Recommend a book on the American Revolutionary War

I’ve been on a history kick with my recent reading and am hoping to find something on the American Revolutionary War. I went to the campus library but nothing about the war itself jumped off the shelf. I did pick up Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis after a recommendation from one of our librarians, but it apparently deals more w the 1790’s than the war.

A look through Amazon’s listings didn’t help me either, so I turn to the SDMB Nation to give me a recommendation or two.

An old (1960’s) book called The War in the North - An Informal History of the American Revolution in and Near Canada is a quick and thoughtful read, and gives particular perspective on how important Benedict Arnold was in America winning independence. It ends with John Burgoyne’s surrender after Saratoga.

Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause is good. I remember his riveting description of how the citizens of Boston (OK, a Boston mob) used their bare hands to dismantle the roof of Hutchinson’s house, the English lieutenant governor.

The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood.

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn.

Pulitzer Prize winners both.

There are books on every battle, skirmish, personality, place and political theme associated with the Revolutionary War, but two good very readable general overviews I’d recommend are:

George Washington’s War by Robert Leckie- no Earth-shattering theses or incredibly innovative takes, but a very good general history with lots of concentration on biographical and geopolitical backstories. (If you like it, the author has written popular histories of WW2, the Civil War, and several other topics as well- you can also usually find cheap copies on

Liberty! , the glossy-photo heavy companion piece to the PBS minseries - again, nothing wildly revelatory or revisionist/reconstructive, but a good general overview (plus the pictures aren’t to be dismissed as fluff since it’s nice to have faces and images to put with the names and places you’ll read about over/over again).

Of course one of the best bios of the past 10 years was McCullough’s John Adams; by the time you come to Abigail’s death, you’re actually in tears. And the movie 1776 , though a musical, is ironically one of the most accurate and detailed motion pictures ever made about the Revolution; the characterizations are bullseyes all and many of the song lyrics are lifted straight from the writings of the participants, despoiling the notions of a Virgin Birth to American Independence while being amazingly even and fair to the Loyalists who tried to block it. (Every line of the hauntingly beautiful lovesong Till Then, sung twixt the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams and his far-away love Abigail, is actually taken word for word from their letters, though rearranged for meter and rhyme.)

Avoid the novels of Shaara- lifeless and prosaic. He doesn’t have his father’s nack for historical fiction thus, like John Jakes before him, his books tend to read like a name-dropping hack job.

Ray Raphael’s A People’s History of the American Revolution.

When you’re done with those, check out Robert Harvey’s “A Few Bloody Noses”, which looks at some of the myths that have come up about the Revolution, and reexamines them.

Angel in the Whirlwind by Benson Bobrick

The Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious Cause, both by Jeff Shaara.

Wonderful, exciting and fun-to (not have-to) read.