History Holiday Binge

The holidays are a season of overindulgence—we eat a lot, we spend a lot, and (hopefully) we read a lot.  The good thing about reading is that it’s a little easier on the waistline and the wallet than those other two options.  If you’re a bit of a casual history buff, like me, then you might want to add these books that take you back in time to your holiday reading list.  These are some of my favorite holiday downtime reads of all time because they keep you turning pages from the very beginning.  Maybe you’ll even get all four read before we ring in 2020! 

Now, these books vary in how realistically they approach history.  The Strange Case of Dr. Couney is a well-researched, non-fictional dive into the life of the man who popularized the use of baby incubators.  The topic is far more twisting and fascinating than you might expect, and Dawn Raffel’s narrative style makes you feel like you’re reading a novel.   

Life After Life is a work of literary historical fiction, with a bit of time hopping thrown in for good measure.  Ursula Todd lives through both world wars—about a dozen times, since every time she dies, her life resets and she gets to try it again.  Kate Atkinson gives you an almost uncomfortably realistic look at several different versions of life in early twentieth century England, and the desire to see how Ursula finally gets it right will keep you reading. 

I might be stretching the definition of “history” a bit when recommending The Song of Achilles, but who could blame me when Madeline Miller makes mythology feel so real.  Besides, the Trojan War really did happen, and after you read this expansive tale of the lives of Patroclus and Achilles, you’ll hope that such a love really could and did exist.  This is a one-sitting read, for sure. 

Finally, I have to admit that I haven’t actually read The Feather Thief yet, but I thought I’d share one of the books I hope to read this holiday season.  Everybody loves a good heist!  And the natural history is just a bonus, in my mind. 

Happy holidays, and happy reading! 

Life After Life

Ursula Todd was born in February 1910.  And then she was born again.  And again.  If you could live your life over and over, what would you change?  How will Ursula try to change a world at war?

The Song of Achilles

The Iliad retold as a story of love that endures despite the will of the gods.