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.
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 It gives both historical documents and genetic history a foothold in the historiography of the British Isles.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.
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.