The Best History Books of August

Chris Schluep on August 09, 2017

BaSummer is always an interesting time for history books. While the classic season for history books arrives in the fall--a time that could be referred to as "serious book season"--the summer history list is a bit more eclectic, even a bit less serious. That's not a bad thing. And there are still classic, serious history books to be found this August. But there are some plain fun ones, too--all well-researched but branching out into the tributaries of human and earthly drama. Here are some standouts from the Best History Books of August.


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The Bettencourt Affair could stand as fiction. But it's real. And this is not some faraway scandal from another time--it's a story and a trial that has kept the French public rapt. The affair involves 94-year-old Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the nearly forty-billion-dollar L’Oréal fortune. She's the world’s richest woman and the fourteenth wealthiest person. And she has a past that involves an expensive infatuation with a man who is not her husband, a tangled web of hidden secrets, divided loyalties, frayed relationships, and fractured families. All set in Paris.

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With the MLB playoffs approaching, it's a good time to read a book about the 1947 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. After all, it was one of the greatest series ever played. And it was Jackie Robinson's first World Series. And there was star power all over the field and in the stands. For these reasons, many books have been written about the '47 Series, but Electric October is different because it's about the role players. Kevin Cook introduces us to six men whose past offered no hint they were destined for extraordinary things.

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When he agreed to cover the 2016 election season, journalist Jared Yates Sexton didn't know he was stepping into what would become--for both political parties--the most rageful and divisive political circus in U.S. history. Here is a firsthand account of what he saw and heard, from the preternatural eruption of Trump rallies to Bernie supporters sounding off against Hillary supporters (and vice versa). Featuring in-the-field reports as well as deep analysis, Sexton's book is not just the story of the most unexpected and divisive election in modern political history. It is also a sobering chronicle of our democracy's political polarization--a result of our self-constructed, technologically assisted echo chambers. 

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At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2. earthquake – the second most powerful in world history – struck the young state of Alaska. The violent shaking, followed by massive tsunamis, devastated the southern half of the state and killed more than 130 people.  A day later, George Plafker, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, arrived to investigate.  His fascinating scientific detective work in the months that followed helped confirm the then-controversial theory of plate tectonics. New York Times science journalist Henry Fountain combines history and science to bring the brutal quake and its aftermath to life in vivid detail.  With deep, on-the-ground reporting from Alaska, often in the company of George Plafker, Fountain shows how the earthquake left its mark on the land and its people -- and on science.



You can see the full list of our Best History Books of August here.



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