The best history audiobooks

The best history audiobooks

Good history requires good storytelling. Learning history in school was a struggle for me as historical facts and accounts were presented in rigid detail. It was all about passing information and little about getting engrossed in the story. So when I bumped into this rich genre that brings a moment in time to life in both informative and engaging ways, I was thrilled to listen in. History audiobooks have stoked a fire in me that I plan to keep on for a very long time.

I went back in time to relive the greatest historical moments in the world and listened to stories I thought I’d never take an interest in. It was mind-blowing. Some authors zoom into overlooked elements. Others focus on a particular group or culture, others discover the significance of new items and material, and others explore mysteries and thought-provoking concepts for your post-credits pleasure. All the while, no memorization of names or dates is demanded!

Duly presented is a list of best history audiobooks that history buffs would enjoy and expand their knowledge. Read on for the best history, a selection of books guaranteed to fill you up.

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, narrated by Doug Ordunio 

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Length: 16 hours 21 mins

Evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond, who worked in Guinea for over 30 years, examines the ecological and geographical factors and events that shaped and altered the modern world throughout history. His inquisitive mind explores the story of not only why but also how human races are historically and scientifically different. Gun, Germs and Steel is well researched and quite engrossing for the listener who seeks to understand the collective meaning of our existence. Doug Ordinuo expertly takes you around the world, narrating the advances in civilization for different human societies and how they got there. This history book is a wellspring of information.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, narrated by Scott Brick

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Length: 35 hours 58 mins

The prolific award-winning Ron Chernow aptly presents a thorough, insightful, and full-length biography of Hamilton in what became an inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton created by Lin-Manuel Miranda! Ron tells a riveting account of the journey of a grossly misunderstood founding father who, against all odds, shaped, inspire, galvanized, and scandalize newborn America. The book sets the record straight and gives Hamilton his due for championing ideas in history that were very much wildly disputed.

It cements Hamilton’s legacy from his exploits as a self-taught orphan to his rise to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp and, eventually, his stubborn will to build the foundations of prosperity and power in America. Any curious historian or history audiobooks fan will definitely enjoy this one. The book humanizes Hamilton like never before, from his childhood friendships to his loving marriage to Eliza. Scott Brick’s reading of Hamilton’s mysterious death makes it more gripping.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, narrated by Richard Matthews

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Length: 5 hours 48 mins

Best-selling writer Bill Bryson takes us through an engaging fact-finding experience of his life. And science responds comprehensively. His writing in human history is so fluid, profound, and entertaining even as he confronts the challenge to understand the human species, the rise of civilization, and how exactly humankind got there. In his quest for answers about the universe and ourselves, which he admits he knows little about, he pesters the most advanced archeologists, mathematicians, and anthropologists in the book.

A short history of nearly everything is ably performed by Richard Matthews, breaking down difficult concepts across all the science disciplines and introducing us to the personalities in the story. It’s one of the best history audiobooks for fans interested in scientific discoveries or explanations, learning together with the author. This audiobook comes highly recommended.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair by Erik Larson, narrated by Scott Brick

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Length: 15 hours 00 mins

One of those history audiobooks where both the subject matter and the narration is outstanding. Erik Larson is a master in storytelling, effortlessly drawing you into a time of magic and majesty with a compelling supporting cast of real-life characters. Scott Brick is back again for a delicious reading of the plot twists to this horror story. Titles like this one are always inviting.

This thriller-like suspense follows the life of America’s serial killer, Henry Holmes, who builds a murder house near Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, and Daniel Hudson Burnham, the architect behind many of the Fair’s important structures. Burnham overcomes tragedy and many obstacles to build White City, while Holmes uses the scenic attraction of the fair and his own demonic charm to lure as many as 200 ladies to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake. The book allows the concept of good and evil to brilliantly shine through its textbook Larson, making it possibly one of the best history books around. It has to be said that some parts in The Devil in the White City may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s one of the books I found quite appealing and compelling.

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, narrated by Derek Perkins 

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Length: 15 hours 18 mins

Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, the renowned historian, uses this highly original international bestseller to explore how science and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be us – the Homo Sapiens. It follows humankind’s history from over 70 000 years when at least 6 species inhabited Earth to now.

Dr. Harrari’s approach pursues to explain how our species succeeded in the battle of dominance, where the other species went to, how different life would have been if the other species still existed and what may happen to humans now. Our incredible inability to look ahead as exposed in Sapiens has trapped man in a dreadful spiral of a growing population and diminishing freedom. Humans and our history’s fascinating complexities are well narrated with a commanding listener interest by the masterful veteran narrator, Derek Perkins. Praised for his works in The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge, 21 lessons for the 21st century by Yuval, and Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge, it’s easy to see how his performance in this thought-provoking book is matchless. For historians who lovedJared Diamond’s The Fate of Human Societies, this audiobook should enter your list.

We Wish to Inform You Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

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Length: 10 hours 24 mins

The government of Rwanda orchestrated a harrowing decimation of everyone in the Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority in 1994. By 100 days, almost a million people were brutally murdered in an unimaginable crime that sparked one of the defining outrages in modern history. In a letter to his Hutu church president, a Tutsi pastor used the chilling phrase that offers Gourevitch his title.

The award-winning Gourevitch gives a riveting first-hand account of the events that led to the gut-wrenching Rwandan genocide evoking a myriad of emotions. As a fan of history audiobooks that drive the point home, Gourevitch’s profound book delivers in its depiction of human perseverance even in the face of unspeakable betrayal and the anguishing aftermath that challenged any form of survival. The author of the audiobook himself well articulates this moving work. He exposes his information with raw emotion as he chronicles this dark part of modern world history in a remarkable performance.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles

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Length: 10 hours 47 mins

Hidden Figures is a true story that follows dedicated Black female mathematicians at the heart of NASA (then NACA), whose calculations helped shape America’s biggest contributions to Earth and space. They helped oversee a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War and NASA’s greatest successes, such as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and John Glenn orbiting Earth. The lives of people depended on their accuracy, and they came through. 

Following the labor shortages in World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in desperate need of staff, these once overlooked “human computers” originally teaching math in the segregated public schools would finally get a chance to use their varied skills at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Lab. Hidden Figures chronicles the story of experts Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden as their lives become more intertwined. They forged alliances, faced challenges, and used their intellects to change their careers and lives — and the future of America. It’s easily one of the best history audiobooks.

Through Margot Lee Shetterly’s modern classic work, we get a fascinating insight into their world and essential subjects such as NASA’s history, the civil rights movement, and segregation. Its Oscar-nominated movie adaptation steers away from tackling how they tackled segregation issues at Langley. But this version does a good job explaining how that came about and gives women more credit for their small yet trailblazing acts of defiance. The way it also simplifies the intricate scientific details into an enjoyable listen is worth noting. In this history audiobook, narrator Robin Miles creates a balance between reverence and joyous storytelling through Shetterly’s very readable prose. 

Black and British by David Olusoga

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Length: 3 hours 18 mins

Black and British explores the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and offers a very balanced treatment. Olusoga presents a thoroughly researched and engaging overview of British history’s neglected element, a start point for any curious history fan. Black Britons have been in existence since Roman times.

The book narrates the way the slave trade corrupted British principles despite court judgments dating back to the 16th century, which explicitly ruled that justice was color blind. Instead, it expanded to industrial scale, a frightening lesson in how a country can go backward. Despite the slave trade and racial attitudes that intensified not until the 19th century, Olusoga describes how black and white Britons have been intertwined for centuries.

The stellar narration of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith complements this utterly fascinating book.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford, narrated by Jonathan Davis and Jack Weatherford

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Length: 14 hours 43 mins

This list of books wouldn’t be complete without anthropologist Jack Weatherford in it. While studying and teaching in Mongolia, Weatherford collected stories, including the facts of Genghis Khan, his life, his legacy, and the intimacy and specialness of Mongolian culture.

Genghis Khan led the Mongol army into subjugating more lands and people in 25 years than the Romans did in 400. The book highlights how this brought an unprecedented rise in expanded trade, cultural communication, and an exploding of civilization in each country the Mongols conquered.

The narration of every novelistic detail of the Mongolian Empire by Jonathan Davis guarantees one of the best historical books ever recorded.