When any reader is new to a subject it often is hard to know where to start. Once underway studying the American Revolution the sky’s the limit as far as breadth and depth of research is concerned. It’s a lifetime endeavor that has given me a great deal of pleasure as well as some understanding of who we are and where we came from. It has also introduced me to some of the greatest men of any generation.
To get a basic understanding of what happened and why one may wish to start with a book that tells the “whole” story in overview. There are many books of this type. I list Higginbotham’s as I’ve had it for years and am used to his writing style. I’d suggest checking the table of contents to pick one that covers the entire war, including the war in the South which is often overlooked.
There are an incredible number of biographies of Washington. I list Flexner’s simply because I think it is the best single volume biography that well describes Washington and his place in the American Revolution. It also reads very well.
The beginning is always a good place to start when learning about a war. Paul Revere’s Ride is an excellent beginning. There are many other books covering this period but Fischer’s is an excellent read.
As a follow-up to Paul Revere’s Ride in 1775 the natural next step would be the campaign of 1776. The story is brilliantly told by McCullough. Naturally, other books cover the same ground but I like McCullough’s style and pace.
In the minds of many people, including some historians, the American Revolution was a series of events that took place in the North only reaching as far South as Yorktown. Ignoring the war in the South ignores some of the most important events that shaped the outcome of the war. Grasping what happened in the South, and why, is to have an understanding of how the war came to an end. One of the best books on the war in the South is Buchanan’s.
That’s the very basic list. While the particular titles chosen may vary the idea is the same; get an overview of what happened, why and who was involved. After the basics the reader will find himself with a long, and delightful, ride that should include a library of many essential volumes. I wish I could start over and enjoy the ride myself a second time.
Readers! Please share your thoughts and your own favorite basic books in the comments below.