1. 1776 by David McCullough
America's birth was nothing short of a miracle...or rather, a series of miracles. In true David McCullough fashion, this book is full to the brim with facts but is still very readable. In both quality and content, it's history at its finest.
2. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Fought on American soil, the Civil War placed American against American. I read this book two years ago during a family vacation where we visited Gettysburg. It gave meaning and depth to the experience. As we walked through the sites of some of the battles, I could practically see the soldiers and hear the sound of the guns and cannons. That's the power of a good book. The Civil War was full of upstanding and honorable Americans on both sides, and I'm so grateful that in the end, our country stayed together.
3. Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody
I've been meaning to re-read this book for quite some time. When I was younger, my dad read all eight books out loud, and I have very fond memories of listening to him read while we traveled in the car. It is Ralph Moody's personal account of ranching in Colorado at the turn of the century. America continues to grow and prosper because of people like the Moody family who aren't afraid of hard work or of chasing their dreams.
4. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan
This is the true story of Evelyn Ryan. Her husband was an alcoholic, and she raised their ten children, kept food on the table, and paid the rent by composing one-liner phrases and short poems for various jingles and commercial contests. It was the 1950's when these kinds of contests were quite popular, and she made a regular business out of it. To read about this mother's ingenuity and fierce determination is inspiring. I feel like this is the heart of America: whatever you have, no matter how little you've been given, you can make something of yourself, and you can make a difference.
5. Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Whether you're a baseball fan or not, there's something about the sport that gets the patriotism stirring. In this memoir, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin chronicles her childhood in the 1950's. She was an avid Dodgers fan, and the anticipation, triumphs, and heartbreaks of the sport are interwoven with the normal adventures of childhood. In this light, baseball becomes magical and of course, very American.
Have a wonderful 4th of July!