Celebrate America!

If you are reading this from one of the countries where the U.S. currently has troops deployed and you are not happy about it, you are exempt from this imperative. (Unless you’re one of those ISIS pilgarlics: You are exempt from nothing.)

My fellow Americans, there is more to our great land than grilled meat, low-grade explosives, and flags made in China. Please consider some great books on great people and events in our (really quite largely noble) history.

1. Hamilton

Hamilton“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

If you’re waiting for Broadway tickets to tell you, you’ll need a fat load of cash or a metric tonne of patience. But Ron Chernow has the scoop on Alexander Hamilton. In fact, it’s where Lin-Manuel Miranda got his info.

I’ll admit that I didn’t tap my toes during my reading, but I did look forward to every whispered turn of each deckled page. Hamilton’s impact on our republic is hard to overstate and his story is the very fabric of the American dream.

2. 1776

1776Big fan of David McCullough here. Pick up any of his works and you’ll get the facts and a lot more. His John Adams won the Pulitzer, but for sheer Americanness, you can’t beat 1776. He makes a persuasive case that the result of the Revolution wasn’t just inevitable, it was nearly impossibly unlikely.

McCullough dramatically describes just how much of the young republic’s future rested on the well-dressed shoulders of George Washington and and the rag-tag band of ordinary Joes who did a very extraordinary thing.



3. Revolutionary Summer


Joseph J. Ellis has a slew of books on the nation’s founding, but none is an easier, breezier read than Revolutionary Summer. It’s hefty enough to be respectable, but you can get through this in a long, well-spent afternoon.

If you’re not already a fan of Ellis, this one is likely to send you looking for Founding Brothers and my own favorite, American Sphinx.






4. Lies My Teacher Told Me

liesHelen Keller’s socialism, our “unknown war” with Russia, that time we dissolved the Haitian legislature—these are just a few of the gems James W. Loewen scatters along our path as he leads us along his argument about what is wrong with history education in our schools. As a member of the publishing establishment, I’m sorry to admit, it’s us and Loewen is right.

Textbooks are not bought in the marketplace, they are adopted by school boards and these customers are more concerned with bright graphics and inoffensive content than accuracy, scholarship, or comprehensiveness. Just a taste of what gets left out of our history curriculum will leave you hungry for more.


I hope one of these books will make it into your picnic kit, along with mosquito repellent, sunblock, and the ice-cold beverage of your choice. If you end the day burnt, dehydrated, et up, and ignorant, my hands are clean. Happy Fourth!


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