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American history nonfiction

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Indiginous People's History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, Lies My Teacher Told Me by David Lowen come to mind right of the top of my head.


I am assuming you do not mean primary source documents like the Federalist Papers, the AntiFederalist Papers, Locke's Treatise of Government, that sort of thing.

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Correct EndofOrdinary.  I am looking for engaging books on history for my soon to be 9th grader.  She is reading through American Odyssey now but would prefer reading 6-10 books of nonfiction to another history textbook next year.  I would like to give her many book suggestions to choose from.  She will be taking an American Literature and Composition class next year as well.  I know this is a different approach to history and I haven't worked out all the details.

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a lot of these are looonngg, but very good. Some might be too long for a 9th grader.

John Adams by David McCullough, long, basis of HBO miniseries

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, long, basis of the musical

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, long, about Lincoln's Cabinet during the Civil War, basis of movie Lincoln

Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas J. Craughwell, on the establishment of the Secret Service

One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson, on events of 1927

Bloodstained Sea: The U.S. Coast Guard in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1941-44, by Michael G. Walling, one of the shorter books on WWII that are available

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson, memoir growing up in Iowa in the 1950s.

An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, by William Doyle, on the violent desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962

Carry Me Home, Birmingham, Alabama, The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, by Diane McWhorter, long, but very well-written. Won the Pulitzer

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly, on black 'computers' at NASA, basis of current movie

The Rise of the Rocket Girls, by Nathalia Holt, on women 'computers' at NASA

Also, John Lewis' March trilogy, graphic novel on the 1963 March on Washington

You could also do movies:

HBO John Adams miniseries

Lincoln, based on Team of Rivals

Last year my daughter did an online U.S. history course and we watched history movies over the course of the year. It was shocking to first watch Gettysburg, which was based on Killer Angels and it's affectionate view of Confederate generals, then watch 12 Years a Slave.

We did a lot with the Civil Rights movement: The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Selma, The Great Debaters. PBS has a documentary series, The American Experience, which included a film on the year 1963, which is very good.

Fiction could be useful, too:

Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage,

Herman Melville's Moby Dick

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin

Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby....


Uncle Tom's Cabin






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Some of my favorites….(really, only five books?!  :eek: )


Lies My Teacher Told Me or Lies Across America, by James Lowen


Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick--he has other good titles as well...


Founding Brothers, by Joseph Ellis--he has other good stuff…


just about anything by David McCullough (I am especially fond of his John Adams bio)


The Partly Cloudy Patriot  or Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell 




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My son just finished reading The Incorporation of American: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age by Allen Trachtenberg and found it fascinating.


The other non-fiction big hit this year was Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys by Michael Collins.





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