Around the world in 200 books
April 26, 2011 5:15 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to read a book about each country's history, ideally one offering as comprehensive of a timeline as possible. My goal is to get a brief overview of the history of a region rather than a specific focus on any singularly important event. I'm looking for specific suggestions for any and all countries. Since that is a fairly wide net to cast, I'd settle for the best choices on the countries with the longest and most interesting histories and/or specifically interesting books. I have a Kindle, so bonus points for books available in that format.
posted by highfidelity to Education (20 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
For Britain, the Oxford History of Britain is an excellent, one-volume book covering the general history; it's very biased towards England (thus my ignorance of Scottish monarchs before James VI), but given that limitation it's still very good, and quite readable.
posted by jb at 5:41 PM on April 26, 2011

Why not go for a more comprehensive work that will talk about separate countries but relate them to each other? The Durants' eleven-volume "The Story of Civilization" may not be the most up-to-date work, but it's a fascinating read and covers the whole world. I believe it's worth your time, depending on your personal goals.
posted by amtho at 5:52 PM on April 26, 2011

Best answer: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, on the former Yugoslavia--available free online at The Atlantic.
posted by availablelight at 5:54 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story

Highly recommended.
posted by jchaw at 6:03 PM on April 26, 2011

Australians have Manning Clark's epic six-volume History of Australia and Cathcart's abridged version. The original was first published in 1962 and it's still the first work on high school and university Australian history reading lists, deservedly.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:27 PM on April 26, 2011

DK's History of the World. It's for ages 9-12, but I really like it.

There's another series from time-life, that's organized every 1 - 200 years or so. Some of the stories there are nice too.
posted by onegoodthing at 6:30 PM on April 26, 2011

Does the DK history of the World have cutaways? I love those.
posted by jb at 7:53 PM on April 26, 2011

There are many good histories of Canada but for what you're after I'd recommend Stone Country: An Unauthorized History of Canada by poet George Bowering. (See a review from Quill & Quire.) It covers everything, brings Canada's history to life, and is a great read.
posted by wdenton at 8:02 PM on April 26, 2011

The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith is a great primer on post-colonial Africa, with overviews on a lot a countries.

A History of Modern Russia by Robert Service (don't mind the one bad review) is a good book about Russia since around 1900. It goes really quickly and is kind of dense though.

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley Martin is a really interesting book looking at the really interesting and scary country that is North Korea
posted by Geppp at 8:12 PM on April 26, 2011

Best answer: Africa: A Biography of the Continent.

Please supplement Black Lamb and Grey Falcon with something on the modern history of the Balkans.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:13 PM on April 26, 2011

New Zealand: either James Belich's two-volume history (Making Peoples and Paradise Reforged); or Michael King's Penguin History of New Zealand. (I've only read King's book, which I thought was excellent, but Belich is very well thought of).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:04 AM on April 27, 2011

Penguin History of Modern China
posted by monocot at 3:41 AM on April 27, 2011

Most english books on Finnish history concentrate on 20th century events, especially on the Winter War and the Continuation War during WW2. However, for a more comprehensive overview I would recommend A Short History of Finland by Fred Singleton.

Alternatively, The History of Scandinavia by T.K. Derry offers a bit more regional context as it covers the history of the whole northern Europe.
posted by baueri at 5:43 AM on April 27, 2011

What you want is the Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth Edition (2001). It covers every part of the world, and each chronological sequence of dates and events is prefaced by a useful summary of the period. Here's an Amazon link; you can use "Look inside" to see what it's like. For years I relied on my beat-up old Fourth Edition and wished they'd do a real update; then they finally did, and it's a beautifully designed and printed book that takes you up to the turn of the millennium. And at "new from $5.49, used from $4.21" you can't go wrong!

> Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, on the former Yugoslavia

A delightful book that's completely unreliable (West was blindly and unapologetically pro-Serb); if you read it, by all means supplement it with an actual history, as EvaDestruction said.
posted by languagehat at 6:58 AM on April 27, 2011

United States: Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People. (The 1965 edition was a single volume; the current edition is three volumes.)

France: Andre Maurois, A History of France.

Canada: I liked Roger Riendeau, A Brief History of Canada, but the reviews are only so-so. You may prefer Desmond Morton, A Short History of Canada.
posted by russilwvong at 7:37 AM on April 27, 2011

Best answer: India

The Discovery of India written by India's 1st Prime Minister - Jawarharlal Nehru. One of the best historical introductions covering a 5000 year period.

India After Gandhi a well written perspective of Indepedent India
posted by manny_calavera at 10:56 AM on April 27, 2011

I was going to recommend The Discovery of India and India after Gandhi, but manny_calavera beat me to it! Both excellent books and you really can't do better than that combination when it comes to an overview of Indian history.
posted by Tamanna at 11:49 AM on April 27, 2011

I took New Zealand history while I was studying at the University of Auckland and one of our main textbooks was the New Oxford History of New Zealand by Giselle Byrnes. Fascinating read. It has all-new material and rethinks the way in which people perceive NZ history.
posted by fuzzysoft at 7:00 PM on April 27, 2011

Best answer: Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History by Thomas Barfield is a great overview about the country. He's an anthropologist, but the book does a very good job describing the political history from about the eighteenth century the time it was published in early 2010. It includes really detailed discussions about different ethnic groups, regions, geographies, and political developments, so if that intrigues you this book will be perfect. If not, it's still a valuable book; just be careful not to get bogged down in the details. Barfield is a very engaging and clear writer who uses a lot of great analogies and metaphors to help you grasp the nuances of Afghan history.

Bonus points: the link goes to the Kindle edition.
posted by lilac girl at 8:53 PM on April 27, 2011

« Older What's up with my ac?   |   Old paycheck found, now what? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.