As I've mentioned, one of my goals for this year is to learn more about U.S. History. Last year when I was learning about art I watched a lecture series from Great Courses which I got at the library and it was so good, I may try their series on U.S. history. It is daunting though – 84 lectures! They are only a half hour each, but even the 48-lecture series on European Art seemed like it took a long time to get through. But traditionally, I learn better through classes than unstructured reading, so a DVD series is probably the way to go. I am also supplementing with documentaries from PBS and National Georgraphic through the magic of Netflix.
Of course I will also be reading some books on U.S. history. About a month ago, I started Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States which I’ve had for years, but by chapter 3 I realized that it assumes a lot of basic knowledge that I don’t possess. So I put it aside for now in favor of a couple of basic, general books. Right now I’m about halfway through U.S. History for Dummies – don’t laugh! This is actually a good, readable series which in the past has helped me learn about various computer topics and I’m enjoying this one as well, stained though it is by the beverages of countless library patrons. (I will keep telling myself those stains are from beverages.) I’m also reading A History of the United States by Philip Jenkins which is also good, but requires more concentration.
Once I finish these two books, I plan to tackle some that are more in depth. A few that I’ve added to my “to read” list recently include: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, and A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, both of which my friend Kevin mention on his blog recently; American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt; and The Civil War: A Concise History, a forthcoming book that I am excited about because it's only 160 pages.
My plan for this year is to try and read at least one non-fiction book a month. If you know me, you are probably laughing right now but I am, in fact, reading two non-fiction books at the moment. I’m not going to push myself to finish books that aren’t interesting to me but I will commit to at least try some of the books on my list above. I have non-fiction books on other topics I want to read as well, but hopefully I will read at least six books about American history this year. Have you read any of the books above? Or do you have other must-read suggestions?
I feel as though I should have suggestions for you! I will ponder. The first that comes to mind is Out of Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America by Carl N. Degler. I think the most recent edition is the 3rd edition, published in the eighties sometime. I read this as a required supplement in my AP U.S. History class in high school, and still remember the discussion of the U.S. as a salad bowl, not a melting pot.
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