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.

The books I picked & why

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1776

By David McCullough,

Book cover of 1776

Why 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.”


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

By Terry Golway,

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

Why 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.


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

By Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy,

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

Why 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.


General George Washington: A Military Life

By Edward G. Lengel,

Book cover of General George Washington: A Military Life

Why 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.


Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

By Cokie Roberts,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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

5,215 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.

The American Revolutionary War Explore 19 books about the American Revolutionary War
The American Revolution Explore 72 books about the American Revolution
Colonial America Explore 34 books about Colonial America

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin, and With Zeal and with Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783 if you like this list.