As most Americans are quarantining inside (and may be running out of Netflix options), we thought we'd revisit our list of recommended books about the American Revolution. Stay well!
1. The Birth of the Republic by Edmund S. Morgan
Best for: a fantastic summary of the who, what, where, when, why
Morgan writes the definitive political and economic history of the American Revolution, which expertly lays out the cast of characters and their motives. Finding humor in things as mundane as taxation, this is an entertaining and scholarly introduction to the founding of our country.
2. Boston in the American Revolution: A Town Versus an Empire by Brooke Barbier
Best for: Boston-centric history
Read the riveting story about how a small town in Massachusetts ignited a period of rebellion in the American colonies. Each chapter highlights a key player and shows what historical sights look like in present-day Boston. If you’re in the city, combine your reading with a Freedom Trail tour!
3. American Revolutions by Alan Taylor
Best for: alternative perspectives
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor dismisses more narrow histories of the Revolution in favor of painting a broader picture that focuses on all of America, not just the thirteen North American colonies. This book is a follow-up to the fantastic, American Colonies, which also includes the history of the French and Spanish colonies throughout North America.
4. 1776 by David McCullough
Best for: military history
One of the most comprehensive popular histories of the American Revolution, 1776 guides you through the intricacies and emotions of war. It’s largely written through the lens of George Washington and British commander William Howe, making it ideal for those looking to learn more about the trials and tribulation of war.
5. An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker
Best for: the British perspective
Bunker offers a version of revolutionary events as seen from the other side of the Atlantic, using many British sources that American historians infrequently access. He attributes much of the buildup to Britain’s oversights, misunderstandings, and errors, which offer a fresh perspective to histories that tend to focus on political and military machinations.
6. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood
Best for: academic vigor
One of the preeminent historians of American Revolutionary history, Wood writes an epic political, cultural, and economic history of the roots of the American Revolution. Wood argues that the Revolution was radical because of all that it accomplished and that later societal changes (like equality for women and minorities) were only possible because of the Revolution. The book is thoroughly evidenced to appease academic audiences, but still entirely readable for a casual reader.
7. Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Best for: under-represented voices
If you’re looking to hear from the disenfranchised, check out this “untold story” of Ona Judge, an African American woman in pursuit of her lawful freedom from America’s First Family. Coming to terms with the darker side of early American history and its legacies, this book offers a moment of reflection and nuance central to our understanding of the time period.
8. Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Best for: getting to know Revere and lesser-known Revolutionary actors.
This book explores the life of Paul Revere and his legendary midnight ride on April 18, 1775 – on what would become the eve of Revolution. Fischer also focuses on British General Thomas Gage and expertly mixes the colonial and British perspectives to offer detailed accounts of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.