The best books on the Mexican–American War 📚

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

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

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

By Amy S. Greenberg

Why this book?

Challenging heroic legends, Greenberg thoroughly reveals the horrors of a conflict that devastated a neighboring people struggling to sustain their own republic. To increase the United States by a third, President Polk provoked a war that outraged his leading generals and political critics as a betrayal of American principles. By the end of the conflict, Polk had alienated even his political allies and acquired a blood-stained territory that would trigger, a dozen years later, a Civil War that nearly destroyed the United States.    

From the list:

The best books on the early United States

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Book cover of The Squatter and the Don

The Squatter and the Don

By Maria Amparo Ruiz De Burton

Why this book?

María Amparo Ruiz de Burton lived through one of the most tumultuous periods of history in California. She was born in Baja California to an elite family but moved to Mexican Alta California, as it was then known, during the Mexican-American War, marrying US army captain Henry Burton and becoming a US citizen. Ruiz de Burton watched California’s transformation under US rule, and this 1885 novel uses fiction to lay bare the very real problem of land dispossession of the Mexican Californians (known as Californios) and the arrival of ‘squatters’ from the eastern US who were claiming contested property. Ruiz…

From the list:

The best books on the USA by Hispanic writers who everyone should know

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Book cover of The Year of Decision 1846

The Year of Decision 1846

By Bernard DeVoto

Why this book?

A thrilling if bumpy ride through 1846, as DeVoto tracks multiple stories of Americans who headed west at the start of the great migration. Like Webb’s Great Plains, this book — published in 1942 — is a little dated in places, but DeVoto’s vivid descriptions and strong opinions make it highly enjoyable. The general subject is the “period when the manifold possibilities of chance were shaped to converge into the inevitable,” writes DeVoto. More plainly, the book is about "some people who went west in 1846." Many of them died on the way. Some found fortune. Altogether, they left…

From the list:

The best classic history books on American western migration before the Civil War

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Book cover of In the Rogue Blood

In the Rogue Blood

By James Carlos Blake

Why this book?

Mixing Faulkner’s gothic language with McCarthy’s sense of history, Blake writes a story of two brothers torn apart by circumstance and their experiences in the Mexican-American War.  Blake captures that sense of aimless wandering that echoes Faulkner’s stories—the rootless characters meandering across the country, not only unsure of their destinations but maybe even indifferent to them. To me, one of the most profound twists in the book is that the brothers don’t seem to care which side of the war they participate in. They are itinerants whose purpose in the world is simply circumstantial; they are instruments of universal forces…

From the list:

The best books in the tradition of William Faulkner

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Book cover of The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War, 1846-1848

The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War, 1846-1848

By Martin Dugard

Why this book?

The Mexican War molded the generals who fought in it. They formed lifelong friendships that ceased for a short while during the Civil War, then resumed as soon as it was over. Clever men, like Ulysses S. Grant, remembered how their opponents acted during the Mexican War, then used that information to formulate their battle plans.

Grant was cocky and overconfident going into the Fort Donelson campaign. His experiences in Mexico told him General Pillow would play it safe and let him march up to the fort with any size force. And later, when he assumed command of all the…

From the list:

The best books that capture the essence of the Civil War

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Book cover of Print the Legend: Photography and the American West

Print the Legend: Photography and the American West

By Martha A. Sandweiss

Why this book?

Print the Legend, the product of profound scholarly immersion in archival sources, manages to both offer a wealth of totally new information on the ways photographs have represented the West and give a superior account of themes and figures already extensively studied. Paradoxically, much of its excitement is due not so much to the way Sandweiss reads the photographs themselves – though we can all learn from her in this respect – but the way she reads the written texts (what she rightly terms “the legend”) that contextualized them. I am personally much indebted to Sandweiss’ treatment of the…

From the list:

The best books on American photography

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