I need a general US History textbook.
May 11, 2008 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a good college level textbook for US History.

I'm going to be studying to take US History I (Early Colonizations to 1877) and II (1865 to Present) CLEP exams over the next few months.

Give me some recommendations for engaging textbooks that you used in your recent entry level US History classes.
posted by hazyspring to Education (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here are the reading lists for MIT's Antebellum and Postbellum US History classes.

Hope that is a place to start.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:29 AM on May 11, 2008

Best answer: As supplemental material, I'd recommend The Cartoon History of the US. Quite engaging.
posted by zippy at 9:36 AM on May 11, 2008

I'm a big fan of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Certainly slanted in a liberal-type direction, but it's a good read.
posted by charmston at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2008

Seconding Zinn.
posted by Flunkie at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2008

Errr, well, maybe not. Just noticed that you're studying to take some sort of tests. In that case, I wouldn't recommend Zinn.

Read Zinn after you're done with the exam.
posted by Flunkie at 10:12 AM on May 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, I have already read Zinn. This is for a CLEP exam, which is based on texts that are used across the country to teach US History, from what I understand.
posted by hazyspring at 10:14 AM on May 11, 2008

A cousin at Auburn just used Faragher's Out of Many: A History of the American People (Volume 1, Volume 2).
posted by ThatSomething at 10:45 AM on May 11, 2008

When I took AP US History in high school (three years ago), we used Nation of Nations, which was decent enough. I think it's what the local community college used for the two courses you mentioned. I don't really have any basis for comparison to other texts, but it as pretty decent.

Actually, Zippy's recommendation of the Cartoon History of the United States would probably be helpful, if only to break the tedium while still helping you study a bit.
posted by dismas at 11:28 AM on May 11, 2008

Best answer: Tindall & Shi's America: A Narrative History is quite long, but you could skip around or skim parts if needed. It's really good, though. I did use it in high school, but it was for a college-level US history course and was actually far better than the texts used by the actual college courses.
posted by fructose at 12:00 PM on May 11, 2008

Oh, and your university should have a list of recommended reading for the CLEP tests. If it's not available somewhere online, you can ask your academic advisor.
posted by fructose at 12:02 PM on May 11, 2008

Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People.

Covers everything.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:10 PM on May 11, 2008

When I took the American History AP test, we learned from A People and A Nation, which was really extraordinarily excellent. A benefit is that there are different writers for different sections - i.e. Howard Chudacoff wrote most of reconstruction, which is the focus of most of his work.
posted by awesomebrad at 2:10 PM on May 11, 2008

You might actually take a look at the Princeton Review's AP US History study guide, as a supplement to whatever else you read. It's technically aimed at that specific test (a high school test, but a college-level one), but it has a great quick-yet-thorough history of the US. If you skip over the practice exams and just read the history, it's maybe 100 pages. And it's pretty cheap.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:11 PM on May 11, 2008

Best answer: A People and A Nation is a wildly popular college-level US History text. The authors are all very well known leaders in their field. It has a good mix of political, military, and social history. A brief edition is also available.
posted by HotPatatta at 2:16 PM on May 11, 2008

Not technically a textbook, but the Teaching Company's History of the United States in incredible, both in width and depth. Plus it's audio, so you can listen to it which you're doing other things. I can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:19 PM on May 11, 2008

When I taught history, I used Tindall & Shi's America as mentioned by fructose. It's been a few years and there may be better choices now, but I always found it to be very readable for a textbook.
posted by maurice at 3:34 PM on May 11, 2008

A People and A Nation , (above) is what they used in my Winter Interm US History I course, and I also recommend it. Even at the rate of two chapters a night, a fair bit of it stuck with me.
posted by Orb2069 at 4:59 PM on May 11, 2008

I thought Out of Many was a pretty good read -- although it's almost entirely a social history, with little or no military/economics thrown in, except where it might have affected US social mores.
posted by Avenger at 8:50 PM on May 11, 2008

I'm not sure if this would be an engaging sort of book you'd want to (or be able to) peruse quickly, but my AP American History text was The National Experience: A History of the United States by.. well, we just called it the Blum text (for John M. Blum). I don't recall it being as difficult as the reviewers note; in fact, it really intensified my love of history. I recall it being a fascinating read (VERY detailed but wonderfully written -- unfortunately, it had me thinking that all college texts would be so well written), but maybe not something that would be easy to skim. But, it did cover everything you're looking for.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:53 PM on May 11, 2008

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