The best books about the American Dream 📚

Browse the best books on the American Dream as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Behold, America: The Entangled History of America First and the American Dream

Behold, America: The Entangled History of America First and the American Dream

By Sarah Churchwell

Why this book?

The book explores the complicated historic interaction among what for many are understood to be opposing tendencies of American life. On the one hand, the promise of the ‘American Dream,’ long held as an ethos of America and associated with expectations of liberty, equality, and access to opportunity. While the phrase ‘America First’ is more often associated with isolationist and nativist campaigns, intolerance of others, and even supremacist ideology. 

Yet, as Churchwell reveals, during times of economic, social, or international crisis the appeal of demagoguery would enable the twisting of the meaning of these two phrases for particular and sometimes…

From the list:

The best books on the ideals, aspirations, and unfulfilled promises in American civilization

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Book cover of The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito

The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito

By Shing Yin Khor

Why this book?

This is a non-fiction book about an artist doing a road trip with an adorable dog by the name of Bug. As they travel the historic highway, Shing Yin Khor reflects on this country’s history, what it can mean to live in the US as a person of color and why we’re often left with more questions than satisfying answers. Even the title reflects this as it’s an interrogative sentence rather than a declarative one. It’s a very personal journey and it reads like a friend telling you about their trip. There are various segments where the scenery does the…

From the list:

The best graphic novels about being in a new place (physical or emotional)

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Book cover of Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream

Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream

By Benjamin Hunnicutt

Why this book?

Nobody really knows what the “American Dream” is. The term was only coined in the 1930s and is used in many different lights. Perhaps it has to do with opportunity and success, perhaps with space and private property, perhaps with just having more stuff. By revisiting the writings of some of America’s founders and greatest 18th-19th-century intellectuals, Hunnicutt comes up with a surprising hypothesis: that the original dream was for people to have free time to spend in creative community activities. Goals relating to material advancement were only means to an end. It was time that…

From the list:

The best books on time, space, and modern urbanism

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Book cover of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

By Robert D. Putnam

Why this book?

Fast-forward to the 2010s, and political scientist Robert Putnam returns to Port Clinton, Ohio, where he had graduated from high school in 1959. He finds a sharp contrast between the kids who are growing up in middle-class homes with college-educated parents who are doing well and the kids who are growing up in working-class families who aren’t doing nearly as well. The working-class parents no longer have access to the well-paying industrial jobs of a generation earlier, and their children don’t have the advantages that come with steadily-employed, decently-paid parents. Putnam also probes the academic literature on the split between…

From the list:

The best books on what has happened to the American working class

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Book cover of For Us, the Living

For Us, the Living

By Myrlie Evers Williams, William Peters

Why this book?

This was the book, which truly drew me into the world of the Civil Rights struggle in America, a personalized account by Myrlie Ever’s of her life (and that of their children), with her civil rights worker husband and father, until his untimely assassination in 1963.

It is a very personal and moving account of their family life, their passion, and pursuit of the American Dream of equal rights for their family, set against the backdrop of a deeply segregated social order of their time in the Deep South. 

I found this book compelling, enlightening, and touching.

From the list:

The best lesser-known Civil Rights books

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Book cover of Finding God. Finding Me.: A Mom's Journey from the Pit to Peace

Finding God. Finding Me.: A Mom's Journey from the Pit to Peace

By Jennifer Covello

Why this book?

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down! There have been times in my life when I was desperately searching for peace, but instead felt confused, frustrated, hopeless, and questioning my faith. This book is the story of Jennifer’s journey to find peace and how she found it, through a vital, inspiring personal relationship with Jesus. And she helped me, as her reader, to find that same kind of wonderful relationship with Him!  

From the list:

The best Christian books when you’re going through hard times

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