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10 History Books to Gift This Holiday Season

From the Ottoman Empire to the 20th century.

history books to gift

There are all different kinds of history readers—some prefer ancient history, some prefer fascinating bits of nonfiction, and some can't get enough military history. Whichever subgenre the history lover on your gift list prefers, we've got you covered with this list of 10 gripping books. 

This list is part of the Gift Guide for our 2021 Holiday Ebook Exchange. Click here before December 16 to learn more and sign up!

Upstairs at the White House

Upstairs at the White House

By J. B. West

Whether or not you usually choose history books, this New York Times bestseller is a fascinating read. J.B. West, the chief usher of the White House for nearly 30 years, offers readers a behind-the-scenes look at the goings-on of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

West directed state functions, planned weddings and funerals, oversaw extensive renovations, and supervised every activity in the presidential home. He worked with six presidents and first ladies, from Roosevelt through Nixon, and provides a captivating history of his time with each of their first ladies.

“I think he is one of the most extraordinary men I have ever met.” —Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

By Dee Brown

First published in 1970, this acclaimed history book has stood the test of time and become a favorite for more than 50 years. The heartbreaking account of the settlement of the American West and the systemic destruction of American Indian tribes is still a must-read book. 

Dee Brown's meticulous research of the years between 1860 and 1890 tells the tales of Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and more, compelling readers to wonder "who, indeed, were the savages" (William McPherson, The Washington Post).

We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young

We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young

By Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

This powerful account of one of the most significant battles during the Vietnam War is counted among the best of military history books. 

Together with Lr. Gen. Harold G. Moore, Joseph L. Galloway, the only journalist on the ground during battle, interviewed hundreds of men who fought in the battle, including North Vietnamese commanders. The result is a gripping account of men who rose to the ultimate challenge; who participated in our most grueling and gruesome ventures.

A Night to Remember

A Night to Remember

By Walter Lord

Authored Walter Lord, who also wrote the bestselling The Miracle of Dunkirk, this account of the sinking of the Titanic is “a stunning book, incomparably the best on its subject and one of the most exciting books of this or any year.” —The New York Times

Based on interviews with 63 survivors of the infamous night, this moment-by-moment description of the two hours and forty minutes between the iceberg strike and the ship's demise is filled with incredible detail—readers simply won't be able to put it down.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader

Letters of a Woman Homesteader

By Elinore Pruitt Stewart

The inspiration for the film Heartland, this memoir of an early 1900s woman in Wyoming is completely transporting—not to mention charming. Elinore Pruitt moved to Wyoming in 1909, after answering an ad to become a housekeeper on Henry Clyde Stewart's homestead. She quickly fell in love with the land and took advantage of the Homestead Act to file a claim for her own adjoining property. 

Over the next five years, she made her home there and traveled all over the state, befriending every person within a hundred miles—and collecting quite a few book-worthy tales along the way, which she wrote in letters to her former employer. First published in Atlantic Monthly, those letters are now collected in this "warmly delightful" tome (The Wall Street Journal).

The Fifties

The Fifties

By David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam chronicles 1950s America in over 800 pages—and so much happened during that decade, we bet he could have gone on for much longer. From McCarthyism to Elvis to civil rights to the expansion of McDonalds, the '50s were a whirlwind of change—and Halberstrom makes the case that they shaped the world we live in today.

“Outstanding . . . As journalist David Halberstam shows in his latest work, events and key personalities during the ’50s not only made the revolutionary ’60s happen, they were also as full of ground-breaking episodes as any decade in 20th-century American history.” —The Christian Science Monitor

Alive

Alive

By Piers Paul Read

What could be a better holiday present than a book that describes surviving an icy wreck?

The true story behind the 1993 film of the same name, Alive tells the tale of the sixteen people who survived a 1973 plane crash in the Andes. In order to survive in the freezing temperatures, they made a camp in the plane's fuselage. After their supply of food ran out, they were forced to do the unthinkable—consume the flesh of those who had not made it.  

The Last Madam

The Last Madam

By Chris Wiltz

"Raunchy, hilarious and thrilling," the story of Norma Wallace is, well, one for the books. In the 1920s, Norma was the proprietor of one of the most notorious brothels in New Orleans—and she was only a young woman herself. As she cultivated a clientele made up of everyone from politicians to movie stars to police officers, she also made friends, lovers and enemies. 

Combining original research with Wallace's own memoirs, The Last Madam paints a vivid pictureof Wallace's life, from dating a bootlegger who shot her during a fight to her ability to know every else's dirty secrets—and by extension, protect her own interests. 

The Great Siege, Malta 1565

The Great Siege, Malta 1565

By Ernle Bradford

In the early 1500s, the Ottoman Empire seemed to be unstoppable. The Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent had expanded his territory across Asia, Europe and North Africa. To take control of the Mediterranean, he next needed the small yet crucially positioned island of Malta. But when he attempted to seize it, what he received instead was one of the most crushing military defeats in history.

Ernle Bradford's skillfully researched story of the history surrounding the Holy Roman Empire's Knights of St. John's unexpected victory is “a superior, readable treatment of an important but little-discussed epic from the Renaissance past . . . An astonishing tale” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Falcon and the Snowman

The Falcon and the Snowman

By Robert Lindsey

Everyone loves a good spy story—especially when it's true. This Cold War tale of two Americans turning traitor inspired the 1985 film of the same name, starring Timonthy Hutton and Sean Penn.

Christopher John Boyce was a highly intelligent, highly trusted employee for a CIA contractor, and one of the few people to handle confidential information. With the help of Andrew Daulton Lee, his best friend and a drug dealer with international connections, Boyce began selling classified U.S. documents to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City, and very soon, the two found themselves caught up in a fight between the CIA and the KGB.

Want to give or receive one of these books this holiday season? Click here before December 16 to learn more and sign up for our 2021 Holiday Ebook Exchange!