Booking Through Thursday: Reading history


Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

Sometimes I feel like the only person I know who finds reading history fascinating. It’s so full of amazing-yet-true stories of people driven to the edge and how they reacted to it. I keep telling friends that a good history book (as opposed to some of those textbooks in school that are all lists and dates) does everything a good novel does–it grips you with real characters doing amazing things.

Am I REALLY the only person who feels this way? When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

A long time ago, I was a history major, intent on teaching history. I have a degree in history. But since then I have not read many history books, nor have I taken up teaching history.

I haven’t, however, completely disowned my past. I have read some excellent histories over this decade and will probably read some again in the future.

When I covered religion as a newspaper reporter and editor, I would dip into my history textbooks, especially Richard S. Dunn’s The Age of Religious Wars: 1559-1715,  which covers much of the Reformation, to add depth to my stories. At that time I also read Thomas Cahill’s Desire of the Everlasting Hills, a historical biography of  Jesus. From time to time I would also dip into Paul Johnson’s A History of Christianity, though I haven’t read the book all the way through.

Another historical biography I’ve read within the past five or six years is Karen Armstrong’s Buddha, one of the series of short, immensely readable, biographies put out by Penguin several years back.

Of late my reading has diverged toward possible future history, reading science fiction. After all, sans air cars and FTL travel, we living in a somewhat science-fictional universe. Of course here’s hoping our future history doesn’t include Morlocks.

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5 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Reading history

  1. Annie Dillard said writers must read history of all kinds, deep into human and natural history. It makes sense, for it feeds the mind and the imagination. Much literature comes out of literature, but ideas and growth come from history.

    • I love reading history, especially history of religion and religious movements. Both as a personal interest and to see how religion shapes society.

      I’ve also loved Dillard’s natural histories. As well as Diane Ackerman’s books.

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