Favorite History Reads of the Year

Lists of top ten this or that are common in December. In the midst of holiday shopping and feting, we feel compelled to sum it all up before launching in to another year filled with all new items (or variations on a theme) to categorize, list, and rate.

I’m certainly not immune to the ranking and collecting. I eagerly click on just about any list of top books of the year put out by anyone on any topic while keeping my local library system website cued up in another window for easy additions to my library request/hold list. And I certainly love those collected works of Best that come out around this time of year – best food writing, nature and science, short stories, essays.

But I’ve noticed a glaring omission – at least to my eyes. Where’s the Best American History Writing? If anyone is reading, I volunteer to be the series editor.

Here, in no particular order and definitely not comprehensive, are some history stories I enjoyed this past year. It’s an eclectic bunch but then, I’m interested in just about anything if told well.

“The Prodigal Daughter: Writing, History, and Mourning” (New Yorker) by Jill Lepore
A fascinating story that brings together Lepore’s own life story (and particularly that of her mother) with the life of Jane Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s sister. It’s a stunning blend of memoir and history.

“The Earliest Libraries-on-Wheels Looked Way Cooler than Today’s Bookmobiles” (Smithsonian blog)
A fun pictorial look at book mobiles past.

“A Skillful Horsewoman’: A Brief History of Royal Childhoods” (The Atlantic) Olga Khazan
I’m an Anglophile through and through so I loved reading this short history of royal children (sounds miserable)

A Theology of Wild Apples” (Apple Orchard blog)
Having written a book on apples myself and gone to grad school to study colonial America, I could scarcely resist this look at Puritans and wild apples.

Voice Hero: The Inventor of Karaoke Speaks” (The Appendix)
The charming story of the invention of karaoke from the inventor himself.

“Busker Rhymes” (The Pirate Omnibus)
Buskers have been annoying people on public transportation for a long time.

 

Don’t even get me started on history books I loved…

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