration

Why this book?

I don’t agree with most of this book. But nonetheless it's a must-read for anyone who wants a great overview and defense of standard arguments to the effect that nation-state governments should enjoy broad power to exclude potential migrants. Miller puts the case well, and it’s easily grasped by experts and laypeople alike.

Time Out Great Train Journeys of the World (Time Out Guides)

By Time Out (editor),

Book cover of Time Out Great Train Journeys of the World (Time Out Guides)

Why this book?

Yes, this is a guidebook. Why do I love it so much? It’s the next best thing to actually riding a train. My bucket list of dream train rides is very long, and with two young kids, a couple of jobs, and currently an ongoing global pandemic, it’ll probably take me a while to get to all of them. Until then, I can immerse myself in the photos and descriptions in this book. 

Bulfinch's Mythology

By Thomas Bulfinch,

Book cover of Bulfinch's Mythology

Why this book?

When I was young I devoured Bullfinch's Mythology from cover to cover. Looking back, I am amazed that I had the time and the devotion to read the whole 900-odd pages, which give short, matter-of-fact recaps of the Greek and Roman myths, as well as the legends of King Arthur and Charlemagne. You'll find these tales far more beautifully told in the original Ovid or Virgil versions, I suppose, but if you just want the facts, Ma'am, the who's who of it all, then this is a fine place to start.

The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe

By Brian P. Levack,

Book cover of The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe

Why this book?

The Witch-Hunt is the place to start for anyone interested in European witch-hunts, witch trials, and beliefs about diabolic magic. The book is a concise history of magic and witchcraft in England and across the continent from 1450 to 1750. Levack touches on everything anyone needs to know about the topic, yet the book is more than a survey. The author provides in-depth information and myriad graphic details about the accusations, trials, tortures, and executions of thousands of people, largely women. Witchcraft was ubiquitously thought to be a crime and moral abomination, and it was prosecuted by both secular and church courts. But the specifics of witch-hunting in various locales differed according to complex factors such as religion, economics, social class, legal codes, the centralization of the government, and gender. Levack explains the geographical distribution of witch-hunts and how they spread and eventually ended.

The fourth edition of the book includes a chapter on modern witch-hunts in the US and Africa. I pick this book because it is a thorough and readable survey of the full scope of the oppression of those suspected of using the magic arts and serving the Devil in early modern Europe. It is important for us to understand how fear and manipulation contributed to a situation where approximately ninety-thousand people were persecuted and half that number were executed.

The Valley of Horses

By Jean M. Auel,

Book cover of The Valley of Horses

Why this book?

This is Book Two of her Earth’s Children series, and my favorite of this sweeping saga of the human experience. As a lover of history, archaeology, and sociology, as well as an animal lover and horse fanatic, I was immersed in the survival and existence of our resourceful, compassionate ancestors, making tools and clothing, finding food, building shelters, and domesticating animals. Not to mention the, ummmm, cave erotica. Jean Auel paints a vivid canvas of how the world appeared, gives us a taste of the cuisine and the vastness of the steppes and plains of prehistory. Spellbinding and engaging, I still reminisce of Ayla and Jondalar and their incredible journeys. Ms. Auel is a favorite author to listen to at writer’s conferences.   

Napoleon's Wars: An International History

By Charles J. Esdaile,

Book cover of Napoleon's Wars: An International History

Why this book?

This compelling history goes “beyond the legend that Napoleon himself helped create, to form a new, genuinely international context for his military career.”

History is most often written by the victors, and real life is never so one-sided. Esdaile writes as though he lived Napoleon’s life, and shows that many times his decisions were made (or changed) because of acts, or provocation, by British diplomats or agents. The quote by Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense says it all: “Any man who becomes the sole head of a great country by means other than heredity can only maintain himself in power if he gives the nation either liberty or military glory – if he makes himself, in short, either a Washington or a conqueror...it was impossible for him to establish...an absolute power except by bemusing reason [and] by every three months presenting the French people with some new spectacle.” Esdaile brings this unspoken part of brilliant military triumphs to light, the insecurity and the bombastic, the truth and hypocrisy that was Napoleon Bonaparte, and the demands of the country he ruled as Consul and Emperor.


By John Berger,

Book cover of G.

Why this book?

John Berger was a fantastic cultural observer and art critic, this book is erotic both in its observation of culture and context but also of human fallibility, and psychic and psychological transportation of love itself. It had a big influence on me as an art student and for the brief years when I was a sculptor. What I love about it is its empathy for both the female and male inner erotic life, although it is set in England and Europe at the end of the 19th century, Berger’s razor-sharp, succinct blending of the internal and external world is both moving and sensual. 

Taken by the Stranger

By Jenna Rose,

Book cover of Taken by the Stranger

Why this book?

This book is so deliciously over-the-top. Forced into a marriage she doesn't want, Sophie gets desperate and makes a crazy post online, begging someone to kidnap her. Phoenix actually does it, and it's just an insane level of possessive hotness from then on out. Phoenix is dark and gruff and growly and everything an obsessive alpha male should be.

Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

By Robin Briggs,

Book cover of Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

Why this book?

Whether or not, as Tip O’Neill said, all politics are local, all witchcraft accusations certainly are. Briggs has dug deeply into the archives of various Lorraine villages to unearth an astounding variety of beliefs about magic, sexuality, neighborliness, and social order—all tied to the phenomenon of the witch craze. Like Roper, he gets at the emotional, even therapeutic, impulses behind accusations that lead people in small face-to-face societies to turn on each other.  It’s certainly weird and disturbing, but not always in the ways we have come to expect. Sometimes difficult to obtain in the U.S., but worth the pursuit.

The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950-1350

By Robert S. Lopez,

Book cover of The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950-1350

Why this book?

This is an academic book, but don’t let it scare you. As for me – it blew my mind! I had no idea of the level of economic sophistication and advance of Medieval Europe. Lopez explains in extraordinary detail the time period when our modern conception of money—as debt, as mortgage, as loans, and as an international object of commerce—was born.

Aux Frontières du Jazz

By Robert Goffin,

Book cover of Aux Frontières du Jazz

Why this book?

Any aficionado follower of our music is aware that – for all the lists of books on jazz, worldwide nowadays – in truth the very first nations to study seriously and passionately this extraordinary music called jazz were the European countries.   They discovered in the 1930s the magic of those Black orchestras that entertained the wealthy cruise ships travelling from the United States to France and Europe. The local musicians welcomed their Black colleagues who became their teachers. While in the United States jazz music was considered just another form of dance music, in Europe, it was examined, dissected, catalogued, and played with great passion.

The very first world book ever published on jazz came from Belgium in 1932, called At the Frontiers of Jazz by Robert Goffin (in the French language). Followed the famous Le Hot Jazz by Panassiè in 1934, today also translated into English. The dam was opened and Europe offered all sorts of books, magazines, guides to the rest of the world. In America, jazz was rhythmic music to be danced to. In Europe, it was also a matter of study, like any form of classic music.   

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

By Robert Coram,

Book cover of Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

Why this book?

In both war and business, size and technology are pieces of a winning strategy, but not the biggest factors. Otherwise, the Fortune 500 would never turn over! To figure out what’s missing, Boyd added insights from thermodynamics, quantum physics, physiology, and mathematics to Sun Tzu’s philosophy of winning without fighting, or, if that proves impossible, to win before fighting. The result was a revolution in the design of fighter aircraft and a doctrine of warfare that has been adopted by militaries from the US Marine Corps to the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Coram was a reporter and novelist before turning to biography, and his story of Boyd and his life, both personal and professional, is a page-turner.

The Land of 10,000 Madonnas

By Kate Hattemer,

Book cover of The Land of 10,000 Madonnas

Why this book?

I bought this book for the title, and happily there are Madonnas galore in this story, including in the apartment of “two motherless dudes,” dying teen Jessie T. Serrano and his dad. This quest novel—before he dies, Jessie sets up a mysterious trip to Europe for his three cousins, best friend and girlfriend—follows five grieving young adults on a doomed pilgrimage in a strange continent. If you have ever been a teen (as I assume you have) you will connect with the six (!!) point of view characters, each flawed but achingly human. "Not all stories are about love," says one of them, but this story most definitely is.

The Birth of Modern Belief: Faith and Judgment from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment

By Ethan H. Shagan,

Book cover of The Birth of Modern Belief: Faith and Judgment from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment

Why this book?

This book’s idea hooks you from the start. Why, he wonders, when people say, "Do you believe in God?" do we never reply, "…what do you mean, believe?" It turns out that ‘believing’ has, down the centuries, meant some pretty radically different things. Is ‘belief’ the same as ‘knowledge’ or ‘opinion,’ or is it the opposite of them? Ethan Shagan’s disarmingly simple idea is to track how the notion of belief shifted from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. If we do believe in God nowadays, we don’t do it the way our forebears did. And if we don’t, it’s not because God has become unbelievable, but because belief itself has become so much harder than it used to be.

Climate and Society in Europe: The Last Thousand Years

By Christian Pfister, Heinz Wanner,

Book cover of Climate and Society in Europe: The Last Thousand Years

Why this book?

This is a most impressive account of human history and past climatic extremes. It brings together the best of our knowledge of the climate history of Europe as recorded in old archives, paintings, monastery records, sagas, pay lists, tax records, hinting at years without summer, famines, bonanza yields, etc. These fingerprints of the past are combined with the best of modern climatology and provide a holistic picture of past and novel aspects of climatic change. A masterpiece resulting from the cooperation of two outstanding authors: a historian and a climatologist. If you wish to understand climatic extremes, this is the book to digest. 

The Suicide Shop

By Jean Teulé, Sue Dyson (translator),

Book cover of The Suicide Shop

Why this book?

A funny book about suicide, what more do you want? If like me you’re prone to those dark thoughts, you really do have to laugh about it. This book is absurd yes but also has so much to say about human nature and spirit. It’s a cult classic that’s about life, not death, that will make you feel hopeful, the same way I hope my book does.

Egyptian Magic

By C. Jacq,

Book cover of Egyptian Magic

Why this book?

The world of the ancient Egyptians was a world so permeated with magic, which controlled every facet of life that traces still linger in Egypt to this day. Dr. Jacq is an authority on ancient Egyptian religious texts and it was an encounter with these traces in the form of a family of snake-charmers, which kindled his interest in Egyptian magic. I particularly liked this Aris & Phillips version because it has an Introduction by Rosalie David and in later editions, it was omitted.

The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis

By Patrick Kingsley,

Book cover of The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis

Why this book?

Kingsley’s The New Odyssey is a journalistic account of what became known during the 2015-2016 period as “Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” It brings a human face to the million or so refugees— a significant number of whom were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq— who sought asylum in Europe by way of various irregular Mediterranean routes. By embedding himself with the refugees at the center of his book, Kingsley gives an intimate portrait of the reasons Europe became a destination for these refugees and of the violence and hardships they are subjected to at the hands of an unwelcoming Europe. The New Odyssey also provides an in-depth and nuanced portrait of the smugglers who, while by no means idealized in the book, are an easy scapegoat in European attempts to deflect responsibility for the suffering and death of migrants taking the irregular Mediterranean routes. Kingsley’s narrative balances a broad overview of the experiences of refugees trying to reach Europe with the specific story of Hashem al-Souki, a Syrian fleeing war in his country and ultimately seeking refuge in Sweden.

The Books of Jacob

By Olga Tokarczuk, Jennifer Croft (translator),

Book cover of The Books of Jacob

Why this book?

Another book of epic ambition but an unlikely subject: a messianic Jewish religious leader in 18th-century Poland.  The author’s prodigious research fuses with her writer’s ability to bring individuals as well as the movement to life.  This historical fiction lacks Grossman’s eyewitness foundations but vividly captures the values and lifestyles of its central figure, Jacob Frank, and his avid followers against the background of Catholic Poland and Ottoman Islam and will challenge modern readers with a vanished world of values and actions. 


By Sylvia Smith,

Book cover of Misadventures

Why this book?

A memoir that deals with the everyday life of an office worker in 1950s/60s London seems like a joke and, indeed, when it came out, it was treated as such but there is some kind of poetry in this exploration of the humdrum. The manuscript was discovered in the slush pile by a rare editor who grasped the humour of what would appear to be an empty life but a life that Smith is content with. She lived with her parents until her twenties then moved into various lodgings, descriptions, and inhabitants of which are examined in detail. Smith had many short-term boyfriends, usually meeting them at a 'social club'.

Chapters are minimalistic and quirky but I wondered if some could be expanded and if she had missed some opportunities. Not a lot happens as Smith moves through life as a secretary making her observations, some grotesque, some unusual, some so humdrum they seem bizarre. I was reminded of Dot Cotton. Smith rarely delves into her psyche and what we have at the most is subtext, rather like Pinter or a Kitchen Sink drama. 

The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1550-1700: An Interpretation

By Robert John Weston Evans,

Book cover of The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1550-1700: An Interpretation

Why this book?

Robert Evans’s masterpiece is the reader’s equivalent of scaling Himalayan peaksand marveling at the views. The author’s linguistic and intellectual range is breathtaking. Those who read this classic of learned prose carefully will be taken on an unforgettable journey right over and below the horizon of the Central European mind between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. One of the greatest works of early modern intellectual history ever written.

Filthy Crown: A Single Dad Age Gap Romance

By Eleanor Aldrick,

Book cover of Filthy Crown: A Single Dad Age Gap Romance

Why this book?

This book was the first work I’ve ever read by this author, and to say I was blown away is an understatement! It’s an age-gap romance with daddy kink. That being said, I don’t normally read daddy kink, but it didn’t take away from how good the book was. It actually made it spicier, which I loved!

The Musical Life: Hedwig Stein: Emigree Pianist

By Helen Marquard,

Book cover of The Musical Life: Hedwig Stein: Emigree Pianist

Why this book?

Helen Marquard’s search for a piano teacher led her to Hedwig Stein who had fled Berlin in 1933 with her Russian Jewish husband, both concert pianists, to start again from nothing. A large, vivid woman, Hedwig freely shared her ideas on music, art, philosophy, literature. Later, Marquard discovered Hedwig had written a diary, and determined to bring us this story that would otherwise have been lost, enabling Hedwig and her husband to take their rightful place in the roll-call of émigrés who have contributed so much to UK cultural life. Hedwig put her husband’s career and her children first, yet she never gave up on her own career, which continued its own quiet flourishing after her husband’s sudden death. 

Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568

By Guy Halsall,

Book cover of Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568

Why this book?

To understand the Goths and their importance in western history, we must set them within their broader context. That is the great value of Halsall’s book, which explores in depth the relationship between the Germanic peoples and the Roman Empire and how the barbarian migrations transformed early medieval Europe. This is history on a large scale, as the title suggests, and Halsall ranges widely from Britain to North Africa as he examines how different Germanic groups settled and forged new identities across the Roman west. It is a story in which the Goths played a crucial role, particularly the Ostrogoths in Italy and the Visigoths in Spain, although in the long-term the Goths would disappear, unlike the Franks who succeeded in founding a lasting kingdom.

Kafka: I Am a Memory Come Alive: Autobiographical Writings

By Franz Kafka, Nahum N.Glatzer (editor),

Book cover of Kafka: I Am a Memory Come Alive: Autobiographical Writings

Why this book?

This book, unique in its construction, gave me a deeper insight into this leading author of the 20th century. We all know and may use the term “Kafkaesque” we don’t necessarily know from whence the term and its experience comes. This biography, drawing from Kafka’s own writings, documents his life in his own words. Glatzer has masterfully edited excerpts from the writer’s diaries, letters, and published works to create an autobiography that Kafka “contemplated but never wrote.” Kafka’s world view, the Kafkaesque, is vividly evoked.

The Lady's Guide to Scandal

By Emmanuelle de Maupassant,

Book cover of The Lady's Guide to Scandal

Why this book?

If you want a little mystery, intrigue, and adventure sprinkled into your historical romance, I don’t think you can find anyone better than Emmanuelle de Maupassant. Her Lady’s Guide series is perfect for you if you want to be rescued by a hero or glorify in a powerful heroine. It’s packed full of mysterious gentlemen, mistaken identity, adventure, travelling across Europe and of course, steamy delightful encounters… 

Before Civilization

By Colin Renfrew,

Book cover of Before Civilization

Why this book?

Based on the "radiocarbon revolution" as a method of dating archaeological finds, the great English archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew redraws the map of the dawn of civilization in the Mediterranean basin and in Europe. The result is a new framework, in which the idea of a single cradle, located between Egypt and the Middle East, from which civilization would have spread to the rest of Europe, is replaced by the identification of different places where it started, scattered throughout the continent.

The Flight of Icarus: Artisan Autobiography in Early Modern Europe

By James S. Amelang,

Book cover of The Flight of Icarus: Artisan Autobiography in Early Modern Europe

Why this book?

Amelang’s book is one-of-a-kind, a non-fiction study of hundreds of autobiographies by a group of people from whom one would not expect literary productions: common artisans and tradesmen and women. He explores through their writings covering several hundred years how a sense of individuality gradually emerged over time, pointing toward the appearance of the modern self.

Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages

By Patrick J. Geary,

Book cover of Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages

Why this book?

In the US, when we think about Christianity, we tend not to think much about saints and when we do, they are at best a sort of role model for piety, an antiquated cast of characters in the history of religion. But to early Christians, saints were powerful patrons. The earliest saints were the martyrs put to death by the pagan Roman state: thrown to the lions, massacred by gladiators, executed at the orders of Roman officials. These saints’ bodies and tombs became objects of veneration, purported to produce miracles. In the middle ages, as Christianity became the dominant force in Europe, everyone wanted to benefit from the proximity to these holy men and women. But if you lived in Northern Europe, you didn’t have access to the hundreds of saintly bodies buried in Spain, Italy, or Provence. What to do? Buy them or steal them! In this fascinating book, Patrick Geary looks at how many Northern European Christians, monks, priests, bishops, or others, created a black market of bought or stolen relics: an arm of St. Perpetua, a tooth of St. Peter, etc. A reminder that Christianity was very different from what we think.

Journey into Russia

By Laurens van der Post,

Book cover of Journey into Russia

Why this book?

The author was an old fraud but this is a delightful period piece which reveals a good deal, sometimes inadvertently, about the lives of Russians in the benighted Soviet sixties.

Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools

By Victoria Twead,

Book cover of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools

Why this book?

Besides being delighted by the title, I was keen to read this highly-recommended book about moving to Spain. Victoria and her long-suffering husband really did up sticks and buy a home in a tiny mountain village in Andalucía. I was dying to know how they got on.

What a treat. This exquisitely written book is packed with hilarious tales about their property restorations, the local folks, and the battles they have with a psychotic cockerel. Really, it’s true! I learned about the region, loved Victoria’s character descriptions and finished wanting more. Rumour has it that many folks wanted to dash over to Spain to join them after reading this gem – and I’m not surprised. Happily, ‘Chickens’ is the first in a best-selling series from this award-winning author. I have read every book so far, and each has been an absolute winner.

The Decameron

By Giovanni Boccaccio,

Book cover of The Decameron

Why this book?

There’s nothing I relish more than spending an evening with friends, telling stories. That’s The Decameron in a nutshell, except its ten friends regale one another while hiding out from the Black Death, in the 1300s. I savored the many tales about love, tragic or poignant, and I laughed out loud at the stories ridiculing the clergy.

Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

By Alan Macfarlane,

Book cover of Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

Why this book?

Originally published in 1970, this was another foundational text for me and other witchcraft scholars of my generation.

It grew out of Macfarlane’s doctoral thesis focusing on Essex, which had been supervised by Keith Thomas, whose own great book, Religion and the Decline of Magic (much of which dealt with witches), came out the following year. Even then, the historian Macfarlane was on his way to becoming an anthropologist – a transition visible on every page of this fascinating book.

But its overriding character is that of a work of sociology. Social science models helped to impose interpretative order on the kind of archival information dug up by C. L’Estange Ewen, and connected a rise in witchcraft accusations to a number of strains in late-sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English life, especially economic strains.

Although their interpretations differ in substance and emphasis, Macfarlane and Thomas are still associated with a paradigm of suspicion where poor people begging at the houses of wealthier neighbours were turned away, generating dangerous feelings of resentment (on one side) and guilt (on the other). The so-called ‘charity refused’ model remains a compelling idea for explaining how and why some people came to believe that others were trying to harm them using witchcraft.

Terror on the Mountain

By Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz,

Book cover of Terror on the Mountain

Why this book?

Swiss novelist Ramuz delivers a taut, engrossing tale about Alpine villagers whose decision to tempt fate ends in disaster. Ignoring the pleas of their elders, some young men take their flocks to summer in an upland mountain pasture that is reputed locally to be a cursed place. It turns out that the reputation is well earned.

Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

By Keith Lowe,

Book cover of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

Why this book?

Keith Lowe is a brilliant researcher and this account of the after-effects of the Second World war on Europe makes for harrowing reading. When Europe was still shuddering from the war's destruction, the allies frequently behave brutally towards the vanquished Germans. The worst excesses, especially against women, were deliberately committed by the Russians followed by the French. This aspect of the war has mostly been overlooked by historians.

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

By Anne Applebaum,

Book cover of Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

Why this book?

People in the West tend to celebrate 1945 as a year of liberation; but, of course, in Eastern Europe, the defeat of Germany merely heralded the beginning of four more decades of repression. In this book, Anne Applebaum describes the Communist takeover of three European countries – East Germany, Poland, and Hungary. It’s a masterpiece both of research and of analysis. Communism, just like capitalism, had many faces: this book shows brilliantly just how varied repression can be. In 2013 it won the lucrative Cundill Prize, and deservedly so.

Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough,

Book cover of Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

Why this book?

Dr Barraclough not only traces Viking voyages north, south, east and west, she has followed in their footsteps. She was knighted with the penis-bone of a walrus by the Polar Bear Society of Hammarfest, saw the runestones commemorating those who “died in the east with Ingvar,” and mapped saga accounts of Newfoundland. Grisly information about Icelandic “necropants” and the Greenland hero “Corpse-Lodin.” This book has particularly beautiful color plates.

Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice

By Mary Fulbrook,

Book cover of Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice

Why this book?

In 2019 I published a review of Mary Fulbrook’s Reckonings in the journal HistoryThe review may have been the most laudatory I’ve written. Fulbrook’s study of the Holocaust and its noxious aftereffects lingers with me today. I’ve come to think of Reckonings as the War and Peace of Holocaust histories. Like Tolstoy’s epic, it paints on a sprawling canvas, exhausting the writer’s palette to portray the Holocaust as a searing multi-generational phenomenon. Reckonings does not approach the Shoah as most writers of the Holocaust do, namely, as a monumental but time-limited event. Fulbrook conceives of the Holocaust as a cancer that blights the victims and their families into the second and third generations. The radioactive fallout of the Shoah continues to the present day, poisoning people’s lives so deeply that no human response is adequate to deal with it. She upholds the tragedy of the Holocaust by refusing to banish it with the usual nostrums: the triumph of the human spirit, the defeat of Hitler, the creation of Israel, etc. For Fulbrook, the Shoah represents the triumph of evil, pure and simple.

Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

By Sarah Gristwood,

Book cover of Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

Why this book?

There is no doubt that the sixteenth century was a man’s world. Women were treated as second-class citizens and viewed as inferior in every single respect: mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet it was also the era of powerful female sovereigns, consorts and regents. Sarah Gristwood’s beautifully written and well-researched study follows the varying fortunes of some of the period’s most formidable matriarchs, from Isabella of Castile to the six wives of Henry VIII.

Louisbourg: Key to a Continent

By Fairfax Downey,

Book cover of Louisbourg: Key to a Continent

Why this book?

This is the most obscure book on my list. But I truly enjoyed reading it. Not only was it utterly informative about the town and fortress of Louisbourg, the largest fort outside of Europe in its day, but Mr. Downey wrote his work in an almost beautiful way. He made countless references and drew many parallels to other eras and conflicts. After reading, I better understood what it was like to be trapped inside those walls during a siege. Likewise, I shivered as I considered the conditions suffered by the besiegers outside.

Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

By Emily Yellin,

Book cover of Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

Why this book?

The author’s extensive research opened my eyes to how life changed for women in World War II. The stories presented range from inspiring to heart-wrenching. Women were called on to step outside of traditional roles during the war. They volunteered to be involved in myriad ways with commitment, passion, and an earnest desire to contribute their skills. I’ve gone back to this book repeatedly when writing. A must-read for every woman interested in women’s history. 

The Viking Achievement

By P.G. Foote, D.M. Wilson,

Book cover of The Viking Achievement

Why this book?

This is one of the first books of Viking history that approached the Vikings on their own terms rather than their effect on Christian Europe. It illuminates areas of their lives like Viking technology, laws, and social organizations, and then how Viking explorers, traders, and raiders exported those abroad. As I began researching my Viking novels, this was one of the books that brought me into the Viking world the most fully.

A Seventh Man

By John Berger,

Book cover of A Seventh Man

Why this book?

Berger published this in 1975 at a time when Turkish, Greek, and Portuguese guest workers were arriving in Western Europe, having been recruited by employers to fill vacancies in factories during the years of sustained economic growth. Berger succeeds in humanising these workers, helped by photos taken by his long-term collaborator, the Swiss photographer Jean Mohr. Berger could not anticipate that these young men would later be joined by their families and put down roots. His book speaks of adventure and opportunity, but also of exploitation and humiliation. Numerous memorable vignettes stick in my mind, including his observation about migrant workers from Portugal, governed by the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar:

Before leaving they had their photographs taken. They tore the photograph in half, giving one half to their ‘guide’ and keeping the other themselves. When they reached France, they sent their half of the photograph back to their family in Portugal to show that they had been safely escorted across the frontier; the ‘guide’ came to the family to prove that it was he who had escorted them, and it was only then that the family paid the $350.

This is a vivid illustration of the tactics adopted by workers who relied upon smugglers to help them to evade Salazar’s police and border guards.

Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon

By Rory Muir,

Book cover of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon

Why this book?

A study of the mechanics of combat in the Napoleonic era, this work is billed As covering the whole gamut of the Napoleonic Wars, but the bulk of the material on which it is based is drawn from the Peninsular War, and so it may be viewed as primarily belonging to the historiography of that conflict. As such, it is excellent, however: if anyone is looking for something that will give them an insight into what the officers and men of the British and French armies went through on the battlefields of Spain and Portugal, this is very much the place to go.

Chinese Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Chinese Cooking

By Ken Hom, Willie Kee, Harvey Steiman (photographer)

Book cover of Chinese Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Chinese Cooking

Why this book?

An excellent primer in the ingredients and techniques of Chinese cooking, with very instructive step by step photos from the pre youtube era by an experienced, knowledgeable and encouraging teacher. This book was one of the first Chinese cookbooks I acquired many years ago, and I still refer to it often.

Saturday at M.I.9

By Airey Neave,

Book cover of Saturday at M.I.9

Why this book?

Saturday was the codename given to Airey Neave when he worked for MI9, the branch of military intelligence for escape and evasion in World War Two. Neave has achieved legendary status as the first British man to successfully escape from Colditz Castle, Leipzig in Germany in 1942, and make it back to England. This fortress – nicknamed ‘the camp for naughty boys’ by British officer POWs – was believed by the Germans to be impenetrable and from which no prisoner could ever escape. Neave’s success vastly raised the morale of airmen and soldiers going into action because they knew it was possible to escape from such camps. Neave was perfectly placed to write this first history of MI9, placing on record the establishment and running of the major escape lines as well the bravery of thousands of women and men of Nazi-occupied countries who aided MI9 and saved over 35,000 Allied personnel. Their legacy went beyond this to smuggle intelligence out for the Allies. This timeless narrative remains one of the foremost classics on MI9, its intelligence operations, agents, and wartime espionage.  

Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

By John A. Lynn II,

Book cover of Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

Why this book?

This is one of the first scholarly studies of women in and around the battlefield. It is notable for its depiction of women who were active in warfare who were not queens or larger-than-life heroines. It also includes what I think is hands-down the best discussion of the uncomfortable relationship between military history and gender studies that plagues all attempts to write about women in war.

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

By Walter Rodney,

Book cover of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Why this book?

The canon of anti-colonial, anti-racism writing from and about Africa includes many authors whose passion and insights are sometimes muddied by turgid or masculinist prose. For me, Rodney stands out – and stands the test of time – by the way he so masterfully weaves history into a compelling narrative that utterly demolishes the lies and conceits about supposed Western benevolence toward the continent. Scales fell from my eyes the first time (of many) I read this book. And yes, Rodney is almost as androcentric in his language, sources, and arguments as was the norm in those days. But his acknowledgment of the dignity of African women is implicit, and his discussion of the regressive elements of the colonial economy and education for African women and girls presaged a field of scholarly enquiry and activism that still intrigues me.

London: The Biography

By Peter Ackroyd,

Book cover of London: The Biography

Why this book?

The daddy of all London books, an encomium to a city of myth. Its buildings hold and hide legends. Its rivers are lost underground. Its backstreets vanish into fable. Its characters are blurred between fact and fiction. Truths have been twisted by fantasy. Tourists are rendered blind, stepping around beggars to photograph the past, and sit in parks reading of a city that only springs to life in the mind, for in reality only the faintest outline traces now remain. A truly remarkable tour de force.

Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures

By Marcy Norton,

Book cover of Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures

Why this book?

Focusing on the Spanish Empire, this book explores two of the most imported goods from the Americas. Norton carefully examines the deep cultural significance of Tobacco and Chocolate amongst the indigenous peoples of the Americas and how the goods were adopted and adapted in Europe, ultimately highlighting the profound impact imperialism had on European cultures.

Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, 800-1230

By Sara McDougall,

Book cover of Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, 800-1230

Why this book?

For much of Western history, birth out of wedlock has been a serious barrier to inheritance and succession. It is often assumed that this attitude arrived alongside Christianity: yet, McDougall explains that the medieval world actually cared very little about the circumstances of one’s birth until the thirteenth century. What historians have consistently misinterpreted as concern for legitimate birth was instead dogged insistence that a legitimate marriage existed only when husband and wife were of equivalent status. This is particularly relevant when it comes to an heir’s “throneworthiness.” It was not sufficient for a king to be the son of a great man with a remarkable patriline; the matriline had to be every bit as impressive to qualify him for the throne.

McDougall’s eminently readable and thought-provoking book reveals how the misogynistic assumptions of modern-day historians have gotten in the way of understanding medieval dynasties. Historians have preferred to see queens merely as vessels, while medieval kings and their subjects instead welcomed them as scions of great families and astute political partners whose own family connections were vital to successful rule.

God is My Co-Pilot

By Robert L. Scott,

Book cover of God is My Co-Pilot

Why this book?

The archetypal combat flying story, this is an easy, fun, and eye-opening book that Scott wrote only months after returning from the war. Scott clearly loved to fly and had done so since the early 1930s after graduating from West Point. Resourceful and tenacious, he received command of a fighter group in China after having been officially told the previous year that he was too old (at the ripe old age of 33) to fly fighters. This is a rollicking read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Veneziaenigma: Thirteen Centuries of Chronicles, Mysteries, Curiosities and Extraordinary Events Poised Between History and Myth

By Alberto Toso Fei,

Book cover of Veneziaenigma: Thirteen Centuries of Chronicles, Mysteries, Curiosities and Extraordinary Events Poised Between History and Myth

Why this book?

Toso Fei is a Venetian author who writes about the quirks and mysteries of Venice. He has several books about ghost stories, strange events, and inventions. All his books are great because he not only writes well but is knowledgeable as only an insider can be.

Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

By Silvia Federici,

Book cover of Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

Why this book?

If The Many-Headed Hydra revealed a hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic, Caliban and the Witch totally upended my understanding of witches, gender, and the rise of capitalism. A landmark text that sent shockwaves across the history field, Silvia Federici’s writing on the role of unwaged and reproductive labour in the making of the modern world is unrivaled. In a testament to its power and reach, Penguin released a new edition in 2021. A book to give to every socialist dude-bro or those who doubt the importance of gender to profit and power. 

A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900

By Lauren Benton,

Book cover of A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900

Why this book?

This book uses seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century piracy as one of its case studies to make innovative arguments about global history. Through a discussion of piracy, Benton seeks to transform our understanding of the significance of oceanic space. Though empires might assert control over territories and their inhabitants, in fact, their jurisdiction, or sovereignty, was uneven – thinner in some places than others, and only realized in fits and starts.

For Benton, the spatial figure of the corridor as a conduit for law and jurisdiction is vital to understanding the geography and movement of early modern imperial power. Inconsistencies in the application of prize law, the regulation of privateering, and the prosecution of piracy graphically show the unevenness of sovereignty at sea and the ways by which all types of mariner attempted to mark out jurisdictional corridors as they traversed the world's waters.

Africa's Discovery of Europe, 1450-1850

By David Northup,

Book cover of Africa's Discovery of Europe, 1450-1850

Why this book?

Northup provocatively challenges our perceptions of the early modern world. By offering a relativist view and investigating the primary sources written by Africans themselves the Africans of the early modern period. They reveal much about sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe, as well as African civilizations.     

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race

By Reni Eddo-Lodge,

Book cover of Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race

Why this book?

Next to a growing body of work on the centuries-old Black human and cultural presence in and contributions to Europe (see among others the work of David Olusoga, Peter Fryer, Paul Gilroy, Olivette Olete, and Jacqueline Nassy Brown), memoirs and autobiography provide an excellent means for understanding the Black lived experience in Europe. In line with a longer, transnational Black tradition of using the genre to counter Black invisibility in history writing and collective memory, such works often expertly combine personal narrative with historical research.

While countless other impressive examples exist (see e.g. Afua Hirsh) and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s work doesn’t fully qualify as a ‘memoir,’ I chose her work because of the honest and insightful way it addresses—and has fueled British discussions on—the meaning of citizenship for racialized subjects in the United Kingdom, and the roles class and the politics of memory play in this. As a time document of the pre-and post-Brexit era, the book also underscores the homegrown roots of what Eddo-Lodge calls today’s European “renaissance of black critical thought and culture.” 

How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say

By Melissa Caughey,

Book cover of How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say

Why this book?

There are an estimated 50 billion chickens to the world’s 7 billion humans, and chickens are the closest living relative to Tyrannosaurus rex, so why wouldn’t you want to learn their language? This is a fun, fast book to read in anticipation of getting your first little flock. The central lesson in the book is that you should spend time with your chickens--watching them, but also listening to them. The book teaches what their core vocalizations mean, therefore also helping you in caring for their needs. I couldn’t wait to have a "chicken name" assigned to me by my laying ladies!

Am I Really Ready for A Puppy?

By Doliah Snead,

Book cover of Am I Really Ready for A Puppy?

Why this book?

Being kind is not only doing something, but kindness is also knowing when you are not ready or responsible enough to care for something like a pet. Oftentimes we think of ourselves and our wants and overlook our capabilities and responsibilities.

Doomsday Book

By Connie Willis,

Book cover of Doomsday Book

Why this book?

This is one of my favourite time-slips ever! Oxford University 2054CE, and historians are now travelling back in time to study seminal moments in history. Post-graduate student, Kivrin, goes through the Net to observe life in medieval time, but the coordinates are wrong and instead, she finds herself in a small village at the time of plague, not knowing that she herself is already carrying a virulent form of a flu-like plague sweeping through the History Department. Desperately ill, Kirvrin has no hope of rescue unless she can identify the ‘saviour’ who found her out in the woods and brought her back to the manor house to be nursed. While her supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and student Colin, try to locate her, Kivrin becomes involved with the family at the manor house, and the village priest, Father Roche, who is trying to save his flock with only limited medical knowledge and means at his disposal. 


By Mark Janssen,

Book cover of Island

Why this book?

A dear colleague of mine, a few years back he decided to just go for it. He used all his experience and did stuff he never did before. The result, an explosion of colour and beautiful use of different techniques. These pictures just keep on giving and giving. Every time you'll spot something new. Once again wordless, but children necessarily don't need words to understand a story.

Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World

By Andrew Phillips, J.C. Sharman,

Book cover of Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World

Why this book?

The “company-states” of the book’s title include the East India companies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and their peers in other regions, like the Hudson’s Bay Company. These corporations enjoyed many of the powers of states: they hired troops, armed ships, waged war, and signed treaties with foreign rulers. Some came to govern empires. The authors explain how these hybrid geopolitical actors—part capitalist businesses, part polities—came to acquire a key role in global politics, and why they subsequently lost it. Modern multinationals can be geopolitical actors too, we imagine, but Phillips and Sharman show how different the capitalist order of the past was from the world we live in today.

The Conquest of Water: The Advent of Health in the Industrial Age

By Jean-Pierre Goubert, Andrew Wilson (translator),

Book cover of The Conquest of Water: The Advent of Health in the Industrial Age

Why this book?

Europeans had feared water since the Black Death of 1347 when the doctors of the Sorbonne pronounced that people who took warm baths were more susceptible to the plague. There followed what the French historian Jules Michelet called (with some hyperbole) “five hundred years without a bath.” Goubert’s scholarly but always readable book describes the gradual and tentative death of this longstanding myth. Beginning in the 18th century, the emergence of the idea of water as a benefit and not a danger to public health was complicated and touched many areas of life. Goubert is adept at moving from social to cultural to administrative sectors, with just the right balance of theory and anecdotes.

Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History

By Carlo M. Cipolla, Christopher Woodall (translator),

Book cover of Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History

Why this book?

Cipolla, a brilliant author, shows in this study how economic history and economic concepts can be used to study the past even when they did not exist at the time. Cipolla engagingly explains how economic concepts, even when unrecognized, can be useful tools of analysis. In order to demonstrate this principle, for example, he memorably explains how the clothes used to prevent plague in medieval Europe were effective for reasons totally different than contemporaries realized. Mistaken understandings could still lead to effective actions.  

A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai

By Tess Johnston,

Book cover of A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai

Why this book?

Hard to imagine now, but when Tess Johnston arrived in Shanghai as an American diplomat in 1981, no one was researching or writing much about Old Shanghai. Fascinated by the city’s old Western buildings, she collaborated with Shanghainese photographer Deke Erh to piece together the stories behind the once-grand architecture. Photographed in the 1980s and ’90s, A Last Look provides a provocative visual history of Old Shanghai, accompanied by succinct text penned in Johnston’s personable style. This oeuvre is not only an appealing entrée into a lost era but has become a precious remembrance, as many of its subject buildings and neighborhoods have since been demolished. Although the book is out of print, it’s worth ordering a used copy.


By Luther Blissett,

Book cover of Q

Why this book?

Q takes place in strife-ridden 1500s central Europe. At the center is an Anabaptist revolutionary, of many names, hunted by a Papal spy, Q. Identities mutate in Q. Thus, Q is an espionage novel, with disguises, code, counterfeiting. Commoners build egalitarian communities in Q. But rulers cannot tolerate egalitarianism. It might be catching. Thus, Q is also a war novel, with battles, skirmishes, narrow escapes. 

Is Q an allegory for modern revolution? The take-away seems to be, “Use the new technology and dissimulate.” A seems self-evident. But B? Would I even know, if they’re dissimulating? An idea-filled, engrossing, wide-ranging, tragi-comic read.

Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300

By Susan Reynolds,

Book cover of Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300

Why this book?

Susan Reynolds was renowned for speaking her mind, never rudely but always forthrightly. If she considered that a generally accepted view or term was wrong or misleading or ill-defined, she said so. In a later work of hers, Fiefs and Vassals, she questioned the very value of the term “feudalism” when analyzing the Middle Ages. In Kingdoms and Communities, a rather less polemical work, she argued for the importance of self-organizing lay communities (parishes, guilds, even “the community of the realm”) as contrasted with the traditional focus on kings and the Church. Susan was in the line of a long tradition of female medievalists at Oxford and Cambridge, going back even before female students were allowed to take degrees. Eileen Power (1889-1940), author of Medieval People (1924, still in print) would be a precursor.

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

By Norman F. Cantor,

Book cover of In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

Why this book?

Cantor’s book showed me that when a lethal pandemic arrives, it can change society in ways that make “returning to normal” impossible, because the conditions that made “normal” possible no longer exist. The Black Death - probably a bubonic plague pandemic - wiped out as much as half of China’s population, before traveling the silk road to Europe where, from 1347-1351, a third of the population died. The pandemic also suffocated the feudal order, created the conditions for capitalism, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, breathed new life into art, and transformed the legal system. In effect, the pandemic plowed the seedbed for the modern Western world. Covid may be a similar epidemiological juggernaut, sweeping away human institutions that we know, leaving us a novel world that will be strange and different in ways we can’t yet imagine.

War in the Middle Ages

By Philippe Contamine,

Book cover of War in the Middle Ages

Why this book?

This book was my “bible” during my days as an MA student of medieval warfare. Contamine convinced me that medieval warfare was truly at the heart of medieval society and thus deserving of dedicated study and research. While densely packed with facts and figures that can be daunting in their quantity, it is full of fascinating revelations, such as the bugler on the battlefield who died from over-exertion!

The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting

By Alexander Vasudevan,

Book cover of The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting

Why this book?

Vasudevan is one of the first to provide an account of the global history of urban squatting, from the late 19th century to the present. His central claim is that squats are never simply about acquiring housing, but also ‘offer place[s] of collective world-making’. He wants to find out how squatters ‘reimagined the city as a space of necessity and refuge, experimentation and resistance’. As squatters take buildings into use, they recreate the space, filling it with new life and energies, forming new networks and identities as they work towards making abandoned places inhabitable again. Vasudevan’s study allows for global comparisons, and he explicitly includes the actions and experiences of migrants, women, and queer activists in the history of squatting.

Santa Lilio Sangre Ayami Kojima Artworks Art Book

By Ayami Kojima,

Book cover of Santa Lilio Sangre Ayami Kojima Artworks Art Book

Why this book?

Ayami Kojima has held my heart for as long as I was an artist. Her visual style is something anyone can recognize, and the aftershock of knowing that this artist defined an entire video game industry aesthetic made me love her work even more. I managed to find only pieces of this book online until I was able to finally afford this super rare book filled with her hyper-detailed oil paintings.

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

By David Macaulay,

Book cover of Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

Why this book?

We love all of David Macauley’s books. He uses hand-drawn black-and-white illustrations to describe the enormous effort and complicated processes involved in building some of the most magnificent structures in the world, from cathedrals to castles to pyramids. Cathedral was his first, and we think the best. Although intended for young readers, there are many builders, engineers, and architects that find wonder in Macauley’s work. 

More Than Neighbors

By Isabel Keats, Simon Bruni (translator),

Book cover of More Than Neighbors

Why this book?

As I'm sure you have already guessed this is one of my own few stories translated to English ;-D. I chose it to be part of this selection because one of the few things that Cat and Leo, the main characters, have in common is how absolutely different they are. And this, I think, is one of the strong points of the book; the fact that two people that are poles apart can fall madly in love with each other. The other is that More Than Neighbors is an easy feel-good read.

Gravity's Rainbow

By Thomas Pynchon,

Book cover of Gravity's Rainbow

Why this book?

Gravity’s Rainbow is the granddaddy of deeply weird historical novels. From its opening line “A screaming comes across the sky” to the final few pages where the implications of that simple sentence become chillingly clear, it’s a densely populated, picaresque, almost hallucinatory WWII fantasy about Nazi Germany’s development and deployment of the V-2 rocket. Or at least it’s mainly about that. Which doesn’t even begin to hint at the intricacies of its story or the depths of its weirdness. For me, Gravity’s Rainbow is a masterclass in letting your writerly imagination off the leash, and in keeping an enormously complicated story coherent.

The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

By Catherine Nixey,

Book cover of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

Why this book?

You can’t overstate the impact of religion on this tumultuous period. The transition from paganism to Christianity not only coincided with, but greatly impacted everything that happened in early medieval Europe. Catherine Nixey’s controversial book focuses on that transition and shows it in full, gory detail – the violence it spurned, and the destruction it caused to the ancient culture that preceded the onset of Christianity. A necessary read for understanding the full picture of the 4th and 5th centuries in Europe.

How to Use Woodworking Tools

By R.L. Bridgman,

Book cover of How to Use Woodworking Tools

Why this book?

Published in 1881 this is an absolutely fundamental book for the beginner. Amply illustrated, you will learn important details such as how to hold tools and what to expect from them as well as how basic joints are formed and made. Focused on wooden tools this is information not commonly reproduced in more contemporary books.

This book is not currently available.

Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire

By Alan Forrest,

Book cover of Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire

Why this book?

Not since the monumental work of Jacques Morvan in his Le Soldat Imperial, almost a century ago, has a scholar brought so much learning and insight to the experience of the soldiery of the longest wars in modern European history. Forrest brings his hallmark skills as an archival scholar to the daunting task of reassembling the lives of the men who did the fighting, endured the horrors and the hardships behind the glittering uniforms, and heroic paintings of the battles. He brings the ordinary to life and puts the extraordinary in its proper context of the hardscrabble, but adventurous, lives of the rankers. One for the ages. 

Call the Coroner (Staniel)

By Avril Ashton,

Book cover of Call the Coroner (Staniel)

Why this book?

Daniel doesn’t care about life anymore. He only cares about finding the hitman who killed his wife, the only person he ever loved. Unfortunately, when he does find him, his hatred and contempt for the man are only matched by their fiery attraction. Can he betray his wife? With the very man who killed her? This is true love/hate, starting very much on the hate side, and remaining so for a long time, even when the passion is burning high and they have to hide from other Mafiosi. Very much a violent read, I am a fan of the guilt and of the bi trope. This very desperate, very edgy MM mafia love/hate romance will blow your mind, the darkness and the hotness are unforgettable.

Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse

By Meghan McCarthy,

Book cover of Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse

Why this book?

I adore the quirky, offbeat illustrations that perfectly compliment the tale of an underdog racehorse who proved the world wrong. During his life, Seabiscuit was a big-name celebrity once the right team of owner, trainer, and jockey found him. The tale of an unlikely hero resonates beautifully during our current troubled times. McCarthy manages to use an economy of words to tell the story well to the youngest of readers. 

Berlin Diary, 1934-1941: The Rise of the Third Reich

By William L. Shirer,

Book cover of Berlin Diary, 1934-1941: The Rise of the Third Reich

Why this book?

Berlin was at the centre of Nazi Europe and is invariably at the heart of my novels, including Agent in Berlin. I’m fascinated by Berlin and I try to get beyond the obvious aspects of the city and give a sense of what life was like on a daily basis.  I have chosen this book by William Shirer, an American journalist based in the city from 1934 and who only left after Pearl Harbor. The book combines the sharp observations of a journalist with an eye for fascinating detail, such as the nuanced wording of the death notices of soldiers and the impact of rationing on the population.

With No Remorse

By Cindy Gerard,

Book cover of With No Remorse

Why this book?

This book jumps off the page from moment one and doesn't let up. But along the way, I got to know and love the two leads, completely different people thrown together, overcoming their baggage to stay alive, and find love. Valentina is a supermodel and he’s a Back Ops Inc bad dude who had a teenage crush on Val and now gets to save her from bad guys who are trying to abduct her. Luke, however bad and yet cavalier he may come off, his hiding some serious baggage that he gets to unpack in this high-rolling story. 

Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom

By Norman Cohn,

Book cover of Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom

Why this book?

I normally avoid books on historical witchcraft since they are normally written by biased academics who have never set foot in a magic Circle. This title is recognised as one of the most influential historical studies of European witchcraft beliefs; it began as an enquiry into the origins of the great European witch-hunt. It ended as something wider. It argues that the stereotype of the witch, as it existed in many parts of Europe in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is made up of elements of diverse origins, and that some of these derived from a specific fantasy which can be traced back to Antiquity. (1975)  Cohn argues that there never were any devil-worshipping witches in Early Modern Europe, and that all of those persecuted for being so were innocent.

Where The World Turns Wild

By Nicola Penfold,

Book cover of Where The World Turns Wild

Why this book?

Where the World Turns Wild plays on one of my biggest fears about the future – a world without nature. Juniper and her little brother Bear live in a walled city where nature has been almost completely eradicated following the outbreak of a disease. What remains is a tightly controlled and terrifying society that they must escape. Juniper’s bravery and her capacity for survival are driven by the fierce, protective love she has for her little brother. This is an adventure story like no other and one I have returned to time and again.

Mog the Forgetful Cat

By Judith Kerr,

Book cover of Mog the Forgetful Cat

Why this book?

Mog is a sweet old cat. She’s very loving to her family – The Thomas’s – but very dim. She doesn’t understand the human world and her hilarious misunderstandings get her into a lot of hot water. Occasionally, she accidentally saves the day too – usually from a disaster of her own making.

The combination of this lovable cat who gets it wrong is a perennial winner. The first Mog book was written over 50 years ago and has never been out of print.

Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945)

By Diana Mishkova (editor), Marius Turda (editor), Balazs Trencsenyi (editor)

Book cover of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945)

Why this book?

The sources found in Collective Identities illustrate how national ideas were received, fashioned, and conveyed by thinkers in many parts of Europe during the modern era. Each volume also includes a number of opening essays and chapter introductions which provide helpful references to additional foundational texts and matters of historical context. In sum, the volumes perform the very valuable service of introducing readers to some common elements in many ‘discourses’ from the period as well as important local variations in style and content.

The Ebony Tower

By John Fowles,

Book cover of The Ebony Tower

Why this book?

Another story that's impossible to forget – actually this is a novella in a collection of stories with this name. Again, about a lost house in a forest in France, an artist, a young man in love, and the two young women who bewitch him in turns. John Fowles is an English writer from the 1960s, whose work I loved when young and still do. He was much influenced by Alain-Fournier.

Go, Went, Gone

By Jenny Erpenbeck, Susan Bernofsky (translator),

Book cover of Go, Went, Gone

Why this book?

This is a beautiful book about a retired academic and widower who finds himself embroiled in the lives of young African refugees trying to seek asylum in Berlin. What I love about this book, besides the beautiful writing, is that neither the widower nor the refugees are portrayed as saints and neither really finds redemption. It is, rather, a very real story of fragile yet real connections between people who, for entirely different reasons, are very much alone. I love this book because it holds us all accountable as human beings and asks us how we can retain our humanity, our moral center when power is so unequally distributed.

Witch Bottle

By Tom Fletcher,

Book cover of Witch Bottle

Why this book?

Although this is a slow-burning horror with an air of menace throughout Witch Bottle is a very human book. It is a story about grief and loss and loneliness and conjures up a deeply unsettling atmosphere that stayed with me long after I’d turned out the light. Uncanny, in the truest sense of the word. 

The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250

By Robert I. Moore,

Book cover of The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250

Why this book?

Robert Moore’s history of the growth of institutional persecution in the tenth through thirteen centuries is a classic in medieval history. Moore demonstrates that the oppression of various “undesirables” in society, such as Jews, heretics, lepers, and homosexuals, fits into a pattern of state-building. Particular groups were not targeted for harassment, expropriation, segregation, expulsion, and mass execution because they caused a real threat. On the contrary, they were defenseless, and by playing on common people’s ignorance and stirring up fear, the centralized powers of state and church were able to scapegoat those groups as polluted, deviant, and dangerous.

Having established the powerless as the “other,” the ruling elite were then able to bring them down and appear to be the saviors of the Christian social order. This book does not focus on witches per se, but it explains how in the central Middle Ages governing mechanisms and bureaucratic procedures created a template for persecution that was used as a blueprint for the witch-hunts of the early modern era. I pick this short accessible book because it is just plain scary how it mirrors the ways in which central governments approach minority groups to this day and how persecution can become a cultural system. Moore shows that the medieval common people were willing to accept the stereotypes created by those in power and join in the abuse of people labeled as devious, lascivious, conspiratorial, and child killers. 

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

By Alice Steinbach,

Book cover of Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

Why this book?

Without Reservations gave me hope following the death of my beloved husband of 37 years. Living with his unique and nontraditional worldview, I’d grown into and inhabited a wider, less conventional way of being than my suburban middle-class upbringing had prepared me for. But once he was gone, what and who was I going to be? Steinbach’s travelogue goes to many of the places my husband and I traveled in England and Europe, and that brought reminiscences of great pleasure. But it was her inner journeying in search of her soul that gave me the courage to embark on the inner travels toward self-discovery and the independence I faced in a newly widowed existence.

Th Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the African Continent from 1876 to 1912

By Thomas Pakenham,

Book cover of Th Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the African Continent from 1876 to 1912

Why this book?

The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the African Continent from 1876 to 1912 is a comprehensive history of the colonization of African territory by European powers between 1876 to 1912 known as the Scramble for Africa.

I am an African. I was born and raised in Africa. When I read about the horrors of the colonization of the continent I live on, I simply could not believe what I was reading. It took a lot more reading and research before I fully understood the implications and impact of this colonization. This led me to understand the place of wildlife in the early history of colonization and the evolution of a wildlife ethic.

Colonial powers viewed Africa as their sole domain for domination of its people and exploitation of its resources for the benefit of the colonial power and no benefit at all to the colony. Humans and resources were mercilessly exploited. In this melee where human life was totally expendable, how could there be a place for conservation? Animals were shot for their trophy value, their hides, and their body parts. No respect was paid to them and their lives. It is only once colonial powers were shed that indigenous people viewed African wildlife as a resource to be conserved.

Reading this book gave me an understanding of how conservation ethics grew out of the ashes of an Africa burned to a cinder by colonial powers. Indigenous man makes a small fire and stands close. Colonial man makes a large fire and stands far.

The Grounding of Group Six

By Julian F. Thompson,

Book cover of The Grounding of Group Six

Why this book?

This is an obscure book you’ve probably never heard of from the 80s, but trust me here. (And yes, it’s set at a boarding school.) In this story, the kids assigned to group 6 are part of a secret society not of their own choosing. Their parents have sent them there to get rid of them. Permanently. With the help of their teacher, they escape to the wilderness to figure out how to survive

A House with Seven Windows: Short Stories

By Kadya Molodowsky, Leah Schoolnik (translator),

Book cover of A House with Seven Windows: Short Stories

Why this book?

Kadya Molodowsky’s book of stories, A House with Seven Windows are stories mostly set one half of a generation off of my own, just far enough to be recognizable. There is one story about parents investing in a stylish winter coat for their daughter in order to render her more marriageable in appearance for the “market.” My own parents did the same for me when I left for college!

The Measure of Reality: Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600

By Alfred W. Crosby,

Book cover of The Measure of Reality: Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600

Why this book?

This is one of the most lucid explanations of our modern culture of numbers, and deals with topics ranging from music and architecture to, of course, money. It was the “big think” book that most inspired me to consider money not as something in and of itself, but as an artifact of a culture, transformed by time, place, and the genius of individuals.


By Leesa Gazi, Shabnam Nadiya (translator),

Book cover of Hellfire

Why this book?

This novel starts out in an almost Mrs. Dallowayish way—Lovely has gone out for the day to buy something. Then you realise that Lovely at the age of forty has never gone out by herself for a day. Then, as the day unfolds, the novel brings you backward into the past as you find out about Lovely and Beauty’s paranoid and controlling mother, the oppressiveness of their home life, the dark secret at the heart of their parents’ marriage…

Little Monsters

By Kara Thomas,

Book cover of Little Monsters

Why this book?

Kacey, the new girl in Broken Falls who has two best friends, Bailey and Jade. There’s a sinister vibe in this book, right off the top; something feels off with this friend group, and when Bailey goes missing, we—as readers—are left flipping the pages, trying to find out what could have happened.

This is one of those books where you really feel like you can’t trust anyone—even the main character. I loved how this story kept me guessing until the very end. Its gritty, filled with family and friendship drama, and the wintery setting make it all the more haunting of a read.

Adventures of Tom Sawyer

By Mark Twain,

Book cover of Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Why this book?

When I read this book as a young teen I admired the freedom the young characters had to be absorbed in their own worlds, and, as a result, constantly getting into scrapes and suffered scolding. Much later I re-read this and was struck by the comic magic of Tom and his friends, assumed to have died, returning to witness their own funeral. Here the boys who were constantly found wanting are now being praised without reservation. This reveals the see-saw action of the adolescent self: one moment teens see themselves as wonderful, beloved, treasured, and at another cast down, and always they carry around an “imaginary self” where they cannot escape concern about how people see them. 

The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe

By Richard Ned Lebow (editor), Wulf Kansteiner (editor), Claudio Fogu (editor)

Book cover of The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe

Why this book?

Although this is my final recommendation, this book is where my interest in the topic of memory and the political, intellectual, and social development of postwar Europe began. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College, I had the opportunity to assist my advisor, Ned Lebow, with the preparation of this volume. Following a short theoretical introduction to the paradigm of collective memory, this collection then presents chapters on the specific dynamics of the politics of remembrance in various European states written by local country specialists. This is both a great read and a great resource for further information on the dynamics of postwar memory across the continent.

Bisexuality in Europe: Sexual Citizenship, Romantic Relationships, and Bi+ Identities

By Emiel Maliepaard (editor), Renate Baumgartner (editor),

Book cover of Bisexuality in Europe: Sexual Citizenship, Romantic Relationships, and Bi+ Identities

Why this book?

For academic perspectives on bisexuality, this book is a great resource. Because many books on bisexuality are centred in or around North America this is a welcome addition. It is the first to bring together academic research on bisexual people from around Europe. It also won the Bisexual Book Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020 (if you’re looking for more bi books the annual Bi book awards by the Bi Writers Association is always a good place to search!). 

The book includes research from different disciplines, showcasing the many ways that scholars have approached bi+ issues. It provides fascinating insights that are a great stepping stone for venturing deeper into the topic. 

Textbooks can be expensive, and many academic articles are locked behind pay-walls, so the authors made sure that there’s an open access version of the textbook (click the direct link below).

Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II

By Daniel James Brown,

Book cover of Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II

Why this book?

If you and your family were ordered from your home by your government, deprived of your constitutional rights, and sent to a remote internment camp, would you volunteer to risk your life fighting for your country? Thousands of young Japanese American men did just that when they were isolated as possible spies and traitors after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Eighteen thousand of these young men signed on as members of the Army’s 442nd Infantry Regiment, composed entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans, and distinguished themselves as some of the bravest Americans who ever lived. Sent into battles that at times looked purely suicidal, the 442nd became “the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in American history.” Brown’s riveting account follows four of these young men and a fifth who became a conscientious objector and eventually landed in prison, all the while fighting for civil rights. 

Kids Knitting

By Melanie Falick,

Book cover of Kids Knitting

Why this book?

As someone who came to knitting later in life, I really appreciate this comprehensive guide for younger knitters.

The book includes an illustrated vocabulary list of the basic tools, information on where to go for help if there is no one to ask directly ( I find that very helpful!) and a guide for buying wool online.

There are also several basic projects to get started with and even a washing guide! Perfect.

What the Day Owes the Night

By Yasmina Khadra,

Book cover of What the Day Owes the Night

Why this book?

This is a story of love and friendship set in 1950s Algeria before and during the Algerian War of Independence. The main character, Younes, is an Arabic Algerian but forms friendships with some European boys and falls in love with Emilie a beautiful European girl. Great descriptions of the environment and the characters’ feelings make for an engrossing and moving read as Younes has to make choices about his loyalties towards his friends and family from the two different cultures. 


By Norman Messenger,

Book cover of Imagine

Why this book?

This interactive book inspired me to look at ordinary things in a new way. The pictures are great, they take you to new places using everyday things and people as a stepping stone. My favorite part of the book is the dial that allows you to switch faces. Common objects take on a whole new life in this book. I remember having a lot of fun looking at it.

This book felt more like playtime than reading, and that’s what I loved about it when I was a child. It made me decide to be an author and illustrator creating imaginative books. The style and theme of this book are my ideal inspiration for future projects. I want to write stories that exist for the sake of making happy memories.

That Night in Paris

By Sandy Barker,

Book cover of That Night in Paris

Why this book?

That Night in Paris is the second book in Sandy Barker’s Holiday Romance Series, which is packed with beautifully described holiday destinations and the will-they-won’t-they moments we romance readers love. In That Night in Paris, Cat books an impromptu European coach trip in desperation after she has a few too many wines and sleeps with her flatmate. And what a decision that turns out to be when she bumps into her long-lost teenage crush in Paris.     

Cat’s on my dinner guest list because she’s feisty, fun, and oozes sass, while at the same time having a more vulnerable side that would get the deeper conversations going by dessert. Sometimes strong women who are confident and outspoken (in a good way) can be criticised and labelled negatively, but women like Cat should be applauded for being real. 

I Don't Care! Said the Bear

By Colin West,

Book cover of I Don't Care! Said the Bear

Why this book?

This is one of the first books I read to my children at bedtime. It's an amusing rhyming story with a wonderfully funny ending. My children loved joining in with the rhymes and would add funny voices for each animal. They always pretended to be surprised by the ending and would try not to giggle too early when I turned to the last page. This is a family favourite and brings back great memories. 

The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950-1350

By Robert Bartlett,

Book cover of The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950-1350

Why this book?

This captivating book, with its broad vision, puts the crusades in context in a way that no other has done. Bartlett’s magisterial overview of the expansion of Latin Christendom remains the most engaging work on how conquest, migration, and religion transformed and laid the foundations for the Europe we know today. Erudite, scholarly, and packed with detail, but also accessible and enjoyable, his thematic approach pulls together examples from diverse regions to make a compelling (and at times controversial) case for how a shared European culture was created as the bounds of Christendom were pushed in all directions. It’s an essential introduction to medieval Europe’s frontier societies–several of which were shaped by crusading.

Merde in Europe

By Stephen Clarke,

Book cover of Merde in Europe

Why this book?

Okay, fine, this book isn’t actually nonfiction, but it’s so accurate and believable that it may as well be. You might not question Clarke’s life choices, but you’ll question Paul West, the protagonist. Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a bureaucrat? Neither have I. But that didn’t stop me from reading this book. As someone who has had to deal with funcionarios  (Spanish government employees), bureaucrats aren’t high on my list as people I’d invite to a dinner party, but this book gave me a chance to learn about their lives at a safe distance. I learned something new and laughed out loud on almost every page.


By Cecelia Ahern,

Book cover of Flawed

Why this book?

I love Cecelia Ahern’s earlier books and this was her first YA duology. The second book is called Perfect. This society also praises beauty and perfection, but mistakes are punishable offenses with a serious consequence of being branded, literally, are Flawed. The book is chilling in so many ways, but what I loved about it is that making mistakes is an inherently ‘human’ thing to do. Older generations have been taught to avoid making mistakes at all costs, or at least never own up to them. The younger ones are learning that it’s all part of life and we should all have a little more compassion. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have.

Omenana to Infinity

By Mazi Nwonwu (editor), Chinelo Onwualu (editor),

Book cover of Omenana to Infinity

Why this book?

Omenana to Infinity is an anthology of collected works formerly published in Omenana Magazine. The anthology is edited by Mazi Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu, like the magazine its stories are culled from. The duo also founded and edited the magazine which is the first African, exclusively speculative fiction magazine. It's important to me because it contains some of the earliest works of speculative short fiction by African writers I would read as an issue of a magazine and did a great lot in platforming speculative fiction writers on the continent. 

The Thief's Journal

By Jean Genet,

Book cover of The Thief's Journal

Why this book?

The French have a peculiar sadomasochism, where they venerate the destitute, elevate them to romantic icons, and then wait to be spat on, by the very thing they applaud. This is Genet in a nutshell, a bourgeois-hating novelist and playwright (who makes Joe Orton sound like an infantile literary masturbator), who got around to putting his life down on paper with this novel, The Thief’s Journal. It is post-Celine, and predates Dirty Realism, and has caustic revelations of a petty criminal. He finds virtue in the sewers of Paris and Europe, like a Phantom dwelling artist whose dishonesty is part of a performance art exhibition. 

Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe

By James A. Brundage,

Book cover of Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe

Why this book?

If you ever want to know what the medieval Church had to say about sex, love, marriage, and other related topics, you only need to draw from the relevant preachers’ manuals and Church lawbooks, which illuminate the entire spectrum of human failings which the Church condemned and punished in specific terms. It might be hilarious at times, but Brundage clearly unearths the concrete rules for the ordinary people when they were allowed to have sex during the year and under what conditions. Moreover, this is an eye-opening book about the official view of queerness in the Middle Ages.

The Case for Women in Medieval Culture

By Alcuin Blamires,

Book cover of The Case for Women in Medieval Culture

Why this book?

Contrary to our common assumptions, women in the Middle Ages were not simply muted or repressed. Much depended on the social, economic, religious, and cultural circumstances. Blamires brings to light a wealth of documents that confirm the much more complex conditions for women in the pre-modern age, many of whom received considerable respect if not admiration.

Secrets of the Foreign Office

By William Le Queux,

Book cover of Secrets of the Foreign Office

Why this book?

William Le Queux’s Duckworth Drew was a secret agent working for British embassies around Europe reporting to the Marquis of Macclesfield, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Like many such agents to follow, he worked in diplomatic and aristocratic circles with finesse and had considerable luck with the ladies.

In short stories like “The Secret of the Submarine,” Drew starred in adventures that were precursors to later yarns focused on new technology as when he encountered an "electronic eye," an Italian device that detonated mines. Such playfulness with then cutting-edge tech reflected the author’s interest in merging adventure with weaponized science.

Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850

By Prasannan Parthasarathi,

Book cover of Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850

Why this book?

Most people think Europe grew rich through industrialization and free trade. What they don’t realize is that this industrialization was initially started because of protectionism. Prasannan Parthasarathi shows how Britain banned the import of Indian cotton cloth, known as Calico, and developed its own industry. The free trade happened only after Britain succeeded in industrializing.

Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim

By Anton Gill,

Book cover of Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim

Why this book?

An insightful examination of art collector Peggy Guggenheim, a fascinating character, Ms. Guggenheim was friends with a vast assortment of American and European writers and artists. The reader gets to see the contradictory sides of this brilliant and unconventional woman. As a result of reading this book, I wrote a play about her entitled The Collection.

The Death of Anglo-Saxon England

By N. J. Higham,

Book cover of The Death of Anglo-Saxon England

Why this book?

Finally, one of my recommendations has lots of pictures in it. The Death of Anglo-Saxon England charts the closing century of Saxon England. This book was written for a general audience and is a thoroughly engrossing read. I can remember taking it with me on day trips so that I could find a corner and stick my head in the book, and my version is replete with many, many bits of paper sticking out from the pages. Complete with all the images and pictures, the author presents an easy-to-understand and chronological account of the events that led to the Norman Conquest of 1066. I’m not saying I agree with everything in this book, but it’s a very good starting point for those with a growing interest in the period.

Twice: The Serial

By Mark J. Ferrari,

Book cover of Twice: The Serial

Why this book?

This book is actually an illustrated online serial, currently 64 episodes in (and on pause at the moment, but I have it on good authority that it will resume). One of my favorite episodes deals with a mysterious young woman preparing a mysterious—magical?—breakfast of zucchini and eggs…but it’s full of spoilers, so you should probably just start the story from the beginning.

I love Twice: The Serial because it's an amazing contemporary fantasy story, well told and beautifully illustrated—a great example of the kind of fantasy I love, which is the "slow build" type...we're in the real world and then mysterious things happen around the edges...and then right in the middle.

Lola Lago, Detective: Lejos de Casa

By Lourdes Miquel López, Neus Sans,

Book cover of Lola Lago, Detective: Lejos de Casa

Why this book?

I guess I’s not a coincidence that this series of fiction books are written by the same writers as the previous one, since both of them have the same high quality in their content and are grammatically so well focused. 

The protagonist is Lola Lago, a detective who will solve a case per book.

The books range from level A1 to level B1 and come with an audiobook. The length of the stores is perfect (45-60 pages) and the format light enough to feel that you can do it. Every one of them is well focused on its level, and you can find, at the end, lovely explanation notes and light and fun comprehension exercises.

The Jewel in the Skull

By Michael Moorcock,

Book cover of The Jewel in the Skull

Why this book?

This is a masterpiece of the New Wave fantasy novels of the 1960s and 1970s. The hero, Dorian Hawkmoon, is a nobleman in the far future where science has become so advanced it is indistinguishable from magic. Hawkmoon is forced to work for his enemies by a magical jewel they embed in his forehead. Hawkmoon’s world is Europe, but hardly recognisable, and a vast empire with impossible super-technology is conquering the whole continent. It’s a story of heroism vs magic in a war where the technological wonders feel alien and familiar all at once. The evil empire of Granbretan, where everyone is continuously masked, is one of the most original of the trope that has ever been written.

New Worlds for Old: Reports from the New World and Their Effect on the Development of Social Thought in Europe, 1500-1800

By William Brandon,

Book cover of New Worlds for Old: Reports from the New World and Their Effect on the Development of Social Thought in Europe, 1500-1800

Why this book?

We know that the arrival of Europeans in the Americas had significant impacts, many of them negative, on the peoples of the New World. Encounters with Amerindians were also highly influential in shaping ideas about human development and universal history. It was not a one-way street, however, reports from missionaries, trappers, explorers, soldiers, and settlers about what they saw in the New World served to challenge and shape the thinking of Europe’s intellectual elite, especially concerning Native American ideas about freedom, equality, and community. Thirty-five years after the publication of this book, Graeber and Wengrow returned to the idea of “Indigenous critique” for one of the more contentious sections in their New History

Buying a Home in Spain: A Survival Handbook

By David Hampshire,

Book cover of Buying a Home in Spain: A Survival Handbook

Why this book?

If you are moving to Spain, you’ll appreciate David Hampshire’s guides for deciding which region might suit you, how to choose a home and settling into your new way of life. Hampshire includes vital advice like making a Spanish will, driving and finance. He even provides checklists of things to do before the move, and after arrival. We’d have appreciated advice on what to do if one's removal van knocks over the village fountain, or how to stop our cockerel attacking visitors, but I guess we were just unlucky.

Living the Dream: in the Algarve, Portugal

By Alyson Sheldrake,

Book cover of Living the Dream: in the Algarve, Portugal

Why this book?

The author and her husband decide to leave successful careers in the UK and settle in the Algarve. Determined to assimilate with the local culture, they buy a house on the outskirts of a village, adopt a rescue dog (who I instantly fall in love with), and begin a new life. I know the Algarve well and loved the author’s vivid descriptions of the places they visit, the scenes, sights, and customs. I could easily imagine having that daily coffee and delicious pastel de nata in the village café. It’s a delightfully Portuguese tradition.

Throughout the book, Alyson provides advice on different areas and the sometimes tortuous processes involved in becoming a resident in a country hyper-keen on bureaucracy. They manage, though, and often with refreshing ease. The book is a fun travel memoir with bags of appeal for anyone who enjoys an informative read, especially those interested in moving to Portugal. The author’s love for their adopted country shines through her writing. It has inspired the couple to discover new talents and new careers, which she writes about in her sequel. The book is a tonic. I loved it.

Tuning Up at Dawn: A Memoir of Music and Majorca

By Tomas Graves,

Book cover of Tuning Up at Dawn: A Memoir of Music and Majorca

Why this book?

The books in this list are all written by non-Spaniards, for obvious reasons. This one is almost an exception. Tomás Graves is the eighth son of the English poet and novelist Robert Graves. He has lived almost his entire life on the island of Mallorca, and is, effectively, as native as they come. Tuning Up at Dawn is a wonderfully lyrical account of his upbringing, his memories of his father, and his life as a musician. It is deliciously evocative of a slower world which has now all but disappeared.

Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

By C L'Estrange Ewen,

Book cover of Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

Why this book?

This was the book that got me started over thirty years ago, and which I still turn to today. It’s an absolute mine of information, specifically relating to the written indictments for witchcraft which survive in great numbers for the Home Assize Circuit – that is, the courts that heard felonies in south-eastern England.

Ewen doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis. There is a substantial, very useful, introduction, but the really incredible thing about this book is how Ewen managed to comb through the archives, then held in the Public Records Office in London, and find almost all of the witchcraft indictments hidden there. He was an amazing researcher, who provided raw data for subsequent generations of historians.

Among many findings that can be drawn from his research are that, outside the peculiar spike in trials in the mid-1640s (the subject of my book, Witchfinders), English witch-trials peaked in the 1580s, especially in the county of Essex. We also learn that less than a quarter of indicted witchcraft suspects were convicted, suggesting considerable scepticism, at least in the value of testimonies presented as evidence in court.

I’ve chosen this book as an example of the importance of the archive for the historical study of witchcraft. My other recommendations highlight other key themes.

About Philosophy

By Robert Wolff,

Book cover of About Philosophy

Why this book?

It’s one of the best and most accessible introductions to philosophy, now in its tenth edition. It’s also by our favorite college teacher.

I Worked Alone: Diary of a Double Agent in World War II Europe

By Lily Sergueiew,

Book cover of I Worked Alone: Diary of a Double Agent in World War II Europe

Why this book?

As the title of this book indicates, Lily Sergueiew was a double agent during World War II. She volunteered to become a spy for the Germans although she never intended to fulfill that role. She was determined to fight the Germans in her own way – as a double agent in the employ of the British. Sergueiew kept a diary of her activities from when she first approached the Germans until she quit working for the British in late June 1944. After the war, Sergueiew used her diaries to write a memoir in French. Before her death in 1950, she translated her memoir into English, and most of it was published posthumously in France in 1966 and in England in 1968. I recommend this book because it provides insight into why a young woman would choose to fight against the Germans who occupied her beloved France, the training that she underwent, and how she ultimately joined, and then was fired from, the British Intelligence Service. In addition, while there were women who fought in France for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), or the French Resistance, Lily Sergueiew was one of a few (mostly male) Europeans who actively sought out the job of a double agent to fight against the Germans. Sergueiew’s memoir shines a light on a strong woman, who wanted to fight for a just cause in her own way.

The Epigrams Of Martial

By Henry George Bohn,

Book cover of The Epigrams Of Martial

Why this book?

With this one I'm not going to recommend an edition, because while Martial is witty, bitingly sarcastic and a keen commentator on his society he can also be breathtakingly obscene. Imagine teenage scrawls on toilet walls - if those scrawls were written by Shakespeare - and you'll be close enough. So pick your edition with care – however broad you imagine your mind to be, an unexpurgated Martial will stretch it a bit more and have you chuckling and nodding the rest of the time.

Cessions of Land by Indian Tribes to the United States

By Charles C. Royce,

Book cover of Cessions of Land by Indian Tribes to the United States

Why this book?

This book is not so much one to read, being more of an atlas. And atlases are expensive. Except this one. It’s free! Published by the U.S. Government in 1899 but still available online, it’s an extraordinary collection of Native American borders that got changed...and changed...and changed. It is history in the raw, from back in that time. More importantly, it is history we all need to know, if we are to know who we are as a nation today.

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

By Sue Macy,

Book cover of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

Why this book?

Written for young adults and kids, this book does an excellent job teaching an underappreciated (and relatively unknown) chapter in women’s history. We take the bicycle for granted today, but it was the catalyst for radical changes in the lives of women in the U.S. and Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Spain at War: Society, Culture and Mobilization, 1936-44

By James Matthews,

Book cover of Spain at War: Society, Culture and Mobilization, 1936-44

Why this book?

The Spanish Civil War is customarily written off as a military action involving insurgent army units allied with the Falange and other reactionary forces, waging war against a legitimately-elected Socialist-led government, albeit one infested with Communist conspirators. James Matthews takes the reader into another realm, often overlooked in the literally thousands of works published on this conflict. 

The book brings together the writings of thirteen outstanding historians and specialists, who examine broad-ranging and hitherto little-explored issues such as the Francoist doctrine of ‘martial masculinity’ and ‘turning boys into men’, the role of social work during the war, political economies and monetary policies, desertion and shirking military duties and Republican spies in the Nationalist rearguard.

For Love & Money

By Jonathan Raban,

Book cover of For Love & Money

Why this book?

Jonathan Raban’s nonfiction books take travel writing to another level. He has a special mastery of the intersection of self, journey, place, and narrative. This collection – of essays, short memoirs, travel pieces, and more – isn’t necessarily his best book (that would probably be Passage to Juneau); but it’s full of brilliant reflections on the writing life, and on the challenges facing the writer as a craftsperson. There’s a particularly memorable section on the difficulties of transferring real-world dialogue onto the page. “You isolate the speaker’s tics and tricks of speech, his keywords,” Raban says, “and make him say them slightly more often than he did in fact; you give him small bits of stage business to mark his silences; you invent lines of dialogue for yourself to break up a paragraph of solid talk that looks too long to be believable. You are trespassing, perhaps, into writing fiction, but the fiction will still be truer to the man and to the occasion than the literal transcription.”

The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

By Nicolás Wey Gómez,

Book cover of The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

Why this book?

When the story of Christopher Columbus gets told, it’s typically as a tale of his having sailed west to get quickly to the east. But in this gorgeously produced, exhaustively researched study, Nicolás Wey-Gómez argues that to understand Columbus and his story properly, you have to understand it as a story about voyages to the south. Columbus inherited a powerful set of assumptions about the nature and peoples found in southern latitudes, and it’s those assumptions, Wey-Gómez contends, that allowed Columbus and the many Europeans that followed him to the New World to justify their various colonial enterprises.

Russka: The Novel of Russia

By Edward Rutherfurd,

Book cover of Russka: The Novel of Russia

Why this book?

I really love Edward Rutherfurd's writing style. He obviously does plenty of historical research, so the events in his epic sagas are accurate, and yet he is creative enough to come up with fictional characters which fit into history in the most interesting and remarkable way. By reading this one, you can painlessly learn several centuries of Russian history and have lots of fun doing it. I would say that this one and "London" are two of his best efforts.

The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics After Napoleon

By Brian E. Vick,

Book cover of The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics After Napoleon

Why this book?

It was not just the generals and heads of states that convened in Vienna to make the world safe after Napoleon. Brian Vick excavated all kinds of archival and material evidence to show how artists, composers, entrepreneurs, writers, fashion agents and other unofficial opinion-shapers worked to turn the Congress of Vienna into a success, and helped to create a new international system in Europe. Vick even lists the Congress’s items of merchandise, memorabilia (be it snuffboxes or teacups adorned with royal portraits) that were sold enthusiastically in the narrow streets around the Hofburg and elsewhere in the capitals throughout Europe. Waging peace was as much a political, as a consumerist affair.

At Home With The Marquis De Sade

By Francine Du Plessix Gray,

Book cover of At Home With The Marquis De Sade

Why this book?

The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) is one of those characters that you loathe, but cannot help but find fascinating. By all standards, this deviant aristocrat was a gentleman in name only. Yet his remarkable life (32 years of it spent in prison) and amoral philosophizing provide the grist for a great biography under the pen of Gray. Readers will find many of de Sade’s horrific exploits here, yet this book also explores his relationship with the two most important women in his life: his beloved wife, who indulged him for decades, and his hated mother-in-law, whom he envisioned flaying alive before throwing her “into a vat of vinegar.” To a large degree, Marquis’s life and philosophy were an intentionally extreme version of the Enlightenment’s emancipation of the individual. A great window into the dark side of the Enlightenment.

Doom of the Gods

By Michael Harrison, Tudor Humphries,

Book cover of Doom of the Gods

Why this book?

This is a vigorous retelling of the last battle of the Norse gods and their enemies, how the gods tried to avert their doom, how they first met those who would kill almost all of them, and what happened after all the slaughter and destruction. The book has the size and format of a typical picture storybook but its powerful illustrations of threat and attack make it more suitable for an older audience.

The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 V1

By Benson J. Lossing,

Book cover of The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 V1

Why this book?

Lossing was an accomplished sketch artist and antiquarian who traveled 10,000 miles in the 1850s and 1860s, visiting battle sites and interviewing survivors of the war. The result of his labors was this compendium that includes songs, poems, battle maps, and illustrations. Lossing treatment of almost every subject yields fascinating gems.

History in the Making

By J.H. Elliott,

Book cover of History in the Making

Why this book?

John Elliott is a world-class historian of Spain and its Empire, his reflections on how to write history without becoming immersed in jargon or obscure theories are beautifully woven into the story of how he himself learned the craft of writing clear, accessible, and original works of history, taking the reader from Cambridge to Franco’s Spain. This is a charming book with a valuable message.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

By David Michaelis,

Book cover of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

Why this book?

I truly can’t imagine what my life would have been like with Peanuts, so it was no surprise to learn that the man who created it was a complex, flawed person—just like all of us. For me, Peanuts was the gateway not just to comics and independent kids whose parents never seemed to be around, but to jazz through the TV shows. This is also a model biography, and a pleasure to read on that count.


By George Chandler,

Book cover of Liverpool

Why this book?

Published originally in 1957, this is a definitive history of the Town and later City of Liverpool. It gives a detailed overview of the many facets of Liverpool’s history, in a well-researched, fully referenced, and eminently readable form. It gives details that cannot be found in other publications, and provides the researcher, historian, or simply interested reader an exciting and informative insight into the place and its people.

I love this book because George Chandler loved and cared for the City, and yet was an unbiased observer. He writes with clarity and detail that is informed and driven by that love, and it is a joy to read. It is also well illustrated with many unique images, maps, and sketches.

Liverpool: City of Architecture

By Quentin Hughes,

Book cover of Liverpool: City of Architecture

Why this book?

Liverpool’s Architecture represents all schools, styles, and tastes, and this book captures exactly that using glorious colour plates for each of the 226 buildings in the book. Each image is supported by a readable but detailed write-up on the history of the building, and an analysis of its style and composition. It also talks about the respective architects, and gives dates and other statistical information where appropriate.

I love this book because it is a tour-de-force by a respected historian and architect who loved his work, and who loved his city. This shows in the book.

The World of Venice

By Jan Morris,

Book cover of The World of Venice

Why this book?

The greatest travel writer of her generation (she died in November of 2020) produced a popular introduction to the city, mixing fact and story in her uniquely engaging style. It is a book that rivals Honour’s guide but focuses more on the patterns and rituals of life in Venice, linked by a profound appreciation for that unusual place, a city where the “streets are full of water”. If you like Morris, you might also be interested in her old but still engaging Venice, written when she was still James Morris.

The Death Of Ivan Ilych

By Leo Tolstoy,

Book cover of The Death Of Ivan Ilych

Why this book?

Though written 150 years ago, Tolstoy’s novella describes the life of an intensely goal-oriented person who is very much like many of our contemporaries—perhaps very much like us. Intent on marrying well, ascending to the top of social order, achieving wealth and power, he is marvelously successful—until he begins to have a pain in his side that turns out to be world-shattering. This may seem to be too dark for a “best book on spiritual breakthrough.” But perhaps such breakthroughs happen differently from how we imagine them.

The Celtic World

By Barry Cunliffe,

Book cover of The Celtic World

Why this book?

If you are looking for an overview of Celtic culture, this book is it. It is richly illustrated with artifacts, many obscure, which I appreciate. It is written by one of the foremost Celtic historians. Cunliffe continues to delve into the relationships between tribes of people who have been collectively called "Celts."

Like Froth Floating on the Sea: The World of Pirates and Seafarers in Late Imperial South China

By Robert J. Antony,

Book cover of Like Froth Floating on the Sea: The World of Pirates and Seafarers in Late Imperial South China

Why this book?

Formerly a professor of History at the University of Macau, Robert Antony has made it his life’s work to study piracy along the China coast. Among his several books on the topic, this one digs deepest into the development of piracy in the early 19th century, citing weather, economic, and political conditions, told in a highly readable narrative style. Among the entertaining details, he tracks the average annual going rates for ransom and stolen goods. He writes in an agreeable, relaxed manner, with a number of incidents told as edge-of-your-seat thrillers. The title itself was a common term of invective to describe Chinese pirates. An essential read for students of piracy.