History audiobooks, 2021 edition

In 2021, I listened to forty-one audiobooks that covered history, broadly defined. Some of these I had skimmed earlier, but this was my first time reading them straight through. While trade presses still dominate the audio realm, it’s great to see an increasing number of university presses releasing titles.

Publication details come from Google Books. Please let me know if you spot any errors, such as the date of the paperback in place of the original publication date.

Edit, January 5, 2022. Here are links to previous lists:

A History Professor’s Guide to Audible.com, 2013.

A History Professor’s Guide to Audible.com, 2019 edition

History Audiobooks, 2019-2020

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5 Paragraphs in Defense of 5 Paragraphs

Inside Higher Ed has published my essay, “5 Paragraphs in Defense of 5 Paragraphs.” Among the other claims, I write that “five-paragraph essays also serve as building blocks for longer works. Three body paragraphs are enough to get students thinking about how one idea relates to the next, as well as to signal those relationships with appropriate transition words and phrases. Once students have mastered that skill, they are ready to assemble those blocks into larger structures.”

Readers may note that The Princeton Guide to Historical Research has five parts.

It Takes Two: Combining English and History to Team Teach Narrative Writing

My Mason colleague Scott W. Berg and I have an essay in this month’s Journal of American History about our experience planning and co-teaching a course on narrative history writing. “By teaching skills and approaches neglected in other courses, we wanted to empower students to tell those important stories in rewarding new ways.”

Oxford University Press graciously allows me to post a free-access link to a personal website. Just click on the title below.

Scott W. Berg and Zachary M. Schrag, “It Takes Two: Combining English and History to Team Teach Narrative Writing,” Journal of American History 107, no. 4 (March 2021): 968–73.

History Audiobooks, 2019-2020

Inspired by a Twitter exchange, I realized that I have not updated my list of history audiobooks since July 2019. Here are 43 I’ve listened to since then, mostly on Audible.com, some from Scribd or Chirp. It’s especially nice to see more university presses joining the club. Special thanks to Rebecca Tushnet for entering most of these in our LibraryThing account.

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“Learn the facts, then try on the stories like clothes.”

Motivated by all the praise of John le Carré following his death in December, I’ve been reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. For the historian, surely the great line is “Learn the facts, Steed-Asprey used to say, then try on the stories like clothes.”

Getting that sequence right is harder than it sounds, and I’ve fallen into the traps of trying to squeeze facts into stories that looked good on the rack, and of trying to present facts naked to the world.

Steed-Asprey was right. The facts are not the story, and the historian’s job is indeed to try on several stories, to find the one that fits and brings out the facts to their best advantage.


The Anatomy of a Paragraph

In fall 2020, students in my undergraduate course, Technology and Identity, asked a series of excellent questions about how to structure claims, quotations, and other evidence into a formal paragraph, and how to use transitional words and phrases to link paragraphs together into a longer analysis. In response, I developed several iterations of a handout, dissecting a passage from one of the assigned readings for that course. I post it here in the hopes that it will help others as well.