The 10 Best U.S. History Books

Updated June 27, 2017 by Melissa Harr

10 Best U.S. History Books
Best High-End
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Best Inexpensive
We spent 28 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Not just for students or history buffs, our selection of U.S. history books contains everything from concise to funny to controversial material that all kinds of readers will enjoy. Use them to gain insight into how the country got to where it is today, to study for an exam, or simply to ensure you're never at a loss for words at an intellectual dinner party. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best u.s. history book on Amazon.

10. U.S. History For Dummies

You may never brag about having read U.S. History For Dummies, but it might come in handy when fielding a question from your kid or at a cocktail party. Although it's not an in-depth text, it covers enough to help you sound educated when the conversation turns to the past.
  • good choice for busy people
  • works as supplemental study guide
  • could be seen as a bit biased
Publisher Wiegand Steve
Model n/a
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

9. Children’s Encyclopedia of American History

The Children’s Encyclopedia of American History will help your young ones gain an understanding of this dense subject without delving into topics that might go over their heads. It's perfect for kids in the 8 to 12 age range and will give them an edge in school.
  • collaboration with smithsonian
  • illustrated with over 750 photos
  • wonderful classroom resource
Publisher King, David C.
Model n/a
Weight 4.3 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Blood at the Root

"Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America" may not be airplane or beach-reading fare, but if you would like to understand more about racial violence, an unfortunate part of the nation’s history, then this unflinching work by Patrick Phillips is a top choice.
  • covers forsyth county georgia events
  • expressive and emotional writing
  • some may find subject matter tough
Publisher Phillips Patrick
Model n/a
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. A People's History of the United States

Howard Zinn's 1980 masterpiece A People's History of the United States is a must-read that examines America from the viewpoint of the underrepresented, including the working poor and women, in order to tell a balanced, rather than uncritically patriotic, story.
  • covers all the way to clinton era
  • unabashed and eye-opening
  • can spark heated debate
Publisher Harper Perennial Modern
Model n/a
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. American Colonies

Alan Taylor's "American Colonies: The Settling of North America, Volume 1" greatly enriches the tale of the nascent nation's earliest days, adding context that’s usually swept under the rug. With lively and engaging prose, it’s hard to put down.
  • emphasizes native contributions
  • for academics or lay readers
  • well-credentialed author
Publisher Taylor, Alan
Model n/a
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. George Washington's Secret Six

George Washington's Secret Six tells the often overlooked story of the top-secret Culper Spy Ring. This intricate intelligence web allowed Washington to infiltrate New York, ultimately helping him rally the cause and leading him to victory over the British.
  • portrays bold patriotism
  • swift read that's never dull
  • maybe more entertaining than factual
Publisher WaterBrook Press
Model n/a
Weight 4.8 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects

The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects offers a sampling from various events and eras. It covers everything from pre-Columbian times to the American Revolution to the digital age, and illuminates each subject anew.
  • unique and fun approach
  • great gift for history buff
  • too big to travel with
Publisher Penguin Press HC, The
Model n/a
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Lies My Teacher Told Me

"Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" is a welcome alternative to well-trodden paths. James Loewen examines all the inaccuracies and outright untruths that still fill many of the the resources that are used in schools today.
  • new chapter on 9-11 included
  • nonpartisan and intriguing
  • excellent research and writing
Publisher Touchstone Books
Model n/a
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Battle Cry of Freedom

As most remember from school, the Civil War sprung from a veritable tapestry of underlying issues and ideologies, which Battle Cry of Freedom catalogs and aims to put into context. Never boring, author James McPherson records the events of the conflict masterfully.
  • exciting and fast-paced
  • sets a standard in civil war reading
  • strongly analytical
Publisher Spring Arbor
Model n/a
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. David McCullough's 1776

To truly understand the present state of America, you need to understand how it was founded, and that's what David McCullough's 1776 helps you to do. It's a breathtaking narrative of the year of the nation's birth, covering what was happening on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • pulitzer prize-winning author
  • based on extensive research
  • comprehensive but approachable
Publisher HOLT MCDOUGAL
Model n/a
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

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Last updated on June 27, 2017 by Melissa Harr

Melissa is a writer, editor, and EFL educator from the U.S. She's worked in the field since earning her B.A. in 2012, during which time she's judged fiction contests, taught English in Asia, and authored e-courses about arts and crafts. In her free time, she likes to make stuff out of sticks and string.


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