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What to Get the History Buff in Your Life

Need some holiday gift ideas for the history buff in your life? Try giving the gift of history! This list includes some of the best history books to come out this year. This means they are new enough that the person you’re shopping for probably hasn’t had a chance to run out and buy them for themselves yet. So if you’re looking for great Christmas gift ideas—or gifts for any other occasion—you’ve come to the right starting point. No matter what time period your history nerd prefers, you are sure to find something for them here!

The Library is an affectionate history of one of the world’s most enduring and useful concepts: a place to store knowledge for current scholars and future generations. The history of the library is a far more complex and exciting story than you might expect, with many people ready and willing to commit violence to either destroy libraries or fill them with the rarest materials. Though the libraries themselves often don’t last, their effects on the community and on history itself still linger.

The Black Lives Matter movement has received unprecedented attention since George Floyd’s 2020 murder at the hands of a white police officer. But it existed for years before that, and Floyd was far from the only Black American victim of police violence. Say Their Names takes a deeper dive into BLM’s history, goals, and accomplishments thus far, as well as common misconceptions about their beliefs and progress.

Noble Ambitions is one of the best holiday gifts you can get for someone who liked Downton Abbey and is curious about what may have happened after the series ended. It examines the post-World War II decline of the English country house, when impoverished elites were forced to either demolish or sell their magnificent ancestral homes. From the ashes, the country house rose to claim a new position in the British imagination—one that was very different from the image it had retained for centuries.

John Milton is a legendary English poet—and that may be the problem. When an artist attains a certain status, they become more archetype than human, seemingly inaccessible, irrelevant, and incomprehensible to ordinary readers. Making Darkness Light seeks to bring Milton down a peg or two—not to debase him, but to rediscover what made him so beloved and so important in the first place. Lovers of poetry and history are sure to appreciate this intimate new biography.

On Bastille Day 1943, multiple American pilots were shot down over occupied France. They might have been captured immediately if not for the brave efforts of French resistance fighters, who brought the group to Paris to plot their escape back to Allied territory. With the danger and romantic tensions mounting, the pilots and the resistance fighters need to work quickly and carefully if they all want to live to fight the Third Reich another day.

The Berlin Wall is one of the most visceral symbols of the Cold War between East and West. In 1962, a group of students risked their lives to dig a tunnel beneath the wall so that families trapped in authoritarian East Berlin could flee to the democratic West. This extraordinary story not only changed the lives of everyone involved, it also changed American television: the escape was filmed for broadcast by NBC, which soon ran afoul of government censors.

Eileen Gonzalez is a freelance writer from Connecticut. She has a Master’s degree in communications and years of experience writing about pop culture. She contributes to Book Riot and Foreword Reviews, and she occasionally tweets at @eileen2thestars.