The best history books of 2020 so far

Chris Schluep on July 29, 2020
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The best history books of 2020 so far

What kind of history do you read when you are living in historic times? I was talking about this with one of my colleagues (Erin Kodicek), and we came to the conclusion that it's a mix of historically relevant titles and histories that transport you to a different time and place altogether. Sometimes you want to dig deeper into the current human condition and sometimes you want to detach from the moment and drift around in another historical moment. You'll find both types of histories below. And be sure to check out our full list of the Best History Books of 2020 So Far.


The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson

Erik Larson's new book has captured readers' attention like few other works of nonfiction this year. In The Splendid and the Vile he paints an intimate, inspiring portrait of Winston Churchill leading his country to an unlikely victory against a powerful, frightening foe.


Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino

After the Civil War, Wilmington, North Carolina prospered. It was the state’s largest city, with a busy port and a mixed race community that featured a burgeoning black middle class. But in 1898, a group of white supremacists decided to do something to turn back the page. As you read Wilmington's Lie, you will find yourself asking, Why did I not know about this before?


When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains by Ariana Neumann

Ariana Neumann's memoir will seer itself into your mind. The Neumann family was decimated by the Nazis, but Ariana's father, Hans, managed to hide in plain sight in Berlin. Even after he made it to Venezuela, where he built an industrial empire, he refused to speak of what he witnessed in Germany during the war. But after he died, he left a small box for his daughter. It took Ariana Neumann ten years to finally open it. Inside was his record of what he saw.


A Black Women's History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

This historical survey describes the diversity of Black women's experiences in this country and the many contributions that Black women have made to it—beginning with Isabel de Olvera, who in the 1600s joined an expedition from Mexico that would make her one of the first Black women to set foot in what was to become the United States. The book is intended as an introduction that will teach, inspire, and lead readers to explore the subject more deeply. Being a Black woman in America means regularly coming up against systemic racism and sexism, but this is ultimately an uplifting history.


MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman by Ben Hubbard

Mohammed bin Salman rose to power swiftly, painting himself as a reformer, and drawing positive attention from many corners of the world. But the prince, who is now in his mid-thirties, has since complicated his reputation by starting a war, turning increasingly autocratic, and literally getting away with murder. Ben Hubbard examines his rise, his leadership, and MBS's role in contemporary Saudi Arabia.


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