Book Recommendations



Questions often ask which textbooks are used in history courses at KMLA. The answer is : none. History is an OPINIONATED subject; students should not rely on one opinion alone, should get into the habit of comparing several views, by the way of PARALLEL READING - reading several accounts of the same phenomenon. It is also highly recommended that students read PRIMARY SOURCES, at least on some major events.

SAT II World History, a test lasting one hour in which 95 multiple choice questions have to be answered. The College board informs that 45 % of the questions are taken from modern European history, the remainder covering ancient and medieval history and the other regions of the planet. Do not expect these questions to be evenly spread; in one test there is a cluster of questions on the history of India, the next test may have no questions on India, but 4 or 5 on Japan. History not only deals with political and economic history, but dies include the history of religion, warfare, of science and ideas, of technology, of society, of everyday life.
Do not expect to know all the answers to the questions; even experienced historians do not. You are expected to make use of your knowledge by eliminating answers of which you know they are wrong; that might not be enough to isolate the correct answer. Then you have to eliminate the answers of which you sense they are probably wrong. If you know about 30 % of the answers, are pretty sure you determined another 20 % and feel you probably have chosen the correct answer of most of the next 30 % of the questions, you may expect a decent score.
Experience tells that the perfect 800 is difficult to get. Scores over 700 are decent, 750 and over are excellent.

Book recommendations :

World Civilizations: Their History and Their Culture
by Philip Lee Ralph (Editor), Robert E. Lerner (Contributor), Standish Meacham (Contributor), Alan T. Wood, Richard W. Hull, Edward McNall Burns
2 Volumes. Covers all geographical regions, all historical periods. Can be used for both SAT World History and AP World History. The chapters on European history do not provide sufficient foundation for AP European History.

World History by William J. Duiker, Jackson J. Spielvogel
1 Volume, 1050 pages, illustrated, covers all geographical regions, all historical periods. Can be used for both SAT World History and AP World History. Not recommended as sole foundation for the preparation of the AP test in European history.

Both books listed here do NOT contain sample tests. A number of test preparation books available in bookstores claiming to prepare for the AP test are of such a dubious quality that I do not recommend any of them. It seems the series editor tells a historian : here is last years's test; write a book which provides all the answers ! Of course next year's test has a different set of questions, so that approach does not really help. The text parts are inadequate in all of them, and contain mistakes the number of which varies from book to book. Most notably, the question sections have flaws, too. (the publishers may claim that they merely reprinted actual college board tests students have taken years ago). Still sometimes answer selections include two correct answers, or none. Students may take these sample tests, at their own risk.


AP European History. Range European history since 1400. The test consists of two parts - a multiple choice section (55 minutes, 80 questions) and of an essay section (1 Document Based Essay, 2 Free Response Essays, 2 hours for all three essays, to be written under supervision without any access to books, the internet etc., the only foundation being the documents). Book recommendations exclusively deal with the knowledge part; essay writing is not learnt from books.

Modern European History
by Birdsall S. Viault
A reasonably priced paperback, which contains essential knowledge telegram style; provides a decent foundation for both multiple choice sections and free response essays. Few illustrations, often maps, of medium quality (black and white, shades sometimes indistinguishable). A good book to brush up for an upcoming test, not sufficient for history novices (telegram style to thin).

A History of Modern Europe : From the Renaissance to the Present
by John Merriman
A good narrative and analysis, illustrated; 1 volume, 1515 pages; author professor at Yale.

The Western Heritage: Since 1300 (7th Edition)
by Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, Frank M. Turner
Widely used as text-/reference book in AP Eur courses, 1 volume, 1150 pages, illustrated, contains short documents.
The publisher has set up a website which offeres questionnaires based on 'Western Heritage', which provides instant evaluation of users' performance (multiple choice questions). This section definitely is not handled by the authors, probably not even by historians, and partially messed up. Therefore I do not provide a link (those who still want to use it - type western heritage into your search engine).

Westermann Grosser Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, edited by Hans-Erich Stier, Braunschweig : Westermann
In German. The edition I have, of 1981/82 (first edition 1956), has 170 pages of mostly color maps A 4 plus 78 pages index.

I do not recommend any books the covers of which claim to prepare for the AP test in European History. Those available are not as faulty as the books claiming to prepare for SAT II; the text sections are inadequate to prepare. And I do not believe that taking many sample tests is a good preparation for the test. Reading real history books, reading primary sources, is.


AP World History. Two parts - multiple choice section and essay section, similar to AP European. The test has only recently been introduced. The test does not stress factual knowledge (as the SAT II World History does) but rather structural knowledge, i.e. understanding of the main concepts of world religions, the ability to use knowledge of both Chinese and Japanese history in order to describe the situation of East Asia in the first half of the 19th century, in comparison with the Near East etc. - not knowledge is tested, but the ability to use knowledge, to deduce and analyze. The books listed under SAT II are still recommended, as a knowledge foundation is necessary. In addition I recommend the following :

AP Success World History, from Peterson's by Margaret Moran, W. Frances Holder
The AP World History test is too young for me to judge about the adequacy of the text section. The book contains a sample test section which is helpful for the understanding of what type of questions will be asked. So far I did not detect any flaws.

Further, World Civilizations Readers - compilations of sources introducing descriptions of non-European cultures, may be of value. As I did not make use of such books in class yet, I do not want to make a specific recommendation at this point of time.


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, November 5th 2006
. . . Alexander Ganse