We don’t actually have a box for adults, but we did compile a list of books that will tell some of the story of United States history. There are so many wonderful books out there (and historians who can write so well) that it was hard to choose. We picked our favorites, though. Some are fiction, some are non-fiction, some give you lots of facts, and some just give you a feeling of what it must have been like to have lived through certain events. We have read all of them, and would appreciate any additional recommendations for books about our history that simply shouldn’t be missed.
1492: The Year the World Began, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
How our world changed in 1492.
1776, David McCullough
McCullough tells the story of our nation’s birth through the people, places, and ideas that helped form our country.
The Trees, Conrad Richter
The three books in this trilogy explore life as a settler in the Ohio Valley. The characters struggle to survive and thrive in often heartbreaking circumstances.
1800 – 1825
John Adams, David McCullough
This book looks at the time period and the men that shaped our country.
The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed
Gordon-Reed tells the story of Jefferson and the Hemingses from the point of view of the time period.
1826 – 1850
Killer Angels, Michael Shaara
This classic history of the Civil War is one of the best at vividly depicting the horror of this war and it’s impact on America.
Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin
A riveting look at Lincoln’s cabinet and his rise and term as president.
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Dramatic, sweeping, and engaging, this classic novel looks at life in the South during the Civil War.
1851 – 1875
The Known World, Edward P. Jones
Slavery and it’s complex variations are explored in this heartbreaking novel.
Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
This Civil War story is about a lonely and dangerous journey home for a Confederate soldier.
The Big Oyster, History on the Half Shell, Mark Kurlansky
Oysters and New York City were once deeply entwined. This book traces the rise and fall of that relationship while sharing great historical information.
1876 – 1900
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
A sweeping Western about people, places, and our Western history.
Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
The true story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago is intertwined with the story of a terrifying serial killer.
The Alienist, Caleb Carr
The search for a seriel killer allows for a close look at the Gilded Age in New York City.
1901 – 1925
Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
Tales of life in small town America.
The Color Purple, Toni Morrison
This haunting story doesn’t reference particular events in history but gives a social context for people caught in a relentlessly unfair system.
1926 – 1950
The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
A look at rowing, the Great Depression, and Hitler’s rise to power and the impact of the German Olympics in this gripping book set in the thirties.
Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand
This is a story of an unlikely champion and the time period in which he lived. Learn about the thirties and forties and life during the Great Depression.
Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
In 1943 Louis Zamperini’s flight went down during World War II. The story follows his incredible fight for survival when stranded at sea and then in a POW camp.
1951 – 1975
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Two sides of living in the South in the sixties are explored through the eyes of a variety of women.
Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson
Themes of racism, World War II and internment are explored as readers follow a gripping trial in Washington.
1976 – present
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler
Stories of the aftermath of the Vietnam War.