The best Revolutionary reads

The Books I Picked & Why

The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777

By Rick Atkinson

Book cover of The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777

Why this book?

Rick Atkinson is a master storyteller who approaches writing history with the attention to detail of an investigative reporter. I have had the privilege of meeting Rick, and he took the time to encourage me as I embarked on my own writing career.  His personal qualities aside, Rick’s gripping narrative highlights the drama that unfolded in the first years of the war, from Lexington and Concord to Trenton and Princeton. This is the first volume of what promises to be the definitive historical trilogy about the War for Independence.


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Washington's Crossing

By David Hackett Fischer

Book cover of Washington's Crossing

Why this book?

A book that won the Pulitzer Prize for History will tend to be a good read, and Washington’s Crossing does not disappoint. David Hackett Fischer paints a picture of the forces and people involved, and the critical decisions that shaped the campaigns of 1776 to 1777. I leaned heavily on Washington’s Crossing when researching my novel Times That Try Men’s Souls. More importantly, Fischer’s chapter on the aftermath of the Battle of Princeton directly inspired my third book, A Nest of Hornets. Growing up in Central New Jersey I was oblivious to the drama that played out there in the winter of 1777. Thanks to Washington’s Crossing, I not only learned about the “Forage War,” but wrote my own award-winning book about it.


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Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

By Carol Berkin

Book cover of Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

Why this book?

When I speak to middle school classes, one of my themes is that while women rarely appear in history books or paintings about the American Revolution, except as victims, the Continental Army could not have functioned without the women who were part of the Army community. Revolutionary Mothers offers fascinating insights into how women shaped and influenced the war and its outcome. I found it of tremendous help in fleshing out the character of Ruth Munroe, Gideon Hawke’s partner and occasional savior.    


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With Zeal and with Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783

By Matthew H. Spring

Book cover of With Zeal and with Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783

Why this book?

In my military career, it was my privilege to serve alongside British troops in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I have the utmost respect for their professionalism, and enjoy their sense of humor, especially on the subject of the American Revolution. For anyone who envisions the “redcoats” of the Revolution as unthinking drones advancing shoulder-to-shoulder, With Zeal and with Bayonets Only is a useful corrective. It demonstrates how the British Army was a professional learning organization that adapted to its environment and very nearly crushed the cause of American Independence. Whenever Gideon Hawke tangles with the British, With Zeal and with Bayonets Only informs the scene and its outcome.


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Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine

By Thomas Paine

Book cover of Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine

Why this book?

If you want to know what motivated ordinary British colonists to pick up a musket, spear, or sword and take on the most powerful military in the world, read Thomas Paine’s essays Common Sense and The Crisis. Common Sense was the ideological underpinning of the movement toward independence. Paine’s experiences with the Continental Army during the dark days of late 1776 inspired The Crisis, and Washington ordered it read to the troops to encourage them to stay by the Colors for one last great gamble at Trenton. In my research, I found that the average American soldier truly believed in the cause of Independence; that belief has much to do with the writings of Thomas Paine.


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