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Exploring the collection: history books

Monday September 12th, 2022

There are parts of the library’s collection that are (rightfully) popular with many library members. However, there is one section of the Library’s collection that is, in my humble opinion, severely underrated, and that is: the history section. 


 Not everyone likes these books. Some have explained to me that as students, they had to read history texts they didn’t like for school and so in personal reading time have little interest in returning to the subject. Others have said that they found the idea of history books dull and lifeless. Despite (perhaps because of) having spent a lot of time reading these books, I am also acutely aware that until recently, historians cared very little about whether their readers fell asleep while reading their prose. Some history books have the most interesting topics and ask fascinating questions yet have the driest writing you have ever experienced in your life.    

Despite all of that, I’m here to tell you that this section is extremely deserving of your perusal for a few reasons.  

First off, let’s get the cliché out of the way - if you don’t know your history you are bound to repeat it. Very few phenomena are entirely new by this point, and so when you have questions about ‘what if this happened or these choices were made,’ there is likely to be proof of concept somewhere in these books. Engaging with history, both the good and the bad, is an important tool in understanding the present and working towards more equitable and sustainable futures.  

Additionally, the roadblock of dry history writing is becoming less and less of a problem in most libraries these days. Now, instead of wading through dusty tomes of academic language that makes your eyes glaze over, you have the option of getting the information you’re looking for narrated in a way that keeps you engaged and invested in the subject.  

Finally, history is full of some truly amazing stories, as interesting or more so than what you can find in the fiction section. Humans are a wild bunch, and there’s so much that people have done that has left a mark on their own societies and those that came after them. Additionally, while time changes things and sometimes the past seems like a totally different world, people have always been people, and you’d be surprised at how relatable someone from hundreds of years ago can be. It’s incredible that we have the opportunity to learn about these individuals and moments in time that are both so foreign and so familiar, and that still have an impact on the modern world. 

Here are just a few examples of what The Library has to offer: