Best Books Lists: Independence Day

Best Books Lists: Independence Day

I consider the Fourth of July as a second-tier holiday, as far as the depth and breadth of the festivities go for me. For the past few years I have been in Syracuse, NY with my husband’s sisters and parents and their families, donning starred and striped socks and painting the bursted-bomb air with sparklers, eating barbecue from a food truck. (Perhaps the last of that was more specific to this year.) Anyhow, though I like to read holiday reads at appropriate times throughout the calendar year for New Years, Valentines, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (a couple of those also second-tier holidays), I have never considered reading a book for the Fourth. Well, in passing through St. Patty’s Day this year, I made a list of books for that one—so certainly a list for Independence Day makes sense.

Why not add some USA historical fiction—or even an actual history book—to your summer reading list? And recline out on your blanket with the crowds milling around, waiting for fireworks with a book that has something to do with the history of the good ol’ (qualified, of course) US of A?

As always, I compiled these lists largely from other best-ofs lists that I found online. I have not read the vast majority of these—they are lists for my TBR as well. I can’t say if they are any good (yet), but someone out there thinks they are and that they have something to do with American History (another thing I cannot vouch for, yet). (Books specifically limited to the Fourth of July as a topic/setting were really, really thin on the ground, though there are some options for the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence.)

The list starts out a little more serious, like with more history, then gets really novelly:

  • Washington, A Life, Ron Chernow
  • 1776, David McCullough
  • Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes
  • The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis
  • Redcoat, Bernard Cornwell
  • My Brother Sam Is Dead, James Lincoln and Christopher Collier
  • Rise to Rebellion, Jeff Shaara
  • The Presidents and the People, Corey Brettshnieder
  • An African American and Latinx History of the United States, Paul Ortiz
  • As We Have Always Done, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
  • Medicine Stories, Aurora Levins Morales
  • A People’s History of American Empire, Howard Zinn
  • How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr
  • The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Gordon S. Wood
  • The Words that Made Us, Akhil Reed Amar
  • Common Sense, the Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings, Thomas Paine
  • Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann
  • Lincoln, Gore Vidal
  • Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Night Watch, Jayne Anne Philips
  • The Demon of Unrest, Erik Larson
  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Robert Dugoni
  • They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib
  • The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah
  • Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders ***
  • The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien ***
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving **
  • Ahab’s Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund
  • Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  • The Crucible, Arthur Miller
  • Dance with Wolves, Michael Blake
  • Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende
  • The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
  • Fools Crown, James Welch
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See
  • The Saints of Swallow Hill, Donna Everhart
  • The Personal Librarian, Benedict and Murray
  • The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah
  • Four Treasures of the Sky, Jenny Tingui Zhang
  • Booth, Karen Joy Fowler
  • Betty, Tiffany McDaniel
  • Yellow Wide, Sadeqa Johnson
  • Take My Hand, Dolen Perkins-Valdez
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • The Alienist, Caleb Carr
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
  • Angle of Repose, Wallace Stagner
  • City of Dreams, Beverly Swerling
  • Cold Mountain, Charles Frasier
  • Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Fannie Flagg
  • The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell *
  • Wandering Stars, Tommy Orange
  • The Good Lord Bird, James McBride
  • Grace, Natashia Deon
  • Hawaii, James A. Michener
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan *
  • The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara
  • Kindred, Octavia Butler
  • The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom
  • The Moor’s Account, Laila Lalami
  • The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne ***
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  • My Name Is Resolute, Nancy E. Turner
  • New York, Edward Rutherfurd
  • North and South, John Jakes; Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
  • Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow
  • Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison **
  • Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
  • Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks
  • Cane River, Lalita Tademy
  • The Cider House Rules, John Irving
  • Riders of the Purple Sage, Zane Grey
  • Roots, Alex Haley
  • Rules of Civility, Amor Towles
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson
  • The Son, Philipp Meyer
  • Stoner, John Williams
  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
  • Under the Blood-Red Sun, Graham Salisbury
  • Infamy, Richard Reeves
  • The Help, Kathryn Stockett *
  • Where the Lost Wander, Amy Harmon
  • The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Kim Michele Richardson
  • The Indigo Girl, Natasha Boyd
  • The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Women, Kristin Hannah
  • The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee ***
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald **
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott **
  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder *
  • These Is My Words, Sarah Agnes Prine
  • The Personal Librarian, Marie Benedict
  • News of the World, Paulette Jiles
  • Christy, Catherine Marshall
  • 11/22/63, Stephen King
  • A Girl Called Samson, Amy Harmon
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Known World, Edward P. Jones
  • The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Last Days of Night, Graham Moore
  • The Living, Annie Dillard
  • Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
  • The Master Butchers Singing Club, Louise Erdrich
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham ***
  • Inside Out & Back Again, Thanhha Lai *
  • One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia *
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor *
  • Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare ***
  • Lyddie, Katherine Paterson *
  • Africans in America, Johnson, Smith, and WGBH Research Team ***