Three narrative American History books worth reading and gifting

by Richard Temple

Cary, NC – For those interested in American History there are three complete narrative histories I recommend. The last two I have often used in AP classes for mostly supplemental reading while the first is newly published. These are written by outstanding historians and are in order of increasing length and complexity. Google them for a wide array of reviews:

1. Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story by Wilfred M. McClay
2. A History of the American People by Paul Johnson
3. America: A Narrative History by Tindall and Shi

The first is beautifully written, succinct without being simplistic, fair and spot on in its historical judgments, and accessible to any generally educated person. It is the best short version of American history I’ve ever read. My thanks to Gene Galin for bringing it to my attention. Get one and give one to a friend as well.

The second is also extremely well written and this justly famous British author puts American history into the wider context of World and European history. He also paints an intriguing picture of the key people and events throughout American history while not hesitating to tell you exactly what he thinks and why about every major issue. These first two are great reads with the second being twice as long as the first.

The third, though also well written, is a massive work with lots of detail. It can also be a bit too critical and cynical at times. Nevertheless, for those who want even greater depth than the first two this is an excellent work with unusually good coverage of the American South.

Reading, or consulting, all three of these books will give a person access to an in-depth and broad scope of American history. Against that background you can then branch out into areas of particular interest, especially through biographies or specialized topical studies.

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