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The Top 8 Books About American History – a Blinkist collection

From the wisdom of the founding fathers to today's key challenges in a collection that explains the forces shaping our nation. Read the story of America!
by Chris Allmer | Dec 29 2023
The Top 8 Books About American History - a Blinkist collection

On a warm July day in 1776, a group of visionaries declared the birth of a nation. This moment, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was the inception of a new world of possibilities, challenges, and ideals.

Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, marked by a burning struggle for equality, reshaped America’s social fabric. These pivotal moments in history are not just dates in textbooks; they are the heartbeats of the American saga.

Today, at Blinkist, we bring you a collection that is a bridge between the past and the present. These eight best books on American history offer a glimpse into the heart of the nation, from its early revolutionary fire to its ongoing struggles for fairness and equality.

As America continues to navigate its path forward, these stories – of triumphs and trials, of visionaries and ordinary citizens – provide us with the wisdom and perspective needed for the journey ahead.

Let’s take a look at the defining moments that continue to shape our world today.

The Best Books on American History

1. America Before by Graham Hancock

Graham Hancock challenges the conventional understanding of pre-Columbian America by exploring evidence of advanced civilizations that might have existed before mainstream history acknowledged.

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
From his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy, 1961

The book extensively discusses ancient structures like the Serpent Mound in Ohio, proposing that such structures could be remnants of a sophisticated and forgotten civilization, altering our understanding of early American history.

2. You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe

Alexis Coe’s biography of George Washington aims to strip away the mythos, presenting a more nuanced and humanized portrait of America’s first President.

Coe revisits Washington’s pivotal role in the American Revolution, especially focusing on his strategic leadership of the Continental Army, which was fraught with challenges and uncertainties.

3. Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

This American history book is a comprehensive collection of essays and poems that chronicles 400 years of African-American history, told through a multitude of voices, highlighting struggles, triumphs, and resilience.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

The Great Migration is a central topic detailing the large-scale movement of African Americans from the South to urban centers in the North, profoundly impacting both African-American culture and the socio-economic landscape of the United States.

4. Bourbon Empire by Reid Mitenbuler

Reid Mitenbuler’s work explores the multifaceted history of bourbon, portraying it as a symbol of American culture, economics, and innovation.

A key event discussed is the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s. This uprising against whiskey taxation was a significant challenge to the new American government and played a crucial role in the development of the bourbon industry.

5. How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

Clint Smith’s profound narrative weaves through historical sites across America, each telling a different story of slavery. He explores how this history is remembered or often forgotten, underscoring its lasting impact on contemporary society.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
From his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

A significant portion of this historic bestseller focuses on Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson. Smith delves into the paradox of Jefferson, an influential American figure and advocate for liberty who also owned slaves, and how this estate embodies the complex legacy of slavery in American history.

6. Evil Geniuses by Kurt Andersen

Kurt Andersen critically examines the economic and political shifts in America since the 1970s, arguing how these changes have fostered inequality and eroded democratic values.

Andersen highlights the Reagan Revolution, pinpointing Reagan’s presidency as a turning point that redefined America’s economic policies and widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

7. What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha

Mona Hanna-Attisha’s book is a compelling narrative about the Flint water crisis, emphasizing the role of community activism and scientific advocacy in revealing and combating this public health disaster.

The book centers on the Flint water crisis that began in 2014, following the decision to switch the city’s water supply, which led to a devastating lead contamination crisis, spotlighting issues of environmental injustice and government negligence.

8. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer

David Treuer’s book rewrites the narrative of Native American history, focusing on the resilience, adaptation, and survival of Native communities post-1890 rather than portraying their history as solely a tale of tragedy.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
From the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, 1863

Treuer starts with the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, a tragic and pivotal event, but then shifts focus to the resilience and ongoing cultural evolution of Native American communities, offering a counter-narrative to the usual story of defeat and despair.


In our exploration of the best books on American history, we now turn to a topic also deeply interwoven with the nation’s past and present: American patriotism. In our curated book summary collection Books About American Patriotism, Blinkist presents insights into the multifaceted nature of national pride.

Patriotism, symbolized by icons like the national anthem and the flag, traditionally embodies a love and devotion to one’s country. Yet, in recent times, the essence of patriotism has been subject to debate and reinterpretation.

This Blinkist collection stands out among the best books on American history for its exploration of patriotism’s dual nature — as a unifying force and, at times, a divisive tool.

We invite you to explore these essential historical reads. Whether seeking to comprehend the historical roots of American patriotism, its impact on contemporary society, or reflect upon your connection to national identity, this collection promises to enlighten and provoke your thoughts.

From the first steps of the founding fathers to the present day’s trials, our exploration of the best books on American history has been a journey of enlightenment and understanding. The past holds the keys to our future, and these stories are just the beginning.

Discover more with Blinkist’s 7-day free trial and continue your journey through the annals of American history.

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