Reading history is such a pleasure!
Here are some books that have changed the ways I think about history:
A is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States by Jill Lepore (NY: Borzoi/A.Knopf, 2002) A fascinating study of early efforts to use language as a way to bind together--or insist upon separation among--US groups and peoples.
A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence, by Ray Raphael. (NY: The New Press, 2001) A look from the perspective of the resentful poor at how and why the revolution happened.
Ahead of Her Time: Abby Kelley and the Politics of Antislavery, by Dorothy Sterling (NY: WW Norton, 1991) Well-written and informative about the life of pioneer abolitionist Abby Kelley, but even more valuable for its surprising picture of the various radical movements and issues of the 1830s-40s.
Barrio Boy, by Ernesto Galarza. A great autobiography by a great Chicano sociologist and philosopher. Galarza's story begins in a tiny village in remote Mexico, continues through terrible upheavals during the revolution, and eventually settles in California, where he becomes one of the first Chicano professors in the US when he is hired at San Jose State. An inspiring and thought-provoking book.
Confessions of an Economic Hit-Man by John Perkins. A recent publication telling of Perkins' life as a highly paid corporate hit-man, whose work brought misery to millions and wealth to few. Worth reading to understand how subtle and complete the control of corporations is today, and why it's been able to grow so complete.
Creation of Feminist Consciousness From the Middle Ages to 1870, by Gerda Lerner (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1993) Important recovery by my favorite feminist historian of voices raised centuries ago to equalize women's status.
Daybreak of Freedom by Stewart Burns. A wonderful account of the women who started and sustained the Montgomery bus boycott, often using their own words and testimonies.
Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake, 1805, by Eric Sloan (NY: Ballantine, 1965) A beautiful re-imagining of a fifteen-year old boy's life in 1805, based upon a found diary from that era but using the author's imagination and historical knowledge.
Good Wives by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. An interesting account of European women's various roles in colonial US, with great use of diaries, court records, and other historical documents.
The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975) A look at how soldiers experienced and remembered World War One, with all its irony and despair.
Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations from Prophecy to the Present, ed. Peter Nabokov, (NY: Penguin, 1991) A haunting book using testimonies from a variety of (mostly Plains and Eastern) indigenous peoples about the impact and effects of European contact.
No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, by Estelle B. Freedman (NY: Ballantine, 2002) A nicely written synthesis of much scholarship about women's history as it relates to US and global culture; this book answers some important and basic questions about women's status and movements for liberation.
Primitive Technology II:Ancestral Skills, by the Society of Primitive Technology, ed. David Wescott (Layton, Utah: Gibbs-Smith, 2001) A fascinating look at how native people cooked, traveled, made containers, prepared clothes, etc..
Red, White & Black: The Peoples of Early North America, by Gary Nash (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992) An important book explaining how the peoples of the early US and Canada lived and interacted.
Seventh Son: The Thought and Writings of W.E.B. DuBois (NY: Vintage/Random House 1971). Important work in making Africa visible to US scholars and readers, and re-envisioning African-American history after years of distortion.
The War: An Intimate History. Ken Burns' moving, powerful story of WWII. It's riveting and sad.
Voyage of the Frolic, by Thomas Layton. A SJSU anthropologist uncovers the amazing history of a merchant ship that begin life in a Baltimore shipyard (where Frederick Douglass worked on it as a caulker), ran opium from India to China, and then wrecked off the Mendocino Coast, furnishing California Pomo people with wonderful silks and pottery.
News from Native California--An Inside View of the California Indian World (510) 849 0177, Heyday Books, 2054 University Avenue #400, Berkeley, CA 94704. Always fresh, always interesting reports on what California indigenous people are doing in art, literature, politics, and gatherings.
I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
Sarah Plain and Tall