Five Non-Fiction Books For Winter Break

If non-fiction is more your cup of tea than fiction is, then I’ve got recommendations for you!  Or for someone you love who needs some non-fiction this winter.  Keep in mind, most of the non-fiction I read is related to history, anthropology, or archeology. There is also the occasional book about religion or languages, so you won’t find anything for your favorite physics nerd here.

Winter Break Book Recommendations

Vikings, Saxons, and Celts | Bryan Sykes

This book is the sweet spot where history and science meet. It gives both historical documents and genetic history a foothold in the historiography of the British Isles. Sykes defines the British Isles as the modern countries of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Brian Sykes is a geneticist, not a historian, but as a historian, his work holds up to my scrutiny. I’ve actually had this book since Christmas 2010, and I’ve never gotten around to reading it until now. If you’re into history and science, this is the read for you.

In Small Things Forgotten | James Deetz

James Deetz is sort of a god in American Archeology. If you can trace your academic lineage to him, you feel pretty great about yourself. I know, because my archeology professor was a student of a student of Deetz. I read this for my archaeology class, and I still keep it on my bookshelf and flip through it now and then. If you’re into archaeology, you should definitely read this. Plus, I kind of want to make a blog series called In Small Things Remembered and write about archaeology.

Violence in Medieval Europe | Warren Brown

Another former class book, I read this as research for my thesis. If you’re into medieval history, this is a great book for you. It goes into incredible detail, and it doesn’t paint the middle ages as a brutish, ugly period. It wasn’t a brutish, ugly period in human history. There was plenty of beautiful art, incredible writing, and cultural exchange. Of course, there was also a lot of violence. For a full picture of that violence, read this book.

Non Fiction Books For Winter Break

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue | John McWhorter

I must admit, I haven’t read all of this. I bought it in August but then school started up so I haven’t had the chance to read it all yet. It traces the history of English, and the linguistics that have gone into it, and what I did read was fantastic. I’m a major nerd when it comes to language and history (I tried to read Beowulf in Old English several times, didn’t work) so this book fascinates me. If you’re into language at all, and you speak English, then this book is for you. It’s not terribly long either, and what I read wasn’t dry at all.

Religions of the Silk Road | Richard Foltz

The last book is another one I read for class. As an undergrad I took two religion classes, and totally loved them. This book gives the history and a brief introduction to various religions that have lived (and sometimes died) on the Silk Road trading route. Of course, there is a lot of overlap because the Silk Road created immense cultural exchange. If you’re into comparative religious studies, this book will keep you enthralled all winter break.


That’s all I’ve got for you today, but check back tomorrow for more book recommendations!  As always, any of these recommendations can really work for anyone, whether you’re a student or not.


3 thoughts on “Five Non-Fiction Books For Winter Break

  1. What an interesting collection of books! The John McWhorter one sounds fascinating. I’m an aspiring linguist: I’m studying it for my undergrad degree and hopefully grad school next fall. Although I lean more towards sociolinguistics, learning about the history of language is always fun!

    • That sounds like a fascinating degree! I’ve always thought language was cool, and I loved taking other languages in school. As a historian part of what I love about language is how much you can tell about the history of a people by their language. Like the fact that in English we have two different words for the animals and the meat because the uppercrust of the middle ages were French speakers and they used their French to describe the meat, while the actual farmers/shepherds were Anglo-Saxon and used their Anglo-Saxon to describe the animals, and eventually the two came together. It’s so cool!

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