This week is all about easy-to-enjoy history—from a huge tome of historical fiction and a history that reads like fiction to a cool history feature in the New York Times and a podcast that lends context to today’s current events.
On Your Kindle
The Autobiography of Henry VIII, by Margaret George
How often do you come across a book that is part romantic beach-read, part epic, and part richly-researched history? This massive volume by Margaret George is each of those things, intricately woven into one creatively imagined “autobiography” of the fascinating Tudor king. Henry VIII’s life story reads like an HBO drama: a second-born son who never dreamed he would be king, six intriguing wives, religious controversy, disease, and decay with age. You’ll be entertained whether you read this book on the subway or on the seashore—and, better yet, you’ll learn quite a bit about the formation of the Anglican church and the lifestyle of Tudor monarchs and their subjects.
On Your Smartphone
On this Day in History, The New York Times Learning Network
Trying to learn something new on your commute? For a quick educational fix, check out this feature from the New York Times’ Learning Network. Select a day and look back over the Times’ archives to discover what was news-worthy in years past: View quick excerpts sequentially timeline-style or click on a specific date for a more in-depth analysis of important events. What went down on July 9 in history? William Jennings Bryan denounced the gold standard in 1896, Queen Elizabeth’s engagement to Prince Philip was announced in 1947, and the Grateful Dead played their last concert in 1995.
On a Podcast
This excellent podcast series, which airs a new episode each week, is created by history professors (the “Guys”) from UVA. It lends historical context to current events, providing the “backstory” to issues that are equally important today as they were decades ago.
This week, check out the backstory of July 4, and learn about how it became a national holiday. Plus, a great feature on the site is its “In the Works” section, which offers sneak-peeks of to-come shows and asks for questions and comments so you can weigh in in advance. Coming up? The backstory on marriage in America.
Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert K. Massie
If you’ve just finished The Autobiography of Henry VIII, transport yourself over seas and over the centuries into the pages of another historical work, this time the story of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov, the last czar and czarina of Imperial Russia. This story is not fictionalized, but it is so mysterious and intriguing that you almost won’t believe it’s all true. Massie’s history reads like a novel as it explores the lives of the czar and czarina, their daughters (including the legendary Anastasia), their hemophiliac son Alexis, and the bizarre (incredibly spooky) mystic, Rasputin, who is part of their undoing.