These are the first two books of my challenge. Although this is my first posting (and I just recently joined the challenge), I love history and historical fiction and have already read a number of books during the challenge period.
I strongly recommend both of these books by Barbara Hanawalt to anyone interested in learning more about the everyday life of everyday people in medieval England. The Ties that Bound looks at the lives of medieval peasants, while Growing up in Medieval London reviews aspects of life surrounding childhood and adolescence. Although both books are straight history, they read very easily. . . not quite like novels. . .but close.
One of the most interesting aspects of these books -- especially The Ties that Bound -- is Dr. Hanawalt's use of sources. Getting good information about "ordinary" people of this time period is especially challenging since these people just weren't considered worthy of being written about. So info tends to be very scarce, and when it exists, the writer generally has a clear bias. Hanawalt gets around this by using coroners' accounts as her major source. . . her theory being these accounts set down what people actually said and so give a good and generally unedited insight into their lives. In my opinion, Hanawalt is very successful here. . . and the books were all the more interesting to me since I have been reading a series of mysteries in which the main character is a medieval coroner.