10 Best Book About American History

Best Book About American History

The history of America is vast and complex; you can’t meet your thirst by reading any particular history book!

However, the facts that are printed in the textbooks are not enough to know America from its roots. Many famous researchers and historians have proved the biases and inaccuracy of information in these books. So, if you want to know America’s true history, you need to come out of the textbooks.  

In this article, I have listed the ten most appreciated and award-winning books about American history. So, if you want to know America from its birth and much before that, this recommendation is for you.

Top 5 American History Book List 

Sl.Book NameAuthor Editors Pick ForCheck Price 
1A People’s History of the United StatesHoward ZinnSocial movements throughout the history of America Price On Amazon 
2These TruthsJill LeporeA deeper understanding of America’s past and its relevance to the presentPrice On Amazon 
3Wilderness at DawnTed MorganKnowing American history from scratch; before the settlement of EuropeanPrice On Amazon 
4This Republic of SufferingDrew Gilpin Faust The enormous toll of death during the American Civil War and its effect on the nationPrice On Amazon 
5Lies My Teacher Told MeJames W. LoewenExposes the historical inaccuracies, biases, and omissions in textbooksPrice On Amazon 

10 Best Books About American History  

In this section, I am adding a short review of the best ten books about American history. Though all these books are based on history, yet have a difference in events and perspectives. So, go through the list and choose the one you find the most interesting- 

1. “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Book NameA People’s History of the United States
Author NameHoward Zinn (American historian, playwright, and social activist)
Published DateOctober 28, 2015
Editors Rating4.7 out of 5 stars 
Pages776 pages

“A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn is an excellent book depicting the true history of America and its hope for the future. 

Book Review 

The history books that are taught in American schools are all about great heroes and their heroism. But Howard Zinn moves out of it and brings the true picture of the common people of America. He focuses on the streets, homes, and workplaces that Americans deal with daily. In this book, he has picturized the society of America from the point of view of factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, American women, and immigrant laborers. He has covered the most important historical events since Coulomb arrived in America. Some major subjects of this book include- 

  • The fight for a fair wage
  • An eight-hour workday
  • Child-labor laws, health, and safety standards
  • Universal suffrage
  • Women’s rights
  • Racial equality

Favorite Quote  From “A People’s History of the United States”

“History is important. If you don’t know history, it’s as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.” – Howard Zinn

Key Takeaways 

  • Know the correct history to prevent manipulation
  • History is complex, and multiple perspectives exist 
  • Progress is not inevitable; it is the result of collective efforts and sacrifices 

2. “These Truths” by Jill Lepore

These Truths by Jill Lepore
Book NameThese Truths: A History of the United States
Author NameJill Lepore; historian, author, and professor of American History at Harvard University
Published DateOctober 9, 2019
Editors Rating4.6 out of 5 stars 
Pages960 pages 

Jill Lepore’s “These Truths: A History of the United States” is an exciting and comprehensive history of the United States that spans from its founding to the present. Picking this book would be ideal for those who are interested in exploring the past. Or anybody looking to understand the American experience more deeply can also read this book.

Book Review 

“These Truths: A History of the United States” contains facts, proofs, and evidence on the truth of American history. Here she highlights the key events, social movements, political development, and cultural shifts. These are the factors that shaped the nation over time. Jill Lepore reminds the reader about the three roots of the American nation- sovereignty, liberty, and equality for all. But are all men in America free? Are they being treated equally? She throws this question at the readers. 

To answer the same, she debates the condition of American politics, the legacy of slavery, the continuance of inequality, and the nature of technological development. Here are the major subjects that Lepore highlighted to mold the history of America-

  • The profound impact of slavery on American society
  • The long and painful road to civil rights
  • Explores the suffrage movement, women’s fight for equality
  • Experiences of immigrants, their contributions to the country, and the challenges they have faced 
  • Development of political ideologies
  • Evolution of American democracy 
  • Ongoing struggles for citizenship rights

Thus, combining the past with the present situation, Jill Lepore has shaped the view on American history for decades. 

Favorite Quote  From “These Truths: A History of the United States”

“Writing history requires empathy, inquiry, and debate. It requires forswearing condescension, cant, and nostalgia. The past isn’t quaint. Much of it, in fact, is bleak.” – Jill Lepore

Key Takeaways 

  • Critically analyzes the American ideals
  • Understanding political and social transformation
  • Emphasizes the importance of evidence-based history

 3. “Wilderness at Dawn” by Ted Morgan

Wilderness at Dawn by Ted Morgan
Book NameWilderness at Dawn: The Settling of the North American Continent 
Author NameTed Morgan, French-American historian, and biographer
Published DateApril 26, 1994
Editors Rating4.9 out of 5 stars
Pages544 pages 

“Wilderness at Dawn: The Settling of the North American Continent”  reveals the journey of the American nation from the very beginning. Ted Morgan, the author of this book, explores multiple settlements and the origin of American history from scratch.

Book Review 

Ted Morgan focuses on human geography when explaining the history of the American nation. He brings out the settlement of different countries and cultures in this land. In the book’s first two chapters, you will learn about the American Indians who arrived in this land before the European settlement. He explains the journey and relationship between the Europeans and the North Americans. The main intention of their settlement was to form a colony in North America. And aiming for that, they left their homelands and arrived in America for new opportunities.

However, their arrival parted the nation into two groups- indigenous Native American and Europeans. You will find the cultural clashes, alliances, and conflicts that arose as these two distinct groups are attractively explained in this book. But with time, they united, exchanging culture, eventually forming a new tradition. How they adapted to each other’s lifetime will amaze you.

Favorite Quote  From “Wilderness at Dawn: The Settling of the North American Continent”

“The history of America’s settlement has been written and taught from an Anglocentric point of view, partly because England ousted Spain and France, partly because many of the early entradas concentrated on plunder rather than settlement, slaughtering Indians as they went.” – Ted Morgan 

Key Takeaways 

  • Discusses the experiences of European settlers in North America
  • Difficulties and hardships faced by the settlers
  • Settlement and colonization of North America and its long-lasting effect

4. This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust 

This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust
Book NameThis Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War 
Author NameDrew Gilpin Faust; American historian and the first woman president of Harvard University
Published DateJanuary 6, 2009
Editors Rating4.5 out of 5 stars 
Pages346 pages 

Drew Gilpin Faust is well known for her expertise in civil war writings. She has written some exclusive pieces on this topic, of which “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War” earns the most popularity. 

Book Review 

In “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,” the author portrays the impact of death on American society during the civil war. She presents the social and political restlessness of that time in a horrifying way. About 600,000 soldiers died in the American civil war, which badly impacted the nation’s social, financial, and overall life. She naturally portrayed the grief of the families losing their loved ones. Discussing these backgrounds, she highlights the transformation of society and people’s attitudes toward death. The destruction of the civil war moved people from believing in religion blindly to the practical world. And thus, it led to changes in mourning practices, religious beliefs, and cultural expressions of grief.

Favorite Quote  From “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War”

“The Civil War left a hole in the American psyche as a result of its unprecedented violence and the way it challenged Americans’ understanding of the nature of death and the possibilities of a good death.” – Drew Gilpin Faust

Key Takeaways 

  • Understanding the war’s devastating toll on life and its impact on American society  
  • Civil War’s impact extended far beyond the battlefield
  • Tribute to the martyrs of the civil war 

5. “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W Loewen
Book NameLies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Author NameJames W. Loewen, American sociologist, historian, and author
Published DateJuly 17, 2028
Editors Rating4.7 out of 5 stars 
Pages408 pages 

“Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” is an American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award-winning book by James W. Loewen. He brings out the historical inaccuracies, biases, and omissions in textbooks and popular historical narratives in this book.

Book Review 

James W. Loewen, in his book “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong,” argues on the picturization of American history in the textbooks. He challenges the traditional narratives that only glorify certain historical figures. But the contribution and sufferings of marginalized communities are ignored in these books. James points out this bias of the narratives and how truth is misguided in these books. This matter upsets the author, and so he argues with this contemporary concept of history books.

He argues on the fact that the picturization of the history books of high schools fails to provide true knowledge about the past of America. So, he exposes the problematic aspects of the existing histories in textbooks and encourages all to know the accurate idea without being biased toward a certain group. Thus, it is an eye-opening approach to how we know American history. 

Favorite Quote  From “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong”

“You cannot be truly impartial in teaching American history or any other kind of history. On moral issues, there is no such thing as being neutral.” – James W. Loewen

Key Takeaways 

  • Uncovers lesser-known stories and events that are excluded from textbooks
  • Highlights the books that reinforce a white-centered version of history.
  • Encourages readers to question the perspective of the textbook

6. “America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States” by Erika Lee

America for Americans A History of Xenophobia in the United States by Erika Lee
Book Name“America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States”
Author NameErika Lee; expertise in immigration history
Published DateJune 15, 2021
Editors Rating4.7 out of 5 stars 
Pages480 pages 

“America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States” by Erika Lee exposes the discrimination and the sufferings of immigrants throughout American history. She depicts how violently the Asian, Latin American, and European immigrants were treated

Book Review 

As the name goes, “America for Americans,” Erika Lee depicts how the land of America only prioritizes the Americans. The United States is known as the land of immigrants. But she introduces this as a nation of Xenophobia. Now what’s Xenophobia? This term is used to express the dislike of a nation for the people of another country.

In this book, Erika Lee portrays the negative and violent attitude of the Native Americans towards the immigrants. This continuous discrimination has continued since the colonial period till now. Still today, immigrants are seen as outsiders. The anti-immigrant attitude is deeply rooted in American history. Besides exposing the dark history of Xenophobia, she also talks about resistance and campaigning against discrimination. 

Favorite Quote  From “America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States”

“Language is a place of struggle” – Erika Lee

Key Takeaways 

  • Discusses historical roots of xenophobia in the United States
  • Understanding of the experiences of immigrants 
  • Shaping immigration policies and social dynamics in the United States over time

7. “How To Hide An Empire” by Daniel Immerwahr

How To Hide An Empire by Daniel Immerwahr
Book NameHow To Hide An Empire 
Author NameDaniel Immerwahr; American historian, professor, and associate department chair of History at Northwestern University.
Published DateMarch 3, 2020
Editors Rating4.6 out of 5 stars 
Pages528 pages 

Daniel Immerwahr, in his book “How To Hide An Empire,” spots light on the overlooked history of America. He focuses on the territories and colonies that have been under the rule of the United States throughout history. 

Book Review 

The central idea of the book “How To Hide An Empire” revolves around the colonial rule of the United States of America. It ruled territories and islands across the globe. And this colonialism has had a great impact on shaping American foreign policy, economic interests, and cultural interactions. Instead of narrating the battles and wars that most history books consist of, Daniel focuses on the inhabitants’ experience of colonial rule. He brings out their struggles with cultural identities.

The imperialism of America has brought the value of democracy to many nations. This has also impacted military strategy, global dominance, and economic interest worldwide. And thus, Daniel Immerwahr reveals the nation’s imperial past and ongoing impact on the present.

Favorite Quote  From “How To Hide An Empire ”

“At various times, inhabitants of the U.S. Empire have been shot, shelled, starved, interned, dispossessed, tortured, and experimented on. What they haven’t been, by and large, is seen.” ― Daniel Immerwahr

Key Takeaways 

  • Examines the history of U.S. territorial expansion
  • Explores the impact of U.S. expansion on indigenous populations
  • Depicts the effects of colonialism on the culture and society of the U.S

8. “Stamped From the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi
Book NameStamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Author NameIbram X. Kendi; American historian, professor, and author
Published DateAugust 15, 2016
Editors Rating4.8 out of 5 stars 
Pages608 pages 

Ibram X. Kendi, the author of “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, “is well known for his work on race, racism, and anti-racism. This book is also based on the same subject; racism in America. 

Book Review 

“Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America ” is a national award-winning book by Ibram X. Kendi. This book exposes the rooted racism in American history. Here Ibram traces the development of racism before the colonial period till the present. He researched this subject and presented his view by examining America’s key historical figures, events, and ideologies. In this book, you will find the reference to five major American intellectuals to narrate this history: 

  1. Puritan minister Cotton Mather
  2. Thomas Jefferson
  3. Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison
  4. W.E.B. Du Bois, and
  5. Legendary activist Angela Davis

Besides, Kendi introduces the three main groups involved in the historical debate on race. These are- 

  1. Segregationists
  2. Assimilationists
  3. Antiracists

He discusses the racial perspective explaining these three groups. He further emphasized the racist ideas with political, economic, and social structures throughout American history. And thus raise the voice for an anti-racial society where equality prevails for all. 

Favorite Quote  From “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”

“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it—and then dismantle it.” – Ibram X. Kendi

Key Takeaways 

  • Traces the evolution of racist ideas from the very early roots of America
  • Explores how science and academia contribute to the spread of racist views
  • Advocates for antiracist education as an essential tool for bringing a just society

9. “Women, Race & Class” by Angela Davis

Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis
Book NameWomen, Race & Class
Author NameAngela Davis; influential scholar, activist, and feminist 
Published DateFebruary 12, 1983 
Editors Rating4.9 out of 5 stars 
Pages288 pages 

“Women, Race & Class” by Angela Davis is a slash towards the negligence, inequality, and racial discrimination towards American black women. In this book, she highlights the contribution of women in the labor movement, the feminist movement, and more. 

Book Review 

In “Women, Race & Class,” Angela Davis brings out the color discrimination throughout the history of America. She takes the readers to the journey of women, especially the black women facing the oppression of the coloring system. 

Angela portrays the pathetic situation of how women were deprived of their rights. They were not allowed to vote, lack of access to healthcare, and more. The oppression of black women was extensive. They had to go through sexism, misogyny, gender-based violence, forced sterilization, and gender biases. This eventually led to different movements. Angela here states the contribution of women in the following movements-

  • Suffrage Movement; women’s right to vote
  • Feminist Movement
  • Labour Movement 
  • Black Liberation Movement
  • Women’s Liberation Movement

But the struggle didn’t end there. Even today, women are facing discrimination in their day-to-day life.

Favorite Quote  From “Women, Race & Class”

“Judged by the evolving nineteenth-century ideology of femininity, which emphasized women’s roles as nurturing mothers and gentle companions and housekeepers for their husbands, Black women were practically anomalies. Though” ― Angela Y. Davis

Key Takeaways 

  • Highlights the significance of women’s involvement in labor movements
  • Depicts the role of white supremacy and racism in shaping women’s right
  • Critiques the mainstream feminist movement for its failure to address black women’s needs 

10. “1491” by Charles C. Mann

1491 by Charles C Mann
Book Name1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Author NameCharles C. Mann, journalist, and author 
Published DateAugust 29, 2016
Editors Rating4.6 out of 5 stars
Pages541 pages 

Charles C. Mann, in his book “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”, explores the inhabitants’ society that existed before Columbus’s arrival. Through evidence and research, he confirms that the people of that age had a more advanced society and civilization than we think. 

Book Review 

    “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” unveils the lifestyle of the pre-Columbian Americas. The author Charles C. Mann argues that they were not wild but were civilized. The indigenous of that time were enriched with advanced cultures, societies, and technologies. They followed complex agricultural practices and extensive trade networks that might shock us.

    Mann further discusses the impact of diseases brought by European colonizers. It is an important event in American history that declined the indigenous populations. You will also find the author examining the interactions between Native Americans and Europeans. This will help you to learn about the complex dynamics of colonization and cultural exchange. The book also presents evidence of the contribution of the indigenous people in shaping the modern world.

    Favorite Quote  From “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

    “Much of this world vanished after Columbus, swept away by disease and subjugation. So thorough was the erasure that within a few generations neither conqueror nor conquered knew that this world had existed.” ― Charles C. Mann

    Key Takeaways

    • Presents evidence of complex societies in the Americas before European contact
    • Importance of understanding the rich history of indigenous peoples 
    • Examines the ecological and environmental impacts of pre-Columbian societies

    Final Recommendation

    America has a big ocean of history that can’t be captured in a single book. Besides, different writers write, focusing on different events which can’t mold the entire history in a frame. Yet I suggest you read “Wilderness at Dawn” by Ted Morgan and “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann to know America from its root. In these books, you will find the ancient habitants of America.

    Once you have finished reading these two books, go for “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. This will give you an idea of America’s movements and historical events. 

    Lastly, “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen is an eye-opening book pointing out the misinformation of American history. You should not miss reading this to clear your concept of the historical past. Reading these four books, I can assure you of having a good idea about American history. However, the list of reading more is still open! 

    FAQs About The Best Book About American History

    How to learn American history?

    You can learn American history from textbooks, historical books, articles, documentaries, and more. There are many books available on American history online. You can easily search for them on Google, download PDFs, and read them. But if the free version is not available, purchase a hardcopy, paperback, or audiobook from Amazon or other e-commerce platforms. 

    What is the importance of studying history?

    Studying history lets you know about the past, know the mistakes, and learn from them. You can learn about the origin, revolution, culture, heritage, development of civilization, and more. Thus, studying history helps you to develop critical thinking skills, nurture perspective, and build national identity.

    Is U.S. history and American history the same?

    Yes, the U.S. and American history are the same; they are often used interchangeably. Both terms refer to the history of the United Nations of America. The subject deals with the historical events, people, and development of the nation.

    Who wrote the first American history book?

    The first American history book is generally attributed to William Bradford (March 19, 1590 – May 9, 1657). After departing from England on the Mayflower in 1620, he was among the first to settle in the Plymouth Colony. William significantly impacted the government structure, serving for 30 years as the governor of Plymouth since 1621. He is important in American literature for his manuscript, which is an essential source for the history of the Pilgrims’ colonial enterprise. 

    What was the first American history book?

    William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation” is regarded as the earliest history book written in the United States. It is written in journal form. In this book, William narrates his experiences about the formation of the Plymouth Colony and the colonists’ lives from 1621 to 1646.

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