10 Best American History Books That You Must Read!

best American history books

It is a common saying that – today’s us is reminiscent of our yesterday. Quite similar is the case when we talk of countries as well. Today’s America is defined by the complex happenings of its yesterday. However, in most cases, the history that we are taught seems to be shrouded in uncertainty. It is to remove this veil and bring forth the truth of the past that we have this listicle of the best American history books of all time. 

In this listicle, you will get those books that show you the ‘real’ past of the US and how it has influenced today of this massive global power. Let us help you explore the same – 

List of the best American history books

In this section, we have divided the history books according to particular periods to give you a better idea of Big Brother’s historical evolution – 

Are you looking to explore the American Revolution? 

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One of the biggest revolutions that occurred on the face of this earth, this war changed the dynamics of the American societal domain. Beginning in the 1760s, this challenged every aspect of the colonial domain – from the taxes levied by the British to the constantly exploitative trading policies. In the books mentioned below, you will get specific details of this revolution and the humane side of it as well. 

1. Founding Brothers – Joseph J. Ellis 

founding brothers book
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The key factor that makes it one of the notable and best American history books is – there is nothing so ‘historical’ about it. Each of the chapters showcases the colonial beginnings and how the people of America, under the guidance of their Founding Fathers, worked towards independence. 

As you move from chapter to chapter, you can see for yourself the legacies, how the societal fabric changed over time, and how the Founding Fathers defended the Constitution, thereby establishing the essence of American society. 

2. Washington’s Crossing – David Hackett Fischer 

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One of Fischer’s most compelling narratives, this takes the readers through a tour of George Washington’s eternal conflict between identity and realism. A military analysis of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, the text thematically portrays the impact of the battles of Trenton, Princeton, and Assunpink Creek on the US societal domain. 

As some of the most crucial and life-changing decisions ever made in the context of any war, this shows how the change in the course of the Revolutionary War led the Continental Army to victory. 

What was the truth behind the American slave stories? 

american slave stories
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Have you been a lifetime fan of Uncle Tom’s Cabin? American slave stories hold a different charm whatsoever, and the more you know of it, the more you want it! To give you a credible note about that ‘side’ of the story, you must check out the books mentioned –  

3. The Half Has Never Been Told – Edward E. Baptist 

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Though many readers would see it as a capitalist tale of America, hidden under the layers of pages are the survival stories and roles of slaves who created the base of today’s USA. The author showcases through the narrative how slaves were not merely used to produce cotton. In the long run, they were engines of the economic development that set the base for the technological superpower that this country is today.  

Added to that, this history text has also explored multiple themes of chattel slavery, the expansion of slavery in the Old Southwest, and the role of the Haitian Revolution in the changes that were brought forth. 

4. Flee North – Scott Shane 

scott shane best american history books
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One of the best American history books narrating the tale of a forgotten hero, Shane’s Flee North is a riveting account of Thomas Smallwood. A writer, abolitionist, and liberator who not only bought his freedom but also led hundreds out of slavery. Every day, thousands turned to him to save them from slavery – and he did save them, not caring about the consequences. 

As one of the most prolific wordsmiths America has seen in a long time – he documented his escapes in multiple columns of the newspapers. In this story of the Black man, the role of the white New Englander, Charles Torrey, has a huge role to play. It is time you picked up this book for a read. 

Want a glimpse of the American Civil War?

american civil war
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The massive fight between the Union (North) and the Federacy (South) changed the demographic of the USA like never before! This civil war marked the formal end of slavery and caused the downfall of the aristocracy. As a watershed moment in history, this is also considered a keynote concerning the development of bigshot industries in this domain. 

5. This Republic Of Suffering – Drew Gilpin Faust 

republic of suffering best american history books
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This book stands as a testimony to the damages that a war can bring upon – individual families and the nation as a whole. Unlike many other texts on the same topic, this offers a study of reactions and reflections that the carnage of the civil war brings forth. As you delve deeper into this narrative, you will see how the survivors managed and the deep religious undertones that pervaded the society. 

6. A Stillness Of Appomattox – Bruce Catton 

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This book, the last part of the trilogy, chronicles the events of the last leg of war in Virginia. Beautifully written and providing a detailed experience of the Army Of Potomac, this Catton-authored book is considered one of the best American history books.

This Pulitzer-winning story narrates the desperate scenes of the hungry and ill soldiers and how wars like these impact one’s psychology and emotions. For those of you who wish to get a deeper insight into the war, this non-fiction narrative is the one to pick. 

The best American history books about the Great Depression

great depression in american history
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In the history of the modern industrial economy, the US Great Depression was the deepest downturn that one could see. The Americans were flying high with the Roaring Twenties sweeping them over. However, it all came to an end when, in July 1929, the stocks on Wall Street crashed! The books mentioned below give you an insight into what happened at those times – 

7. The Worst Hard Time – Timothy Egan 

the worst hard time
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As the name suggests, this is one of the most thought-provoking and best American history books documenting what 1929 and post-that society was. This non-fictional account gives you a tale of endurance against nature’s most potent forces (blizzards, crop failure, death of loved ones) that are in tune with the economic disaster. Egan has brilliantly managed to capture the human emotions that are placed against this economic catastrophe – thereby creating a book that is classic in all respects. 

8. Hard Times – Studs Terkel 

hard times best american history books
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Though different in terms of geography, Terkel’s Hard Times also provides – a first-hand account of people who lived in the US through the Great Depression. It is considered an eye-opening account of an incident that is more than often reduced in historical terms. Critics have praised this work, more than often, calling it an ‘anthem’ honouring the American spirit. 

What was the Civil Rights Movement all about? 

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You must have heard of the story of Rosa Parks – the black lady who did not give up her seat for the white man. That was how the Civil Rights Movement in the USA started! This social movement ran from 1954 to 1968 and resulted in – the abolition of racial profiling and disenfranchisement in this country. 

So, if you are looking to get an idea of the social backdrop and historical statements during that time, the below-mentioned are the best American history books to give you an insight into the same – 

9. Voices of Freedom – Steve Fayer/ Henry Hampton 

voices of freedom book
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This book provides an oral history of the civil rights movement from the man behind the PBS series – Eyes On The Prize, Henry Hampton (co-authored by Fayer). He has managed to compile close to a thousand interviews with – civil rights activists, reporters, officials from the Justice Department, and others to provide insight into the happenings of that time. This book provides you with an innate experience of what those individuals went through and the tortures that they have tolerated in those times. 

10. Parting The Waters – Taylor Branch 

parting the waters best american history books
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This book, authored by Taylor, gives you an insight into America’s tragic racial discriminatory policies, the life and times of Martin Luther King Junior, and the vivid portrayal of societal biases that existed at that time. Its gripping narrative mingles history with biographical details, thereby presenting an intimate portrayal of that time’s America. For those of you who wish to get an idea about those times, this is a history book you must pick up. 

These are some of the best American history books that will undoubtedly give you a viewpoint of the evolution of society, right from the time of its formal foundation to the latest happenings. 

Parting thoughts 

A true glimpse of a country’s history can only be found when you get to explore the multiple stages through which they have evolved. When you explore these best American history books, you will get to see the truth behind the stories that have taken over. We hope this list gives you a fantastic idea of the amazing history that this country boasts of. If you liked this list and want more of such a fantastic collection of films, books, and articles, keep visiting this website. 


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