1776 Reading List

As you prepare to enjoy 1776, the revolutionary musical about the birth of the nation, Goodreads provides a list of “Best Books about the American Revolution.” Here are the Top 10 plus a supplemental list of books curated by the American Repertory Theatre.

by David McCullough

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence — when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

Book cover of 1776 by David McCullough
Book cover of John Adams by David McCullough

John Adams
by David McCullough

In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution and who rose to become the second President of the United States.

Alexander Hamilton
by Ron Chernow

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Ron Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time.

Book cover of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Book cover of Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Washington’s Crossing
by David Hackett Fischer

Six months after the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was all but lost. Yet, George Washington refused to let the Revolution die. While British and German forces remained rigid and hierarchical, Americans evolved an open and flexible system that was fundamental to their success. The startling success of Washington and his compatriots not only saved the faltering American Revolution but helped to give it new meaning.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
by Joseph J. Ellis

An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic — John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington — that informs our understanding of American politics…then and now.

Book cover of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
Book cover of Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Washington: A Life
by Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow portrays Washington as a strapping, celebrated horseman, elegant dancer and tireless hunter, who guarded his emotional life with intriguing ferocity. Not only did Washington gather around himself the foremost figures of the age — Madison, Hamilton, Adams, and Jefferson — he orchestrated their actions to help realize his vision for the new federal government, define the separation of powers, and establish the office of the presidency.

Tim Curious: A Murder Mystery set in the American Revolution
by Roddy Thorleifson

In this fictional novel, Toddy Thorleifson weaves the tale of Tim Euston, whose willingness to risk his life for his nation’s independence led him into a dangerous involvement with smugglers and spies. Wrongfully jailed for murder then released based on testimonies of his friends, Tim sought justice and would keep looking until the real killer was identified.

Book cover of Tim Curious by Roddy Thorleifson
Book cover of The Glorious Cause by Robert Middlekauff

The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
by Robert Middlekauff

The first book to appear in the illustrious Oxford History of the United States, this critically acclaimed volume — a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize — offers an unsurpassed history of the Revolutionary War and the birth of the American republic.

The Federalist Papers
by Alexander Hamilton

Hailed by Thomas Jefferson as “the best commentary on the principles of government which was ever written”, The Federalist Papers is a collection of eighty-five essays published by Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay from 1787 to 1788, as a means to persuade the public to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

Book cover of The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton

To broaden your understanding of the American Revolution and the ultimate drafting of the Declaration of Independence, also consider these 10 titles:

Book cover of The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The 1619 Project A New Origin Story
By Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine

This ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began on the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery reimagines if our national narrative actually started in late August of 1619, when a ship arrived in Jamestown bearing a cargo of 20-30 enslaved people from Africa.

African Americans in the Revolutionary War
By Michael Lee Lanning

Military historian Lt. Col. Michael Lee Lanning (ret.) reveals the little-known, critical, and heroic role African Americans played in the American Revolution, serving in integrated units—a situation that would not exist again until the Korean War — more than 150 years later.

Book cover of African Americans in the Revolutionary War by Michael Lee Lanning
Book cover of The Counter-Revolution of 1776 by Gerald Horne

The Counter-revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America
By Gerald Horne

The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then living in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with the British. In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne shows that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt.

The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution
By Alan Taylor

This illuminating portrait of white and Native American relations in the aftermath of the American Revolution, tells the story of a Mohawk Indian and the son of a colonial clergyman, who battled to control the Indian borderland that divided the British Empire and the nascent United States. Taylor tells a fascinating story of the far-reaching effects of the American Revolution and the struggle of American Indians to preserve a land of their own.

Book cover of The Divided Ground by Alan Taylor
Book cover of Liberty is Sweet by Woody Holton

Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution
By Woody Holton

A “deeply researched and bracing retelling” (Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian) of the American Revolution, showing how the Founders were influenced by overlooked Americans—women, Native Americans, African Americans, and religious dissenters.

Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality
By Danielle Allen

In just 1,337 words, the Declaration of Independence changed the world, but curiously it is now rarely read from start to finish, much less understood. Unsettled by this, Danielle Allen restores equality to its rightful place, detailing the Declaration’s case that freedom rests on equality.

Book cover of Our Declaration by Danielle Allen
Book cover of Revolutionary Founders by Alfred Young

Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation
By Alfred F. Young

During the American Revolution, there were some individuals who believed that “liberty” meant “liberty for all” and that “equality” should be applied to political, economic, and religious spheres. This volume helps us to understand the social conflicts unleashed by the struggle for independence, the Revolution’s achievements, and the unfinished agenda it left for future generations to confront.

Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence
By Carol Berkin

While the women of the Revolution organized boycotts, raised funds, and manage the family business, they also put their lives on the line. This incisive and comprehensive history illuminates a fascinating and unknown side of the struggle for American independence.

Book cover of Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin
Book cover of Slave Nation by Alfred Blumrosen

Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies & Sparked the American Revolution
By Alfred W. Blumrosen

In 1772, the High Court in London brought about the conditions that would end slavery in England by freeing a black slave from Virginia named Somerset. This decision began a key facet of independence. Slave Nation is a fascinating account of the role slavery played in the drawing of the United States Constitution and in shaping the United States.

The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America
By Gary B. Nash

The Founding Fathers may have led the charge, but the energy to raise the revolt that culminated in the victory of the American Revolution emerged from all classes and races of American society.  According to Nash, the American Revolution was truly a people’s revolution, a civil war at home as well as an armed insurrection against colonial control.

Book cover of The Unknown American Revolution by Gary B. Nash