Aug 31

10 Books to Get You Interested In American History

This particular post goes out to two groups of people, first my students, past and present, who hopefully I encouraged to become interested in American History and to those that are interested in American History but just do not know where to start.

There are so many books out there that it can become a little overwhelming where you should start. So, I have come up with 10 books that will get you interested in American History.  I believe a well informed and educated population that understands the basics about our past is the only way we will straighten out our future.  This list is just a simple platter that will hopefully get you interested in the delicious history America has to offer.

10 Books to Get You Interested In American History

10. The Frontiersmen by Allan W. Eckert

FrontiersmenChances are The Frontiersmen by Eckert will get any reluctant reader of history to actually sit down and read a history book from cover to cover and enjoy it.  Eckert takes historical letters and diaries and creates an historical narrative that is gripping and fast paced. The Frontiersmen is the exciting and highly engaging story of those that opened up the Ohio River Valley to settlement and the Native Americans who tried to hold on to their way of life.

9. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

FranklinBenjamin Franklin, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting men to call America home.  Isaacson’s biography of Franklin gets the reader way past the man that flew a kite and gets readers to see Franklin as a great man that excelled in variety of fields.  It is a great book to absorb and gives us a chance to put forth the principals of Benjamin Franklin’s life to improve our own.

8. The American Revolution: A History by Gordon S. Wood

American RevolutionThe American Revolution is a great summary of how and why the United States came into existence.  For those that want to know the basic outline of the Revolution without having to read volume after volume then this is the book for you.  I think it is important to know where we came from to find out where we should be going.

7. The Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen

5000 year leapThe Five Thousand Year Leap will give you a greater understanding and appreciation for the US Constitution, and should have probably been required reading in school for us all.  If you are somebody that thinks that the United States is evil and all the founding Fathers were just a bunch of racists this book will either open your mind a little to the brilliance of the Founding Fathers or you will hate it because this book is unapologetically pro-American.  Were the Founding Fathers perfect no because nobody is, but what they came up with was genius and changed the world forever.

6. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose

lewis and clarkI am not a big Ambrose fan but I did really enjoy his book Undaunted Courage.  Here Ambrose relies heavily on the Lewis and Clark journals and creates a wonderful adventure story that helps give a greater appreciation to all those involved in the trials and tribulations on the Corps of Discovery.

5. Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Travis, by William C. Davis

AlamoMost people at least know the legends of the famous men who fought at the Alamo, but Davis takes those legends and applies fact to show that truth can be just as interesting as myth.  Three Roads to the Alamo is a great book about not only what happened at the Alamo, but just how Crocket, Bowie, and Travis ended up there.

4. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson

battle cryOne of the most important events in American history was the Civil War not only because of the reasons that it was fought but what the aftermath of that great struggle lead to.  Battle Cry of Freedom, in my opinion, is the greatest single volume historical account of the Civil War and takes the chore out of reading multiple volumes.  It should be a must read for all Americans.

3. Once They Moved Like The Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars by David Roberts

ApacheLike I tell my students, American history is not just about some old dead white guys though they are important.  In order to understand the full story of American history, you also have to learn the story about those that were here before the Washingtons and Franklins and those immigrants and minorities that came after.  Once They Moved Like the Wind is one the best books I have read on the history of Native Americans.  Not only does it tell the historical story of the Apache Wars but also delves into the rich culture, values, and traditions of the Apache people.

2. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

dust bowlI think the best way to get over whatever pity we are feeling for ourselves is to read about historical times and get a firsthand account of when life was much tougher.  The Worst Hard Time will definitely make you reevaluate your troubles when compared to the farmers who gathered tumbleweed as food for their children.

1. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929 to 1945 by David M. Kennedy

freedomFreedom from Fear gives you a pretty good account on why the generation that overcame the Great Depression and World War II is truly the Greatest Generation America has ever produced.

I hope this list gets you started on learning about the rich history of the United States. Knowing about its dark moments and those moments to be proud of is the only way to understand how great a country it truly is. I have found that learning lessons from the past is the only way to ensure greatness in the future.

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  1. freda

    Looks very interesting. Wish I could read as fast as you. (even though I consider myself a pretty fast reader) just not that fast. I want to read all of these but I am overwhelmed by all ten. I barely can get through all the magazines piling up on the table.

  2. Neil

    Sometimes a good historical fiction novel is a good bridge to falling in love with American history. I loved The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (http://www.amazon.com/The-Killer-Angels-Classic-Novel/dp/0345348109) and Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom (http://www.amazon.com/Panther-Sky-James-Alexander-Thom/dp/0345366387).

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Couldn’t agree with you more- both of those are excellent selections

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