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History buffs are easy to spot; well-written histories are not. How do you find just the right balance of historical tome and good read?
A not-so-well-written history book is burden. The last gift you want to give the history buff in your life is a textbook. Instead of taking on the daunting task of searching through the myriad new histories at your local bookstore, let us help.
USA TODAY has pored over the past year’s best-reviewed, best-selling and buzziest history books and chosen five tales that should please even the pickiest history lovers on your list.
1. “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis,” by Jared Diamond
About: The Pulitzer Prize-winning UCLA geography professor and author of best-seller “Guns, Germs, and Steel” takes a critical look at how societies respond to crises and why some nations recover from trauma while others don’t.
The buzz: Matt Damsker for USA TODAY says it is “a well-documented comparative study exploring how nations can change for the better through the sort of coping mechanisms we typically associate with personal trauma.”
2. “The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator,” by Timothy C. Winegard
About: This dramatic narrative nonfiction book offers a new perspective on world history, showing how the tiny but mighty mosquito (and the diseases it carries) has shaped humankind through the millennia.
The buzz: Matt Damsker for USA TODAY calls the book an "entertainingly educational new opus."
3. “A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII,” by Sonia Purnell
About: Purnell chronicles the life of Virginia Hall, who was called by the Gestapo “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” A Baltimore socialite with a prosthetic leg, Hall was the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and helped ignite the French Resistance during WWII.
The buzz: Calling her research “thorough,” David Holahan for USA TODAY says the author “brings into focus the dramatic struggles behind enemy lines that hastened the liberation of France and saved thousands of lives.”
4. “The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West,” by David McCullough
About: The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of “John Adams,” “1776” and “Truman” tells the story of the Northwest Territory and the men and women who settled it.
The buzz: According to Kirkus Reviews, the book is “vintage McCullough" that "students of American history will find captivating."
5. “Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation,” by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw.
About: Meacham and McGraw explore myriad songs that helped define generations of Americans and shape a nation.
The buzz: Kurt Bardella, a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, for “The Tennessean,” says, “Meacham and McGraw give us reason to be optimistic about our future, but also reason to pause and consider how the events of the past inform the next chapter of the American story.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed.com: Gift guide: 5 books for the history buffs on your holiday list in 2019