Favorite Early Modern Books for Grades 10–12


Here are my favorite high school history books
for Early Modern times. I’m Sonya Shafer with Simply Charlotte Mason. I remember my high school history books. They were nothing like these beauties! My history textbooks were full of summaries
and facts. These are full of ideas and people and fascinating
narratives that make the events of the past come alive! Today I want to share with you my favorite
history books for high school students covering the early modern time period. And we’re going to be looking at books for
both early American history and world history. I think it’s important to study American history,
or the history of your particular country, in the context of world history. Our students—and we—can learn a lot by
keeping that larger perspective and making those important connections between people
and events. I’m going to be talking about ten different
books. That’s a lot to keep track of. So if you would like a reading plan all laid
out for you, that incorporates all of these books—plus all of the books I’ve recommended
for the family and grades 1–9 in my other reviews—take a look at the Early Modern
and Epistles lesson plan book. It also has narration reminders, Book of Centuries
entries, and exam questions to help you. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. Let’s start with my favorite high school books
for American history. If you don’t need American history for your
home school, use the time stamp below to skip right to the world history titles. The first early American book that I recommend
for high school is this wonderful overview written by William Bennett, America: The Last
Best Hope. This is actually a series, and I do recommend
all of the books in the series, but for early modern times (approximately 1550–1850) I
like to use Volume 1. It covers from the discovery of America through
World War I, so I use the first seven chapters for early modern, and then the rest of it
as we move into modern times, along with others in the series. It’s good in the high school years to include
overview books that take a bird’s eye perspective on a subject or a time period. With all of the great biographies and specific
event narratives that your student has read throughout the younger grades, he should have
an ample storehouse of those living ideas and people from the past, so in the high school
years he can draw on those relations with those events or people as they are mentioned
in the overview. It’s hard to find a good concise American
history overview that is interesting, current, and written in a living narrative. America: The Last Best Hope meets all of those
criteria. It’s the best that I’ve found, and I’ve gotten
good feedback from students who have read it. By the way, this is a great series to help
your student make a transition to college level work. As you can see, it’s a thick book, so your
student will gradually be reading longer and longer sections as he works his way through
the chapters. That’s great preparation for the amount of
reading that will be required if he goes to college. But happily, this reading is in an interesting
and living American history book. It’s a great series. Another important genre to include in the
high school years is original documents, primary sources. Charlotte Mason included poetry of the time
period and literature of the time period at this level, because she believed those types
of writing gave a good understanding of the thoughts and experiences of the time. The best resource I have found for primary
sources is American Voices, edited by Ray Notgrass. This is a hefty collection of documents, speeches,
essays, hymns, poems, and short stories from American History. And you can split it between Early Modern
and Modern Times. I like to use selections from the first half
of it while studying Early Modern and selections from the rest during Modern Times. The only commentary is a short sentence or
two to set the stage for each document, telling who the author was and in what historical
setting the piece was written. The emphasis is on the documents and literature
and poetry. It’s a great resource. When your student is reading about the Revolutionary
War, you can bring in alongside Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech,
and excerpts from Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and the Declaration of Independence. Your student can read the inaugural addresses
of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln; letters from John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson; Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville; Civil Disobedience
by Thoreau; and powerful excerpts from the article by Frederick Douglass that he titled,
“The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” And those are just a sampling of the fascinating
documents in this collection. There are lots more for both Early Modern
and Modern Times. If you want your student to really understand
American history, be sure to include the documents, literature, and poetry as you go along. The American Voices collection makes it simple
to do. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by
Benjamin Franklin My printed copy is a collection that includes
more than just the autobiography, but you can find it free online quite easily. There are a couple of great points about reading
Franklin’s autobiography. First, it’s excellent writing with touches
of humor. So even though it may not be the easiest read,
it rewards those who give it their full attention. Second, it covers almost 200 years of Early
Modern history. He starts by tracing his family in England,
beginning at 1555, and tells his life story up through 1765. Sadly, he never finished it. Those final 25 years we must read from someone
else’s perspective. But what he did leave us is an interesting
inside look at life in colonial America. Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell
Freedman Russell Freedman is one of my favorite authors
for Early Modern and Modern Times. His books are meticulously researched and
include interesting details told in a living way. They also include lots of artwork and illustrations
from the time period, so when you’re reading about Lafayette, you get a personal picture
of him in your mind. For Early Modern times, I like to recommend
Lafayette and the American Revolution, because it shows how the principles of the fledgling
United States impacted France and it paints a memorable portrait of one man’s sacrifices
for the cause of freedom in two countries. A couple of bonus titles for this time period
are Washington at Valley Forge and Give Me Liberty: The Story of the Declaration of Independence,
both by Russell Freedman. Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps
of Discovery by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns You may recognize that last author, Ken Burns,
for his stellar video documentary work. I’m happy to say that this book is really
a companion to a video by the same name. Sadly, I don’t have my copy of that video
to show you; I’m afraid I loaned it out and never got it back. But the video is what made this historical
journey come to life for me. You can still find it at pbs.org and I saw
a few used copies on Amazon. It’s fabulous! The book follows the same format as the video
documentary. Both contain lots of entries from the diaries
of Lewis and Clark and vivid pictures of the land and the people groups that they encountered
along their journey to the sea. (Two heads-up notes if you are able to watch
this video. Two very short comments are made during the
documentary. Both are accurate and factual, not at all
sensationalized, but you might want to know they are coming. During the section called “Our Friends” an
Indian ritual is described matter-of-factly that includes wives offering to “sleep with”
other men in the tribe. Those are the words used in a brief comment. During the section “O! the Joy” they tell
how Lewis and Clark found out that the Indians living near the west coast had already learned
some English words from ship captains and such. Some of those words are swear words. Again, mentioned factually and without any
sensationalizing. But I thought you might want to know ahead
of time.) Now for my Early Modern world history recommendations
for high school. I have five books in all, but three of them
I have already reviewed in my top picks for grades 7–9: Hearts and Hands: Chronicles
of the Awakening Church by Mindy and Brandon Withrow, plus The World of William Penn and
The Year of the Horseless Carriage, both by Genevieve Foster. I think these three are great reads for all
of the older students, grades 7–12. Good living books can be interesting and appropriate
for a wide range of ages. Rather than repeat my reviews of them here,
I’ll leave a link in the show notes to that previous episode. So if you’re not already familiar with them,
you can go there and hear about these three great titles that your high school student
is sure to enjoy. The other two titles include a collection
of biographies and a historical fiction. First, the biographies: Famous Men of the
16th and 17th Century by Robert G. Shearer. Some of you may be familiar with the Famous
Men series by Haaren and Poland. Rob Shearer of Greenleaf Press has provided
a great service in bringing those books up to date. I love to recommend his editions of that series,
because I know he has incorporated the advantage of more recent research and wider perspective
while still staying true to the narrative style. His Famous Men of the 16th and 17th Century
is a wonderful collection of biographies of prominent men and women who lived in the 1500s
and 1600s. Your student will read about Catherine de’
Medici, Elizabeth I, Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Galileo, Pascal,
Rembrandt, William of Orange, Louis the Fourteenth, and more. People from France and England and China and
Germany, Denmark, Poland, and Sweden are all featured in this book. Twenty-eight life stories that will give your
student insight into this time period in a way that no textbook can. The historical fiction book is A Tale of Two
Cities by Charles Dickens. Set during the French Revolution, this famous
novel will definitely make that era of history come alive for your student. Intrigue, mystery, adventure, narrow escapes,
honor, loyalty, and daring all come into play in this classic book. Sure, it can be read at any time as a literature
title, but pairing it with a study of Early Modern history helps to lock its events into
place and make it that much more memorable. Dickens is not the easiest author to read,
but your student’s efforts will definitely be rewarded with this tale. So those are my top picks for high school
students studying Early Modern times. How about you? Do you have some favorite living books that
you want to share for this time period and age group? Let us know by leaving a comment. And if you need some help with scheduling
these great books, as well as all of my top picks for Early Modern across all the grades,
take a look at our lesson plan book, Early Modern and Epistles. That will have simple daily itineraries all
laid out for you. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. If you enjoyed this video, subscribe through
iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or your favorite podcast app so you don’t
miss an episode. You can also subscribe to the audio version
of this podcast or read the blog post on our website at simplycharlottemason.com. All of those links will be in the notes along
with links to the books, the other episode that I mentioned, and that lesson plan book. Thanks for joining me. See you next time!

3 thoughts on “Favorite Early Modern Books for Grades 10–12”

  1. Does anyone else watch these videos just to listen to Sonya’s soothing and pleasant voice regardless of the content?

  2. Thank you for making these videos! I look forward to each one! Our daughter loves the books for your history curriculum. She will be reading from the Early Modern and Epistles next year, in her junior year! May God continue to bless you and all at SCM!

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