Judge-y and Gossipy Narrative History
February 25, 2021 12:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently reading through John Julius Norwich's books and I really enjoy how gossipy and judge-y they are, especially his history of the papacy. What other popular historians/books should I read who have this kind of authorial tone?
posted by josher71 to Education (14 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Nancy Mitford's biographies of Voltaire and Louis XIV.
posted by Balthamos at 12:38 PM on February 25, 2021 [10 favorites]

100% The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey. the gossipy trash-talking tone made it SO FUN (and it looks like you already like history) so fun!!!
posted by supermedusa at 12:43 PM on February 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Simon Winder’s Germania and Danubia have this tone about German and Hapsburg history, respectively.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:02 PM on February 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Vasari's Lives of the Artists
posted by saladin at 1:10 PM on February 25, 2021

Albert Goldman's biographies of Elvis Presley and John Lennon.
posted by box at 1:19 PM on February 25, 2021

I think the standard for judgmental history/biography is Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians, isn't it?
posted by kevinbelt at 1:36 PM on February 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Also want to support Simon Winder - Danubia and Germania are two of my absolute favorite books. There's a fairly recent (2019 maybe?) called Lotharingia, about the Rhine area - Benelux, Alsace-Lorraine, etc.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding Nancy Mitford. Her cracks about Mme de Montespan made me cackle!
posted by orrnyereg at 2:03 PM on February 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Victory by Linda Hirschman has its flaws but it does have a very fun, gossipy tone. Same goes for Randy Shilts' books.
posted by lunasol at 3:38 PM on February 25, 2021

I laughed out loud multiple times at Alexis Coe's You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George of Washington.
posted by rebekah at 4:08 PM on February 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is kind of more of a reflection of the Nixon era (the author was his White House counsel) but The Rehnquist Choice by John Dean really satisfied this for me.
posted by carbide at 5:11 PM on February 25, 2021

The Trials of the King of Hampshire: Madness, Secrecy and Betrayal in Georgian England, by Cambridge historian Elizabeth Foyster. (A bargain at Daedalus Books if you're looking to buy your own dead-tree copy.)

The author doesn't hesitate to point out to the reader the many eye-opening ways in which the life of John Charles Wallop, third Earl of Portsmouth, diverged from its expected path, but she is sensible enough not to indulge in any armchair psychiatric diagnoses.

Bonus: Jane Austen and family have not-insignificant roles. So does Lord Byron.
posted by virago at 7:08 PM on February 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think Mary Beard’s engrossing history of Rome, SPQR, might fit the bill.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:45 PM on February 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Emma Southon’s books - catty, sweary histories of certain aspects of Ancient Rome. They are very very good.
posted by Megami at 1:13 AM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

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