Best United States History under 700 pages?

Title says it all.

Um, that’d be Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States; except he hasn’t put out a version under 700 pages since probably about 1980. Maybe if it were printed in smaller type and w/o so many disappointing truths about slaughters by American hands, it’d be significantly less than its current 762 pages. I say suck it up and go that extra mile for the best history book I’ve ever read.
You can also get it for cheap (2003 paperback version) for less than 15.00 w/ shipping at

I read parts of Zinn’s book and the guy just seems to be nuts. He sees Clinton as some sort of right wing sell-out and all the justices of the Court as extreme conservatives. He called Waco murder by the government. He also called the Marines a group of murders (not sure which Zinn book this is in).

It’s longer than you specify (1,100 pages), but A History of the American People by Paul Johnson is a good read. Johnson is British and came to history from journalism relatively late, but is top notch in my opinion.

You read something out of context in a book you don’t remember the title of and found what you read confusing, so the author seems nuts… Did you to go to the back of the book where all the information is cited and check the veracity of the items that confused you? Or are you content in your cognitive dissonance?

I don’t remember the title of the piece that called the Marines murders. I think the book it was in was called something like, “A Zinn Reader”. It was a collection of essays. I really don’t think it had any endnotes. I will go to the library this weekend and check.

The part about Clinton, Waco, and the Justices was in “A People’s…” It gives the false impression that there was no negation in Waco, the US government started the fire, and also that **everyone ** on the Court is conservative.

Well, we’ve certainly started with a couple of suggestions from different ends of the political spectrum.

Personally, i love Zinn’s People’s History, and think it’s an excellent read, not only because it talks about stuff that often doesn’t make it into the mainstream books, but also because he writes very well. Still, as Portia said, it probably no longer qualifies in the uner-700 page division.

Johnson’s book, on the other hand, is a rather blatant celebration of America, and, in my opinion, presents too laudatory and teleological a view of the nation’s past. He does write well, and his prose is refreshingly jargon-free, but he’s just a little to conservative and celebratory for my (admittedly leftist) tastes. And it’s way too long for the OP’s conditions.

Personally, i really like a book that wasn’t intended as a general history of America, but is more a history of an idea in America. Eric Foner’s The Story of American Freedom looks at the changing ways in which Americans have interpreted and understood the notion of “freedom” during their history, and his narrative follows some of the most important issues and events in American history. Of course, a book like this makes no claim to be a comprehensive history of the nation, but it gives an excellent overview, and at under 300 pages is well within the OP’s limit.

To be honest, the history of the United States is just so big and multi-faceted that i really think that trying to get it all from a single book is only ever going to lead to disappointment of one sort or another.

I agree w/ mhendo; and I suppose it would depend on what exactly you were looking to learn about. Did you just want an overview of the country’s history ‘in country’? War history, here and abroad? Political or social or native or women’s or religious or environmental…if you want a shorter read you’ll likely have to break it down to a category. And America is a very young country, comparatively; imagine British or Mexican or Chinese history; you’d need a whole room for the books!

I suggest “Alistair Cooke’s America”, about 400 pages. It is written by an unabashed admirer of America, and so omits many things, and it’s also more than 30 years old. But it is an outstanding read.