Are you looking for some new U.S. history books to read? We've compiled a list of the 30 best books covering a range of history topics about the United States.
You'll find books about our early history and during the days when we first became a nation. You will also find some fascinating reads about people that have played essential roles in shaping us into who we are today.
We've also included books about slavery, stories about Native Americans, influential women, and so much more!
Written by: David McCullough
The year is 1776, and the American colonies are revolting against the British crown, and George Washington decides to take command of the Continental Army.
Washington's mission is to force Great Britain out of North America. What follows is one of history's most important military campaigns, a fight for independence that would shape the world's future course.
David McCullough introduces us to this complicated man who was not an ordinary person. His strengths, his weaknesses, and even his dark side are all on display in this biography. It brings him to life as never before.
This is one of our favorite U.S. history books to read about the early days of the United States.
Written by: Charles C. Mann
The book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann is a fascinating account of what was happening in the continents before Christopher Columbus set foot on them.
The author looks at everything from history and culture to geography, climate, plants, animals, human population size, and genetics.
This insightful is a look into how life existed in North America before European contact. It is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to know more about what happened during this time in history.
Written by: David W. Blight
Frederick Douglas is a famous American abolitionist and author. He was born into slavery and later became free after escaping from his slave master's plantation in Maryland. Douglass spent most of his life fighting for the rights of African Americans, which he believed were being denied them by whites living in America at that time.
In addition to his work as an author, activist, and speaker, he also had a successful career as a public orator and lecturer on many different topics such as women's suffrage and pacifism.
This book delves deeply into his life, convictions, and the changes he helped create for African American people. It's one of the most fascinating U.S. history books to read on our list.
Written by: Doris Kearns
Team of Rivals focuses on Abraham Lincoln's life and how he managed to be an effective president while maintaining essential relationships. It focuses on how his cabinet members were all different but equally important in his success as president.
It examines how he worked with his compatriots and his rivals to build unity in the United States of America. This book gives excellent insight into President Lincoln's wisdom and leadership skills, necessary for any leader.
Written by: Ron Chernow
Alexander Hamilton was a fascinating figure in American history. He was a founding father, the first Secretary of Treasury, and founded the United States Coast Guard. Alexander Hamilton starts from being born out of wedlock to his final duel with Aaron Burr on July 11th 1804.
This book gives readers a glimpse into facets Hamilton's life that few people knew about. It makes it the perfect read for any history buff or lover of biographies. It will also have you reflecting not just on America's past but also on how our country might look today if Alexander Hamilton hadn't been there for us then.
This is one of the longer U.S. history books to read, but an important one to better understand what happened during the founding of our nation.
Written by: Erik Larson
This book delves into how wonderful Chicago's 1893 World's Fair was also a perfect opportunity for a serial killer. In short, as construction on the fair got underway, so did a series of gruesome murders only blocks away.
Even more terrifying than these brutal killings is that they were carried out by one man who would later be known as H.H. Holmes—a pharmacist with an unquenchable thirst for blood and money.
As you read this gripping true-life tale of good vs. evil, you will find yourself torn between the fun of the fair and the evil that lurks just underneath it.
Written by: Dee Brown
Published: 2001 (Originally published in 1970)
This book tells of what happened to the Native Peoples in their own words and through their eyes. It discusses how they were taken away from their homes, put on reservations, and forced to change their way of life all because of the United States government.
This book gives evidence to how and why racism against Native Peoples continues today.
A perfect example is that many schools have banned this book. It is brutal and hard to accept, but it is one of the more critical U.S. History books to read.
Written by: David McCullough
This biography is an enlightening story about one of our most fascinating Founding Fathers. John Adams was born into a family that had deep roots in America's colonial past, and he would go on to serve as Vice-President and then President of the United States.
He helped create many new American institutions—including the Supreme Court, the Bank of New York, Harvard University (named after his first son), and various state universities.
His fellow contemporaries did not always share his vision for how this country should look; but he never let it stop him from doing what he believed was right.
Written by: Howard Zinn
Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is a book that provides readers with an alternative perspective on U.S. history, written by someone who researched it rigorously.
This book tells the stories of those whose voices have been silenced by influential people in society, including African Americans, women, American Indians and laborers. He also examines how wars were often not necessary but based on the desire for another country's resources or land.
You will quickly see that this is one of the U.S. history books to read about the United States of America that may not align with what you learned in school. However, it offers hope that things can change if we work together to make this a better country for all.
Written by: Stephen E. Ambrose
This book starts with President Jefferson wanting to know what lay west of Mississippi, and he sends Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find out. They then head off into uncharted territory without any maps or other supplies that would typically be needed for such a dangerous adventure.
We have all heard the stories, but this book is where you will learn the truth about Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea, and other famous characters from this time in history. Unlike so many other history books based on them, there is so much more to find out and uncover.
Ambrose digs deeply into this time of tragedy, joy, and other emotions using in-depth research with historical accuracy unlike any other.
Written by: Edmund Morris
Published: 1979, 100th-Anniversary edition printed in 2001
Theodore Roosevelt, our twenty-sixth president of the United States, is one of the most controversial presidents in history. His presidency was riddled with scandals and challenges that he overcame through his perseverance and determination.
You'll learn about little-known facts, such as when he left the Republican party and started the Bull Moose Party. He did this because he advocated for social reform, including women's suffrage, and more while the Republican party wasn't.
His lasting legacy includes national parks like Yosemite National Park, which preserves natural wonders belonging to all Americans. It is a comprehensive and unflinching biography on America's fearless leader who never gave up when faced with adversity!
Written by: David Grann
In the early 1900s, the Osage tribe in Oklahoma found themselves under siege by unscrupulous white oilmen and ranchers who coveted their oil-rich land.
David Grann tells the story of how these evil men murdered the Osages one by one, both men and women, by using everything from arsenic to shotguns to poison gas. Not only were these native peoples murdered, but also anyone who dared to investigate or find out why they were happening.
As the murders continued, J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the newly formed F.B.I. sent in an undercover team, including the only Native American member of the force to find out the truth. You will be amazed when you read it for yourself.
It's another one of the important U.S. history books to read about how Native Americans were treated throughout the years.
Written by: Ibram X. Kendi
In his latest work, Ibram X. Kendi argues that racist ideas have been deeply ingrained in American society from its inception and how they are not disappearing anytime soon.
In this book, he uses a variety of historical examples to show how racism is embedded in our culture and can be traced back centuries before America's founding. Some of these include people such as the Protestant Minister Cotton Mather to W. E. B. Du Bois, to Angela Davis, and others of importance in U.S. history.
This book will challenge readers' assumptions about race and leave them with a new understanding of what it means to be black in the past and in the USA today.
Written by: Timothy Egan
This book follows 12 families who lived through the Great American Dust Bowl and its effect on them. It's told by the people who lived in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and other states that were hit hard by drought and dust storms.
The book paints a vivid picture of life during this time: How families coped with poverty and starvation, how communities banded together to survive; the harshness experienced by children growing up during these times, how government intervention helped and hurt, and why some chose to stay while others left for California.
This is one of the U.S. history books to read that shows the weaknesses and the strengths, of the human heart and mind in the face of horrible conditions that seem as if they'll never end.
Written by: Richard Rhodes
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes is a book about how humanity developed an atomic bomb. It talks about all aspects of this process, from the early stages to the end result.
The first part of it discusses how nuclear science was created and then details what went into making this weapon. It also covers some side topics like the role that Nazi Germany played in developing these weapons and other countries who were working on them at the time.
This book also delves into the human issues that arose when figuring out how to use nuclear energy and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Written by: John M. Barry
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History is a book that tells the story of one of history's deadliest pandemics. Often called "The Spanish Flu" it started in Kansas and then traveled East and overseas to Europe and Asia.
This book chronicles how the influenza virus, which mutates quickly and can be transmitted easily from person to person, killed more people than any other disease in recorded human history. There are estimates that it killed over 100 million people worldwide.
From its origins as an animal virus to its role in World War I and II, and most recently during this century's avian flu scare, Barry reveals how society has reacted to each new outbreak with both dread and hope for a cure.
It's one of the fascinating U.S. history books to read in order to learn more about our latest pandemic.
Written by: Carol Leonnig
In her latest book, investigative reporter Carol Leonnig explains how the Secret Service came to be after President Lincoln's assassination. However, as proven by the assassination of John F. Kennedy and others in power, it has since become unreliable, dishonest, and often a danger to the country and presidents that it is supposed to protect during recent scandals.
The agency has been under fire for its misuse of funds and lack of accountability. Unfortunately, these are not new issues. Leonnig reveals that there have always been problems with the agency since its inception in 1865 during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. She delves into why this is so and what can be done to fix it now.
Written by: Patrick Radden Keefe
This book is in-depth exploration of the family behind OxyContin, America's deadliest drug addiction epidemic. The Sacklers are one of America's wealthiest families, worth $14 billion collectively. But for more than two decades, they have also been the country’s most controversial because of their role in the opioid crisis that has killed tens of thousands and ravaged countless communities across the country.
This book explores how this once-obscure clan became so powerful and why it has remained untouched by accountability for its actions. Weaving together threads from business, medicine, law enforcement, politics, history and public health with breakthrough reporting on every facet of the story from lawsuits to pharmaceutical lobbying to marketing campaigns to connections with politicians.
Written by: David Zucchino
Wilmington, North Carolina, is known as the site of one of the most violent and deadly events in American history. It has been at least a century since 1898 when white men rose up and took over Wilmington, killing hundreds of African-Americans and leaving their homes to burn.
For years, we have heard about this event but never really understood why it happened or how it impacted the future for both African Americans and whites.
Standing at an intersection between Reconstruction-era attitudes towards race relations and modern-day realities, we must explore what happened there during 1898 if we are ever going to understand how race works today and into the future for the U.S.
Written by: Randy Shilts
This book explores how society reacted to HIV/AIDS in America from 1981-1987. It tells how AIDS was initially ignored before being sensationalized. The author argues that politics are primarily responsible for this response because of homophobia present in American society, which led to many people not wanting to address it as an issue.
The book starts with protests against government inaction on AIDS by gay activists at San Francisco's City Hall, which later escalated into full-scale demonstrations on the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington DC since politicians like Ronald Reagan refused to even mention it until 1987.
This movement would eventually spur changes from Congress and lead to more aggressive efforts by agencies like H.H.S. (Health & Human Services) and N.I.H. (National Institutes of Health). It's one of the best U.S. history books to read.
Written by: Daniel Okrent
On December 5th, 1933 the 21st amendment was ratified, and Prohibition came to an end. The next day, America celebrated with a drink. But what happened during those thirteen years of outlawing alcohol? Daniel Okrent's Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition is a captivating read that examines how we got here from there.
He takes readers on a journey through the history of alcohol in the USA. He tells us about the people who had personal stakes in the outcome, starting with the first bootlegger. He also talks about FDR and his family members' involvement in making and distributing illegal liquor.
It also looks into political movements, such as women's suffrage and how they aligned with the anti-alcohol lobby and others. There is so much more to what led up to, during, and after Prohibition than you can ever imagine.
Written by: Jeanne Theoharis
Mrs. Rosa Parks is an icon in American history for her courageous act of defiance on December 1, 1955. Her refusal to give up her seat on a bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It catapulted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into national prominence as the modern civil rights movement leader.
But what many people don’t know about Mrs. Parks is that she was also a lifelong activist who had long defied racial segregation laws in Alabama. Here, such actions were considered criminal violations punishable by imprisonment or even death under Jim Crow law.
It's one of the most in-depth U.S. history books to read about Rosa Parks. You will also be fascinated about how much fight she gave throughout her life.
Written by: Michael Dobbs
It's been decades since the Watergate scandal took down Richard Nixon, but it still feels like yesterday in many ways. We've all heard of Watergate before, which was an American tragedy that changed the course of history for our country and should have put a stop to any future presidential power grabs.
But do you know what really happened? How about who is involved? This book explores these questions and more.
You'll learn about Nixon's presidency, how he came into office, his downfall over Watergate, the resulting legacy on American politics today, and finally, some lessons learned from this unfortunate event in America's past.
Written by: Selwyn Raab
The Mafia is back in the spotlight after "The Sopranos", "Goodfellas", and others. But what about the mob bosses who got there first? The ones that made it possible for Tony Soprano to exist.
Author Selwyn Raab's new book, Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and America's Most Powerful Mafia tells a fantastic story of how one family has shaped New York City since Prohibition.
These five families dominated the crime world, but most don't realize they also controlled the labor unions, construction empires, and other parts of society.
This captivating narrative will tell you everything you need to know about their rise subsequent fall.
Written by: Elaine F. Weiss
Elaine F. Weiss, tells the dramatic and sometimes surprising story of how American women won their right to vote. In vivid prose, she captures what suffragists endured and overcame to win their freedoms.
These attacks included headlines calling them "unsexed," men in Congress comparing them to prostitutes or slaves, and even physical violence. Other issues looked at include other women who fought against their own interests and racists that would stop the right to vote by any means necessary.
This is one of the U.S. history books based on five years of research. It also includes details from hundreds of personal interviews with historical figures and modern-day subjects that deeply influenced this fight for equality. The Woman's Time is a stirring account that reveals just how close women came to losing everything they had gained toward full citizenship.
Written by: Allan M. Brandt
Allan Brandt, a Harvard medical historian, has researched extensively on tobacco and its effect on society. This book delves into the many aspects of smoking, with chapters covering politics, culture, advertising, and public health.
This book clarifies that cigarettes are addictive because they contain nicotine which affects brain chemistry to make smokers crave more cigarettes. It also explores how marketing campaigns have changed to target different groups of people like men, women, or children. These almost always lead to higher rates of addiction, and death, among these demographics.
Lastly, it deals with what is happening now and what can be done to fix the situation.
Written by: Joseph P. Lash
In his extraordinary biography of the major political couple in 20th-century history, Joseph P. Lash reconstructs her early life and four-decade marriage to Franklin Delano Roosevelt from Eleanor Roosevelt's personal papers.
The book discusses their personal life and their political careers, including his time as President of the United States from 1933 to 1945.
The result is an intimate look at one vibrant private world that was overlaid by a public persona as significant yet still so humanizing like no other before or since.
It is one of the U.S. history books to read that is extremely enjoyable as it also includes many photos taken during those times, which brings this time to life for all readers today!
Written by: David Hackett Fischer
This book explores the events of 1776 and George Washington's leadership. It tells of how Washington faced his fears and doubts to take on an impossible task: crossing the Delaware River in the middle of winter, with all hope for America hanging on him.
This book examines not only George Washington but also those who were there with him, including his officers and soldiers and their families back home.
The reader will learn about what was happening during this time before moving on to more specific details regarding this momentous event. The author has done extensive research so readers can experience history through first-person accounts from those who were present at that time or knew someone who was there first-hand.
Written by: Harold G. Moore, Joseph L. Galloway
In his memoirs, We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, General Harold G. Moore recounts the battle of Ia Drang Valley in November 1965, a major turning point in the Vietnam War. This book is a first-hand account of one of the most pivotal battles in history from an American general's perspective.
General Moore shares how he led his men to victory against North Vietnamese forces while also detailing the hardships they faced during this time, including frostbite, gangrene, and malaria.
In addition to recounting events that took place on both sides of battle lines, he offers insight into how these events shaped him as a man and leader for years after this historic war had ended.
Written by: Susan Ronald
Joseph P. Kennedy, was the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and was seen as a hero early on. As time moved on, both the British and U.S. government came to despise him as they saw him in a very short time.
His critics claimed that he had been too timid in his dealings with Germany and Japan because of his business ties with those countries. Despite this criticism from both sides of the Atlantic, he freely remained a staunch isolationist who advocated against U.S. involvement in another European war at any cost.
Through in-depth research, it is evident that Kennedy was a Nazi-sympathizer and rabid anti-Semite who truly only cared about being a part of England's high society as he became powerful.
Instead of the wonderful later story of "Camelot", and the Kennedy family, this is the dark side of where it all began. It's one of the newer U.S. history books to read that brings to light lesser known details about a revered American family.