The best books about the American Revolutionary War

The Books I Picked & Why

1776

By David McCullough

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.”


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

By Terry Golway

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.


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

By Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy

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.


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General George Washington: A Military Life

By Edward G. Lengel

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.


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Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

By Cokie Roberts

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.


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