The best books about the American Revolutionary War from five different perspectives

Who am I?

Jack Kelly is a prize-winning historian who has written two acclaimed books about the Revolutionary War. Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America’s Independence provides one of the best short accounts of the entire war. Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty is a suspense-filled account of the crucial northern theater during that decisive year.

I wrote...

Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty

By Jack Kelly,

Book cover of Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty

What is my book about?

The wild and suspenseful story of one of the most crucial and least known campaigns of the Revolutionary War when America's scrappy navy took on the full might of Britain's sea power.

During the summer of 1776, a British incursion from Canada loomed. In response, citizen soldiers of the newly independent nation mounted a heroic defense. Patriots constructed a small fleet of gunboats on Lake Champlain in northern New York and confronted the Royal Navy in a desperate three-day battle near Valcour Island. Their effort surprised the arrogant British and forced the enemy to call off their invasion. Jack Kelly's Valcour is a story of people. The northern campaign of 1776 was led by the underrated general Philip Schuyler (Hamilton's father-in-law), the ambitious former British officer Horatio Gates, and the notorious Benedict Arnold. An experienced sea captain, Arnold devised a brilliant strategy that confounded his slow-witted opponents.

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The books I picked & why


By David McCullough,

Book cover of 1776

Why did I love this book?

The perfect jumping-off point for a lifelong interest in the Revolution. If McCullough’s fluid story-telling and suspenseful account of one of the great historical dramas of world history doesn’t whet a reader’s appetite, perhaps nothing will. He turns the most important year of the war into an exciting, action-packed saga. The year 1776 marked the birth of America, but it was also a time of “cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear.” That the nation survived is, as McCullough notes, “little short of a miracle.”

By David McCullough,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked 1776 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

America's most acclaimed historian presents the intricate story of the year of the birth of the United States of America. 1776 tells two gripping stories: how a group of squabbling, disparate colonies became the United States, and how the British Empire tried to stop them. A story with a cast of amazing characters from George III to George Washington, to soldiers and their families, this exhilarating book is one of the great pieces of historical narrative.

Book cover of Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution

Why did I love this book?

The Revolution was an affair of people. Golway does a masterful job of bringing to life one of the most important, and often most neglected, of the American officers. Nathanael Greene was the epitome of the amateur soldiers who led the patriot effort. He was the man Washington selected to take over the Continental Army if Washington himself was killed. The book offers important insights into logistics (Greene for a time served as Quartermaster General). It also illuminates the war in the South, where Greene confounded British plans and set the scene for the patriot victory at Yorktown.

By Terry Golway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Washington's General as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The overlooked Quaker from Rhode Island who won the American Revolution's crucial southern campaign and helped to set up the final victory of American independence at Yorktown

Nathanael Greene is a revolutionary hero who has been lost to history. Although places named in his honor dot city and country, few people know his quintessentially American story as a self-made, self-educated military genius who renounced his Quaker upbringing-horrifying his large family-to take up arms against the British. Untrained in military matters when he joined the Rhode Island militia in 1774, he quickly rose to become Washington's right-hand man and heir apparent.…

Book cover of The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of the Empire

Why did I love this book?

It’s impossible to understand the Revolutionary War by looking at it only from the American perspective. O'Shaughnessy’s detailed and readable book offers abundant insights into the men on the losing side — King George, the Howe Brothers, Lord Germain, and other significant players. By connecting personalities to important decisions during the war, he shows how human strengths, weaknesses, quirks and prejudices shape history.

By Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Men Who Lost America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The loss of America was a stunning and unexpected defeat for the powerful British Empire. Common wisdom has held that incompetent military commanders and political leaders in Britain must have been to blame, but were they? This intriguing book makes a different argument. Weaving together the personal stories of ten prominent men who directed the British dimension of the war, historian Andrew O'Shaughnessy dispels the incompetence myth and uncovers the real reasons that rebellious colonials were able to achieve their surprising victory. In interlinked biographical chapters, the author follows the course of the war from the perspectives of King George…

Book cover of General George Washington: A Military Life

Why did I love this book?

There’s perhaps no better way to get a grasp of the war than to look at it through the eyes of George Washington. Lengel takes us through the long conflict, detailing the dilemmas and decisions that faced the commander in chief at each point. Washington, who lacked extensive military experience, made many mistakes during the war. But his dedication, his courage, and his vision of America eventually carried the patriot cause to victory.

By Edward G. Lengel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked General George Washington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“The most comprehensive and authoritative study of Washington’s military career ever written.”
–Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington

Based largely on George Washington’s personal papers, this engrossing book paints a vivid, factual portrait of Washington the soldier. An expert in military history, Edward Lengel demonstrates that the “secret” to Washington’s excellence lay in his completeness, in how he united the military, political, and personal skills necessary to lead a nation in war and peace. Despite being an “imperfect commander”–and at times even a tactically suspect one–Washington nevertheless possessed the requisite combination of vision, integrity, talents, and good…

Book cover of Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

Why did I love this book?

“I desire you would Remember the Ladies,” Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John. This well-researched examination of women’s participation in the war alerts readers to another dimension of the Revolution. Proud, assertive women fought the Revolution on many fronts, not the least being to maintain the homes of the men who went off to battle. Their immense contribution has too often been ignored. Journalist Cokie Roberts gave us a readable, eye-opening book that sheds important new light on the Revolution as a whole.

By Cokie Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts comes New York Times bestseller Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families—and their country—proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.

While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the American Revolutionary War, the American Revolution, and Colonial America?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the American Revolutionary War, the American Revolution, and Colonial America.

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