Since 2010 Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s white-knuckle account of the near-fatal plane crash and subsequent internment of World War II hero and former Olympian Louis Zamperini, has captured the imagination of readers around the world. It’s landed on best-seller lists and reader wish lists everywhere, and even inspired a film, out this December from director Angelina Jolie. If you’re looking for more historical tales to chill your blood, keep you up, and make you extra grateful for your easy chair, here are four more books you’ll love:
In the Kingdom of Ice, by Hampton Sides
Sides’ tale opens on the indelible image of the 1873 rescue of more than a dozen people—men, women, and children—from an Arctic ice flat, on which they’d spent 196 harrowing days. It then backs up to spin the story of the “grand and terrible Polar voyage of the USS Jeanette,” the ship from which the survivors were separated, folding in wealthy eccentrics, acts of great hubris, and life and death at sea. Set in the Gilded Age amid an unprecedented public thirst for Arctic exploration, In the Kingdom of Ice will keep you in its chilly grip from the first page to the last.
Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, by Nathaniel Philbrick
The 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill was a bloody tipping point in the Revolutionary War, and Philbrick’s book colors in the history, characters, and political and social landscape surrounding the powder keg of post–Tea Party Boston. By focusing tightly on just one battle, Philbrick uncovers new perspectives on an old story, and fleshes out the lives of a number of supporting players in the United States’ brutal struggle for independence.
A Higher Call, by Adam Makos
A sky-high act of incredible mercy inspired a dual biography of two World War II pilots: American Charlie Brown, who in December 1943 found himself in the pit of a crippled B-17, and Franz Stigler, the German pilot who, rather than ending his life, helped guide him to safety. That the two men met and became friends in 1990, following Brown’s late-life search for his unexpected savior, only sweetens this story of wartime grace.
The Guns at Last Light, by Rick Atkinson
In the concluding volume of his World War II Liberation trilogy, Atkinson highlights the often internally divided nature of the Allied forces, and never loses sight of the frightening costs of war. From the shores of Normandy to the final days of the Third Reich, Atkinson’s impeccably researched book will keep you riveted, whether you’re a military history buff or a n00b in need of a primer.
What nonfiction page-turners have you been reading lately?