A Historians Wish List

It is finally December and I am aloud to put up the fairy lights and burn some Christmas scented candles. Decorating the house is the easy bit. The search for the perfect present has begun!

I recently watched the Vlogbrothers video “Book Giving Guide for the Holidays” and realised that books the perfect present; spanning for all interests.Watch their video here –  www.youtube.com/watch?v=79MCLukoIWQ

So what to get a historian? In no particular order here are the top 5 books that I have read this year. I would surgest all of them as presents! 

– Japan 1941, Countdown to Infamy, by Eri Hotta, 2014

Despite reading this  for A-Level coursework I really enjoyed this book. A great summary of characters and pretext  prepares you for a unique look into the Japanese reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbour as well as other western colonial possessions in the Far East. And all this before chapter one ! Hotta’s writing is a delight to read and skips effortlessly from first hand accounts to government documentation. accounts such as the the son of radio shop owner remarking that on the morning of the 8th of december “he never saw his father do so much business in one day before or after” as the nation prepared for wartime announcements. Hotta looks at the world as a whole extending his thought into Europe and giving an overall and independent view.  numerous reviewers agree.

“Hotta meticulously examines a wide range of primary documents and persuasively sketches the very distinct personalities shaping the decisions that drove japan towards war” – The New York Review

“A fascinating read for anyone interested in Japan’s involvement in WW2… while scholarly and thoroughly researched , it’s also a highly enjoyable read … a real page turner” – Library Journal

If you know someone keen on world war history this is the ideal book that they are likely not to own but will definitely love!  It truly is a page turner – within a week of reading it I had already annotated, deliberated and quoted  the book after reading it a couple of times or so. It’s now firmly sat at my bed side on top of the next book …

– Catherine the Great, CEO, Alan Axelrod, 2013 

I picked up this book before september, partly wanting to learn about Catherine the great partially to learn how to be a leader. After being elected Deputy Head Girl at an all girls school in sunny england I thought this book might give me a bit of historic information about female leadership and it did.

The book is heavily aimed at business leadership but enters an insightful pattern of Quote, historical pretext and modern implements. The book looks into Catherine’s life as a leader and gives insight into her private life and way of dealing with autocratic responsibility. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the woman herself…

“I have listened to empty cannons for more than 25 years.” – May 23 1790

“Listen, Perfil’evich, if by the end of the week you do not bring me the instructions for the governers’ duties, the manifesto against extortionists and Beket’ev’saffairs completely finished, then I shall say there is no lazebones in the world like you.” – spring 1764

All in all she sounds just like my mother – although I don’t recommend this for mother’s day. This book, or any in  Axelrod’s series, is great for anyone in the business world who is also keen on history. The Series is great for comparing managerial roles of royalty and looks at the personal aspects of leadership alongside the professional one.

– Young Stalin, Simon Sebag Montefiore, 2007 

This book has been on the must read shelf of my book case for a while now and during the summer I found the time to dust the hard copy off and read it. I must confess I have not quite finished it but don’t give away the ending I hear the young terrorist made quite a name for himself.

The rise of Stalin is often oe left out of the classroom and he just seems to appear at the end of the revolution. Montefiore has clearly dedicated his life to the study of Stalin life with so many detailed accounts of his life. I can imagine this was not easy to gather ; so to produce a 397 page book on Stalin’s life prior to dictatorship is an amazing feet. Stalin’s story is told through a series of descriptive events and circumstances. like did you know Stalin loved hunting and living with the Ostyak tribes men in the arctic circle? This Biography is not a light read however the story is told in such a way that interesting and exciting new facts spring up relentlessly resulting in a riveting text.  As well as text the book contains several glossy pages of pictures that show without such a pronounced mustache he was fairly attractive in his youth especially when compared to Trotsky.

Any book described as “grimly brilliant” by Andrew Marr would be great as a cheery christmas present! If they haven’t already got it, any hard core Historian would love this book! Give them plenty of time to finish it but I am sure they would lend it to you afterwards.

– A Man and his Ship, America’s greatest naval architect and his quest to build the S.S. United States, Steven Ujifusa, 2012

This book actually isn’t mine but it’s now found a permanent home in my library. Given to my dad, another keen habitable historian, for his birthday last year he read it and passed the book  on to me with the phrase “you must read this”. Now my dad is hard to impress so this book met high expectations.

It’s not your typical history book but hints towards more of a historic novel. Key events are explained narratively while speech depict the conversations William Francis Gibbs and other contemporaries. The book gathers your appreciation for the feet on engineering and an admiration for Gibbs. Glossy picture inserts show Gibbs sat watching the dry dock flood the day before the S.S. United States’ christening the look on his face is of beaming pride.

Both me and my dad loved this book. I would recommend getting the hard back copy if bought for a present. The pages are rough cut and the first page is the beautiful blue print of the great ship. This is very readable and will cover a large range of ages, it is also one not likely to be owned. whoever receives this book will definitely appreciate it!

– The silk roads ; a new history of the world, by Peter Frankopan 

I first heard about this book on Dan Snow’s new podcast ‘History Hit’ (prepare for a review soon!). This is currently on my wish list for christmas and i am very much looking forward to reading it. Its reviews have been remarkable and the one person i know who has read it loved it so much she wouldn’t let me even borrow it saying “you will want to get your own one anyway”and “I now understand the world”.  So taking from her advice I am advising others.

I really can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Anyone brave enough to re-write the history of the world ( I remember Dan saying something similar) must be brave.  If you’re not sure what era of history you should present as a gift this may be your best bet.


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