Best Gifts for History Lovers

It can sometimes be difficult to find the right gift for your history loving friend or spouse. Hopefully, we can help. This is our 2017 list of great gifts for history lovers.


If in doubt, get a book. History lovers adore books. Some our recommendations are less academic then some of the books that appear on our other booklists, but they do represent outstanding recent books that most history lovers should enjoy. Here are some releases that are worth your history lovers attention.

The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire by Karl Jacoby (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017) How did a former slave from Texas named William Ellis, transform himself into a fabulously wealthy Mexican millionaire named Guillermo Elliseo after the Civil War? Historian Martha A. Sandweiss stated that Jacoby's tale of William Ellis crafts "a powerful narrative about the porous borders of class, race, and national identity in late 19th and early 20th century American life." Jacoby's book successfully illuminates both a life of a unique and fascinating American while addressing broader issues of race and the American borderlands. The book was also the recipient of the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the OHA.

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson (Vintage, 2017) Blood in the Water investigates the Attica prison in September 1971 and its consequences. The Attica riot is key event in U.S. civil rights history. Thompson carefully reconstructs the events at the prison during the riot between September 9-13, 1971. The New York Times stated that the power of her book come "from its methodical mastery of interviews, transcripts, police reports and other documents covering 35 years." The book was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen (Random House, 2017) While Kurt Andersen is not an historian, he has written book an exhaustively researched book explaining why Americans repeatedly get hoodwinked by conspiracy theories. He argues that fantasy is embedded deeply into our national character. Throughout our history, the United States has been a country of conmen, hucksters and hustlers. While Americans like to think of ourselves as the inheritors of the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, we probably have more in common with the hustler who conned them out of their horse.

The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha (Yale University Press, 2017) Sinha's award winning book (now in paperback) argues that abolitionism was not movement of middle class white reformers, but a much more complex mix of men, women, blacks, whites, free and unfree. Additionally, Sinha places the abolition into a transnational perspective. The Slave's Cause was awarded by the Avery O. Craven Prize (OHA) and Best Book Prize by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic in 2017.

American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 by H.W. Brands (Anchor, 2011) In the last half of the 19th Century of small number of American business quickly turned America into a world economic power. Rockefeller, Carnegie, J.P. Morgan not changed the economic future of the control, but threatened its democratic character. Despite it's size, Brands moves this story along at quick pace and explains how these men accrued extraordinary power and wealth.

White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Penguin, 2017) White Trash is one of the most timely books in recent memory. Isenberg places at white poverty and issues of class at the center of American social and political history. She argues that poor white Americans has factored in the rise of the Republican party in the 19th century, the Civil War, the New Deal and LBJ's efforts to create the Great Society. This is a group of Americans that often been dismissed and ignored, but have always played a role in the political life of America.

Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of American by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) Custer is one of the most debated 19th century American military leaders. Stiles attempts to better understand a complicated man and shatter the mythology that has surrounded him. Stiles book shows that Custer helped shaped an era that he often struggled to adapt to. Custer's Trials was the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for history.

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Book, 2013) If your history lover enjoys a drink or two, Stewart's book is a must read. Stewart describes how 150 plants, flowers, trees and fruits have been fermented and distilled to create beers, wines, and spirits. Alcohol has played a huge economic, social and political role in world history and she distills this in her humorous book.

Riotous Flesh: Women, Physiology, and the Solitary Vice in Nineteenth-Century America by April Haynes

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology by Deirdre Cooper Owens Booklists

Need more help? You can check out some of our most popular booklists for ideas.

  1. American Revolution Top Ten Booklist
  2. Alexander the Great Top Ten Booklist
  3. Gilded Age/Progressive Era History Top Ten Booklist
  4. The Greek Philosophers Top Ten Booklist
  5. Civil War Battles Top Ten Booklist
  6. American Civil War Biographies Top Ten Booklist
  7. American Legal History Top Ten Booklist
  8. 2017 Organization of American Historians Book Awards
  9. 2016 Organization of American Historians Book Awards


Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Almost everyone can now read books on laptops, smartphones, and tablets. These are often fairly unsatisfactory because the reading experience is a disappointment. It's hard to recommend reading serious history books on a phone or tablet over a paper book. The Kindle Paperwhite most closely mimics paper books. It's easier to read for long periods of time than phones and tablets. While you cannot take notes in the book the way you can with a paper books, you can store an enormous number of books on the Paperwhite.

In an ideal world, paper books are the best solution, but the Paperwhite is solid device for reading books and it's great for travel. Amazon has Kindles that range in price from $79.99 to $249.99. The Paperwhite at $119.99 is a great deal. It has more than enough storage and a great screen. That makes it hard to recommend the more expensive models.

Historical Movies and Television Series

There are now a ton of ways to watch movies and television (Netflix, Apple iTunes, Amazon Prime, etc.) but some of these options make it harder to give movies and televisions series as a gift. iTunes and Amazon Prime still allow you to send digital gifts to friends and family as long as you have their email. You can also gift Amazon Prime Video memberships. You can If this sounds like a pain, most folks still have a dvd or Blu-ray player.


Dunkirk directed by Chris Nolan

All the President's Men directed by Alan Pakula

Lincoln directed by Steven Spielberg

Elizabeth directed by Shekhar Kapur

Judgment at Nuremburg by Stanley Kramer

Conspiracy directed by Frank Pierson

Selma directed by Ava DuVernay

12 Years a Slave directed by Steven McQueen

The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo

Glory directed by Edward Zwick

Malcom X directed by Spike Lee

Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean

Schindler's List directed by Steven Spielberg

Shoah directed by Claude Lanzmann

Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese


Roots: Complete Collection

The Vietnam War: A Film directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

John Adams starring Paul Giamatti

Connections by James Burke