Narrative history recommendations from our reviewer

A reader looks for books that are similar to ‘The Story of Britain.’ Among others, we recommend ‘A Brief History of France’ and ‘A Mighty Fortress.’

‘A Brief History of France, Revised and Updated’ by Cecil Jenkins, Robinson, 336pp.

The Monitor often hears from readers with questions about recommendations for great books that just can't be searched for online. We love these requests, and can often steer readers toward titles that fit the bill, or at least come close.

A reader writes:

I am looking for a book similar to “The Story of Britain“ – but for France and Germany. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Dave Fandel
Bellevue, Washington

Dear Dave,

Roy Strong’s “The Story of Britain” [reviewed in the Feb. 18 issue] is the kind of approachable, one-volume narrative history that will always have a place in the books market. Here are comparable books on France and Germany. 

A History of France by John Julius Norwich. The author was a practiced hand at crafting inviting popular histories, and this, the last book he published before his death in 2018, is no exception; like all the other books on this list, it covers 2,000 years of history smoothly – with Norwich’s acerbic wit peeking out frequently.

France in the World: A New Global History edited by Patrick Boucheron (and translated from the French and edited by Stéphane Gerson). This consists of dozens of short, intensely good essays from a variety of scholars on all-important issues and key turning points.

A Brief History of France by Cecil Jenkins. This surveys an immense swath of French history with insight and elegant prose. 

The Cambridge Illustrated History of Germany by Martin Kitchen. This sweeping history of Germany was originally published in 1996, but what it lacks in contemporary updates it more than supplies in wonderful illustrations. 

The Germans by Gordon Craig. The attraction is the author’s brilliant analyses, the breadth of his wide-angle wisdom, and the intelligent sympathy of his insights into German society.

A Mighty Fortress by Steven Ozment. Known as an important writer on Martin Luther, Ozment demonstrates a sure hand with a gallery of pivotal figures from German history.

Best wishes and happy reading,
Steve Donoghue

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