If you are looking for good books… to purchase with your holiday gift cards, consider some choices from the best historians writing today. Good histories are informative, scholarly, and readable. Academics may scoff at the idea of “popular” history, but well written books stand up to any and all tests. Here are some of the best writers working today:
5. Joseph Ellis–Founding Brothers (Pulitzer Prize) American Sphinx, First Family. Joe Ellis is a professor of history at Mount Holyoke college. His books are authoritative and readable. For instance, Founding Brothers begins with a detailed account of the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
4. Eric Foner– The Fiery Trial (Pulitzer Prize) Forever Free, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men. Well respected in academia, Foner’s work has been reaching wider audiences the last decade. His research on the Republican party has become the gold standard for all students of 19th century history.
3. Gordon Wood– The Radicalism of the American Revolution (Pulitzer Prize) The Idea of America, Revolutionary Characters. Fans of the movie Good Will Hunting remember hearing Gordon Wood’s name dropped by Matt Damon. What the film fails to convey is that Wood is the leading authority on the Founding generation. Wood’s success stems from his scholarly and realistic portraits of our iconic founders.
2. James McPherson–Battle Cry Freedom (Pulitzer Prize) For Cause and Comrades, This Mighty Scourge. McPherson’s name is synonymous with Civil War history. His research is impeccable and his volumes are always manageable. Battle Cry Freedom is the greatest single volume history of the Civil War ever written.
1. Nathaniel Philbrick– In the Heart of the Sea (National Book Award) Sea of Glory, Mayflower. Fans of maritime history and seafaring tales rejoice! Philbrick spins wonderful yarns about adventure on the high seas. In the Heart of the Sea tells the true story that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick.