7 Historical nonfiction books we couldn’t put down

It’s time to get familiar with history books and war memoirs. Take a look at our carefully crafted list of immersive historical nonfiction – made by an expert bookworm.

A Small Town in Ukraine by Bernard Wasserstein 

Historian Bernard Wasserstein uncovers the traumatic history of Krakowiec, the town his family originated from. The results are devastating and exceptional.

“At other times, as now, it was confronted by tumultuous, uncontainable forces that aroused hatred and blood lust and wreaked devastating havoc. I want to explore Krakowiec and its people, with my family at its – and my – heart.”

A haunting and deep work of history.

The Tudors in Love: Passion and Politics in the Age of England’s Most Famous Dynasty by Sarah Gristwood

From the author whose work has exposed the rich love affairs of the Tudor dynasty, comes another instalment of courtly romance, politics, and diplomacy. The turbulent drama of this era has captivated scholars and readers for centuries. Was it dreamy? Steamy? Or was it all a nightmare? 

The relationship between romance and politics marred the Tudor dynasty. Gristwood explores the codes of desire and power, love and lust, and obsession and revulsion, which shaped this era.

Femina by Janina Ramirez

I spotted this book for its stunning cover, then I read the first page. In 1879 the bones of a 10th-century

Norse warrior were unearthed in Birka, Stockholm. Scientists assumed this was a male warrior for the swords, war horses, spears, axes and arrows surrounding them. Then, another scientist spotted the wide hips and slender arms. This Birka warrior was female. As soon as I read this, I was hooked. 

I have an affinity for the Middle Ages and Medieval history and this book gives women of this era a voice and agency. There are female warriors, kings, and merchants whose experiences have been erased by history. I cannot wait to read more books like this.

In Search of Mary Seacole by Helen Rappaport

The secrecy around Mary Seacole has always fascinated me. I spotted this book and Helen Rappaport’s name, having read her book Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs. Just like her previous work, Rappaport leaves no stone unturned. This book is a comprehensive examination of Mary’s life. There is material on British and Caribbean society during the Crimean era which opened a window into the unique and remarkable life of the nurse.

I could feel Rappaport’s admiration for Mary Seacole throughout the book. The tone is professional but personable. It’s not easy reading due to the scholarship at certain points, but I read this in small bursts and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Rappaport leaves the book in Seacole’s legacy: Who was her Scottish father? Was Sally her daughter? Then, Rappaport asks readers to get in touch if they have any evidence that might shed light on Mary’s secrets. I found this heart-warming to read as I felt like I was part of a journey which hasn’t ended. 

Egypt’s Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on Earth by Colleen and John Darnell

From clue to clue, renowned Egyptologists John and Colleen Darnell reconstruct the untold story of

Akhenaten and Nefertiti—the former a monotheist tyrant who nearly destroyed the kingdom he sought to rule, and the latter the beloved wife of Tutankamun.

Over three thousand years have passed since these kings and queens ruled, but the vivid life and controversial reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti still remain revolutionary. They were gods on earth. With new evidence, these Egyptologists teach us how solar worship, art, and urban designs expressed merging religions and politics, transforming the era.

This book is detective suspense—a thrilling adventure of fascinating scholarship, dusting away hieroglyphics, artefacts, and excavations.

“Readers will delight in this accessible study of a consequential period of Egypt’s history.” — Publisher’s Weekly“In addition to chronicling the complex political, social, economic, and architectural elements of the history, the Darnells offer a touching portrait of family life…Riveting.” — Kirkus Reviews

The Ticket Collector from Belarus by Mike Anderson & Neil Hanson

Britain’s only war crime. That is all I read to convince me to read this book. This is the story of Ben-Zion Blustein and Andrei Sawoniuk in 1930s Domachevo in modern-day Belarus. Following the Nazi invasion of 1941, these friends became enemies even after the war with Ben-Zion heading to Israel and Andrei ‘Andrusha the Bastard’ finding work as a British Railway ticket collector in London. The two meet again in the 1990s at The Old Bailey on trial for murder.

I was gripped by this story. I read it in two days. Of course, it was horrific and harrowing, but it was fascinating. This book teaches you about the UK’s criminal justice system, but it also teaches you about how power in all places is misused. As depressing as it is, I learned so much about humanity that I feel changed for reading it.

The Path of Peace: Walking the Western Front Way by Anthony Seldon

Inspired by Alexander Douglas Gillespie, the young World War One British soldier, Anthony Seldon sets out on a 35-day pilgrimage from the French-Swiss border to the English Channel. This book follows the

‘Via Sacra’ journey sought by soldiers like Gillespie. It is a story of chance discovery and history with its rich European scenery through Vosges, Argonne, and Champagne, into the haunting trenches of Arras,

Somme, and Ypres. With touching notes of grief, loss, and legacy, this book mirrors the extraordinary journey of Anthony Seldon’s act of remembrance and rediscovery.

“An incredible journey that will move and inspire—we must never forget.” — Bear Grylls

That’s our list of brilliant historical nonfiction for you!

If you want to find out what to read on your next coffee shop date, check out our recommendations at our Editor’s Blog. Find us on socials, our website and Goodreads to get notified whenever we publish something new.

We’re here to help readers — we’re here to help you. 

By Shelby Jones