The most recommended books about the Founding Fathers

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to the Founding Fathers, and here are their favorite Founding Fathers books.
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Book cover of The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams

Jordan Baker

From Jordan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Writer Book-lover Nerd

Jordan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jordan Baker Why did Jordan love this book?

A Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Stacy Schiff knows how to weave a story.

In Samuel Adams, she brings all her power as a writer to bear on the life of an often overlooked and misunderstood figure of the American Revolution. In this work, Schiff brings Adams and eighteenth-century Boston to life.

Through meticulous research, she uncovers Adams’ motivations, family dynamics, and revolutionary fervor, allowing her to understand Adams’ character in a way other historians haven’t.

Her fantastic ability as a writer also painted a vivid picture of the colonial city in which he lived, highlighting the importance of this port city to revolutionary cause.

By Stacy Schiff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thomas Jefferson asserted that if there was any leader of the Revolution, "Samuel Adams was the man." With high-minded ideals and bare-knuckle tactics, Adams led what could be called the greatest campaign of civil resistance in American history.

Stacy Schiff returns Adams to his seat of glory, introducing us to the shrewd and eloquent man who supplied the moral backbone of the American Revolution. A singular figure at a singular moment, Adams amplified the Boston Massacre. He helped to mastermind the Boston Tea Party. He employed every tool available to rally a town, a colony, and eventually a band of…


Book cover of The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness

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?

James Monroe is my favorite Founding Father. He may not be the “indispensable man” like Washington or have penned the most influential words in American history, ”We hold these truths to be self–evident,” but Monroe’s contributions to the United States and American history rank among the most important of the Founding Fathers. 

Per the title, Monroe was the “last” of such influential leaders and the last president in the Virginia dynasty of presidents. Unger provides an excellent, thorough walk-through of Monroe’s life and the influences that shaped his character, as well as the sacrifices Monroe made on behalf of the United States.

Per Unger, Monroe could have used his position and his influence for personal enrichment but regularly turned down such opportunities because he felt these were not worthy of an American leader. In the end, Monroe died with significant debts coupled with a legacy as the last Founding Father. 

By Harlow Giles Unger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this compelling biography, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger reveals the epic story of James Monroe (1758-1831),the last of America's Founding Fathers,who transformed a small, fragile nation beset by enemies into a powerful empire stretching from sea to shining sea." Like David McCullough's John Adams and Jon Meacham's American Lion , The Last Founding Father is both a superb read and stellar scholarship,action-filled history in the grand tradition.


Book cover of Ben Franklin: America's Original Entrepreneur

Erik Brown Author Of One in a Million: Everything You Need to Know to Find the Best Realtor

From my list on efficiency, mental strength, and business growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having built multiple profitable businesses in multiple states, I’ve learned that success comes from thinking outside the box and at times comically questioning authority. Flexibility, nimbleness, and comfort with change are bedrocks of a strong entrepreneurial foundation. However, even though there may be no standard blueprint to success, winning in business still requires some basic tenants, like a strong level of determination and efficiency. Every year, my team and I work with hundreds of home buyers and sellers to fulfill their dreams, and a huge reason for this lies in the lessons we’ve learned in the books listed here. I hope you learn from them as much as I have.

Erik's book list on efficiency, mental strength, and business growth

Erik Brown Why did Erik love this book?

This book is an absolute blueprint from one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. I could share hundreds of examples you could use daily, but one of my favorites is his creation of personal virtues that he practiced and tracked over and over until perfection. Success leaves clues, and Franklin gives a road map to how he went from printing assistant to founding father, inventor, businessman, and visionary.

By Blaine McCormick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

You are holding the only modern adaptation of Benjamin Franklin's 18th century autobiography. It is at its heart one of the greatest business stories ever told. The most versatile Founding Father was a husband, a father, a writer, an inventor, a statesman, a fundraiser and a military leader. But in his mind, he was first and foremost a businessman.

Franklin's captivating adventures include his almost single-handed responsibility for establishing the first media empire, the first public library, the first fire brigade, the University of Pennsylvania, the first book club and the first franchise--all of which are detailed within these pages…


Book cover of Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Beth Anderson Author Of Cloaked in Courage: Uncovering Deborah Sampson, Patriot Soldier

From my list on children’s stories on the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an educator, I’ve experienced the power of true stories to engage readers, widen their world, spur thinking, and support content areas. I’ve learned plenty from these books, too! As an author, I’m fascinated with many aspects of the American Revolution that I never learned about as a student. Researching this time period has revealed much more than men at war. The revolution affected every aspect of life—a “world turned upside-down.” Today, we’re fortunate to have a range of stories that help kids understand that history is about people much like them facing the challenges of their time and place. 

Beth's book list on children’s stories on the American Revolution

Beth Anderson Why did Beth love this book?

I’m a fan of this book for several reasons. Like all of us, the founders of the United States were complicated people, and I love books that reveal the person inside.

As an author who writes about American history, I am constantly grateful for the immense resources of the Library of Congress, the institution that preserves our history. And thirdly, I’m a fan of author Barb Rosenstock—everything she writes is special!

This story shares Jefferson’s love of books and reading, his interest in absolutely every subject, and how his massive book collection helped build the Library of Congress. 

By Barb Rosenstock, John O'Brien (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library 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?

Young readers of all ages will love this story about President Thomas Jefferson, who found his passion as soon as he learned to read: books, books, and more books!

Before, during, and after the American Revolution, Jefferson collected thousands of books on hundreds of subjects. In fact, his massive collection eventually helped rebuild the Library of Congress—now the largest library in the world.

Author Barb Rosenstock's rhythmic words and illustrator John O'Brien's whimsical illustrations capture Jefferson's zeal for the written word as well as little-known details about book collecting. An author's note, bibliography, and source notes for quotations are also…


Book cover of Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding

Dennis C. Rasmussen Author Of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

From my list on American founders from a political theorist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.

Dennis' book list on American founders from a political theorist

Dennis C. Rasmussen Why did Dennis love this book?

This book is not as acclaimed as the others on this list, but it is a hidden gem. Staloff deftly weaves together the lives and ideas of three of the most notable founders, and the ways in which they were influenced by their Enlightenment forebears. Precisely because the book is relatively little-known, I recommend it all the time to colleagues and students.

By Darren Staloff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Where The Ideas for which We Stand came from.

In this incisively drawn book, Darren Staloff forcefully reminds us that America owes its guiding political traditions to three Founding Fathers whose lives embodied the collision of Europe's grand Enlightenment project with the birth of the nation.

Alexander Hamilton, the worldly New Yorker; John Adams, the curmudgeonly Yankee; Thomas Jefferson, the visionary Virginia squire—each governed their public lives by Enlightenment principles, and for each their relationship to the politics of Enlightenment was transformed by the struggle for American independence. Repeated humiliation on America's battlefields banished Hamilton's youthful idealism, leaving him a…


Book cover of The Story of Alexander Hamilton: A Biography Book for New Readers

Natasha Wing Author Of The Story of Eliza Hamilton: A Biography Book for New Readers

From my list on Founding Mothers and Fathers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love relearning history I learned way back in high school and looking at it with wiser eyes. I wanted to pay tribute to both the Founding Fathers and Mothers since it took quite a few brave, smart and determined people to figure out how the new nation of the United States of America would operate. After watching the musical, Hamilton, I was curious to discover more about some of the characters. That’s what’s so great about children’s books – they can be used to extend and deepen the learning process for kids and adults.

Natasha's book list on Founding Mothers and Fathers

Natasha Wing Why did Natasha love this book?

This book is from the same series as The Story of Eliza Hamilton and makes for a great pairing. Read them both to learn about this colonial day's “power couple.” This book will help kids learn more about Alexander if they have seen the musical Hamilton. He was George Washington’s aide, and one of the most important Founding Fathers by helping win the Revolutionary War. Did you know Hamilton started the nation’s first bank system? Like the Eliza book, this one has timelines, fun side facts, maps, a family tree, and a quiz at the end. Great for classrooms!

By Christine Platt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of Alexander Hamilton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Help kids ages 6 to 9 discover the life of Alexander Hamilton―a story about working hard, blazing trails, and fighting for freedom

Alexander Hamilton became one of the most important Founding Fathers in American history. He helped win the Revolutionary War against England and invented our nation’s first banking system. Before that, he was a playful kid who loved to write and believed in hard work. Born on a Caribbean island, Alexander overcame many hardships to come to America and earn a name for himself.

Explore how Alexander Hamilton went from being a young immigrant boy with strong values to…


Book cover of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804

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?

The other books I am recommending focus on pieces of the Revolution; American Revolutions is a sweeping history of the American Revolution.

This is the book I recommend to anyone who wants the whole story, from the Revolution’s causes coming out of the Seven Years’ War, through protests, declaring independence, fighting a war across the continent, to Jefferson’s postwar visions of American expansion.

Most big picture histories of the Revolution are still stuck in the old Founding Fathers and generals model, but American Revolutions manages to tell all of this history without focusing solely on men like John Adams and George Washington. We learn about them but also about ordinary men and women—rebelling and loyalist; British, French, and Spanish; enslaved and free—caught up in it all.

By Alan Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Often understood as a high-minded, orderly event, the American Revolution grows in this masterful history like a ground fire overspreading Britain's mainland colonies, fuelled by local conditions and resistant to control. Emerging from the rivalries of European empires and their allies, the revolution pivoted on western expansion as well as resistance to new British taxes. In the seaboard cities, leading Patriots mobilised popular support by summoning crowds to harass opponents. Along the frontier, the war often featured guerrilla violence that persisted long after the peace treaty. The smouldering discord called forth a movement to consolidate power in a Federal Constitution…


Book cover of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Hannah Farber Author Of Underwriters of the United States: How Insurance Shaped the American Founding

From my list on American outcasts, oddballs, and one-of-a-kinds.

Why am I passionate about this?

People sometimes say that the purpose of anthropology is to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. I think the same about history. As these books demonstrate, apparently normal early Americans have complex and unique inner lives, while those who seem bizarre, remote, or august, in fact, have wholly relatable human experiences. I usually write about complicated systems, like insurance and law. But I cherish these books about outcasts, oddballs, and one-of-a-kinds. They remind me that our society comprises individuals whose life experiences, worldviews, and decisions are unique—and ultimately unpredictable. Whenever I write, I try to remember that.

Hannah's book list on American outcasts, oddballs, and one-of-a-kinds

Hannah Farber Why did Hannah love this book?

Benjamin Franklin might be a Founding Father (I know, yawn), but he's also a real weirdo, and in my opinion, he's the only eighteenth-century American whose jokes still hold up.

His life story is full of relatable confessions: he fails at vegetarianism, chastity, and resisting the appeals of traveling fundraisers. He's so intent on convincing me of his honesty that he sometimes makes me suspicious. "Am I getting conned?" I ask myself. "Is this guy actually telling me all this to sell me something?" But I'm having such a good time listening to him that I just decide not to care.

By Benjamin Franklin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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 Wieland

Scott Peeples Author Of The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City

From my list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by Gothic literature (and art, music, and movies), and I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to talk and write about it—I teach at the College of Charleston (SC), where I just completed a course on American Gothic. I’m especially interested in nineteenth-century American writers, and I’ve written three books on Edgar Allan Poe, the most recent of which is The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City. For this list, I limited myself to Americans who, like Poe, wrote before and during the Civil War.

Scott's book list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe

Scott Peeples Why did Scott love this book?

This early American novel starts off with an episode of human spontaneous combustion, followed by repeated episodes of characters hearing disembodied voices.

Brown’s novel uses these Gothic devices and a couple of real-life murder cases to explore religious and political issues that preoccupied Americans in the years after the Revolution. How do we know whether we’re really being guided by reason? What is the basis of authority?

Most editions of Wieland include Brown’s prequel Memoirs of Carwin, which complicates the story by placing one of the main characters in an Illuminati-like organization. American Gothic literature pretty much starts here.  

Book cover of Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America's Founding Father

Eliot Pattison Author Of Freedom's Ghost: A Mystery of the American Revolution

From my list on inside the hearts and minds of the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I found my first arrowhead at age seven and have been hooked on history ever since. My Bone Rattler series—Freedom’s Ghost is the seventh installment—builds on many years of research and field trips, supplemented by intense investigation of specific aspects leading up to and during the writing of each novel. The volatile 18th century was one of the most important periods in all of history, and I immerse myself in it when writing these books—by, among other things, reading newspapers of the day, which are often stacked on my desk. 

Eliot's book list on inside the hearts and minds of the American Revolution

Eliot Pattison Why did Eliot love this book?

No understanding of the difficulties, and joys, of life in the buildup to revolution is complete without some understanding of that quintessential American, Benjamin Franklin.

More than any popular figure of the day Franklin represented the defiance, wit, and resourcefulness of the emerging American identity. There are many excellent biographies of the inventor-statesman but he had such a complex, long life that he is perhaps better fed to us in smaller doses, like this look at his life as ambassador-agent in London, where he lived for one-fifth of his life. 

We meet Franklin in his prime, as he engages in eloquent resistance to the British government, conducts experiments (some quite bizarre) on the cutting edge of science, completes many of his remarkable inventions (e.g. the armonica musical instrument and three-wheeled clock) and carries on his nontraditional lifestyle, including his daily “air bath” in which he sat at an open window,…

By George Goodwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An absorbing and enlightening chronicle of the nearly two decades the American statesman, scientist, author, inventor, and Founding Father spent in the British imperial capital of colonial America

For more than one-fifth of his life, Benjamin Franklin lived in London. He dined with prime ministers, members of parliament, even kings, as well as with Britain's most esteemed intellectuals-including David Hume, Joseph Priestley, and Erasmus Darwin-and with more notorious individuals, such as Francis Dashwood and James Boswell. Having spent eighteen formative months in England as a young man, Franklin returned in 1757 as a colonial representative during the Seven Years' War,…