I do like history; I like studying it and learning about it, however I very rarely read it. I don’t know why this is exactly, but I often dislike books set in the past. However, I have scraped together a list for this week’s ‘Top 5 Wednesday’, containing 5 book which I enjoyed, set (or written) in the past. I love many books such as ‘The Kite Runner’ which have historical aspects, and also many books such as Agatha Christie’s mysteries which are not exactly set in the present, but do not count as historical in my mind, so I am saying that the entirety of the book has to be set before 1945 (the end of World War II) to count. So without further ado, let’s go!
5. ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller
I read this book back when I was 14, for an essay piece going towards my Drama GCSE. I am fascinated by the mass hysteria of the Salem Witch Hunts, and this is the most iconic piece of literature surrounding it. I gained quite a bit of historical knowledge from both reading and researching ‘The Crucible’ and the concepts around it.
4. ‘Private Peaceful’ by Michael Morpurgo
This well-known modern children’s book is about two brothers in the First World War, and I read it for the first time this September. It is of course very popular, but as it is really written for children, I was not expecting it to be nearly as poignant as it was. It left me in tears a lot, and caused me to reflect a lot on the effects of war. It is also one of only two on this list that I did not read due to educational purposes, but of my own free will.
3. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare has always been a very hit-and-miss topic for me; some of his plays, such as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and the historical plays, I despise, whereas examples such as ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ are favourites. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is my favourite Shakespeare play of all. I have recently written an essay on social issues in the play for my English course, and in the process, I unearthed a lot of material that gave me a great appreciation for the work.
2. ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck
A familiar book to many English Literature GCSE students, ‘Of Mice and Men’ is set during the Great Depression in America in the 1930s. I greatly enjoyed studying this book, as it was my first real exposure to American history; while I love researching to topic in my own time, the majority of my historical knowledge was (and still is actually) British, Egyptian and Greek. I think that the book is a brilliant story about friendship and dreams in difficult times (and I will be forever delighted that my coursework on this book received full marks and helped get me an A*).
1. ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne
The period of history which I find the most interesting is the Second World War; as it was such a prominent feature of our history, but one so close to our current times, I feel that it is the historical event which we as a society can draw the most lessons from. Also, most people of my generation had grandparents alive during the war, and so it is something which affected people who we are still able to talk to. I love ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ as it shows the innocence of the children caught up in war, such as the main character Bruno, whose father’s job involves running a concentration camp. This book is very heart-wrenching, and creates very strong messages about the lives of people suffering at war through no fault of their own. I am also a fan of the film adaptation.
There we have it, my top 5 favourite books set in the past. They focus on many areas of history, from World Wars to witch hunts, and all of them taught me lessons about how the past shaped the world in which we now live.
Creator Lainey’s Youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/gingerreadslainey
Goodreads list of T5W participants – https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1608567-complete-list-of-wednesday-ers
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