I love purchasing books on different historical topics. There is something so satisfying about glancing over at a bookshelf filled with varied and diverse volumes about all things historical, from mythology to overviews of ancient civilisations to more specialised topics such as the history of a town or place. Hundreds of years of knowledge all on one shelf.
But how do you know which books to purchase, and how do you know whether they are accurate or not?
Here are 3 tips to help you decide.
1.Research the author.
Just because someone doesn’t have formal/university qualifications doesn’t mean they aren’t just as knowledgeable as someone who does about a particular topic. Experience and care is what counts. However, some people do write books about topics they are not experienced in, and it pays in the long run to spend a little time doing some research on the author of the book/s you are considering. In Australia at least, history and non-fiction books tend to be more expensive than fiction, so this small investment of time is better than spending a lot of money on a book that may not be factually accurate. I usually read the author’s bio on the product page then google their name to learn about their experience/knowledge.
This is especially important if you are purchasing a book on an Indigenous or marginalised culture. Historically and currently, Indigenous and marginalised cultures are frequently not included in the telling of their own stories, which is why it is so important to read works written by or in conjunction with people from the culture/s you are interested in.
2. How recently has the book been published?
It’s easy to think that history never changes. That’s true, but our knowledge of it does. New discoveries about the past are happening every day, reshaping what we know about the world’s history (especially true for ancient civilisations). This is why I try to purchase history books that are no more than 3-5 years old, or if this isn’t possible, the most recently published work on that subject.
If I know the topic I am interested in has recently had a lot of new discoveries, I read as many new articles as I can and hold off on purchasing a book until there is a newer or updated publication. I promise you, if there is a topic, especially one that has gotten a lot of media attention, someone will write a book about it!
3. Find recommendations by other experts in the field.
Are there people you know or follow who have experience in a particular topic? Have a look at their website or social media accounts to see if they recommend any books, articles or documentaries about the subject you are interested in. If they don’t recommend anything directly, zoom into the background of their photos to see what books are on their shelves 🙂
Family, Folk and History has a page dedicated to sharing different resources to help you on your family history journey.
I hope these tips have helped. Happy book buying!