If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you know that I love history. I find it fascinating to watch seemingly innocuous events build up into nations. And I enjoy watching greatness thrust upon people.
When it comes right down to it, fiction has nothing on history.
So this Fourth of July, after scouring book stores and libraries, I have these recommendations for you.
Mind you, they’re not all for your children, some are for you as background reading and general knowledge. Okay, let’s get into it.
America’s Hidden History and A Nation Rising by Kenneth Davis. In both these books, the writer takes meticulous care to mention details, an aspect I have come to appreciate. That makes these books the opposite of textbooks or badly written history, both of which give you just a general sweep of events and no mental hooks to hang your knowledge on.
Ultimately, you may or may not agree with the writer’s (of these books as well as others) assessment of the people involved – individuals are deeply flawed and books like to present people in either glowing honors or as vicious brutes – but it lends to a more nuanced look at the past.
A Little History of United States by James West is one you can definitely use as a textbook. I plan on doing so. In the vein of Gombrich’s A Little History of the World it is something you can read aloud to the children or have them read for themselves.
It is not a textbook, there are no comprehension questions at the end, there are no fill-in-the-blanks, which makes it read like a story…. which is how we prefer to study history – as a narrative.
And lastly, I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell. If you’re tired of reading books that place historical figures on pedestals on the one hand and then incriminate them for being slave owners and responsible for wiping out native populations on the other, might I suggest this book?
Fair warning: it is not for the sensitive. If reading about prostitutes, drunks, slaves and other, let’s say, less than perfect events and people of history bothers you, you would do well to stay away from this book. However, I am finding it rather fascinating.
By turning the focus away from the leaders and shifting it to the people on the street so to speak, Russell did for me what few historians ever manage – to make me feel like I was there, right smack dab in the middle of it.
Have a great Fourth of July! And if you can’t get enough American history, check out my past recommendations here.