You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover

You can't judge a book by it's title either. I'm an avid reader of non-fiction history and, with the exception of a few authors like Alison Weir, I pick my books based on the cover and the title. As a result, I have a 50-50 chance of reading something really good or reading a boring doctoral thesis marketed as a juicy read.


Sex with Kings by Elanor Herman - A great book and exactly what the title implies. History told in a gossipy style with an entertaining tone and a quick pace. I'm currently reading the companion book Sex with the Queen.

The Death of Kings; Royal Deaths in Medieval England by Michale Evan, MD - Promising title, boring book. Considering the number of Medieval English kings who met really interesting ends (do we really believe William II died in a hunting "accident"?) this book could have been quite a read. However, it turned out to be a thesis disguised by a snappy title and dry as toast.

The Story of England by Christopher Hibbert - Sounds dry but the book presents facts in a lively way and is very accessible for any non-history buff who needs a quick overview of British history. My husband read it before our trip to England and he really enjoyed it. The books treats kings the way In Touch treats celebrities and isn't afraid to tell you why Edward II was introduced to the wrong end of a red hot poker.

How to Do It: Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians by Rudolph M. Bell - A wee bit dry for such an interesting title. Not as dry as The Death of Kings but not as exciting or lively as Sex with Kings.

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich - The title sounds dry but the book is great. A good mix of facts and scholarly work about birth, marriage and sex in Colonial America.

If anyone has any suggestions for great history books or titles to avoid, please let me know.


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Hi Georgie,

This is one of my favorite books. And I would be happy to exchange links with you!


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I meant to say that I really love both of Eleanor Herman's books. Another great book is Courtesans by Katie Hickman.

Anny Cook said...

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. Excellent book. A bit bloody, but probably much closer to the truth than anything else I've read about the Mayflower.

Good blog!

Georgie Lee said...

Thanks for the great reading suggestions.

Carla said...

Well, I can highly recommend The Secret Middle Ages by Malcolm Jones for a history book that's not at all a dry read.

BTW, I quite liked The Death of Kings, but I use it to dip into for reference rather to than read right through.

Amanda Elyot said...

Eleanor Herman's books are terrific, Georgie, but caveat emptor on Karl Shaw's ROYAL BABYLON: The Alarming History of European Royalty. I purchased it as a research source for ROYAL AFFAIRS, but when I came across a shocking error (the author has Mary Robinson giving birth to a child by the Prince of Wales), I had to do a Dorothy Parker. [She famously said, "This is not a book to be picked up lightly; it is to be thrown across the room with great force."]

The egregious factual error so jolted me that I wondered what else Shaw might have gotten woefully incorrect, so I shyed away from using his book as a source. It's entertaining and engagingly written, but it may be full of goofs no self-respecting writer would want to regurgitate.

Amanda Elyot (Leslie Carroll)