There are many world history books that you can read, but it can be hard to know which ones are the best. There is a lot of information out there, and not all of it is true. This article will list the top 41 best world history books so you can have some reading recommendations!
List of Top 41 Best World History Books
This book is fantastic when it comes to explaining the causes, important events, and immediate consequences of World War I.
Her writing style is easy, and she has great insights into the personalities who drove this tragedy. This book also does a fine job covering lesser-known aspects, such as how African colonies played an essential role in early WWI battles or that Japan was one of Germany’s allies against Russia.
This book explores how the Soviet Union not only survived but also flourished for many decades.
Yergin’s book is fascinating to explore in an in depth account how people adapted their thinking to accommodate new circumstances without abandoning long-held beliefs or loyalties. It explains how Russian nationalism was used as an essential tool in maintaining stability and avoiding civil war after the fall of communism.
This excellent well written history peels back several layers on why certain societies dominated others from 1450 AD into the 20th century AD. His thesis that overstretched results in decline has been borne out repeatedly before his time until today, with America being Exhibit A. This book belongs on any serious reader’s list of world history books.
4. History of the West: Rome to NATO by Tom Holland
Holland’s book is not only fun and easy-to-read, but it has a lot of great insights into why things turned out as they did. He does an excellent job showing how the story of Ancient Rome had profound effects on modern Europe over two millennia later. His chapter exploring World War I makes clear that Germany saw itself fighting for its very existence in WWI versus just unification like France or Italy were doing at this time.”
Another book by William L. Shirer is “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” This book talks about how Hitler rose to power in Germany during the 1930s, his use of propaganda as one way to rally support for him or hate towards Jews, etc. The author provides a lot of personal viewpoints from people who lived through that period which helps you understand better what was going on at that time.
6. A History of the World in 100 Objects
This is also another excellent book on world history. It is written non-traditional, as the author uses objects from different times to tell their stories of how civilizations developed. This book takes readers through 100 carefully selected things that have helped shape human society since its beginning in Africa about 300,000 years ago. The book is divided into six parts: Stone, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire; Cloth; Number; Paper, and Poetry.
7. The Great Course, History of the World
This book is perfect for someone just starting on their journey through the history of the world. It starts from the beginning, but it doesn’t go too far back in time. You will get a good understanding of how human civilization evolved into what we have today with this book.
Multiple professors and historians wrote it, so you know they are experts in their field, though some people may find that there are way too many facts presented at once, which can cause you to feel overwhelmed (so be prepared).
8. Simon Schama, A History of Britain
In this world war bbook, Simon Schama presents the history of Britain from 1535 to the mid-to-late 1700s. Schama’s book is divided into three volumes, each of which contains five sections. Each section covers two centuries, and all are fascinating reads that will leave you with an appreciation for world history.
9. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
This is a detailed account of the Nazi party from its early beginnings to Hitler’s suicide in 1945. It is among the many historical novels won numerous awards and was on the top ten bestseller lists for two years after publication
10. Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore
It’s an excellent book that explains european history on how Australia, as we know it today, came to be, starting with Captain Cooks’s landing in Botany Bay back in 1770. It follows many people throughout their lives as they move there from different countries and those who tried but failed to make the journey successfully. In addition, you will find out why prisoners were sent over and what happened once they arrived!
11. A History of Western Society by Jurgen Kocka
This is an excellent ancient world book for students who are just starting to learn about Western history. A famous saying among professors is that you should read the first chapter, leave it on your desk, and don’t touch it until after they give their final exam. This book has extensive research on every significant theme of western civilization in chronological order from ancient times up to contemporary periods. Suppose you have been assigned any paper or project dealing with western culture. In that case, this will be an invaluable resource because the author documents each important event in essays about his expertise, making reading easier when writer’s block strikes during finals week.
12. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
This book by Jared Diamond asks the question: Why did Europeans come to dominate world history 200 years ago? Diamond argues that it wasn’t because of race, nor religion, and political institutions. Instead, he claims geography is a significant factor in Central Eurasian places like China and India made technological advances while European cultures remained relatively primitive until 1500 AD.
This book has won multiple awards, including Oprah’s Book Club, Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction (1998), Aventis Prize for Science Books (2000). It was also selected as one of “Time” magazine’s 100 best non-fiction books written in English since 1923.
13. Age of Reform by Thomas E Woods Jr
In this world war book, the author covers events that affected America and Europe from 1815 to 1900. It focuses on world history as well as American history during that period.
The book also talks about many different topics such as immigration, labor reform, free markets, civil rights, etc., so it gives readers an idea of what was going on at the time before they may have had any knowledge previously of those specific things happening back then or even ever hearing about them all!
14. 1491 by Charles C Mann
Another fantastic read with a slightly different approach than Diamond is 1491 by Charles C Mann.
Charles Mann’s book gives us an alternative view of the world before European colonization and what we may have lost with it.
15. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
This book was a big hit when it was published in 1988. It is one of the most popular science books ever written, and Hawking has been called “the successor to Einstein.”
It attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bang theory, black holes, and light cones. In this book, you will learn about time travel and have your mind blown by some profound concepts!
16. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
This novel, published in 1967 in Buenos Aires by the 70-year old Gabriel García Márquez, is considered one of his finest works.
The book tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family haunted by a “beast” that attacks their town with a plague known as insomnia. The protagonist is José Arcadio Buendia, patriarch and founder of Macondo (the fictional setting), whose quest for eternal youth separates him from Aureliana, his wife; he takes up residence inside an abandoned lighthouse filled with books that contain the secrets to restoring his youth. The narrative begins when he returns after 25 years of having used these magic spells but fails to make himself or around him young again.
17. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
If you’re looking for a book that covers the history of humanity across all disciplines, read sapiens. From prehistory to today, Sapiens does not shy away from controversial topics like religion or capitalism’s negative impact on society. It has an Amazon rating of almost five stars so that you can be confident in its quality.
18. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes-Adam Rutherford
This book dives deep into what makes each person unique – our genes! Both empowering and fascinating, it shows how everyone alive today descended from just about six thousand people who lived 20000 years ago near Africa’s Rift Valley. A great piece if you want to know more about DNA but don’t have time for another full-length book.
19. The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter
Language is one of the humans’ most important skills, but how exactly it works has always been a mystery. This book tells how language came to be and what role it plays in our society today. For anyone curious about this essential tool that we use every day without thinking much about its origins or implications for our world, “The Power of Babel” will provide some great insights!
20. A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This massive bestseller gives an overview of everything known about the universe and its origins, from planets to atoms. Using simple language makes a fascinating read for anyone interested in learning more about how our world works.
21. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
This next book is great to read for history classes. It is about life during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in America, so it has a lot of historical information applicable to real-life situations or lessons you are learning in class.
This novel takes place towards the end of WWII after D-Day, when people started going back home from war but didn’t have homes or jobs waiting for them. They were forced into work camps where many died from exhaustion and lack of supplies provided by their ’employers.’ This was an actual event that happened post-WWII, which makes it all the more interesting to learn about what happened to these people after the war was over.
22. Remembrance of Things Past (In Search Of Lost Time) Volume 1-7, Marcel Proust
This book was written by the French author Marcel Proust during his lifetime. It was published over seven volumes after he had already died in 1922. The book is a recollection of events and people from various stages of the narrator’s life, including early childhood memories, adolescent experiences at Combray (a fictional town based on Illiers), their years spent in Paris before World War I while trying to establish themselves as writers; then later other memories that are critical towards social conventions, religious institutions, and patriotism.
23. A History of the World in Six Glasses” by Tom Standage
This book by Tom Standage explores what beverage history can teach us about human civilization. The book starts with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, then moves on to the classical world of Greece and Rome before getting into a lot more detail about beer in medieval Europe, tea in China, spirits across Africa and the Americas, coffee in Arabia, and finally ending up at Coca-Cola’s origins during prohibition. Each chapter follows roughly this order: how did people drink something back then? What did it mean for society? How does that relate to our own lives today?
I recommend this book for anyone interested in history or just looking to learn more about some unique beverages we all enjoy every day!
24. The Age of Revolution by Eric Hobsbawm
In this book, Eric Hobsbawm tells how Europe began to move from a feudal society into an industrial one. He starts by speaking about the early Renaissance and leading up through the French revolution in 1789, focusing on the changes throughout this period and their impacts on history. Hobsbawm is considered one of the best historians because he was able to look at historical events globally instead of just local or national perspectives that were common during his time. His research provided many new insights into political theory and helped those who study globalization understand its origins better. The Age of Revolution has gone down in history for being a great resource when looking at world history from a global perspective.
25. 1493 by Charles Mann
This book by Charles Mann is a perfect world history book. Charles Mann did a fantastic job writing this, and it does not take long to finish reading the entire thing either. The main idea is that there were many changes in culture, technology, and economics because Christopher Columbus discovered America. If you love learning about how people lived during the 15th through 18th centuries, then I would recommend checking out 1493 by Charles Mann.
26. An Empire on the Edge by Stephen Kotkin
This book by Stephen Kotkin did not make the cut for this list. It is still a great book that I would recommend to people interested in Russian history, but it does not compare favorably with many of the other books on this list when discussing world history as a whole.
27. The Gunslinger and The Dark Tower I-IV (Dark Tower Series)” by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, etc.
These two series of books are among the best fantasy literature ever published. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and this series did not disappoint me in any way. The characters were richly placed inside a very descriptive narrative that brings readers to another world without realizing it. This book will make you feel like you’re watching your favorite movie while keeping up with what’s happening on the pages; its narrators (both character and author) are doing an outstanding job at conveying emotions throughout their stories.
The entire seven-book Dark Tower Series was outstanding, but I particularly liked this first part because it set things off perfectly for future installments or other works by Stephen King – which I highly recommend if you enjoy his writing style.
28. Guns on the Roof by John Rabe
This is also another book that I’ve read. It was written by John Rabe and had a lot of interesting facts about the Japanese invasion of China during World War II. This book is not like other history books that talk about what happened to different countries, but it speaks more specifically about one city called Nanking (the capital of China).
29. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
This book by Elizabeth Kostova is a fictional story based on the main character’s search for her father, who went missing years ago while researching in Bulgaria.
The book is beautifully written and draws you into its world with ease. It also features historical characters like Vlad Tepes (the real-life inspiration behind Dracula) and Stoker’s notes to make it feel even more authentic. Overall this is one of those books that will stay with you long after finishing it.
30. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Another historical book that changed the world is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. It was published in 1962, and it raised awareness about environmental pollution. The book made many people think about how they could make their lives better for future generations, not just themselves.
31. The Black Death and the Transformation of the West by William H. McNeill
This is also another book that you should check out. It is all about the great plague that ravaged Europe in the mid-14th century and how it changed everything afterward.
The Black Death was responsible for wiping out more than a third of Europeans, making it one of the deadliest pandemics. McNeill talks about how this event transformed people’s lives forever after by making them realize they were not invincible like before. He also argues against other historians who say this tragedy helped spur societal changes such as increased individualism resulting from their newfound sense of humility towards death. I would recommend checking this book out to learn more about medieval society through its most trying times!
32. The American Civil War by James McPherson
Another interesting read is The American Civil War. This book is written by James McPherson, who is an award-winning author and historian. He describes events in a simple tone that makes it easier to understand the history of the war.
The impact on world history in this book is that it shows how much the U.S. has changed over time because of its Civil War, which was a struggle between Northern and Southern states in America from 1861 to 1865.
33. A World History of Christianity by Eamon Duffy
This book by Eamon Duffy provides a historical perspective of the rise and fall of Christianity from ancient times to today. It is an excellent book for those who are interested in studying this topic within history and religious studies. This would be beneficial for anyone interested in understanding where modern-day practices come from to the Christian faith.
This book was published by Yale University Press on September 17th, 2013, and written by Eamon Duffy.
34. Napoleon and the French Revolution by David Pipes
This book by David Pipes is an excellent book on Napoleon and the French Revolution. It’s written in a very readable format that includes anecdotes, quotes from people involved at all levels of society, both famous and obscure.
35. Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life by Andrew Roberts
Another excellent biography for this list is “Napoleon” by Andrew Robert, which tells the story of France’s most famous emperor. This book does an excellent job covering his life before he was crowned as leader of France. He lost everything, including his own life during exile on St Helena Island after being defeated at Waterloo.
36. The Short Victorious War: The Russo-Japanese Conflict 1904–1905
A detailed look into the war between Japan and Russia that changed the balance of power in Asia. This book by Richard Connaughton gives excellent insight into the conflict and how it affected events in China, Korea, eastern Europe, and Russia itself.
37. The Penguin History of Latin America
“Penguin History of Latin America” comes in at #30 on this list for its overview look at all 20 countries that make up the South and Central American region. If you’re looking to learn more about Brazil or Argentina, then definitely check out this series which is edited by Leslie Bethell, who has written numerous books focusing on modern history within Spanish-speaking nations, including “Historia de Latinoamérica.”
38. Understanding Globalization by John Tomlinson
This book by John Tomlinson is a must-read book for anyone interested in globalization. It explores the nature and origins of what we call globalization today, from ancient times to post-modernity.
Tomlinson’s book shows how our contemporary understanding and experience of global interconnectedness is not a recent phenomenon but has been part and parcel of human history since time immemorial.
39. America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1991 edited by Melvyn Leffler and Odd Arne Westad
Another world history book by two historians focuses on the intersection between domestic politics and foreign policy in both Russia and America. It is one of the most acclaimed books about American history because it provides a comprehensive look at global events that encompass one nation and multiple countries.
40. Thomas Cahill – How the Irish Saved Civilization
In this world history book, Cahill tells how Irish monks saved civilization after the fall of Rome. Cahill was inspired to write this book when he noticed that any list of important books in history would leave off most Christian works, which Europeans and Americans wrote for hundreds or thousands of years. The author argues that they are significant because these texts preserved Greek philosophy, Latin language, mathematics, and literature when almost no one lived who could understand them.
41. John Lewis Gaddis – The Landscape of History
Another interesting world history is John Lewis Gaddis’ “The Landscape of History”. As the name implies, this book is a response to ‘the end of history thesis by Francis Fukuyama. In short, Fukuyama’s theory was that liberal democracy would be the final form of government. It will spread throughout all countries around the world as they become more educated and open-minded.
Gaddis offers an alternative view – what he calls landscape with peaks and valleys (hills). Not everyone has reached a western level of civilization, so not everyone can enjoy these ideals at once. He also talks about how vital religion played a significant role in creating regions with similar values/standards versus those who have different. It gives historical context on how the world as we know it came to be.
World history books can be a great way to introduce people to history. Whether you want your kids exposed to world history topics or enjoy reading about the past yourself, there is something for everyone in this list of 50 books.
I hope that my extensive list helps with some ideas on what book might best suit your needs and interests!