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Old 03-18-2003, 09:07 AM
middleman is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Mexico's Norte Vecino
Posts: 5,464

Need recommendation for historical non-fiction books (multiple subjects)

I was thinking about reading something on the following subjects:

* William the Conqueror/ The Norman Conquest
* Charlamagne
* Hasen ben Sabah and Hashashins (the first assassins)
* Roman Conquest
* Indian (feathers not dots) Wars with the white man
* African Tribal Wars (the modern ones from the 80's)
* Earlier Gulf Wars (earlier than Bush the Elder's. Like the Iraq/Iran War)
* The Soviet/Afghan conflict.

All over the place on these, I suppose.

The problem is, I am not good at picking out non-fiction.

All too often, I accidentally pick a book written by a nut or liar. I, however, have no idea he is a nut or liar because I am not plugged into the historical community.

I also don't want to read an account by someone with an agenda. I really just want an accurate, balanced, and approachable account of the story. I am a moderately intelligent person, but I am not looking for works that are purely academic!

Books that focus on the military and political angles of history are right up my alley.

Can any well-read dopers help me out on these or any subjects of a similar nature. I thirst for knowledge.
Old 03-18-2003, 09:12 AM
CalMeacham's Avatar
CalMeacham is offline
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 44,540
Go for the originals:

Charlemagne -- I don't know if it's still in print, but Penguin's Two Lives of Charlemagne was a great read by contemporariers of the big C -- Einhard and Notker the Stammerrer.

Roman Conquests -- Caesar's Commentaries -- Penguin has published an edition of de Bello Gallico, and so have a lot of other people. There was even a Classics Illustrated version. Latin-loving geeks read it in the original Latin. Bear in mind that Caesar was writing about himself, and would tend to make himself look good, so get an annotated version that gives you the dirt, too.
Who is the Calypso Singer that rides Pegasus?
Harry Bellerophonte
Old 03-19-2003, 08:33 AM
middleman is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Mexico's Norte Vecino
Posts: 5,464
Are these books "approachable" ?
Old 03-19-2003, 10:53 AM
Foolonthehill is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Yosemite
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Jill Lepore; "The Name Of War" Story of King Phillips War and the beginnings of American identity.
Francis Parkman; "Montcalm and Wolfe"
Barbara Tuchman: "The March of Folly"
Eginhard; "Charlemagne"

And something that is not directly about war, but is set while war is going on all around; "M: The Man who would become Carravaggio" about the counter reformation of the Roman Church in early 1600's
Also Giles; "Big Chief Elizabeth" about the early attempts at colonization by the English.
Old 03-19-2003, 11:38 AM
Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Indian Wars. A couple of readable clasics:

Dee Brown, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"

Stephen Ambrose, "Crazy Horse and Custer"
Old 03-19-2003, 04:06 PM
burundi is offline
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: North Carolina, USA
Posts: 3,030
Jill Lepore's book is wonderful. It's very readable, but she backs it all up with solid scholarship.

A good way to screen out nuts and liars is to look for books published by university presses. A few kooks make it under the radar, but university presses have higher standards in that regard than your average publishing company.
Old 03-19-2003, 05:28 PM
Nichol_storm is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: ....Mississippi Queen....
Posts: 825
watsonwil, I know this isn't a time period you specified, but if you're open to pre-Revolutionary France, then may I suggest "Twilight of the Old Order" by Claude Manceron? Fascinating, sometimes hilarious book full of fabulous tidbits about all sorts of interesting folks, including Beaumarchais, the Chevalier d'Eon, and the Marquis de Sade. Highly recommend it.

Old 03-19-2003, 10:26 PM
KSO is offline
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 2,203
This isn't really within the scope of what you're looking for but Longitude by Dava Sobol (I think I've spelled that right) is a very readable and fascinating bio of the guy who invented a clock that kept accurate time at sea, thus allowing sailors to accurately calculate their longitude. Fascinating story and you can read the book in a weekend.


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