Ah, U.S. history. With every second that passes, we have more of it. No one could possibly know about all of it. I don’t know about you, but there’s still so much of it that I want to learn about. Growing up in Maine in the 1980s, we were taught only the most basic facts, and as an adult, I am continually surprised by the things I don’t know about the country I have always lived in.
That’s where having a love of books and reading comes in handy! United States history is an unending source of material for books. You just have to decide what you’re interested in. Spoiler: There is a LOT of fascinating U.S. history to read about. So I’ve made it easier for you by picking out 9 of the best American history books for you to consider. I have read many of the best US history books over the last few decades, so I promise that you can trust me.
by Stacy Schiff
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Schiff takes a close look at life in 17th-century New England and the only major historical U.S. event centered around women until suffrage: the infamous Salem Witch trials. By the end of that year, almost 20 people had been accused of being witches and put to death by their friends and neighbors.
by Liza Mundy
And this is the fascinating tale of the more than ten thousand women from small towns and elite colleges all across America who were recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy to work as codebreakers during World War II. Using interviews with surviving codebreakers, Mundy details how, while their brothers and boyfriends fought across the Atlantic, these women worked tirelessly to crack codes.
by Jay Sexton
An up-close examination of how crises throughout U.S. history, such as increasing integration of the British and American economies, the absence of a foreign threat during the Civil War era, and immigration both past and today, have dictated the course of the country.
This is an important, award-winning examination of how racist ideas were created and spread throughout American society, and how they still persist in the 21st century. Kendi uses five famous American intellectuals - minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and activist Angela Davis - to explain racist thought through the centuries.
by Erika Lee
This is a detailed examination of xenophobia, the dislike or prejudice against people from other countries, and the huge role it has played in U.S. history throughout the centuries. Lee explains how an irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants has been prevalent, and a defining part of several political movements, since the colonial era.
This is a great look at how rocket design was advanced in the 1940s and 1950s by an elite group of young women mathematicians who transformed the field, helped create the first American satellites, and made space exploration possible. (For another great book on this topic, check out Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.)
And this is a fascinating read about how poison detection finally became possible in the age of Prohibition, how it was utilized during the alcohol ban, and how it advanced forensic detection in science.
Women were not legally allowed to fight during the Civil War, but it didn't stop women on both sides of the war from trying to do their part. Abbott tells the story of four women - a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow - who spied, lied, and even enlisted dressed as a man, to help the war efforts.
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Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor and velocireader in the great state of Maine, where she reads 500-600 books a year and lives with her three cats, who hate to read.