The most recommended American Revolution books

Who picked these books? Meet our 155 experts.

155 authors created a book list connected to the American Revolution, and here are their favorite American Revolution books.
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Book cover of The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution

From my list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Joseph D’Agnese grew up in the Bicentennial-fueled excitement of the 1970s, and spent 1976 fake-playing a fife and sporting a tricorn hat in various school events. Besides teaching him how to get in and out of Revolutionary-period knickers, this experience awakened in him a love for the Founding Era of American history. He has since authored three history titles with his wife, The New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan. 

Joseph's book list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

Because so much of the US’s focus is centered on the Fourth of July and the date 1776, it’s easy for people to assume that after the colonies declared independence, life in the new nation was simply wonderful, and we never looked back. Wrong!

Within two years after the end of the Revolutionary War, the nation was in serious trouble. The nascent government had no Army or Navy, no power to print or mint currency, and intentionally weak leadership because the last thing anyone wanted was a tyrannical ruler. Something had to be done if the nation was going to survive.

Stewart brings an attorney’s mind and a creative writer’s eye to the story of that sweltering summer in Philadelphia. Narrative nonfiction at its best. We see how the brainy, nerdy James Madison convinces George Washington to lead a delegation of men to design a strong working framework for government.…

By David O Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Summer of 1787 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Summer of 1787 takes us into the sweltering room in which the founding fathers struggled for four months to produce the Constitution: the flawed but enduring document that would define the nation—then and now.

George Washington presided, James Madison kept the notes, Benjamin Franklin offered wisdom and humor at crucial times. The Summer of 1787 traces the struggles within the Philadelphia Convention as the delegates hammered out the charter for the world’s first constitutional democracy. Relying on the words of the delegates themselves to explore the Convention’s sharp conflicts and hard bargaining, David O. Stewart lays out the passions…


Book cover of A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence

Jack N. Rakove Author Of Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution

From my list on the Revolutionary War and why the British lost it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became a historian of the American Revolution back in the early 1970s and have been working on that subject ever since. Most of my writings pivot on national politics, the origins of the Constitution, and James Madison. But explaining why the Revolution occurred and why it took the course it did remain subjects that still fascinate me.

Jack's book list on the Revolutionary War and why the British lost it

Jack N. Rakove Why did Jack love this book?

This is a classic and provocative set of essays by an eminent historian who asked whether and in what ways the War for Independence resembled modern revolutionary wars. It led every serious historian of the Revolution to realize that the war was not simply a conflict between armies but a political struggle to secure the loyalty of the civilian population.

By John Shy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Americans like to think of themselves as a peaceful and peace-loving people, and in remembering their own revolutionary past, American historians have long tended to focus on colonial origins and Constitutional aftermath, neglecting the fact that the American Revolution was a long, hard war. In this book, John Shy shifts the focus to the Revolutionary War and explores the ways in which the experience of that war was entangled with both the causes and the consequences of the Revolution itself. This is not a traditional military chronicle of battles and campaigns, but a series of essays that recapture the social,…


Book cover of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Richard Munson Author Of Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

From my list on inventors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve long been fascinated by innovators. In my day jobs, I’ve helped launch a clean-energy startup as well as helped write legislation to promote environmental entrepreneurs. In addition to Nikola Tesla, I’ve written biographies of Jacques Cousteau (inventor of the Aqua Lung and master of undersea filming) and George Fabyan (pioneer of modern cryptography and acoustics), as well as a history of electricity (From Edison to Enron) and profiles of food and farm modernizers (Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food). I love reading about ingenious and industrious individuals becoming inspired and achieving their dreams. 

Richard's book list on inventors

Richard Munson Why did Richard love this book?

When I think of Benjamin Franklin, I picture the chubby founding father pictured on a hundred-dollar bill or the crazy kite-flyer amid a thunderstorm. Yet this polymath’s witty and engaging memoir surprised me with the breadth of his science, including basic insights into electricity, heat, ocean currents, and molecules. How can you not like this curious and industrious innovator who also protected us from lightning and cold?

By Benjamin Franklin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Benjamin Franklin's account of his rise from poverty and obscurity to affluence and fame is a self-portrait of a quintessential American which has charmed every generation of readers since it first appeared in 1791. Begun as a collection of anecdotes for his son, the memoir grew into a history of his remarkable achievements in the literary, scientific and political realms. A printer, inventor, scientist, diplomat and statesman, Franklin was also a brilliant writer whose wit and wisdom shine on every page.
Franklin was a remarkably prolific author, well known in his lifetime for his humorous, philosophical, parodic and satirical writings,…


Book cover of The Lost State of Franklin: America's First Secession

Lori Benton Author Of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn

From my list on the Lost State of Franklin.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little-known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, particularly those set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultural and world views collided. Her second published historical novel, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, is set against the backdrop of the State of Franklin conflict, in which a young woman and a frontiersman flee across the mountains of North Carolina to keep her free of an unwanted marriage, just as tensions over who is destined to govern the Overmountain settlers erupts into violence.

Lori's book list on the Lost State of Franklin

Lori Benton Why did Lori love this book?

It’s been a decade since I wrote my novel that featured as a backdrop the conflict over North Carolina’s western (Overmountain) counties’ attempt to form the controversial State of Franklin, but I remember how helpful Barksdale’s book was in forming my understanding of the era, the place, and the people involved. If I didn’t, the copious highlights and notes I left in my copy of this book would be enough to jog my memory. This book was highly readable and rich in detail.

By Kevin T. Barksdale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lost State of Franklin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amid the economic turmoil, Native American warfare, and political unrest following the Revolutionary War, the leadership of the Tennessee Valley declared their region independent from North Carolina and formed the state of Franklin. In The Lost State of Franklin: America's First Secession, Kevin T. Barksdale chronicles the rise and fall of the ill-fated Franklin statehood movement. Barksdale describes the dramatic four years in which the Franklinites crafted a backcountry bureaucracy, expanded their regional market economy, and nearly eradicated the southwestern frontier's Native American population, all with the goal of becoming America's fourteenth state. Although the Franklin statehood movement collapsed in…


Book cover of Daniel Morgan: A Revolutionary Life

Andrew Waters Author Of To the End of the World: Nathanael Greene, Charles Cornwallis, and the Race to the Dan

From my list on the "Race to the Dan" and the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I’ve been an avid reader of histories and biographies all my life, I didn’t become passionate about the American Revolution until moving to South Carolina in 2013. That’s when I began to learn about the South’s rich American Revolution history and become fascinated with Nathanael Greene’s role in it. So far, this fascination has inspired me to write two histories on Nathanael Greene, and I hope to keep going. Today, we tend to think about the American Revolution in terms of its northern battles, but if you want to understand the war’s end game, you need understand what happened in the South. These books are a great place to start.

Andrew's book list on the "Race to the Dan" and the American Revolution

Andrew Waters Why did Andrew love this book?

Forget about George Washington. Daniel Morgan was the best American battlefield general of the Revolutionary War. And anyone who wants to tell the story of the Race to the Dan has to start with Daniel Morgan’s miraculous victory at the Battle Cowpens on January 17, 1781.

Zambone’s book is by far the best contemporary biography of this important but little-known American hero, not only explaining the genius of Morgan’s Cowpens victory, but also covering how Morgan’s early life in the American frontier prepared him to be the American Revolution’s most significant innovator in military tactics. 

By Albert Louis Zambone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Major New Biography of a Man of Humble Origins Who Became One of the Great Military Leaders of the American Revolution
On January 17, 1781, at Cowpens, South Carolina, the notorious British cavalry officer Banastre Tarleton and his legion had been destroyed along with the cream of Lord Cornwallis's troops. The man who planned and executed this stunning American victory was Daniel Morgan. Once a barely literate backcountry laborer, Morgan now stood at the pinnacle of American martial success. Born in New Jersey in 1736, he left home at seventeen and found himself in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. There he…


Book cover of Bound

Tracy Lawson Author Of Answering Liberty's Call

From my list on featuring strong women in 18th century America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by American history and have clear memories of celebrating America’s bicentennial as a child. I have twenty-two Revolutionary Patriots in my family history, and I am most proud of my 6x-great grandmother, Anna Asbury Stone, for her bravery and daring during the winter of 1778. I did extensive genealogical research to learn about her, her family, and her circumstances before writing Answering Liberty’s Call: Anna Stone’s Daring Ride to Valley Forge.

Tracy's book list on featuring strong women in 18th century America

Tracy Lawson Why did Tracy love this book?

Bound is set in the years prior to the American Revolution, and highlights the difficulties faced by girls and women indentured servants. Alice and her family set out for America from England, but when her mother and brothers die during the voyage, Alice’s father decides he cannot keep her and sells her as an indentured servant upon reaching Boston. Alice should have had a middle-class upbringing, but instead, she becomes chattel. The scenes of abuse in this book are stark, but it helps to shed light on the sufferings of the disenfranchised and the helpless. Alice’s determination will inspire.

By Sally Cabot Gunning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An indentured servant finds herself bound by law, society, and her own heart in this novel set in colonial Cape Cod from the author of acclaimed The Widow’s War.

Indentured servant Alice Cole barely remembers when she was not “bound”, first to the Morton family, then to their daughter Nabby—her companion since childhood—when she wed. But Nabby’s new marriage is not happy, and when Alice finds herself torn between her new master and her old friend, she runs away to Boston. There she meets a sympathetic widow named Lyddie Berry and her lawyer companion, Eben Freeman. Impulsively stowing away on…


Book cover of His Excellency: George Washington

Winston Brady Author Of The Inferno

From my list on contemporary biographies on American leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first biographer, Plutarch, wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Biographies help kindle this flame by presenting a person who displayed such character and attempted such noble deeds that the reader should follow their example. The biographer narrates the events of a life well-lived and draws out examples for the reader of the virtues and vices, strengths and foibles, of the person whose life is on display. In this way, biographies help us to be better people by showing us either a model to follow or an example to avoid. 

Winston's book list on contemporary biographies on American leaders

Winston Brady Why did Winston love this book?

Consider Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers more of a series of biographies–portraits of great individuals shaping history for the better–of such individuals during the most important period of their lives and in the history of our country.

Ellis’ masterful work focuses on the relationship between the Founding Fathers in the latter half of the eighteenth century, which, as the title suggests, was fraught with all the difficulties and rivalries one might expect as brothers. Figures like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington were men not unlike the rest of us, driven by passion, ambition, and the vision to see the American republic become a beacon of hope and freedom for the entire world. 

Yet, these passions and contrary views of the American experiment in self-government, at times, spilled out into the open, and Ellis does a masterful job elucidating the rivalries between these great men and what was at stake…

By Joseph J. Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

National Bestseller

To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric prose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose “statue-like solidity” concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

 

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to…


Book cover of Ross Poldark

Anna Thayer Author Of The Traitor's Heir

From my list on creating an ‘inner consistency of reality’.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although known more generally as a mum of four and teacher, I am also a lover of story (with a First Class degree in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, and a Masters of Education). According to Tolkien, an internally consistent reality should allow you to immerse yourself in another world so as to return to your own with refreshed sight. In this, he discerned between ‘the flight of the deserter’ (a criticism often levelled at sci-fi and fantasy) and ‘the escape of the prisoner’. These novels achieve inner consistency with sophistication and charm, allowing you to regain your courage, hope, and curiosity when you return to real life.

Anna's book list on creating an ‘inner consistency of reality’

Anna Thayer Why did Anna love this book?

It seems that there is no detail of life in the late 1700s and early 1800s that Winston Graham doesn’t know. From aspects of history, geography, social class culture, medicine, ship-building, mining… Graham is ‘The Man’. But he is also a composite storyteller, weaving a compelling, generations-spanning narrative that charts the turmoils and triumphs of Ross Poldark and his family. One detail that I love is the representation of genuine female experience in a mode that is not about feminist agendas; Graham writes his women with compassion and complexity, making them far more than the housewives and bodice-rippers characteristic of some historical fiction. Quintessentially English, but never rose-tinted, these novels are a treasure that deserve greater acknowledgment.

By Winston Graham,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Ross Poldark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This beautiful Macmillan Collector's Library edition of Ross Poldark features an afterword by novelist Liz Fenwick.

Ross Poldark is the first novel in Winston Graham's sweeping saga of Cornish life in the eighteenth century. First published in 1945, the Poldark series has enthralled readers ever since serving as the inspiration for hit BBC TV series, Poldark,

Returning home from grim experiences in the American Revolutionary War, Ross Poldark is reunited with his beloved Cornwall and family. But the joyful homecoming he had anticipated turns sour; his father is dead, his estate derelict, and the girl he loves has become engaged…


Book cover of Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride

Marlene Targ Brill Author Of Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad

From my list on showing children making a difference.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose this focus because it fulfills one of my main goals of writing—to empower young readers by showing how what they do matters. Even the simplest actions can have huge consequences, no matter what someone’s age is. Whether someone saves another person’s life, like Allen Jay did, or stand up to a bully, doing what’s right makes a difference. Also, I like to right children into history so they understand that they’ve always played a key role in bettering this world.

Marlene's book list on showing children making a difference

Marlene Targ Brill Why did Marlene love this book?

Most people learn in school about Paul Revere’s ride in 1775 to warn colonists that British soldiers were coming to attack them. But few learn about the 16-year-old girl who made a similar run to gather militia for a surprise attack. Sybil supposedly rode alone at night about 40 miles in pouring rain, ultimately gathering 400 men to battle the British soldiers. She rode farther than Paul Revere in worse weather, and didn’t get captured as he did. This ordinary teenager, Sybil, was able to complete an ordinary feat.

By Marsha Amstel, Ellen Beier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

On a dark, cold, and rainy night in April 1777, Sybil Ludington sets out on a journey to warn American soldiers that danger is headed their way. The British are coming! They have already attacked a nearby town, and it is up to sixteen-year-old Sybil to make sure that she reaches the American soldiers before the British do. With only a large stick to defend herself, and her horse, Star, for company, Sybil rides off into the perilous night and changes the course of the American Revolution. The true story of Sybil's bravery and perseverance are faithfully related by Marsha…


Book cover of Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution

Don N. Hagist Author Of The Revolution's Last Men: The Soldiers Behind the Photographs

From my list on people in the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent years studying individual people involved in the American Revolution, especially the British soldiers and their wives. These were the people who did the day-to-day work, and their stories deserve to be told. I troll archival collections to find original documents that allow me to piece together the lives of the thousands of individuals who made up the regiments and battalions, focusing not on what they had in common, but on how they were different from each other, part of a military society but each with their own lives and experiences. They made the history happen.

Don's book list on people in the American Revolution

Don N. Hagist Why did Don love this book?

The issues that led to the American Revolution are often oversimplified, and discussion of them can lose the human element, as well as the complexities of the issues and effects they had on real people.

A key example is the quartering of British troops “among the people” in America. The details of this grievance with the British government are widely misunderstood – troops were not quartered in private homes, as is often incorrectly written; instead, the British Quartering Acts constituted an indirect form of taxation.

This book explains the complications and implications of quartering in a wonderfully readable manner, clarifying the perspectives of governments and citizens on both sides. It is a book about people, and how the laws affected them.

By John Gilbert McCurdy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Americans declared independence in 1776, they cited King George III "for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us." In Quarters, John Gilbert McCurdy explores the social and political history behind the charge, offering an authoritative account of the housing of British soldiers in America. Providing new interpretations and analysis of the Quartering Act of 1765, McCurdy sheds light on a misunderstood aspect of the American Revolution.

Quarters unearths the vivid debate in eighteenth-century America over the meaning of place. It asks why the previously uncontroversial act of accommodating soldiers in one's house became an unconstitutional act. In so…