The best books about the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the United States

Who are we?

Paul Spickard wrote the first edition of Almost All Aliens. He invited Francisco Beltrán and Laura Hooton, who worked under Dr. Spickard at UC Santa Barbara, to co-author the second edition after working as research assistants and providing suggestions for the second edition. We are all historians of race, ethnicity, immigration, colonialism, and identity, and in our other works and teaching we each think about these topics in different ways. We did the same for this list—this is a list of five books that talk about topics that are important to Almost All Aliens and approaches that have been influential in how we think about the topic.  


We wrote...

Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

By Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán,

Book cover of Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

What is our book about?

Almost All Aliens discusses ethnic identity and race from 1600 to the first two decades of the twenty-first century. The focus is on how immigration in the United States is and was multicultural, racialized, and deeply rooted in colonialism. Moving away from the European migrant-centered melting-pot model of immigrant assimilation, the book examines the lives of those who crossed the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, and North American Borderlands, and their experiences navigating different racial and ethnic structures in the United States. 

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did I love this book?

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States does exactly what the title says—it tells the history of the territory that became the United States from the perspective of various and different indigenous communities since before the arrival of Europeans. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tackles a difficult task—writing about a wide array of people for an audience interested in learning a more expansive and inclusive account of the United States. In the process, she creates an expansive yet nuanced view of historical trends impacting indigenous peoples across North America, and therefore is a good starting point for understanding the topic.

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

Now part of the HBO docuseries "Exterminate All the Brutes," written and directed by Raoul Peck

Recipient of the American Book Award

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples
 
Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortizoffers a history…


Book cover of America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did I love this book?

This book offers a great introduction to readers on the connection between race and immigration in the United States. Erika Lee shows how race has shaped understandings of identity, citizenship, and belonging from the colonial era to the present. She argues there is an often racialized definition of America and Americanness, which has led to the marginalization and exclusion of immigrants from all corners of the globe throughout United States history.

By Erika Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America for Americans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This definitive history of American xenophobia is "essential reading for anyone who wants to build a more inclusive society" (Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times-bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist).

The United States is known as a nation of immigrants. But it is also a nation of xenophobia. In America for Americans, Erika Lee shows that an irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants has been a defining feature of our nation from the colonial era to the Trump era. Benjamin Franklin ridiculed Germans for their "strange and foreign ways." Americans' anxiety over Irish Catholics turned xenophobia into…


Book cover of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did I love this book?

Kendi’s book is the most recent in a long line of fantastic scholars who have tackled discussions of racism in America, especially anti-Black racism. Kendi focuses specifically on racist ideas, and how those ideas were created and then used to rationalize policies and inequalities for generations. The book is a New York Times Bestseller for a reason: it is accessible, has important ideas that are well-supported, and the reader doesn’t get lost in a history that covers a wide span of time.

By Ibram X. Kendi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Stamped from the Beginning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stamped from the Beginning is a redefining history of anti-Black racist ideas that dramatically changes our understanding of the causes and extent of racist thinking itself.

** Winner of the US National Book Award**

Its deeply researched and fast-moving narrative chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals - Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis - showing how these ideas were developed, disseminated and eventually enshrined in American society.

Contrary to popular…


Book cover of How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did I love this book?

A focused examination of the relation between race and immigration in the United States, Natalia Molina looks at the effect of racialized immigration views and policies on Mexican migrants during the first half of the twentieth century. Her theory of racial scripts, she argues, is the product of race-based views of American identity. A must-read for scholars of immigration and race, especially for understanding how racialization of one group can occur and impact others across United States history.

By Natalia Molina,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Race Is Made in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How Race Is Made in America examines Mexican Americans--from 1924, when American law drastically reduced immigration into the United States, to 1965, when many quotas were abolished--to understand how broad themes of race and citizenship are constructed. These years shaped the emergence of what Natalia Molina describes as an immigration regime, which defined the racial categories that continue to influence perceptions in the United States about Mexican Americans, race, and ethnicity. Molina demonstrates that despite the multiplicity of influences that help shape our concept of race, common themes prevail. Examining legal, political, social, and cultural sources related to immigration, she…


Book cover of Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did I love this book?

For readers interested in undocumented immigration, especially from Mexico, Minian’s book provides important and necessary historical context for present-day issues. In particular, the book explains how undocumented immigrants were caught in the middle of economic and political policies in the United States and Mexico. As the title implies, the lives of these immigrants are at the heart of the story, including how these much broader systems impacted their individual lives.

By Ana Raquel Minian,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Undocumented Lives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frederick Jackson Turner Award Finalist
Winner of the David Montgomery Award
Winner of the Theodore Saloutos Book Award
Winner of the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award
Winner of the Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize
Winner of the Americo Paredes Book Award

"A deeply humane book."
-Mae Ngai, author of Impossible Subjects

"Necessary and timely...A valuable text to consider alongside the current fight for DACA, the border concentration camps, and the unending rhetoric dehumanizing Mexican migrants."
-PopMatters

"A deep dive into the history of Mexican migration to and from the United States."
-PRI's The World

In the 1970s, the Mexican…


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By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

Examining the beautiful and disturbing experiences of those who have survived comas, Alan and…


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