History was certainly one of my favorite subjects in high school and college. What better way to honor my favorite subject than with focusing on five historians who are writers in their own right. They have all written extremely fascinating, yet exhaustively well-researched books on history covering fields in U.S. history, the U.S. Presidents, music, and films. Some of these historian authors are currently on television as commentators or hosts, one has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his books on U.S. Presidents and another provides fascinating music trivia for the entertainment industry and music fans alike. There is one historian author I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Now let’s find out who are these five best historians who write books that are so fascinating.
5.) Douglas Brinkley – History Professor/Author
Some have called this acclaimed historian, writer and editor “the best of the new generation of American historians”. Douglas Brinkley was born in December 1960 in Atlanta Georgia, but later raised in Ohio. He earned his Bachelor and Master degrees from Ohio State University. Later he received his Ph.D in U.S. Diplomatic History from Georgetown University. Brinkley taught at Princeton University, the U.S. Naval Academy and Hofstra University. In 1992 his first book was published Jean Monnet: The Path to European Unity. That same year another book Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years is what brought him more extensive acclaim. Also in 1992 a biography titled Driven Patriot about James Forrestal was published.
His other notable books The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House from 1999 was credited as being influential for the ex-president in winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Douglas Brinkley won Business Week’s Book of the Year for his epic Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and A Century of Progress (2003). However, in January 2004 the book Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War was published as Kerry began his Presidential campaign. Brinkley’s book focused on Kerry’s military service as a swift boat commander while in Vietnam and his subsequent anti-war protests that caused a great deal of controversy for Kerry later in the campaign. Brinkley would receive the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2007 for The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast published in 2006. His latest book in 2009 The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America has been a bestseller appearing on several bestseller lists such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
4.) Joel Whitburn – Music Historian
Thanks to this historian’s love of music trivia and facts based on his exhaustive research from the Billboard charts he has made it easy for me to write my numerous music articles due to his enormous contributions. Joel Whitburn is from Wisconsin and it’s where he founded the Record Research Inc. in 1970 that features a team of researchers who thoroughly inspect the Billboard music and video charts. This research goes back as far as 1890 to the present day covering all music genres. Their compiled data extrapolated from Billboard resulted in their first published book Top Pop Singles. It covered the history of Billboard’s music charts. In the book it detailed a singles debut on the chart, where it peaked, how long it stayed on the chart and other recording trivia. Whitburn’s Record Research books are used extensively with radio DJs, especially the Top 40 Hits book series and others in the entertainment industry as well as by music fans, such as myself.
3.) Robert Osborne – Film Historian
If you love watching the TCM, Turner Classic Movies, cable television network then you’ve seen Robert Osborne as their anchor host. It is during the weekday he introduces films in primetime with fascinating facts and trivia on the upcoming movie you are about to watch. Osborne was born and raised in Washington state where he graduated from the University of Washington with a major in journalism. He eventually set his sights on Hollywood becoming one of the contract players for Desilu Studios. This was the joint effort of Lucille Ball and then-husband Desi Arnaz. It was at Lucille Ball’s suggestion that he take his abilities as a journalist and his love of film which lead to his eventual career as a film historian.
Robert Osborne was a columnist and critic for The Hollywood Reporter from 1982 to 2009. With his experience as a contract player under the old studio system in Hollywood, combined with his years in independent acting roles, as well being a journalist he has now written many interesting books that are extensive about old and new Hollywood. His most notable work is 80 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards. This was published in 2008. The first edition was originally titled 50 Golden Years of the Oscar from 1978. There have been several editions in between. Just like Osborne loves doing on TCM by sharing trivia and little known facts about the production of the film you are about to see he has the same style in this book about the Oscars over the years. His other books on movie stills, movie posters, memoirs of Judy Garland and Rock Hudson and the leading ladies and men of Hollywood are also great books to read if you are a film aficionado
2.) Doris Kearns Goodwin – Historian/Author
She is the only female historian author on the list who has also won the Pulitzer Prize for her book about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Rockville Centre, New York she later attended Colby College in Maine. Doris earned her Ph.D in Government from Harvard University. In 1967 she initially was an intern for President Lyndon Johnson, but later was offered a job as his assistant. When Johnson left office in 1969 she taught at Harvard for ten years. One of her courses was on the American presidents. It was during this time she helped the former President Johnson with his memoirs.
Goodwin’s first book resulted from her conversations working as Johnson’s assistant titled Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream published in 1977. It eventually became a bestseller which helped launched her writing career. The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga was another notable book of hers from1991. It was in 1995 she won the Pulitzer Prize for History from her book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The American Homefront During World War II. Continuing on her specialty of writing about U.S. Presidents in 2005 her book about Lincoln’s presidential cabinet titled Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln was awarded the Lincoln Prize as the best book on the American Civil War.
1.) David McCullough – Historian/Author
He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his books on two U.S. Presidents that were later made into an HBO film and miniseries. McCullough has also received the National Book Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest award a civilian can receive. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and earned his degree in English Literature at Yale University. While working as an editor and writer at American Heritage he began a three year project writing a book on one of the worst flood disasters in U.S. history. His book The Johnstown Floods was published in 1968. McCullough received critical acclaim with one critic stating “We have no better social historian”.
It was a result of this success McCullough’s wife encouraged him to write full-time. He eventually got offers to write about the Chicago Fire and the San Francisco Earthquake, but was told by his publishers he’d get a reputation of writing only on disastrous events. Instead, he wrote about the Brooklyn Bridge as no one else had written anything on it. This was a bridge he crossed many times. In 1972 The Great Bridge was published. Critics considered it “the definitive book on the event”. However, it was his book on the Panama Canal that gained him national attention in 1977 titled The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal.
His most significant biography titled Truman is an exclusive book on the 33rd President Harry S. Truman. It’s an exhaustive and extensively researched book that won him the Pulitzer Prize for Best Biography or Autobiography in 1993. Prior to his Pulitzer Prize I got to meet this very warm and friendly author at a book signing. Truman was made into an HBO movie starring Gary Sinise, who now stars on the TV show CSI: New York. For the next seven years David McCullough would write his definitive biography on another U.S. President, John Adams. Upon its release in 2001 the book John Adams became one of the fastest-selling non-fiction books in history. It also earned McCullough his second Pulitzer Prize for Best Biography or Autobiography. John Adams was later adapted as a mini series on HBO. His latest book is titled 1776. This is about the significant year the United States was founded and its focus on George Washington.
You can purchase their vast array of books either locally or online at www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com or www.borders.com. They will make a great addition to your library at home or in your office. Normally when you think of books about history you automatically associate it with textbooks. These are all non-fiction books that are informative, yet entertaining enough and enriching for the reader.