Most people write about and study U.S. history, but the American Revolution is a big part of that history. Many books that get a lot of attention focus on the same elite white men over and over again. In the American Revolution, they played a role that’s interesting. But they aren’t even close to the whole story! A lot of books about the Revolutionary War are out there. To help you find your way through them, I’ve put together a list with a lot of different types of books, so you can get a more detailed and accurate picture of the time. There are some nonfiction books about the American Revolution that have been around for a long time. There are also books about the American Revolution that focus on people who aren’t usually included in traditional books about the American Revolution, as well as Revolutionary War books that were written during the time period. There are also romance, fantasy, and science-fiction books about the American Revolution.
There are a lot of people on this list: framers, farmers, pirates, poets, time travelers, turncoats, and more. This list will get you started.
Classic Revolutionary War Books
1776 by David McCullough
In a book that’s full of drama, excitement, and narrative power, “America’s Favorite and Distinguished Historian” tells the story of the year our country was born, 1776, and how it led to a war between Great Britain and its colonial subjects and to the survival of our country in George Washington’s hands.
The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn
“The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize, has become one of the most important works of American history.” It was called “the most brilliant study of the meaning of the Revolution to come out in a generation” when it first came out. In a second edition, it was expanded to include the national debate over the Constitution.
Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 by Mary Beth Norton
It was first published in 1980, but it has recently been out of print. Liberty’s Daughters is widely thought to be an important book about the history of American women and the Revolution itself.
American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier
In this lesson, Pauline Maier shows us how to think of the Declaration as both a statement of our national identity and a moral guide for how we live as a country. “It is truly “American Scripture,” and Maier tells us how it came to be. He shows us how the Declaration of Independence was born in the hard and tortuous struggle that led to American independence, and how it was made holy in the nineteenth century.
The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution: Forgotten Black Heroes by William Cooper Nell
As an abolitionist in the 1800s, William Cooper Nell wanted to change how we think about this famous war and show the world how many black soldiers fought and died for the cause of American Independence.
Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
“Paul Revere’s midnight ride is almost like a myth in American history, but scholars have mostly ignored it and left it to patriotic writers and debunkers.” A top American historian is now taking a hard look at the night of April 18, 1775, and he has found a truth far more amazing than the myths that have been passed down through the generations.
The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History by Jill Lepore
In the United States, the past has always been used for political reasons. So did the Confederacy. The Union claimed to have been a part of the Revolution as well. So did Southern segregationists. Civil rights leaders said they were the true sons of liberty, and so did the Southern segregationists, too. This book tells the story of how the founding of the United States has been debated for centuries. It also talks about the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and evangelical Christians’ fight to “take back America.”
Revolutionary War Books About People Who Usually Get Left Out of the Story
Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia by Woody Holton
Holton shows that when elite Virginians like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington joined their peers from other colonies in announcing that they were breaking away from the British, they did so partly because they were worried about small-scale protests against their own rule.
Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification by David Waldstreicher
This is the first book to show that slavery is a big part of the United States Constitution.” Famously, the Constitution doesn’t talk about slavery. Yet, of its eighty-four clauses, six of them were about slaves and their owners.
A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell and Floyd Cooper (illustrator)
A picture book for the first time tells the true story of James Lafayette, a slave who worked for George Washington’s army during the American Revolution. But while America was celebrating its newfound freedom, James went back to being a slave. There was no way he could get out the way he wanted. He had already helped his country become free, but for James, the fight wasn’t over. It was time to win his own freedom.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson, a well-known author, has written a book that shows how far we can go to break free of both our physical and spiritual chains.
Copper Sun by Sharon Davis
In Copper Sun, a young girl is taken from her home in Africa and sold into slavery. She loses everything she has ever known, except for one thing: her hope for a better life.
The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America by Gary B. Nash
In this bold reimagining of the American Revolution, well-known historian Gary Nash introduces readers to a group of patriots from all walks of life who worked together to build this country.
West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 by Claudio Saunt
Claudio Saunt has written a unique history of 1776 that goes beyond the usual story of the thirteen colonies and looks at all the other revolutions that were going on in the United States at the time.” It was a very important year: The Spanish arrived in San Francisco, the Russians moved into Alaska to hunt valuable sea otters, and the Sioux found the Black Hills.
Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff
“This book is groundbreaking because it’s the first global history of the loyalist exodus to Canada, the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, India, and more,” says the author.
Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen DuVal
“An up-and-coming historian gives us a new global perspective on the Revolutionary War by telling the story of the war from the point of view of people who didn’t live in the colonies.”
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
From one of our best and most well-known historians comes a fascinating look at Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister, Jane, who lived in obscurity and poverty like her brother, but who, like him, was an avid reader, a talented writer, and a shrewd political commentator.
Books Written during the Revolutionary & Early National Periods
Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine by Thomas Paine
“Common Sense” was one of the most important and best-selling books from the colonial era. It was first published on January 10, 1776. Colonists in the pre-revolutionary era debated a lot about whether or not they should break away from British rule.
Complete Writings by Phillis Wheatley
Phillis Wheatley was a slave girl who became a published poet. When Wheatley wrote letters to the Earl of Dartmouth and wrote poems, they were put together in this book. It includes hymns and elegies, translations, philosophical poems, stories, and epiyllions, as well as an emotional letter in which she asked Dartmouth to help free the United States.
The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings by Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative is a great adventure story, as well as a precursor to famous nineteenth-century slave narratives like Frederick Douglass’s autobiographies. It tells of his kidnapping in Africa at the age of ten, his service as a slave to a British Navy officer, his ten years of work on slave ships until he was able to buy his freedom in 1766, and his life as a respected and well-known fig tree.
The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
“Anyone who wants to learn more about the Constitution will find this compilation of 85 articles very useful.” It explains and defends the ideals behind the highest form of law in the United States. three people who worked on the Constitution wrote the essays and put them in New York newspapers during the years 1787 to 1788.