Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Ana's Favourite Non-Fictions

Again no order of importance, just as they come into my head.

The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield. This, for me, is among the greatest of the history books ever written. My aim is to be as good a writer as Dangerfield.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. Yes, I have read all six volumes in the Everyman edition! Another classic work of history that remains well worth the effort.

The History of the Crusades by Sir Steven Runciman. In the tradition of Gibbon.

Byzantium by John Julius Norwich. Slightly more up to date. A great three volume history.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a thing as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold or gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bow to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The very best recent biography on any subject.

Also Sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche. A book for me and no-one!

Cursed Days by Ivan Bunin. Revealing details about the criminal horrors that accompanied the Bolshevik coup in Russia.

Essays by George Orwell. Politics and the English Language should be compulsory reading for all people in political and academic life.

Collected Works by Jonathan Swift. All sorts of literary treasures: full of 'sweetness and light.'

The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer. In the most meaningful sense of the word this book is indeed unique.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft. The first and best of the great feminist texts.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Another great feminist text, though in general I do not have an especially high opinion of De Beauvoir.

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke. A warning to all who would seek to turn the world upside down. The classic conservative text, important even today.

Histories by Herodotus. Where would we be without Herodotus? A sheer delight

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. 'I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.'

The Alexiad by Anna Comnena. Not, perhaps, one of the most remarkable of the Roman emperors, but certainly one of the most remarkable of Roman daughters.

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. My copy is so well-used that it has become quite dog-eared.

Essays by Michael Montaigne. Timeless.

Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. A brilliant depiction of one of history's biggest shits. I was horrified to discover myself staying in Mao Tse-Tung Boulevard while in, of all places, Phnom Penh.

English History, 1914-1945 by A. J. P. Taylor. One of the craftsmen of English history, who writes in a trenchant and gripping fashion, no matter how flawed some of his judgements are.


  1. What an incredibly ..... noble selection to favour.

  2. Any love for Guns Germs, and Steel? That may be elementary for your tastes however. ;)