The best way to learn history is simply through varied reading, taken up with interest. If we are to facilitate that, we have to, at minimum, provide books – lots of books. So for a medieval history cycle year, here are many options for free reading.
These are the books I’ve found and purchased for our shelf the years we have done medieval history cycle, including plenty of Arthurian legends.
I do need to make it clear that you should use your own discernment when it comes to books for your family. Every family’s tolerances and tastes differ, and mine are more laissez-faire than many. I buy no twaddle, and the books I get come recommended from good sources, but I don’t preread every one and I believe in broad reading.
However, I have this luxury because my boys are ravenous readers and not the most careful nor sensitive readers. If, down the line, I get a sensitive reader or one who doesn’t read as much, I would be more choosy.
So, always make decisions in light of your own reality and not based on an abstract ideal. My list in no way represents an abstract ideal, but I hope it’ll be a good starting point for finding books to strew.
Book Lists for Medieval History
When selecting books, I start with multiple book lists and the impressions I’ve collected over the last 10 years I’ve been looking at book lists, and I spend hours scouring Amazon. Unless a book is particularly amazing and essential, I start with a huge list and let the selection be limited by what I can find used and cheap and not available at our library. So, I’m pretty happy with what I was able to get for our medieval collection, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others I’d like just as well or that this is all we read, either.
Also, I try to have a bias toward biographies, and for pillar figures (like Martin Luther or Joan of Arc or Constantine) I try to find multiple biographies, because each one is going to have a slightly different perspective or interpretation, and I think it’s healthy for elementary students to internalize the idea that history is always biased and never told complete and whole. Also, we can always keep reading and keep learning about one event or one person and see something fresh each time. I think that’s a healthy way to approach history reading.
As the spine of our history reading, I use Story of the Middle Ages and part of Story of the Reformation & Renaissance by Christine Miller, supplemented by the audio versions of Story of the World (I try to have us listen to all four volumes once a year, often either during lunch or in the car).
Middle Ages History
- Trial & Triumph by Richard Hannula
- Master Builders of the Middle Ages by David Jacobs
- Quest for a King: Searching for the Real King Arthur by Catherine Andronik
- A History of Britain: The Middle Ages by Tim Woods
- The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
- The Vikings by John Clare
- The Crusades by Anthony West (Landmark Series)
- The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway (Landmark Series)
- The Bayeux Tapestry by Norman Denny
- How Would You Survive in the Middle Ages? by Fiona Macdonald
- Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Bendick
Biographies of Medieval Men
- Courage & Conviction by Mindy & Brandon Withrow
- Monks & Mystics by Mindy & Brandon Withrow
- Brendan the Navigator by George Otto Simms
- Martin Luther by Mike Fearon
- If All the Swords in England: A Story of Thomas Becket by Barbara Willard
- Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendick
- Famous Men of the Middle Ages by John Haaren
- Around the World in a Hundred Years by Jean Fritz
- Augustine of Hippo by Simonetta Carr
- Athanasius by Simonetta Carr
- Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley
- Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World by Paul Maier
- William the Conquerer by Thomas Costain (Landmark)
- Joan of Arc by Nancy Wilson Ross (Landmark)
Plus as many Signature Book biographies as I can get my hands on.
Middle Ages Historical Fiction & Lit
- The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
- The Story of the Grail & the Passing of Arthur by Howard Pyle
- Tristan & Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski
- The Sword and the Circle by Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Boy’s King Arthur by N.C. Wyeth
- King Arthur: Tales from the Round Table by Andrew Lang
- The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum
- Master of Geneva: A Novel of the Life of John Calvin
- Arthur: High King of Britain by Michael Morpurgo
Make This List Useful For You
This isn’t a “right way” book list. These books are simply the books that live on the bookshelf during our year of studying the middle ages. I don’t assign them. They don’t have to do any narrations or reports or projects on them. They just read them as the fancy takes them. As homeschooled homeschoolers, my husband and I know this works if the kids are picking them up voluntarily.
Use it as a springboard for your own book lists and for ideas, but always filter it through what works in your own house and with your own individual children. Just filling the bookshelf with good books works for my older two, and I don’t know if it will for the three younger.
The cheapest way (besides receiving hand-me-downs) that I’ve found to get some of these books is library sales. Know at least a few key authors or series and go in to any library sale you can. As libraries get rid of the old books to make way for new, you’re likely to find some gems if you’re willing to look for them. Several of the titles above I scored for a quarter at our local library sale.