Top Ten Tuesdays

Posted 12 April, 2016 by Lianne in Meme / 9 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

This week’s topic: Ten Books Every X Should Read

I admit, I was initially excited by this week’s topic. Then I was scratching my head because I wanted to do something different but I wasn’t sure if I had done a topic similar to this in the past, and if so what topic did I choose 😛 Unfortunately my results didn’t reveal much except the closest theme to this was books if you enjoy X television show or movie. Err, so okay, had to think long and hard on this and decided to split this week’s list into two.

So the first 5 books I’m going to go will be books every history nerd should read. I would’ve gone with 10 for this but stuck to 5 because us history nerds have our own niches, you know? Like any degree. In my case, Russian & Soviet history (with dashes of Ukranian and British history). I tried to mix it up, but I’m just straight-up recommending books as opposed to “all history readers MUST read this”, really (because then I’ll be recommending what some might consider as rather dry reading…unless it’s your forte too) 😛

Also, disclaimer: I’m aware that it’s a pretty Euro-centric list, it’s just where my interests and specialisations have fallen over the years. Unfortunately I haven’t anything outside of the European and Russian streams that I could recommend in this list (well, the last does fall under world history and there are plenty of examples used in it there).

In no particular order:

  1. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King (review) — I love this book because it talks about the stunning dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, how it came about, the socio-political conditions at the time, the architecture and the science that went into it, and of course the architect himself, in a very interesting way.
  2. Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, And The Revolution by Will Bashor (review) — I love the many different topics that history books and historians have been covering in the last twenty, thirty or so years, topics I would not have really given second thought to. Marie Antoinette’s various hairstyles comes to mind here; I knew she was really into fashion but the thought that went into the styling, the person behind the crazy styles, the trends and fashions of 18th century France on the whole…Definitely an interesting book to look into.
  3. The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia by Orlando Figes — You knew this was coming 😛 But seriously, if there’s anyone in Russian history you should or want to read from, it’s Orlando Figes. He does a brilliant job in making Russian and Soviet history accessible and interesting. I chose this book in particular not just because it was the first book of his I read but also because it influenced my own studies (I could as far say it was what solidified my decision to pursue a graduate degree) and opened my mind to the possibilities that history can delve into, in this case the whole sub-culture and behaviour system that developed as a result of Stalin’s Great Terror of the late 1930s.
  4. Lancaster and York by Alison Weir — There are a ton of books out there about the War of the Roses, and I think with good reason: it is so difficutl to keep track of all the players involved, especially as it goes down the generations. I’ve read a few books to date, but found this one to date to be the most informative in keeping track of all the players and the events. No easy feat and still a bit of a read, but Alison Weir’s history nonfictions have been pretty good in general, I find so yeah, if you’re interested in this major English upheaval, or are interested in it because of Game of Thrones 😛 , I recommend checking this book out.
  5. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson — And now I come to the cornerstone, the book I swore by when I was in university and grad school (and still revisit on occasion). I decided to include this book in the list as I also did recommend it to another blogger recently, but it’s a fascinating look at why we band together, form groups, what makes a nation or a state or an ethnicity (there are differences) that we are a part of. Is it just language? Language and history? Is it solely a tool of the state or something more? How has it evolved over time? I believe it also touches on citizenship so it’s not just a history book or a sociology or political science book. If you’re into these topics and you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it, it was written decades ago but it’s stil currently THE book to turn to on the subject.

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And for this second batch of 5 books, I chose to go with books every classic lit reader & lover should read. I went with the more obscure classic titles that perhaps aren’t as readily known but are nonetheless worth checking out if you enjoy reading the classics 🙂

In no particular order:

  • Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov (review) — I will forever and ever be pushing this book 😛 It’s delightful but heartbreaking and totally in keeping with the type of literature was emerged in Russia so yeah, if you’re into Russian classics and you haven’t read this yet, you should 🙂
  • The Longest Journey by E.M. Forster (review) — Another classic I’m forever pushing 😛 Definitely on the lesser-known side of the scale but thematically I find it fascinating as it looks at Ricky’s coming of age, of finding a place in the world and doing what he wants to do but falling into convention and struggling to make do with the realities set before him. It does come together a little oddly with a family drama sort of pegged on after the fact, but it’s still something worth checking out, I think.
  • The Kalevala (review) — For a Scandinavian epic, surprise, surprise (or was it?) I’ve gone with the Finnish epic. I was pleasantly surprised as I was reading this as I found it a lot more accessible and entertaining than I initially though, the characters–both legendary and epic and those mortal–are fascinating, flawed, and very human.
  • The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (review) — Not an easy book to read thematically. The movie with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts of course was beautiful and heartbreaking and touched on many issues that the book delved into at great length, but the movie was also more optimistic than the book. Not to say the book didn’t have a spark of optimism towards the end but it is still a sombre read. But still worth checking out for the fascinating characterisations and themes that it tackles.
  • Stoner by John Edward Williams (review) — I often imagine this book hand-in-hand with Forster’s The Longest Journey in a sense of the protagonists and their inner lives. Again, it can perhaps be a bit of a tough read thematically in that it really makes a discussion about our own personal fulfillment as a person and the way life turns out sometimes, but it is beautiful amidst its quietness. I would strongly recommend checking this book out.


  • And those are my lists for this week! What topic did you choose for your list this week? Happy Tuesday!

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    9 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesdays”

    1. I’m kind of mildly obsessed with Russia…buuuut I’ve NEVER read an actual honest-to-goodness Russian classics. *hides* I SHOULD PROBABLY BE BRAVE AND FIX THAT!! One cannot feed their obsession on YA fantasies and children’s history books alone. ;D
      Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    2. An interesting and challenging list! I remember seeing Brunelleschi’s Dome when it came out, and thinking I’d like to read it. I was a huge fan of James Burke’s The Day the Universe Changed and Connections series, and one of the episodes featured the dome briefly; I’ve been interested in it ever since.

      I don’t read a lot of history outside my job. I create back-of-the-book indexes, so sometimes I work on history books. The challenge of my work means I usually prefer to read lighter fare for fun. But I did enjoy a book I read last year about the maritime history of the north-eastern states, specifically looking at colonial-indigenous encounters. It’s called The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast, by Andrew Lipman. And I’ve been working my way through some of Bill Bryson’s history books on audiotape — a lighter, less scholarly approach to history, but always entertaining.

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