4 history book recommendations

I asked around the MPR newsroom for history book recommendations. Here are what some of our biggest readers think you should pick up.

Assistant Producer Marcheta Fornoff: “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography provides a social context to the apartheid in South Africa in a way that could only be surpassed by experiencing the movement firsthand. Mandela’s writing is frank, effortless and makes the reader feel like a fly on a very important wall.

A military fly-past takes place above a statue of former South African president Nelson Mandela shortly after its unveiling at the Union Buildings on December 16, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa.(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Editor Hart Van Denberg: Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein

A vivid portrait of the man, the modern political landscape he willed into existence, and the way his candidacies and presidency became the training ground for a small army of operatives whose names we see almost daily now on cable news shows, op-ed columns and the halls of Republican power.

nixonland bloodlands

Associate Producer Kryssy Pease: “Bloodlands” by Timothy Snyder

As the daughter of a WW2 historian, I can’t recommend “Bloodlands” highly enough. Snyder’s conceptualization of how to regard the era of mass murder by Nazi Germany and Stalinist USSR as an ongoing, interrelated phenomenon beginning in 1933 and extending through end of war can change one’s whole idea of the meaning of the history of Europe in early 20th century.

And my recommendation: “The Proud Tower” by Barbara Tuchman

Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” is the most famous of her books about World War One, but my favorite is this history of the decades that lead to the conflict. Some countries, cities, and people were hurtling toward modernity, while others were still mired in an agrarian past. Tuchman brings them to life in a series of essays rather than a linear history.