Best American History Books

There are quite a few books that discuss the history of America. The best one depends on what you want to learn. We've taken a look at some of the top books on the market that can teach you about American history in an easy, entertaining way.

Top 8: Best American History Books

1. Captivating History: American History

Captivating History: American History

This is the best American history book if you're looking for a comprehensive guide that spans centuries. In fact, this single book comes with eight different manuscripts from Captivating History. Rather than focusing just on the American Revolution, it covers time periods including:

  • The French and Indian War
  • The Civil War
  • The Roaring Twenties
  • The Great Depression
  • Pearl Harbor
  • The Gulf War

There's also a manuscript that details the entire history of the city of Chicago.

Captivating History works to detail different aspects of American history with nuance. It talks about the Native Americans who lived in the country first, as well as detailing the horrors of slavery and the Trail of Tears.

It's an excellent account if you want a book that isn't afraid to shed light on not just the achievements of the American government, but the mistakes as well.


  • This history book covers pre-colonial times all the way through the Gulf War.
  • The text is extremely detailed and has eight manuscripts put together.
  • It's a nuanced look at different aspects of American history.


  • The subject matter may be too broad for people who are only seeking American Revolution information.

2. A People's History of the United States

A People's History of the United States

A People's History of the United States is a book written by the historian Howard Zinn. Rather than teaching history the same way most American curriculums do, this book focuses on the voices that are often forgotten in American history.

It chronicles the history of America for the average individual. As such, you'll learn about the struggles of Native Americans, African Americans, factory workers, women, immigrants, and poor individuals. These people are often forgotten when talking about the achievements of the American government.

This is a comprehensive history of the US that begins with the arrival of Columbus and continues up until Bill Clinton's first term as president. Spanning more than 700 pages, the book's prose gives you good insight into what different events meant for people.

It dispels many common misconceptions about American history, and it also delves deep into the last century.


  • The book retells American history from the point of view of the average American throughout the years.
  • It covers events from the arrival of Columbus to the first term of President Bill Clinton.
  • It has information that is often omitted from the average American history course in public school.


  • It may be a little dense for people who prefer a lighter, faster read.

3. The Virginia Dynasty

The Virginia Dynasty

The Virginia Dynasty is a book that focuses on the four first presidents to come from Virginia: James Monroe, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

The book seeks to explore the different roles that these four men played when working together, along with the legacy they left behind. It also explores the hypocrisy in their being slaveowners while creating a society built on the idea of freedom.

It's a good way to learn about the differences between these presidents and how their individual actions changed the course of history.


  • The book focuses on the first four presidents from Virginia.
  • There is a sharp characterization that helps to differentiate each of the men.
  • It's a good book for those who want to learn more about people who created America.


  • It only covers American history through the first five presidents of the US, so it's not the best if you want a longer book.

4. Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

This biography, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow, was the inspiration for the musical Hamilton. It is an account of American history that follows the life of Alexander Hamilton through the creation of the nation.

Chernow also relates the struggles that Hamilton faced to the struggles that the modern American faces. Alexander Hamilton often championed ideas that others found too strange or dangerous to put into place.

This is a compelling look at history that will appeal to those who prefer strong characterization over dry facts. It seeks to give Alexander Hamilton a complex portrayal that takes into account both his mistakes and his triumphs.


  • This fascinating book gives us a human look at Alexander Hamilton, the circumstances that shaped him, and the struggles he faced.
  • It's a good book for those who often find American history to be dry and boring.
  • Through one man's life, we get to see an entire nation form.


  • Since the focus is on Alexander Hamilton, you don't get the same broad view of American history that you might with other books.

5. 100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History

100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History

This book is part of a series, with every volume detailing 100 different people in a certain group. In this case, the focus is on 100 African Americans who had an impact on history in America.

The biographies are arranged chronologically, so you can follow American history through the struggles and triumphs of each person. Each entry illustrates how the person contributed to American history. The text is easy to read and concise. If you want to find historical figures to research more, this is a great place to start.

This is a great choice for kids who want to learn more about American history. It's also ideal for adults who want a book that's a little more digestible.


  • The book looks at the contributions of 100 African Americans to American history.
  • It's a quick read that's great for kids and adults who want a more relaxed book.
  • It focuses on people who are often forgotten in discussions of history.


  • It might be too light for people who want a denser, more in-depth read.

6. Everything You Need to Ace American History

Everything You Need to Ace American History

This study guide is built for middle schoolers who need to pass American History. It's built to contain all the information you'll learn in class, but the format is very easy to read.

The book is created for kids who grew up on study games like Brain Quest. It is divided into multiple units, each of which focuses on a different aspect of American History.

The book begins with colonial America, takes you through the Revolutionary War and the founding of America, explains how the Western expansion worked, and details the Civil War and the Reconstruction period.

In addition, notable events throughout the 1900s are touched on. You'll learn about the Great Depression, the World Wars, the Civil Rights movement, and other events that are likely remembered by your parents and grandparents.


  • This is a fun study guide for middle schoolers that comes from the makers of Brain Quest.
  • The book covers the Revolutionary War, Civil War, events of the 1900s, and much more.
  • It's a great supplemental study tool for students who are worried about passing their American History classes.


  • The book is made for middle schoolers, so it's not the best choice for adults who want an in-depth read.

7. American History, Combined Edition

American History, Combined Edition

This textbook by Thomas Kidd combines the two volumes of the American History series. It begins with Columbus in 1492, detailing the rich Native American cultures and the changes that came over the land. The text then chronicles events all the way up to modern times.

The prose is clear and easy to read. Rather than focusing only on the best-known figures, Thomas Kidd discusses both the well-known founders and the lesser known individuals who impacted American history.

It's an ideal book for students who want to learn the basics of American history. In addition, it functions well as an educational tool for older people who want to remember what they learned in school.


  • The history spans Columbus's arrival in 1492 to the present day, touching on both well-known and lesser-known historical figures.
  • It combines two American History volumes for a complete look at the nation's history.
  • The textbook is great for both beginning and intermediate learners who want to know more about the nation.


  • It is an academic textbook, so it's not the best for people who want a non-academic historical account.

8. American History: A Visual Encyclopedia

American History: A Visual Encyclopedia

This visual book is designed for children up to age twelve. It discusses many different historical events that have shaped today's America. You'll learn about the Roaring Twenties, the American Revolution, and everything in between.

The reference guide was created collaboratively with the Smithsonian. Not only does it include detailed information about different historical events, it also has more than 750 paintings and photographs. The book uses charts and maps to detail different events, battles, and state issues.

Also included is the complete text of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Whether you want to learn about civil rights, the Civil War, the moon landing, the Great Depression, or the different battles fought during the Revolution, this book works as an excellent reference.

It's the perfect choice for younger children and for visual learners who want an easy-to-understand guide to American history.


  • This encyclopedia has more than 750 paintings and photographs, along with charts and maps.
  • Historical events are covered from the Revolutionary War all the way through the Civil Rights movement.
  • The text is easy to digest and great for kids who are studying at home.


  • The text is not as in-depth as with some other reference guides, since the focus is on the visuals.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of great books on American history. The best one for you will vary depending on your reading level, your interests, and the time period you want to focus on.

For a fair and thorough look at American history, we recommend the Captivating History book. This text combines eight different manuscripts to give you a robust look at many different aspects of history. It details the struggles and triumphs of Native Americans and African Americans in addition to talking about the founding fathers.

For a book that focuses more on unseen heroes, we recommend A People's History. Instead of talking about those in power, this book focuses on the people who have struggled throughout the centuries to bring change to America. It has excellent information about women's suffrage, labor rights, and slavery.

If you're looking for a textbook, we recommend the American History book by Thomas Kidd. This academic text covers the history of the United States from 1492 to the present day.

For younger audiences, the Everything You Need study guide is a great option. The Visual Encyclopedia is another reference guide that can help to supplement your studies.

If you want a history book that focuses more on people than places and events, Alexander Hamilton is a good place to start. This biography has a human portrayal of Alexander Hamilton that shows how he struggled during the early days of America.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did America start?

Europeans began colonizing America when Columbus first sailed to the continent in 1492. Prior to this, there were thriving Native American nations with rich histories.

The majority of colonies were formed after the year 1600. Jamestown was one of the first colonies and was established in what is present-day Virginia. It was the first permanent settlement started by Englishmen.

What were the United States first called?

The United States were originally called the United Colonies. It wasn't until September 9, 1776 that the members of Congress made a formal change to the United States of America.

What is George Washington known for?

George Washington is known for being the first president of the United States. Prior to that, though, he played an important role as a general in the Revolutionary War.

George Washington also served just two terms as president. He decided not to run again so that he could set a precedent. It was important to him that the country not be run like a monarchy.

Washington also wanted to keep political parties out of Congress. Despite his best efforts to discourage political parties, there were two parties forming by the time he finished his tenure as president.

Nowadays, George Washington is remembered as the father of the United States. His legacy lives on in classrooms all over the United States of America.