National Reading Movement

History Books That Aren’t Boring

If you avoid history books and historical fiction like they’re the Black Plague, you might be surprised to find out that there are many interesting books out there.

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No, we aren’t joking.

Here are four history and historical fiction books that will not bore you to tears!

 

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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If your knowledge of history is dismal, it’s best to start with a brief overview of everything. A Short History of Nearly Everything is probably the most delightful natural history “textbook” you would ever read.  It traces life from its first appearance to modern day humans.

Don’t be put off by the fact that it may seem too “science-y”. The book explores biology and genealogy in a fun manner as Bryson makes everything humorous. He even relates funny stories about the scientists behind the research and discoveries.

Here’s a humorous and eye-opening excerpt: “Tune your television to any channel it doesn’t receive and about 1 percent of the dancing static you see is accounted for by this ancient remnant of the Big Bang. The next time you complain that there is nothing on, remember that you can always watch the birth of the universe.”

 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

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100,000 years ago, a few human species roamed the earth. Today, there is just one – us.

Who are we and where did we come from? Sapiens might just hold the answer to that. The book spans the whole of human history – from the very first humans who walked the earth to the breakthroughs of the “Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions” that shaped civilisation as we know it.

And it’s not just about how history has shaped our human societies, but also how it has influenced our personalities. Have we become happier over the course of our existence? Has our behaviour evolved with changing times? Or are our minds still wired similarly to that of our ancestors?

Bold, provocative and entirely insightful, Sapiens challenges everything we know about being human.

 

A State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang  

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If non-fiction books aren’t your cup of tea, how about a historical fiction novel? A State of Emergency delves into the days of leftist movements and political detentions in Singapore.

The book follows an extended family from the 1940s to the present day. Siew Li leaves her family in Tiong Bahru to fight for political freedom in the Malayan jungle. Decades later, a Malaysian reporter returns to her country to uncover the truth behind a massacre committed during the Malayan Emergency. Meanwhile in Singapore, Siew Li’s niece is accused of being a Marxist conspirator.

Learn more about the history of the region through Tiang’s masterfully constructed narrative and multi-layered characters. There is never a dull moment!

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Borrow this finalist for the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize here.

 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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This book tells the story of two sisters in France during World War Two, and their struggle to survive and resist the German occupation of France.

Vianne must endure the drafting and subsequent capture of her husband, and fight against starvation and cold for herself and her daughter. To make matters worse, she also has to deal with the billeting of German officers in her home and face the dangers of sheltering Jewish children.

Isabelle, being younger and more rebellious, takes an active role in the French Resistance. She is initially tasked with distributing anti-Nazi propaganda, but soon develops a successful plan to help downed Allied airmen escape to the British embassy in neutral Spain, where they can be repatriated. She earns the codename “Nightingale” and is actively hunted by the Nazis during the war.

Do the sisters survive the war? Will they ever reunite? Borrow the book to find out!