If you don't like history, you're wrong. I'm sorry, but I will stand by that statement. History is the most fascinating subject there is. It's stories about people having adventures and making mistakes, falling in love, committing murder, changing the world, being subject to the twists and turns of fate, but all the stories are true! These people really lived! Men and women have lived out plots that we'd deem much too fantastic to be novels or movies. I don't understand how people think history is boring. I suppose if you have a teacher that just makes you recite places and dates....but most teachers aren't like that. And if you take it upon yourself to dig deeper.....history is awesome. Holy cow.
Right now I'm in the midst of a Mark Twain (or Sam Clemens, as I'm learning to call him) biography. So good. He's such a snarky and funny guy; I feel like we'd get along. Not perfect, but so real and down to earth. And his love letters to his wife, Livy Clemens, are simply too adorable for words. What a couple of cuties.
William Shakespeare. Just- William Shakespeare.
My favorite biography of all-time (so far) has to be Hide and Seek With Angels by Lisa Chaney. The subject is the playwright JM Barrie, and it's fantastic. That was the book that really got me into biographies.
James Madison by Richard Brookhiser changed my favorite president. I still idolize George Washington-- who doesn't?-- but James Madison is overlooked and incredible.
American Eve by Paula Uruburu focuses on Evelyn Nesbit. She's depicted in both the novel and the musical Ragtime, but after learning more about her life I felt physically ill at how I had misjudged her from those fictional portrayals.
William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Charles Fox, William Pitt-- the whole gang of British abolitionists. FOREVER LOVE. (I don't have individual biography references for all those, but the film Amazing Grace is five stars. [And I realize the irony of recommending a film right after relating how wrong fiction can get a peson.])
For more general historical books that aren't about one specific person:
American Tempest by Harlow Giles Unger talks about the causes, effects, and general what-have-you of the Boston Tea Party. It's wonderful-- this event was so much more planned, complex, and important than I had previously realized.
The Ghost Map by Samuel Johnson relates the tale of how cholera was cured after one of the most fatal recorded London outbreaks. It reads like a thriller, the plot is that straightforward. I am amazed and humbled by the men who dedicate their lives to research and healing.
A History of Opera by Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker is a five-hundred page history of, well, opera. What did you expect? Like another favorite of mine, Showtime by Larry Stempel, this book delves into the behind-the-scenes of theatre. The lives of composers and actors, political issues, different translations, and the wax and wane of opera are all discussed, along with a lot more. Made me want to go catch an opera-- I've only seen two.
Anyway, history is the bomb and I will never be tired of talking about it.