Best of the Year 2019 History

History Winner: The Dead Drink First

"It’s interesting to note that all of the authors in this year’s line-up started in other disciplines, and then brought their skill and experience to personalizing historical narratives.

David McCullough began his career as a sportswriter, but has collected fans and Pulitzer Prizes for his hallmark ability to brighten the corners of American history—in this case, the settlement of the Northwest Passage—with novelistic detail. Brad Meltzer, who achieved fame as a thriller writer, and Josh Mensch use the details and pacing of suspense fiction to enliven the real-life plot to kill George Washington—and Scott Brick’s performance adds to the suspense. Going a step further, Dan Jones has gone on the record to talk about how his screenwriting experience lends scope to his writing about the Middle Ages, where listeners follow a disparate cast of Crusaders throughout the audio of the same name. And sometimes, the author’s point of view informs history, as when anthropologist-by-training David Treuer drew on his experience as an Ojibwe author as inspiration for a sprawling, culturally-affirming, packed-with-fact history of Native Americans since Wounded Knee.

In short, 2019 was a banner year for popular history. The Best of the Year in History, Dale Maharidge’s The Dead Drink First combines a personal narrative with you-are-there storytelling to immortalize a fallen soldier and, more importantly, to blaze a path for modern, audio-first history that honors the past." —Christina, Audible Editor