Photo by Jan Wilder Bill

It’s traveling season and nothing makes a vacation sparkle like a spell-binding book. Better yet, digesting new information with intimate details about historic figures boosts your intellect, Don’t stick with repetitive historical nonfiction books. Many leaders of our past have accomplishments that have been overlooked, or worse yet, forgotten altogether.

Discover events that shape why you live the way you do. Even those great people you admire had interesting, private moments in their lives that changed history. Delve into the thoughts and motivations of histories movers and shakers. Know the secrets of our world. 

I’m not talking about those required reading books from yonder schooldays. Consider the names you’ve heard in passing, but you didn’t quit get the jest of why they were mentioned. Add another’s life to your relaxation. No one deserves to be shelved.  

Let’s begin with books written by master writers. You can expect flawless prose and deep evaluation of decisions made by our great leaders. These writers delve into well-known historical figures with an aim to humanize those we judge unfairly.

1. The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

by David McCullough

David McCullough is one of my favorite historians and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him, along with his spunky wife who edits all of his manuscripts before submitting them to publishers. McCullough shares the electrifying facts of how the Panama Canal was built. This involves combative negotiations that failed, and sly strategies for advancing trade and transportation ten-fold. Some academics credit this miraculous engineering accomplishment to North American’s lust for California gold, but there is much more to dredging a fifty-one mile waterway.

2. Alexander Hamilton

by Ron Chew, Scott Brick, et al.

Written by a National Book Award winner, Ron Chew, the book, Alexander Hamilton, shares the life of a President of the United States who happened to be my ancestor’s foster son. Hamilton’s tale is of self-sacrifice in order to transform his ideas into a new Nation. This is a man with numerous titles in addition to being President. He defined the U.S. finance and commerce platform, and was adored by his fellow Founders. Yet, he couldn’t pull himself out of a long-standing heated debate with his adversary, Aaron Burr. Discover how a boy with a challenging past was embraced by America’s leading families only to meet tragedy. 

3. Fallen Founders: The Life of Aaron Burr

Nancy Isenberg

It wouldn’t be fair to read about President Hamilton without understanding his nemesis. This book is told from the perspective of a victimized Aaron Burr. Decide for yourself whether Burr was a patriot or a trader, a murderer or a loyalist. Discover why he was assassinated and just how he really felt about the fairer citizens. 

Now for books with heart. Knowing history includes the simple people who revolutionized society. 

4. Alexander Graham Bell: The Reluctant Genius and His Passion for Invention

by Charlotte Gray

This jack-of-all-trades enjoyed a highly favorable reputation. Explore why how his family’s challenges gave him a fascination with sound. His family members suffered from speech problems and deafness, which motivated him to be the expert on conveying conversations.

5. “Sorry Guys, We Stormed the Capitol:” Eye-Witness Accounts of January 6th

by Ben Hamilton

This book consists of records and interviews by a teacher who witnessed firsthand the once in a lifetime protest against the American election system. He includes photos and “critical reasoning” for the reader to incorporate into any propaganda. His goal is for readers to piece together the truth. It’s wise to be aware of what others have to say in order to decide what you think. 

For a broader perspective of humanity, consider books that cover how a few great men revolutionized entire countries. Get to know incredible events suffered by our neighbors.

6. The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties that Helped Create Modern China

by Jonathan Kaufman

A Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Johnathan Kaufman, explains how two family dynasties turned obstacles within China into economic opportunities. The one-hundred fifty year span covers drug trade, warring families, communism and foreign invasions with insights into the survivors’ gripping emotions. 

7. White Australia has a Black History: William Cooper and First Nations Peoples’ Political Activism

by Barbara Miller 

Historian, Barbara Miller, shares a true accounting of betrayal, and redemption for the Aboriginal, William Cooper, who protested racism against the Federal Parliament. Cooper’s voice lived beyond his years and his message became complete through his grandson, Uncle Boydie. Discover why Boydie was recognized by the Queen herself. 

8. A Great and Noble Scheme: the Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland

by John Mack Farther

Jack Mack Farther gives life to Nova Scotia’s 1755 holocaust enforced by England against the French Acadians. Rights were subjugated. Warfare raged. England overpowered France on North American soil in a bid for farmland. Decide for yourself whether justice was served. 

9. How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe

by Thomas Cahill

Thanks to Ireland’s unconquered territories, classic literature and religious works were saved from destruction during the dark ages. Enter the protected life of saints and scholars who remained shielded from the horrors taking place across Europe. These men braved threats and torture so that you could be the intellectual great that you are. 

There you have it, a great way to entertain yourself while waiting out those long airline delays and cancellations. History has merit not just for the value of knowing truth, but for the sheer entertainment of entering into reality reading. 

Bon voyage!!

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