So I realized that I have yet to fully convey my British medieval history obsession on this blog. If I could recommend four books to get you FULLY immersed in the medieval, it would be the following four. Go ahead and click the youtube links first so you can listen to some medieval music as you read. 😀
(1.) “The Doomsday Book” by Connie Willis.
This unassuming little science fiction novel was the real catalyst that began my medieval obsession. 6 years, 300 acquired songs and about 100 medieval history books later, I have read it three times. It is about Oxford historians in the future that travel back to various centuries to study the cultures of the past. The main character Kivrin accidentally gets sent back to 1348, the height of the bubonic plague in England. Listen: it starts a little slow. But believe me: I have recommended this to men and women of many ages, and they all become obsessed with it and say they’ve never read anything like it.
(2.) “The Great Mortality” by John Kelly.
After becoming immersed in medieval England during the Black Death, I just had to know more about it. There are countless books out there about this particular plague; (did you realize that there were several waves of the plague throughout the centuries?) However, I felt that this book spoke to the subject thoroughly and in a more readable way than any other “Black Plague” book I’ve encountered.
3.) “The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England” by Ian Mortimer
The title says it all. Written by a medieval historian, if you want to take a trip around medieval England, you’ll need to have this guidebook in your satchel!
(3 and a 1/2.) “A Medieval Book of Seasons” by Marie Collins & Virginia Davis.
This one may be a little harder to find. It is a beautifully illustrated text that takes you through a medieval year, ala the Book of Hours. It talks about daily life, what people eat, wore and did for fun.
So if you’ve made it THIS far in my blog post, I have just a few more things to say.
(3 and four quarters.)
A few years into my medieval journey, I finally took the recommendation of my Mom to read “The House on the Strand” by Daphne DuMaurier. OH MY GOD! A time travel book about Medieval Cornwall and obsession. I have read this about 4 times and I purchased an audio copy so I can listen to it on the go. You will never be able to shake this book after you’ve read it.
(4.) Okay, so actually I recommended more than 4 books.
If you want a VERY comprehensive history that involves the French connection as well, you really must read “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century” by Barbara Tuchmann. I feel pretty safe in saying that I am the only person you know who has an audio copy of this behemoth and enjoys listening to it to fall asleep. Not because it’s boring! Far from it! I just love being lulled to sleep while hearing about the exploits of the Sir D’Coucy and his world.
More Nonfiction: Frances and Joseph Gies have several books about medieval life, as does Toni Mount. Caroline Walker Bynum writes some fantastic books about theology, and also elements of Medieval theology, liturgy and the church.”Life in the Middle Ages” by Martyn Whittock was VERY helpful to me in sorting it all out. “The Year 1000” by Robert Lacey is a bit before the “medieval” but it will help to set the foreground to the British Medieval period. Plus, it’s just captivating to read.
I cannot do justice to all of the fantastic books there are out there about this subject, but let me just tell you about a few fictional but “atmospheric” medieval books. Since I’m getting a little long-winded here, I’ll just show you the books:
“Company of Liars” by Karen Maitland, “Something Red” by Douglas Nicholas, “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley, “Shadow on the Crown” by Patricia Bracewell. I’ve also heard that Bernard Cornwell is good, but I cannot recommend him because I haven’t read him yet.
And listen: I was this close to putting links directing you to support my company by purchasing this from Barnes & ……well, NOT from Amazon. Frankly, I would prefer that you purchase from anywhere BUT Amazon.
However, I’m not going to do that, but just remember to support your local bookstore, even if it is a Barnes & Noble bookstore. For booksellers like me, it’s my livelihood and it helps to foster a place for people to actually interact in person and make recommendations, instead of a world run by Amazon distribution centers. I’m just putting that out there 🙂