6 Must-Read Books About British History

By August 25, 2017Literature

As with our previous article focussed on the history of America, this list of historical non-fiction offers a no-holds-barred look at what made the UK what it is today.

Contrary to what many of us were taught in school, British history was not all glory and pride… Much of what made us ‘great’ was built upon the backs of oppressed and disenfranchised innocents. From well before the ‘Great Roman Empire’ to the ‘Great British Empire’ and beyond, British history is both fascinating and horrifying in equal measure.

Let us not forget what this country was built upon, and let us always remember why threads of racial and class prejudice still run through our societies today.

The following list would be a great start for any budding historian intent on having a honest and true account of how Great Britain became the mixing pot of cultures and communities it is today.




“British history is traditionally regarded as having started with the Roman Conquest. But this is to ignore half a million years of prehistory that still exert a profound influence. Here Francis Pryor examines the great ceremonial landscapes of Ancient Britain and Ireland – Stonehenge, Seahenge, Avebury and the Bend of the Boyne – as well as the discarded artefacts of day-to-day life, to create an astonishing portrait of our ancestors. This major re-revaluation of pre-Roman Britain, made possible in part by aerial photography and coastal erosion, reveals a much more sophisticated life in Ancient Britain and Ireland than has previously been supposed.”

“The complete set of all three paperback volumes of Simon Schama’s compelling history of Britain. ‘History clings tight but it also kicks loose’ writes Simon Schama at the outset of his epic three-volume journey into Britain’s past. Disruption as much as persistence is its proper subject. So although the great theme of British history seen from the twentieth century is endurance, it’s counterpoint seen from the twenty-first must be alteration. Change – sometimes gentle and subtle sometimes shocking and violent – is the dynamic of Schama’s unapologetically personal, grippingly written history, especially the changes that wash over custom and habit, transforming our loyalties. From early England and the Tudors through the British Wars of the 17th century to the rise and fall of the British Empire, award-winning historian Simon Schama illuminates British history through a variety of historical themes and key British characters.”

“In this first full-scale treatment of Britain’s relationship with the surrounding oceans, Glen O’Hara examines the history of British people’s maritime lives and, in turn, the formation of British cultural identities. A lens through which to view British life, Britain and the Sea spans more than 400 years, beginning in 1600 and taking us through to the present day. Tying together every aspect in the development of Great Britain, from state formation, industrialization and modernization, through to histories of transport, migration, slavery, warfare and crime, this book illustrates how the rich tapestry of Britain’s narrative was decided not among the fields of the ‘green and pleasant land’, but out at sea.”

“Drawing on new genealogical research, original records, and expert testimony, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination, Elizabethan ‘blackamoors’ and the global slave-trading empire. It shows that the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery, and that black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of both World Wars. Black British history is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation. It is not a singular history, but one that belongs to us all. Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how the lives of black and white Britons have been entwined for centuries.”

“In the eighteenth century, India’s share of the world economy was as large as Europe’s. By 1947, after two centuries of British rule, it had decreased six-fold. The Empire blew rebels from cannon, massacred unarmed protesters, entrenched institutionalised racism, and caused millions to die from starvation. British imperialism justified itself as enlightened despotism for the benefit of the governed, but Shashi Tharoor takes demolishes this position, demonstrating how every supposed imperial ‘gift’ – from the railways to the rule of law – was designed in Britain’s interests alone. He goes on to show how Britain’s Industrial Revolution was founded on India’s deindustrialisation, and the destruction of its textile industry. In this bold and incisive reassessment of colonialism, Tharoor exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain’s stained Indian legacy.”

“Pauperland is Jeremy Seabrook’s account of the mutations of poverty over time, historical attitudes to the poor, and the lives of the impoverished themselves, from early Poor Laws till today. He explains how in the medieval world, wealth was regarded as the greatest moral danger to society, yet by the industrial era, poverty was the most significant threat to social order. How did this change come about, and how did the poor, rather than the rich, find themselves blamed for much of what is wrong with Britain, including such familiar-and ancient-scourges as crime, family breakdown and addictions? How did it become the fate of the poor to be condemned to perpetual punishment and public opprobrium, the useful scapegoat of politicians and the media? Pauperland charts how such attitudes were shaped by ill-conceived and ill-executed private and state intervention, and how these are likely to frame ongoing discussions of and responses to poverty in Britain.”




War Novels Category for 2018 Challenge

By | Cwts Club Book Club, Literature | No Comments
This year’s reading challenge is a bit different and as promised each month we’ll give you a list of suggested books for each category. For March I asked the Cwts Discussion Group to recommend “A Novel Set During A War”. The response was once again completely overwhelming, these are just a few of the many that didn’t already feature in one of the many lists we already have over on FRA. I’ve included links to the other lists at the end. Read More

Audiobooks on… Vinyl?

By | Literature, News, Reading Formats | No Comments
Author Joe Hill (Strange Weather), has always had a hankering for the rock star life but the life of an author is far from rock and roll. Instead Hill has decided to come up with some other way of creating his own vinyl LP- by recording an audiobook instead of an album!

The vinyl recording will be narrated by actor Nate Corddry, and will feature a special cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” recorded specifically for the record. The Dark Carousel vinyl package will include original artwork (see below), two colourful special edition records, and a full-length download of the audiobook.

The first vinyl printing of Hill’s Dark Carousel will be for a limited 2,500 copies, and will be out on the 20th of April.

Keep an eye out here at For Reading Addicts for where to pre-order yours.

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Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ Limited Editions to be Released

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Stephen King’s 1987 psychological thriller is set to be reissued as limited editions with help from artist Rick Berry.

Inspired by moments in his own life where fans have been unhappy with his work- King wrote his protagonist, Paul Sheldon, as a writer famous for Victorian-era romance novels. After a nasty car crash the author is rescued by crazed fan Annie Wilkes, who takes him to her house and forces him to write a new book in order to modify the story to her own tastes.

The reissue of the novel will be music to King’s fans’ ears, giving them an opportunity to own something truly special.

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Schools in Duluth, Minnesota Have Removed Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from the Curriculum.

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The Duluth school district of Minnesota has decided to remove Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird due to the book’s use of racial slurs.

The two books will still be available to read in the school’s libraries but, as of next year, they will be replaced by other books that tackle the same topics in the ninth- and 11th-grade English classes. The news has been announced by the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, Michael Cary. Read More

Nicola Sturgeon – First Minister of Scotland – Bookworm

By | Literature, News, Political | No Comments
Who knew or would even think that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has the time to be a massive Bookworm? Well she is, and she tweets her reads with short reviews.

She is very passionate about the benefits of reading and set up The First Minister’s Reading Challenge to encourage Scottish children to read, with prizes at the end of each year. Read More

Your Literary Pets

By | Inspired by Literature, Literature | No Comments
In the past we have shown you some of your favourite authors and their pets such as William S. Burroughs and his cat Ginger, Dorothy Parker and her dog, and Charles Dickens and his pet raven named Grip. This blog, however, is dedicated to you, our Reading Addicts, and your pets.

Animals have such a positive influence on people, and Reading Addicts are no exception. We love to read about animals in both fiction and non-fiction, and books that feature animals have proven to be so popular that they’ve inspired EIGHT of For Reading Addicts’ quizzes!

Having a furry friend by our side can be comforting and, at times, relaxing despite cats being so obsessed with sitting on books and papers… The pleasure of having your furry hot water bottle right with you releases all the right chemicals in your brain so you can relax and disappear into a book properly.

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