Books on U.S. History

Explore national history with this collection of study guides for fiction and non-fiction texts covering events, key figures, and viewpoints that have shaped the United States over the centuries. A sampling of topics within this collection includes the Puritans, Indigenous peoples, the successes and failures of the country's founders, U.S. presidents, war, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, and more.

Publication year 2005Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S., Journalism

102 Minutes, by New York Times journalists Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, is a nonfiction account that chronicles 102 minutes inside and outside the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Published in 2005, it was a National Book Award finalist that year.  The day begins like many others, with workers inside the buildings comprising over 220 vertical acres checking emails and sipping coffee at 8:30 a.m. Others arrive after dropping off their children at... Read 102 Minutes Summary

Publication year 2006Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Society: Nation, Society: CommunityTags History: U.S., Civil Rights / Jim Crow, Military / War, Politics / Government

Publication year 2011Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Values/Ideas: Fate, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Historical Fiction, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Fantasy, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, History: U.S., Cold War

Publication year 2005Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S.

Published in 2005, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus was written by Charles C. Mann. The first chapter introduces many of the problems and inadequacies surrounding popular accounts of native societies. The author describes the tendency to minimize the cultures that existed prior to the arrival of Europeans. Native cultures are seen as simpler and less sophisticated than contemporary European societies. The reason for this, Mann believes, is as much cultural chauvinism and... Read 1491 Summary

Genre Book, NonfictionTags American Revolution, History: U.S.

1776 is a biography of the American Revolutionary War written by historian David McCullough. Published in 2006, the book is a companion piece to John Adams (2001), a biography McCullough wrote about the second US president. Though the Revolutionary War did not officially end until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, the text follows George Washington, King George III, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and other key figures as it examines crucial military events.In... Read 1776 Summary

Publication year 1983Genre Biography, NonfictionTags History: U.S., American Civil War

This study guide references the 1990 Oxford University Press edition of James M. McPherson’s Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. The book is a collection of seven essays originally delivered as lectures, all on the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and his role in the Civil War (1861-1865). The book calls the Civil War era the “Second American Revolution” because, with Lincoln’s help, it brought about a fundamental transformation in the... Read Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution Summary

Publication year 1881Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Natural World: Place, Society: Colonialism, Society: Politics & Government, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags History: U.S., Race / Racism, Colonial America, Grief / Death, Military / War, Politics / Government, Social Justice

Publication year 2012Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Disability, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags History: U.S., Disability, Social Justice, Politics / Government, Sociology

Publication year 2023Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags History: U.S., Crime / Legal, Race / Racism, Social Justice

Publication year 2020Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: Immigration, Society: CommunityTags Immigration / Refugee, History: U.S., Politics / Government, Race / Racism, Social Justice, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 2020Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Natural World: Environment, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Natural World: ClimateTags Science / Nature, Climate Change, History: U.S., Race / Racism

Publication year 1851Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Equality, Identity: Gender, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags History: U.S., Politics / Government, Women's Studies (Nonfiction)

Publication year 1959Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Masculinity, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, American Literature, Classic Fiction, Action / Adventure, Military / War, Relationships, History: U.S., Cold War

Alas, Babylon is a 1959 novel by Pat Frank. Written during the Cold War, it is one of the earliest post-apocalyptic novels to deal with the potential consequences of nuclear war. It examines themes of nationalism, natural selection, deterrent force, and resilience.Plot SummaryAs the novel begins, Mark Bragg sends a telegram to his brother, Randy. The telegram includes the words, “Alas, Babylon,” their code for the onset of a nuclear attack. Mark is an officer... Read Alas, Babylon Summary

Publication year 2004Genre Biography, NonfictionTags Colonial America, History: U.S., American Revolution

Alexander Hamilton is a 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, written by Ron Chernow. Beginning with Hamilton’s birth in the Caribbean, the book traces Hamilton’s story from his childhood, to his early years in America, to his rise as one of the most admired—and reviled—politicians and statesmen that the country would ever see. The popular music Hamilton is based on the story told in Chernow’s book, and shows the development of both America, and one of its... Read Alexander Hamilton Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Music, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Fame, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Society: NationTags Arts / Culture, History: U.S., African American Literature, Creative Nonfiction, Gender / Feminism, Music, Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 2021Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags History: U.S., Race / Racism, Social Justice

Publication year 1993Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags History: U.S., Sociology, Immigration / Refugee

Always Running is the autobiography of Luis J. Rodriguez, a Mexican-American former gang member who grew up in dangerous East Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s. Luis’ family moved to Los Angeles from Mexico after Luis’ father was accused of theft, and Luis spends his early years in Watts, a particularly crime-ridden LA neighborhood. Luis’ father struggles to find work, and the family struggles to find adequate shelter and food. After they are evicted... Read Always Running Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S.

A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign, written by Edward A. Larson and published in 2007, documents the US presidential election of 1800, a highly-contested political drama, preceded by what is considered the first political campaign in American history. The front-runners in the contest were widely considered to be the then-current President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson. Although the two men were serving together in the Executive branch... Read A Magnificent Catastrophe Summary

Publication year 1772Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: EqualityTags American Revolution, Colonial America, History: U.S.

Publication year 2001Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S., Colonial America

American Colonies: The Settling of North America is the first volume of the five-part Penguin History of the United States series. In it, Pulitzer-prize-winning historian Alan Taylor surveys the history of the Americas before the formation of the United States.Taylor aims to expand, enrich, and complicate our understanding of this period. American Colonies covers a broader temporal and geographical range than most works of its kind, spanning from the earliest Paleolithic settlements in North America... Read American Colonies Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S., Colonial America, American Revolution

American Creation is a 2007 nonfiction book by Joseph Ellis that covers the successes and failures of the founders of the United States from 1775 to 1803. Ellis starts with the year and three months that set in motion the colonies’ declaration of independence and subsequent revolution. In this eventful year, the British played the worst possible hand they could, removing the possibility of reconciliation. The colonists included fiery and impetuous rebels such as Patrick... Read American Creation Summary

Publication year 1993Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Society: Community, Identity: RaceTags Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Race / Racism, Class, History: U.S., American Literature

Publication year 1971Genre Reference/Text Book, NonfictionThemes Society: War, Society: Colonialism, Society: Class, Society: Economics, Society: Community, Society: Education, Society: Immigration, Society: Globalization, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags History: U.S.

Publication year 2005Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Society: War, Society: Politics & Government, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Identity: Mental HealthTags History: U.S., History: World, Science / Nature, Politics / Government, Military / War, WWII / World War II

Publication year 2016Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Society: WarTags History: U.S., Politics / Government, American Revolution

Publication year 1975Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S.

Edmund S. Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia was originally published in 1975 by W. W. Norton & Company Inc. This summary references the Norton paperback edition reissued in 2003. Morgan seeks to discover how America’s Founding Fathers came to advocate for freedom and equality when many of them owned slaves. Morgan chose to study Virginia’s Founding Fathers because they were among the most vocal in their opposition to the monarchy, because... Read American Slavery, American Freedom Summary

Publication year 2012Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Society: War, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Relationships: Family, Relationships: SiblingsTags History: U.S., War On Terrorism / Iraq War

American Sniper is the autobiography of Chris Kyle, the single deadliest sniper in the history of the United States military. The narrative, co-written by Chris Kyle, Jim deFelice, Scott McEwen, and Chris’s wife Taya, opens with events that took place in 2003 in Iraq. At the time, Chris was providing protective fire for a group of Marines; a female insurgent attempted to attack the Marines with a grenade, but Chris shot her, registering his first... Read American Sniper Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: Politics & Government, Society: CommunityTags History: U.S., Politics / Government, Race / Racism, Social Justice, Civil Rights / Jim Crow

Publication year 1990Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Birth, Relationships: Family, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags History: U.S., Health / Medicine, Gender / Feminism, Women's Studies (Nonfiction)

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812 is a 1990 nonfiction biography of midwife Martha Ballard by American historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Using Martha Ballard’s diary as a primary source, Ulrich utilizes a microhistorical approach to evaluate the life of Ballard, the history of Maine’s Kennebec River region, and the themes of social medicine, women’s role in the economy, and religion’s place in everyday life. A Midwife’s Tale won... Read A Midwife's Tale Summary

Publication year 2009Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Society: Education, Society: Community, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags History: U.S., Social Justice, Race / Racism, Education, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 2018Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: Politics & Government, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: EqualityTags History: U.S., Race / Racism, Politics / Government, Social Justice, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, Gender / Feminism, Black Lives Matter

Publication year 2020Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Teams, Society: Community, Society: Class, Relationships: Friendship, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Sports, Race / Racism, History: U.S., African American Literature

Publication year 2014Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Health / Medicine, History: U.S., Politics / Government, Race / Racism, American Revolution

Published in 2003, Jim Murphy’s An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 is a historical nonfiction book for young adults that provides a detailed look into Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793. As Murphy documents how yellow fever emerged and spread throughout the city, he demonstrates how society operated in what was then the nation’s capital and largest city in the late 1700s. He focuses on urban... Read An American Plague Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Economics, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Health / Medicine, Business / Economics, History: U.S.

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back is physician and journalist Elisabeth Rosenthal’s overview and critique of the American healthcare system. It was initially published in April 2017, arriving during a time in which healthcare reform became a prominent cornerstone of both Democratic and Republican political campaigns. The book offers a mixture of testimonials from a myriad of people impacted by the health industry, including medical professionals... Read An American Sickness Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Mental Health, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags Lyric Poem, History: U.S., American Literature, Food

Joy Harjo is a seminal voice in the US poetry canon, and she has long been an advocate for Native American women in the literary world. Her work has merited tremendous acclaim, such as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American... Read An American Sunrise Summary

Publication year 2002Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: WarTags WWII / World War II, History: U.S., Military / War, History: African

An Army at Dawn is a nonfiction military history book published in 2002 by American author and journalist Rick Atkinson. Subtitled The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, the book chronicles the successful Allied invasion of North Africa during World War II. The first installment of Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy, An Army at Dawn received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for History.This study guide refers to the 2002 edition published by Henry Holt and Company.Plot SummaryOn September 1... Read An Army at Dawn Summary

Publication year 2022Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Society: WarTags History: U.S., Politics / Government, Military / War, American Civil War

Publication year 1993Genre Play, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Identity: Mental Health, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Play: Drama, LGBTQ, History: U.S.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by the American playwright Tony Kushner is an epic story that spans two plays – Millennium Approaches, first produced in 1991, and Perestroika, which debuted in 1992. The entire two-part work premiered on Broadway in 1993. Angels in America is Kushner’s most well-known work and is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most significant American plays of the 20th century. Angels in America... Read Angels in America Summary

Publication year 2014Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Equality, Society: Education, Identity: Race, Life/Time: The Past, Life/Time: The Future, Society: Community, Natural World: Place, Society: ColonialismTags History: U.S., Race / Racism, Social Justice, Politics / Government, Education, Military / War, Anthropology, Colonial America, Class, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Publication year 2019Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Equality, Society: ColonialismTags History: U.S., Race / Racism, Social Justice, Military / War, American Revolution, Colonial America, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People is a 2019 adaptation of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s 2015 nonfiction book. Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese adapted the material for middle-grade audiences. The original publication received the American Book Award, and this version is a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Young Adult Honor Book with recognition from the National Council for the Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council. This book tells the perspective of... Read An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People Summary

Publication year 1980Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Society: Class, Society: Immigration, Society: Community, Society: Economics, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags History: U.S., Politics / Government, Social Justice, Race / Racism

Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is one of the most famous American history books published in recent decades. It has sold over two million copies. First published in 1980, the book was nominated for the American Book Award and has gone through at least six major revisions. Although controversial when first published, the book has become comfortably mainstream. It is mentioned by name in the film Good Will Hunting and the... Read A People’s History of the United States Summary

Publication year 2006Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Natural World: PlaceTags Satire, Humor, Race / Racism, History: U.S., Business / Economics, American Literature, Reconstruction Era, African American Literature

Apex Hides the Hurt, a 2006 novel by American author Colson Whitehead, follows a nameless, emotionally muted nomenclature consultant, or an expert in creating brand names. The novel toggles between the protagonist’s memories of success at his company, and his current consulting assignment—renaming a town. The novel satirizes contemporary American consumer culture and features themes of race and identity. Whitehead uses humor and revelation as key narrative techniques in this story about a man who... Read Apex Hides the Hurt Summary

Publication year 1859Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Identity: Race, Society: Politics & Government, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Philosophy, Politics / Government, History: U.S.

Publication year 2001Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S., Historical Fiction

Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War is a historical account of the secession movement in the antebellum Southern US written by Charles B. Dew. Dew is a distinguished professor of history at Williams College specializing in the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras. Apostles of Disunion was published in 2001 by the University of Virginia Press and won the 2001 Fletcher Pratt Prize from the Civil War Round Table... Read Apostles of Disunion Summary

Publication year 1961Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Historical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Military / War, History: U.S., Religion / Spirituality, Relationships, American Revolution

April Morning is a historical fiction work by Howard Fast, a prolific author whose writings spanned the bulk of the 20th century. Published in 1961, midway through Fast’s career, the novel is one of many he wrote on the Revolutionary War and the birth of America. Originally intended for a general audience, it came to be regarded as a young adult novel as many middle and high school English programs included it in their curriculum... Read April Morning Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: The Future, Relationships: Teams, Relationships: FamilyTags Politics / Government, History: U.S., History: World

Publication year 2004Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S., Civil Rights / Jim Crow, Crime / Legal, Jazz Age

Kevin Boyle's Arc of Justice depicts the racial turmoil in Detroit in 1925 through the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African-American physician who faces murder charges after trying to defend his home in an all-white neighborhood from mob violence. The grandson of a slave, Ossian moves northward during the Great Migration to get his education at Wilberforce and Howard Universities. After graduating Howard's medical school, Ossian sets up practice and residence in Black Bottom... Read Arc of Justice Summary

Publication year 2003Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Class, Society: Community, Society: Globalization, Society: Economics, Society: Education, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Politics / Government, Race / Racism, Social Justice, History: U.S., Sociology

Publication year 1978Genre Book, NonfictionTags History: U.S.

In A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815–1837, historian Paul E. Johnson analyzes the social factors that led to Rochester’s religious revival in the 1830s. This guide follows the first edition of A Shopkeeper’s Millennium, which was first published in 1978. Rochester’s revival was part of a larger religious movement in 19th-century America, known as the Second Great Awakening, during which time numerous Americans joined evangelical Protestant churches. Rochester’s revival centered... Read A Shopkeeper's Millennium Summary

Publication year 1939Genre Novel, FictionTags History: U.S., Great Depression

Ask the Dust is the second and most famous of the Arturo Bandini quartet, a series of autobiographical novels by Italian-American author John Fante. The novel follows the coming-of-age of the young writer, Arturo Bandini, who moves from Colorado to Los Angeles in the late 1930s, at the age of twenty, to launch his career as an author. At the beginning of the novel, Arturo is consumed by worries about his financial difficulties and his... Read Ask The Dust Summary