Books we recommend about genealogy, history, and family, including memoirs and how-to guides.

Inheritance: A memoir of genealogy, paternity, and love (Dani Shapiro)

Inheritance memoir Dani Shapiro review

Recently, Ian finished Inhertance: A memoir of genealogy, paternity, and love by author Dani Shapiro. Nicole had read it earlier. We know that EasyGenie fans like stories about families reconnecting after decades apart, a trend that has increased thanks to widespread genetic genealogy testing.

Shapiro has undertaken a similar journey, but her memoir goes deep into the internal turmoil that comes with making such a discovery. She loves her late father, a religious man who brought her up in the traditions of their Jewish faith. Shapiro takes readers through the shock she felt after a pillar of her identity suddenly came into question, and the resentment she felt toward her mother for hiding the truth surrounding her conception. Meanwhile, she struggles to connect with her biological family, engaging in a genealogical quest with the help of her husband and online friends. We don't want to spoil the ending, but suffice it to say Shapiro gives a gripping account of her journey that goes far beyond the accounts of similar reunions seen on TV or in news articles.

Shapiro was already an award-winning author before making this discovery, and is an extremely talented memoirist who knows how to tell a deep story. We got our copy of Inheritance at the library, but you can also purchase it online (Amazon).

Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide

Irish genealogy

This in-depth guide from Irish genealogy expert Claire Santry will take you step-by-step through the exciting--and challenging--journey of discovering your Irish roots. You'll learn how to identify immigrant ancestor, find your family's county and townland of origin, and locate key genealogical resources that will breathe life into your family tree. (Amazon)

Margareta Magnusson: Swedish Death Cleaning

Swedish death cleaning

"In Sweden there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning, dö meaning 'death' and städning meaning 'cleaning.' This surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner than later, before others have to do it for you." (Amazon)

James M. Beidler: Family Tree German Genealogy Guide

German genealogy guide

"Follow your family tree back to its roots in Bavaria, Baden, Prussia, Hesse, Saxony, Wurttemburg and beyond. This in-depth genealogy guide will walk you step by step through the exciting journey of researching your German heritage, whether your ancestors came from lands now in modern-day Germany or other German-speaking areas of Europe, including Austria, Switzerland, and enclaves across Eastern Europe." (Amazon)

John Kelly: The Graves Are Walking

Graves walking kelly

“John Kelly vividly writes the compelling story of the horror of Ireland's potato famine, with intimate portraits of those who died and those who fled. Most illuminating is how he captures, in devastating detail, British leaders, who, imbued with religious fervor and ideological blinders, decided to use the plague as an occasion to teach the Irish good work habits, responsibility, and to rid them of their dependence on government. An extraordinary book, and a lesson for our times.” (Amazon)

Dani Shapiro: Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Dani Shapiro memoir hourglass

Dani Shapiro is our favorite memoirist, and this book makes a great gift or something to add to your own reading list: "Hourglass is an inquiry into how marriage is transformed by time - abraded, strengthened, shaped in miraculous and sometimes terrifying ways by accident and experience. With courage and relentless honesty, Dani Shapiro opens the door to her house, her marriage, and her heart, and invites us to witness her own marital reckoning - a reckoning in which she confronts both the life she dreamed of and the life she made, and struggles to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become." (Amazon)

Nathaniel Philbrick: Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War

mayflower book history

For sixty-five days, the Mayflower had blundered her way through storms and headwinds, her bottom a shaggy pelt of seaweed and barnacles, her leaky decks spewing salt water onto her passengers' devoted heads. There were 102 of them - 104 if you counted the two dogs: a spaniel and a giant, slobbery mastiff. (Amazon

Ron Chernow: Grant

Grant book

“Chernow’s Grant is as relevant a modern figure as his Hamilton. His Grant is a reminder that the very best American leaders can be, and should be, self-made, hard-working, modest for themselves and ambitious for their nation, future-looking, tolerant, and with a heart for the poor . . . . Chernow turns the life of yet another misunderstood figure from U.S. currency into narrative gold.” (Amazon)

Sarah Rose: D-Day Girls

“With skill and heart, Sarah Rose captures the adventures of an extraordinary group of women who kept the resistance alive during the darkest days of World War II, risking everything to liberate their loved ones, their nations, and democracy itself. Spies and saboteurs, high explosives, ingenious deceptions, dirty poems transformed into cryptologic keys—I couldn’t stop reading.”—Jason Fagone, author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes (Amazon)

Sherry Turkle: The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir

Turkle memoir

“[A] transformational journey from an anxiety-infused childhood to an adulthood devoted to psychological insight and excellence in scholarship . . . Out of the ashes of the shame induced by her mother’s insistence on lies and pretense, Turkle learned the value of genuineness and empathy.” —Patricia Steckler, Drizzle Review (Amazon)

Charles M. Carletta: For the Grass of a Cow

Grass of cow book

Part genealogy and part history, this book tells the fascinating story of Marion Tiernan's family, emigrants from County Meath, Ireland, who arrived in northern New York beginning in the 1820s. Among the earliest settlers of Waddington, Madrid, and Norfolk, their stories unfold with descriptions of their home parishes, journey to New York, and life on the frontier. (Amazon)

Loretto Dennis Szucs: They Became Americans

they became americans

They Became Americans provides an accurate, readable, and interesting historical framework for the citizenship process. It suggests ways of finding naturalization records and discusses the weaknesses and strengths of the different types of records. If naturalization records are not to be found, They Became Americans points to a variety of alternative sources for finding immigrant origins. (Amazon