Honestly, I didn’t like history at school. It was boring, every lesson seemed endless and full of numerous dates and names to remember. It’s probably my own fault but it’s also true that the teacher didn’t put much effort into presenting the material in a more interesting and engaging fashion.
It’s only recently that I discovered that hey, those boring things I was forced to listen to are actually quite interesting. Almost always when I stumble upon a Wikipedia article about some historical event it will suck me in and I’ll read all of it. Maybe they’re just well written but if I didn’t have to do anything else I could sit there all day clicking on links, digging deeper and looking at old photos from the respective time period (if there are any).
What better way to enjoy the history of the world than in audiobook form! One just can’t have enough Audible credits to get all the history audiobooks he wants, and oh, boy are there some amazing ones. I figure, this post may be useful and interesting to all the hardcore history buffs out there as well as people like me with newly discovered interest in the subject. So here are 9 history audiobooks handpicked by me. Enjoy!
1. John Adams, ABRIDGED, by David McCullough, Narrated by Edward Herrmann
This is history on a grand scale — a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived. Get your copy: John Adams
2. 1776, ABRIDGED, by David McCullough, Narrated by David McCullough
America’s most acclaimed historian presents the intricate story of the year of the birth of the United States of America. “1776” tells two gripping stories: how a group of squabbling, disparate colonies became the United States, and how the British Empire tried to stop them. A story with a cast of amazing characters from George III to George Washington, to soldiers and their families, this exhilarating book is one of the great pieces of historical narrative. Get your copy: 1776
3. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1 ABRIDGED, by Edward Gibbon, Narrated by Philip Madoc, Neville Jason
Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is one of the greatest texts in the English language. In magisterial prose, Gibbon charts the gradual collapse of the Roman rule form Augustus (23 BC – AD 14) to the first of the barbarian kings, Odoacer (476- 490 AD). It is a remarkable account, with the extravagant corruption and depravity of emperors such as Commodus, Caracalla, and Elagabalus contrasted by the towering work of Constantine, Julian, and other remarkable men. It remains the standard work of scholarship on the subject two hundred years after it is written; yet equally important, in its sheer accessibility, it is an unforgettable story. Get your copy: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1
4. Peter the Great: His Life and World, ABRIDGED, by Robert Massie, Narrated by Ted Samore
Against the monumental canvas of 17th- & 18th-century Europe & Russia, unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great. He brought Russia from the darkness of its own Middle Ages into the Enlightenment & transformed it into the power that has its legacy in the Russia of this century. Get your copy: Peter the Great: His Life and World
5. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, ABRIDGED, by Jared Diamond, Narrated by Grover Gardner
In this groundbreaking work, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history by revealing the environmental factors actually responsible for history’s broadest patterns. It is a story that spans 13,000 years of human history, beginning when Stone Age hunter-gatherers constituted the entire human population. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a world history that really is a history of all the world’s peoples, a unified narrative of human life. Get your copy: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
6. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943, ABRIDGED, by Antony Beevor, Narrated by George Guidall
In August 1942, an overconfident Adolf Hitler would attempt to invade Stalin’s namesake city on the Volga. The battle of Stalingrad is extraordinary in every way: the triumphant invader fought to a standstill; then the Soviet trap sprung, surrounding their attackers; and the terrible siege, with Germans starving and freezing, forced to fight on by a disbelieving Hitler. Now Antony Beevor tells the story as it has never been told before, recounting the strategic brilliance and fatal flaws of the notorious generals, while telling the incredible tale from a soldier’s-eye view. The author incorporates Russian reports on desertions and executions that have never been seen by Western scholars, German transcripts of prisoner interrogations, and private letters and diaries to re-create the human drama of the most terrible battle in modern warfare. Get your copy: Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
7. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, ABRIDGED, by Alfred Lansing, Narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith
The year was 1915. Equipment and food supplies were totally inadequate. After battling its way for six weeks through thousands of miles of pack ice and located only a day’s sail from its destination, the Endurance became locked inside an island of ice. Yet Ernest Shackleton enabled all 27 of his men to survive for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas – leadership without equal. This gripping account is based on contemporaneous diaries and interviews conducted by the author with these exceptional men. Get your copy: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
8. A Short History of Nearly Everything, ABRIDGED, by Bill Bryson, Narrated by Bill Bryson
An ambitious title to say the least. But Bryson, arguably the best author-narrator around, gives us all an entertaining history lesson delivered in that voice-of-an-old-friend that has made all Bryson’s work so enjoyable. This is no travelogue, as we are used to from Bryson, but it is more about life than any other “history” you’ll hear. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson takes his ultimate journey – into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer. It’s a dazzling quest, as this insatiably curious writer attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. Get your copy: A Short History of Nearly Everything
9. An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, ABRIDGED, by Rick Atkinson, Narrated by Rick Atkinson
In the first volume of a remarkable trilogy, Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Atkinson provides the definitive history of the second world war in North Africa. The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is an epic story of courage and calamity, of miscalculation and enduring triumph. An Army at Dawn begins on the eve of Operation TORCH, the daring amphibious invasion of Morocco and Algeria. After three days of hard fighting against the French, American, and British troops push deeper into North Africa. Get your copy: An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943