Historical Non-Fiction (USA)

Things have been quiet over here for a while now, but good news is my last final is finally here and I’ve just started working, my first job ever and I love it! Just yesterday I had time to catch up with your blogs -Google Reader had 41 unread entries- after studying all evening long and it was just what I needed. I see many of you have already started your challenges and I wish you the best.

Last Monday I gave myself the day off and went shopping and to the movies. Our choice was Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow and I loved it, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Homeland, American history or great female main characters. The movie has a strong, main female character called Maya that I adored and admired so when I came home and watched the compulsory footage/making-of/interviews, I was impressed by Jessica Chastain’s technique approaching characters. While working on Maya for ZDT, she mentioned a book and I’ve been intrigued ever since: The Looming Towers and since one of my 2013 goals was to read more non-fiction, I’d like to know your recommendations regarding American history.

I’m thinking of giving The Looming Towers a try, but there are other decades in American history I like better. These are the topics I’m more interested in:

  • Turn of the Century
  • 1920’s and the Flappers
  • 1930’s and the Dust Bowl
  • 1950’s Feminine stereotypes and life in the suburbs
  • 1960’s Feminism and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. JFK and Jackie O.
  • 1970’s and 1980’s  ????? (No idea what to read!)
  • 1990’s and 2000’s The War on Terror. The Clintons and the Obamas.

What experiences do you have reading historical non-fiction? Please share them! I’m such a newbie regarding this genre from a non-academic point of view, I’d like to know anything you have to share, especially if it is related to a strong female character.

UPDATE: Please check this wonderful list by Ilene. Big thank you!



  • Sam (Tiny Library)

    I read a lot of history, but not much American history so I’m looking forward to the recommendations too 🙂
    I have read both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s autobiographies and they were fascinating, if not straight history.

  • amanda

    I don’t read too much non-fiction, so I can’t really recommend too much. One you might like that my parents both read was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. My understanding is that it recounts two major events in Chicago in 1893: the World’s Fair and a serial killer who took advantage of the fair to find victims.

  • Ilene (BinkyBecky)

    I am an American, raised in New England, now living in Pennsylvania, and I love both fiction and non-fiction of our history…There are so many books I could list…I’ll list some from my bookshelves that I found interesting and illuminating, …if you want more, let me know!
    #The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel J. Boorstin
    #A Delusion of Satan: The full story of the Salem with trials.. by Frances Hill
    #A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
    #Growing Up Female In America: Ten Lives 1783-1960 by Eve Merriam
    #Sarah Morgan: The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman Edited by Charles East
    #The Civil War by Geoffrey Ward with Ric Burns and Ken Burns
    #Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk (Notable Book of the Year The New York Times)
    #Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography by Jean H. Baker
    #The Classic Slave Narratives Edited by Henry Louis Gates, JR.
    #Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life 1876-1915 by Thomas J. Schlereth
    #America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins
    #Twenty Years At Hull-House 1889-1909 by Jane Adams
    #Amusing The Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century by John F. Kasson
    #For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
    #The Eighties: A Bitchen Time to be a Teen (autobiography) by Tom Harvey fun book
    #Back to OUr Future: How the 1980’s Explain The World We Live In Now by David Sirota
    #Fast Food Nation: The Dark Sideof the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
    Essays by Sarah Vowell are witty, and very informative – fun
    Anything by David McCullough

    American Historical Fiction: Just a few of my favorites that have been based on good research
    #The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton (I Love All of her books!)
    #Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (of course!)
    #Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    #City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling
    #The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
    #A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
    #Stand the Storm by Breena Clarke
    #The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    #Keeping the House by Ellen Baker
    Anything by Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Theodore Dreiser, Mark Twain.

    I know some of these you may have already read – I know I’m leaving out a lot of great reads! – Ilene

    • Leah

      I want to start reading more non-fiction as well, and this looks like a great recommendation list! I’ll definitely be adding some of them to my own TBR list.

      • Ilene (BinkyBecky)

        Thanks for reading Leah. I’m so glad you found the list helpful. Every time I read an historical fiction novel, I then feel inspired to read more non-fiction about that era, that time in history, which makes want more historical fiction. It’s a continuous circle. Thanks again – Ilene

    • Elena

      Wow Ilene, I can only say wow!!! This is such a great list I don’t know where to start! Thank you, if I ever review one of this you’ll take full credit for it 🙂

      • Ilene (BinkyBecky)

        So glad you find the list helpful. I would look forward to reading any reviews, favorable or not, that you write. I love your blog! You are an engaging writer, and I have learned about many things in the literary world I never new about from reading your posts. I guess that’s what’s so great about this blogging thing – discovering new things with interesting people from all over the globe, through my laptop. I look forward to reading more of your work 🙂

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