The Ten Best History Books of 2023

This year, the ten history books we’ve chosen to highlight served a dual purpose. Some offered a respite from reality, transporting readers to places like ancient Rome and Tudor England. Others reflected on the fraught nature of the current moment, detailing how the nation’s past—including white supremacist violence during Reconstruction and the history of restrictions on women’s reproductive rights—informs its present and future. From a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. to the story of a deadly shipwreck, these are some of Smithsonian magazine’s favorite history books of 2023.
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