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Later when I was about 12 I found copies of Black Boy and the Invisible Man. They were fiction but they were such a revelation to me that they made me read everything I could find about black history.
When I was in the 7th grade I was at my aunts house looking for something to read. On the bookcase was a book called Treblinka. I liked the name, so I chose it with no idea what it was about. This got me interested in WWII, Jewish hisotry and world history in general.
I'm still fascinated by the "barbarians" and maps in general.
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My return was prompted by picking up a copy of George Washington's war : the saga of the American Revolution in 1998. My company had me working near Philadelphia, so I visited Valley Forge, etc. I got hooked by visting the area of a battle with this book in hand. Liecke's description of movements and terrain was enough to visualize parts of the action... but what a change. The American general Alexander's left wing was strung out on the ridge from McDonald's, past the dry cleaner and Chineese food, up to the Grocery store. The Hessian, von Knyphausen, crossed the stream and assembled his men just north of the turnpike, near the Wendy's parking lot before scaling the hill. The images and changes over the years have prompted a lot of reading and visits to other sites.
However I think it was A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman that was my first serious history book, certainly the most influential.
Jump ahead to last summer. I am back in school, majoring in history and I mention those books to an anthropology professor. He went nuts. It seems they are out of print and highly thought of. The next semester in my first history class one of the required books is on the Seminole Indians in Florida. It looked familiar and after doing a little checking I found out it was one of the reports hat had been included in that set.
My parents still had them when they moved fifteen years ago but they left them at the old house. The same people that bought the old house from my parents still live there. Sometimes I wonder if I should drive out there and ask if they remember what became of the books.
But perhaps this is stretching the definition of history :)
I think Afrika Korps was one of the first books I owned as well. I remember buying a few of those Ballantine books when I was a kid (I still have them). I also remember swallowing hard before turning over that outrageous amount of $1 or $1.50 to buy it.
Now that I think about, that was my first introduction to history as well, in first or second grade. They were books in sturdy bright turquoise and orange library bindings, on the lives of various famous Americans while growing up. I can't remember the first one of those I read (I suspect Franklin or Jefferson), but I know the last - Henry Ford, proof of my very first case of reading something because it was only part of a series. I followed this up by getting a very thin Scholastic book of biographies, which I still have.
It probably helped that I started reading on a host of Great Illustrated Classics, so I was already somewhat familiar with historical fiction, from reading their version of Robin Hood.