100 books like Unworthy Republic

By Claudio Saunt,

Here are 100 books that Unworthy Republic fans have personally recommended if you like Unworthy Republic. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Kathleen DuVal Author Of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

From my list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional historian and life-long lover of early American history. My fascination with the American Revolution began during the bicentennial in 1976, when my family traveled across the country for celebrations in Williamsburg and Philadelphia. That history, though, seemed disconnected to the place I grew up—Arkansas—so when I went to graduate school in history, I researched in French and Spanish archives to learn about their eighteenth-century interactions with Arkansas’s Native nations, the Osages and Quapaws. Now I teach early American history and Native American history at UNC-Chapel Hill and have written several books on how Native American, European, and African people interacted across North America.

Kathleen's book list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers

Kathleen DuVal Why did Kathleen love this book?

Annette Gordon-Reed’s book introduces readers to the enslaved family of a Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson.

What I love about this book is that it upends the traditional picture of Jefferson while neither vilifying nor excusing him. It’s a full picture of a complicated man and the fascinating people who were part of his life. After all, the historian’s task is not to make heroes or villains but to show the full complexity of human beings.

At the center of the story is Sally Hemings, the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife and the mother of some of Jefferson’s children. The book also shows how a careful historian can interpret and evaluate different kinds of evidence, including documents, oral history, and DNA.

By Annette Gordon-Reed,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Hemingses of Monticello as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This epic work-named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times-tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826.


Book cover of Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding

Alan Taylor Author Of American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850

From my list on the early United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

Alan Taylor is a professor of history at the University of Virginia, where he holds the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair, he has published nine books, including William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic, and The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, both of which won the Pulitzer Prize for American history. In May, Norton will publish his tenth book, American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850.

Alan's book list on the early United States

Alan Taylor Why did Alan love this book?

David Hendrickson recovers the paradoxical origins of our nation in the contentious diversity of citizens who identified with their state rather than as Americans, and who dreaded those of other states as potential enemies. To avoid the bloodbaths of European-style wars in America, the founders framed a union of states meant to provide a framework for mutual peace. But they also generated a recurrent political struggle between those who feared the Union as too strong, as potential tyrannical, and those who wished to perfect that Union as a true nation.

By David C. Hendrickson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Peace Pact as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

That New England might invade Virginia is inconceivable today. But interstate rivalries and the possibility of intersectional war loomed large in the thinking of the Framers who convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to put on paper the ideas that would bind the federal union together. At the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin rejoiced that the document would "astonish our enemies, who are waiting to hear with confidence . . . that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats." Usually dismissed as hyperbole, this and similar…


Book cover of The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America

Alan Taylor Author Of American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850

From my list on the early United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

Alan Taylor is a professor of history at the University of Virginia, where he holds the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair, he has published nine books, including William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic, and The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, both of which won the Pulitzer Prize for American history. In May, Norton will publish his tenth book, American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850.

Alan's book list on the early United States

Alan Taylor Why did Alan love this book?

Reiss tells the revealing story of Joice Heth, an enslaved woman presented by the showman P. T. Barnum as 161 years old and the childhood nanny of George Washington. Although less than half that age and unknown to Washington, Heth had survived a hard life in Kentucky by reinventing herself with inventive tales allegedly about the greatest American hero. By overtly asserting Heth’s reliability and anonymously casting it in doubt, Barnum appealed to the very American desire by people to test their own credulity by eyeing the controversy. When she died, Barnum reaped his biggest payday by charging admission for thousands to watch an autopsy that revealed that she was in her seventies. 

By Benjamin Reiss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Showman and the Slave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this compelling story about one of the nineteenth century's most famous Americans, Benjamin Reiss uses P. T. Barnum's Joice Heth hoax to examine the contours of race relations in the antebellum North. Barnum's first exhibit as a showman, Heth was an elderly enslaved woman who was said to be the 161-year-old former nurse of the infant George Washington. Seizing upon the novelty, the newly emerging commercial press turned her act--and especially her death--into one of the first media spectacles in American history.

In piecing together the fragmentary and conflicting evidence of the event, Reiss paints a picture of people…


Book cover of A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico

Andrew Lipman Author Of The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast

From my list on the rise and fall of empires in North America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a born-and-bred New Englander and I teach history at Barnard College, Columbia University. I have always loved sailing and the ocean, so I’m fascinated with the early modern Age of Sail. My focus is the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic World, when the histories of the Americas, Europe, and Africa became permanently entangled. My first book, The Saltwater Frontier, won the Bancroft Prize in American History in 2016. My second book, The Life and Times of Squanto, is hitting bookshelves in Fall 2024. 

Andrew's book list on the rise and fall of empires in North America

Andrew Lipman Why did Andrew love this book?

This is a delightful, novelistic read on the U.S.-Mexico War.

When the United States invaded Mexico on thin pretenses in 1846, it resulted in a massive annexation of territory while, at the same, sparking a genuine anti-war protest movement. Amy Greenberg puts Henry Clay, James K. Polk, and Abraham Lincoln at the center of the story. Her book sheds new light on the origins of the Civil War and the evolution of American empire.

By Amy S. Greenberg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Wicked War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Our 1846 war with Mexico was a blatant land grab provoked by President James Polk. And while it secured the entire Southwest and California for America, it also exacerbated regional tensions over slavery, created the first significant antiwar movement in America, and helped lead the nation into civil war. A Wicked War is the definitive history of this conflict that turned America into a continental power. Amy Greenberg describes the battles between American and Mexican armies, but also delineates the political battles between Democrats and Whigs—the former led by the ruthless Polk, the latter by the charismatic Henry Clay, and…


Book cover of Jefferson and the Indians: The Tragic Fate of the First Americans

William Heath Author Of William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest

From my list on the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley Frontier.

Why am I passionate about this?

William Heath has a Ph.D. in American Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He has taught American history and literature as well as creative writing at Kenyon, Transylvania, Vassar, the University of Seville, and Mount Saint Mary’s University, retiring as a professor emeritus. He has published two poetry books, The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy; two chapbooks, Night Moves in Ohio and Leaving Seville; three novels: The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Award), Devil Dancer, and Blacksnake’s Path; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards); and a collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone

William's book list on the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley Frontier

William Heath Why did William love this book?

What Calloway does for Washington, Wallace does for Jefferson. Even more than Washington, Jefferson talked one game and played another. He could be splendidly eloquent on how much he wanted the Indian nations to become Americans, yet that could only happen, in Jefferson’s mind, if they surrendered their identity as Indians. If anything, the situation was even worse than Wallace suggests, as I point out in detail in my book on William Wells. While there is much to admire about Jefferson, his Indian policy shows how idealism can serve as a front for blatant exploitation and near genocide.  

By Anthony F. C. Wallace,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jefferson and the Indians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Thomas Jefferson's time, white Americans were bedeviled by a moral dilemma unyielding to reason and sentiment: what to do about the presence of black slaves and free Indians. That Jefferson himself was caught between his own soaring rhetoric and private behavior toward blacks has long been known. But the tortured duality of his attitude toward Indians is only now being unearthed.

In this landmark history, Anthony Wallace takes us on a tour of discovery to unexplored regions of Jefferson's mind. There, the bookish Enlightenment scholar--collector of Indian vocabularies, excavator of ancient burial mounds, chronicler of the eloquence of America's…


Book cover of Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks

Megan Kate Nelson Author Of Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America

From my list on America’s National Parks.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Colorado and visited national parks all over the country on summer vacations with my family. Now I write about U.S. Western history while living outside Boston, Massachusetts. My most recent book, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (Scribner 2020) was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History. I have written about the Civil War and the U.S. West for The New York TimesWashington PostThe Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, and Civil War Monitor. Scribner will publish my next book, Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America, on March 1, 2022. 

Megan's book list on America’s National Parks

Megan Kate Nelson Why did Megan love this book?

Neither Muir nor Sellars pay much attention to Indigenous communities living in or near national parks—Dispossessing the Wilderness puts the lie to the claim that Native peoples were afraid of or have vanished from these places. Spence examines the Indigenous histories of Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite, and concludes that while white federal officials expended a tremendous amount of energy promoting the myth that the nation’s national parks are “uninhabited wildernesses,” Indigenous communities have continued to claim them in various ways. Compelling and wide-ranging in its analysis, this is a must-read for fans of the national park system.

By Mark David Spence,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dispossessing the Wilderness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book examines the ideal of wilderness preservation in the United States from the antebellum era to the first half of the twentieth century, showing how the early conception of the wilderness as the place where Indians lived (or should live) gave way to the idealization of uninhabited wilderness. It focuses on specific policies of Indian removal developed at Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Glacier national parks from the early 1870s to the 1930s.


Book cover of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States

Mark Robert Rank Author Of The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity

From my list on understanding the paradox of American inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

For much of my career as a sociologist and professor of social welfare, I’ve focused my research and teaching on the issue of economic and social inequality in America. Why should the United States have both great wealth and yet at the same time extreme poverty and inequities? This question has motivated much of my scholarly and popular writing over the years. For me, this represents the fault line of America. We profess the importance that all are created equal, and yet our actions undermine such a belief. Why should this be the case, and how can we change the reality to reflect the ideal? 

Mark's book list on understanding the paradox of American inequality

Mark Robert Rank Why did Mark love this book?

This is a very powerful book that takes the city of St. Louis as a case study to illustrate the amount of violence, discrimination, and inequities that have happened across a 300-year period, particularly with respect to race. 

Johnson develops the idea of racial capitalism throughout the book, and notes that “the red thread that runs through this entire book is the historical relationship between imperialism and anti-Blackness.” At the same time, the city has also been home to both communist and Black radical organizing into the 20th century. 

A highly interesting and important case study of American inequality and exploitation.

By Walter Johnson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Broken Heart of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A searing and "magisterial" (Cornel West) history of American racial exploitation and resistance, told through the turbulent past of the city of St. Louis. From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, American history has been made in St. Louis. And as Walter Johnson shows in The Broken Heart of America, the city exemplifies how imperialism, racism, and capitalism have persistently entwined to corrupt the nation's past. St. Louis was a staging post for Indian removal and imperial expansion, and its wealth grew on the backs of its poor Black residents, from slavery through redlining and…


Book cover of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley

Jim Metzner Author Of Sacred Mounds

From my list on ancient mounds.

Why am I passionate about this?

To me, it seemed the ancient mounds were fertile ground for literary exploration, a living metaphor – evidence of what was likely the first places of spiritual practice in our country, ancient, unknown, and buried, what a symbol to form the basis of a novel! When I began my research, I soon came into contact with the Natchez. I attended their annual gathering and eventually became close friends with the Principal Chief of the Natchez Nation, who vetted Sacred Mounds and wrote its foreword. The book includes historical figures like the Great Sun, descended from the Sun Itself, and his war chief, the Tattooed Serpent. They are part of the tapestry of history woven in Sacred Mounds.

Jim's book list on ancient mounds

Jim Metzner Why did Jim love this book?

This is another classic, chock full of archaeological descriptions, along with prints of early mounds and artifacts. It’s prime source material, with first-person accounts of those who first discovered and excavated the mounds. Originally published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1848 it remains an important reference on the mounds, a veritable time capsule of maps, illustrations, and accounts of early explorers.

By Ephraim G. Squier, Edwin H. Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fact of the existence, within the valley of the Mississippi river and its tributaries, of many ancient monuments of human labor and skill, seems to have escaped the notice of the adventurers who first made known to the world the extent and fertility of that vast region. Except some incidental allusions by La Vega, and the Portuguese chronicler of De Soto's unfortunate expedition, to structures bearing some analogy to those of the West, (and which seem to have been occupied, if they were not built, by the Indians of Florida,) we find no mention made of these monuments by…


Book cover of Ride the Free Wind

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy Author Of Tall, Dark, and Cherokee

From my list on Native American romantic suspense.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lifelong history lover. I was the kid who hung around the feet of the elders, listening to their stories and learning about the past. That led to a deep interest in tracing family history, which has been a passion since about the age of ten. I still can get lost for hours finding ancestors or reading about their lives. That interest led me to a double major in college and I earned a Bachelor of Arts in both history and English with a two-year degree in journalism. I live a short distance from Oklahoma and one of my favorite pastimes is to go to powwows whenever possible.

Lee's book list on Native American romantic suspense

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy Why did Lee love this book?

I have a passion for history and did one of my history thesis in college on white women and their Native American captives. In this story, there's a strong attraction, a commitment to abandon the life she knows by the heroine to embrace her lover's culture. Zeke's transformation back into Lone Eagle is one that really touched me emotionally.

By Rosanne Bittner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ride the Free Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The second book in Rosanne Bittner’s bold Savage Destiny series continues the love story of Zeke and Abbie Monroe. For the first five years of her marriage Abbie lives among the Cheyenne, learning their customs and beliefs and giving birth to a son who is as wild and free as his Native American family, and a daughter who will one day be forced to choose between her Indian and white blood. Through real historical events involving the government and Native Americans, Zeke and Abbie cling to one another through danger and torn loyalties. This story vividly depicts the “right” and…


Book cover of Assembled for Use: Indigenous Compilation and the Archives of Early Native American Literatures

Ivy Schweitzer and Gordon Henry Author Of Afterlives of Indigenous Archives

From my list on Native American cultural archives.

Why are we passionate about this?

Though from different backgrounds, we share a profound passion for Native culture. As an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota, Gordon’s poetry and fiction draw deeply from his Anishinabe heritage and contribute to the current flowering of Indian writing. Ivy is the grandchild of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. As a scholar and teacher, she was appalled that Native writers are largely excluded from the American canon and worked to right that wrong. They met through their shared interest in Samson Occom, an 18th-century Mohegan writer, and decided to collaborate on increasing awareness of the necessity of Native writing to sustaining our future.

Ivy's book list on Native American cultural archives

Ivy Schweitzer and Gordon Henry Why did Ivy love this book?

Though we are thankful for the current movements to decolonize archives and museums, from at least 1750, Native writers have been doing this important survival work of asserting Native ways of knowing. This revelation is the subject of Wisecup’s ground-breaking study. It shows how early Native writers assembled lists, collages, and literary texts that, through juxtaposition and recontextualization, resisted the way colonial archives defined their bodies, belongings, and words as ethnographic evidence of vanishing peoples. Wisecup offers revealing ways to read the Indigenous compilations of key figures like Mohegan Samson Occom’s medicinal recipes, Ojibwe Charlotte Johnston’s poetry scrapbooks, and Abenaki leader Joseph Laurent’s vocabulary lists. We also deeply appreciate how Wisecup ends each chapter by connecting the early writer it focuses on to contemporary Indigenous culture.

By Kelly Wisecup,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A wide-ranging, multidisciplinary look at Native American literature through non-narrative texts like lists, albums, recipes, and scrapbooks

"An intricate history of Native textual production, use, and circulation that reshapes how we think about relationships between Native materials and settler-colonial collections."-Rose Miron, D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library

Kelly Wisecup offers a sweeping account of early Native American literatures by examining Indigenous compilations: intentionally assembled texts that Native people made by juxtaposing and recontextualizing textual excerpts into new relations and meanings. Experiments in reading and recirculation, Indigenous compilations include Mohegan minister Samson Occom's medicinal…


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