I've become a bit of a fan of the Cundill Prize, which gives $75,000, no less, to pretty much the best history book in the (English-speaking) world. It aspires to be, if not the history Nobel, at least the history Booker, you might say. I've been tempted into reading one or two winners from previous years, and they've been impressive: history of Christianity, history of China, suitably enormous topics.
If you have a yen to get into an enormous and erudite tome on some historical world you never contemplated before, the shortlist may be just what you need. And 2015's is announced:
- Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Alfred A. Knopf)
- Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford University Press)
- Claudio Saunt, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 (W.W. Norton & Company)
- Stuart B. Schwartz, Sea of Storms: A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina (Princeton University Press)
- Bettina Stangneth, Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer (Bodley Head)
- Nikolaus Wachsmann, KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (Little, Brown/Hachette)
This year I've actually read one of them! Beckert's Empire of Cotton was one of my "books of 2014," in fact. The other nominees will have to be pretty strong to keep up with that one.
Jury this year is historian Chad Gaffield, gadfly David Frum, publisher/writer Anna Porter, plus Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff and Brit diplomat Anthony Cary