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Best Books on American History

Explore the rich tapestry of America's past with these influential books on American history. Discover the narratives and insights that rank at the top of reading lists from esteemed publications and history blogs.

Recommendations from 28 articles, Bill Gates, J. K. Rowling, Michael Moore and 60 others.
Best Books on American History
44 books on the list
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1776 book cover
David McCullough - 2006-06-27 (first published in 2005)
Goodreads Rating
Join General George Washington and his army on their intense journey towards American independence. In this powerful account, David McCullough captures the stories of Americans from all walks of life who fought for their noble ideals as well as the British commander and his disciplined redcoats. With extraordinary narrative, 1776 tells the story of two young American patriots, Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox, and the inexperienced but steadfast Washington, who had never before led an army in battle. Based on extensive research, this landmark work in American history is not to be missed.
Recommended by
Sean Junkins
1491 book cover
New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Charles C. Mann - 2006-10-10 (first published in 2005)
Goodreads Rating
Explore a fascinating and surprising world with this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology. Charles C. Mann challenges the widely-held belief that pre-Columbian Americans lived sparsely in a wilderness. Instead, he reveals that they molded and influenced the land around them in incredible ways, from creating advanced cities to engineering corn in a specialized process. Enrich your understanding of the Americas before 1492 with this transformative read.
Recommended by
John Leguizamo
Battle Cry of Freedom book cover
Battle Cry of Freedom
The Civil War Era
James M. McPherson - 2003-12-11 (first published in 1988)
Goodreads Rating
This riveting history of the Civil War dives into the political, social, and military events that led up to the war and the battles, personalities, and politics that shaped it. With fresh interpretations and insights, the author challenges old myths and sheds light on new ones. The book touches on topics such as the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, and the North's eventual adoption of a policy of emancipation. Through this fast-paced narrative, readers will gain a deep understanding of this transformative period in American history.
Stamped from the Beginning book cover
Stamped from the Beginning
The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (National Book Award Winner)
Ibram X. Kendi - 2016-04-12
Goodreads Rating
This history book explores the creation, spread, and deep-rooted nature of racist ideas in American society. The author, Ibram X. Kendi, argues that racism is still a prevalent issue in America and traces its history through the lives of five major American intellectuals. Kendi explains that racist ideas were created to justify discriminatory policies and ultimately perpetuate racial inequities. Despite the heavy subject matter, Kendi offers hope by providing tools to identify and combat racist thinking. This book won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was named one of the Best Books of the Year by multiple publications.
America for Americans book cover
America for Americans
A History of Xenophobia in the United States
Erika Lee - 2019-11-26
Goodreads Rating
Discover the history of xenophobia in the United States and its devastating impact with this award-winning book. From the colonial era to the Trump era, Erika Lee explores the irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants that has shaped our nation. Learn about the exclusion of Chinese immigrants, the internment of Japanese Americans, and the deportation of Mexicans. America for Americans is a necessary read for any concerned citizen who wants to understand why xenophobia endures and how it threatens America today.
Lies My Teacher Told Me book cover
Lies My Teacher Told Me
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
James W. Loewen - 1996-09-03 (first published in 1995)
Goodreads Rating
Discover the shocking truth behind American history with this eye-opening book. Through a survey of eighteen high school history textbooks, the author exposes the blind patriotism, misinformation, and outright lies that have been perpetuated for years. This revised edition includes updated material and new chapters on the lies surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq War. With a nonpartisan approach, this thought-provoking classic is perfect for anyone interested in understanding the truth about our past.
Recommended by
Tyler Oakley
A People's History of the United States book cover
A People's History of the United States
Howard Zinn - 1995-01-01 (first published in 1980)
Goodreads Rating
Explore American history from the perspective of the people who shaped it, in this groundbreaking book. A People's History of the United States throws out the official narrative and focuses on the struggles and triumphs of everyday Americans, including women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrant laborers. From the fight for fair wages to the battle for women's rights, this book explores the grassroots movements that shaped our country. With lively prose and scholarly research, this classic bestseller is a must-read for anyone who wants to truly understand America's past and future.
These Truths book cover
These Truths
A History of the United States
Jill Lepore - 2019-10-01 (first published in 2018)
Goodreads Rating
Explore the American past through a new lens with this groundbreaking history book. Renowned author Jill Lepore places truth itself at the heart of the nation's story, examining its three founding ideas of political equality, natural rights, and sovereignty of the people. But has America lived up to these truths? Lepore takes a deep dive into the state of politics, slavery, inequality, and technology. Engaging and thought-provoking, this book will forever alter your understanding of American history.
Empire of the Summer Moon book cover
Empire of the Summer Moon
Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
S. C. Gwynne - 2010-05-25
Goodreads Rating
A gripping and meticulously researched historical account of the 40-year battle between the all-powerful Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West. Spanning Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, and the destruction of the buffalo herds, this fascinating narrative centers on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all, and his pioneer mother Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped at age 9 and grew to love her Comanche captors. S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon is a thrilling epic that offers a historical feast for anyone interested in the origins of the United States.
How to Hide an Empire book cover
How to Hide an Empire
Daniel Immerwahr - 2019-02-19
Goodreads Rating
Discover the forgotten side of American history outside the mainland with How to Hide an Empire. Delve into the United States' actual territories, from the Guano Islands to Puerto Rico, and learn about the country's complex colonial past. Daniel Immerwahr presents a gripping and fast-paced history, filled with surprising anecdotes and a unique view of empire and globalization. A Publishers Weekly best book of 2019 and a 2019 NPR Staff Pick, How to Hide an Empire is a major work of history that recontextualizes American power on a global scale.
American Colonies by Alan Taylor
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
American History by D.K. Publishing
Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides
American Nations by Colin Woodard
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
John Adams by David McCullough
Trail of Tears by John Ehle
A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schweikart
The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood
Grant by Jean Edward Smith
This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust
AP United States History by Eugene V. Resnick M.A.
If You Sailed On The Mayflower by Ann McGovern, Anna DiVito
Advanced Placement United States History, 2020 Edition by John J Newman
The Story of American Freedom by Eric Foner
With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam 2020, Premium Edition by The Princeton Review
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
Code Girls by Liza Mundy
Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Runaway Slaves by John Hope Franklin
Seizing Destiny by Richard Kluger