In Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America (Doubleday, $24.95), Jay Parini, a novelist and teacher, has compiled a list of literary works that were instrumental in “shaping the nation’s idea of itself” by having “shifted consciousness in some public fashion.”  Parini’s selections include the novels Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; essays, like The Federalist Papers; and biographies, like Mary Antin’s The Promised Land. This collection will make a wonderful reading list for a class or bookgroup. Parini’s own essays weave a history of each work with his take on the author’s intentions and the effect the book had when published.

Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307386182
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Anchor - January 12th, 2010

Robert Remini, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois in Chicago, has written a score of books on American history and is perhaps best known for his biography of Andrew Jackson. With A Short History Of The United States (HarperCollins, $27.95), he has accomplished a gargantuan and delicate task: writing a short, fair-minded, accessible history of our nation. Beginning with the earliest explorers of the western continent and ending with the Bush administration, Remini has selected key events and explicates their meaning. Obviously, he is standing on the shoulders of other historians, both liberals and conservatives, and he has a nice bibliography for each chapter. He focuses more on political and social changes than on military involvement, but, for example, one can easily trace a history of imperialism in American foreign policy from the nation’s earliest adventures in continental America to the Vietnam and Iraq wars. 

A Short History of the United States: From the Arrival of Native American Tribes to the Obama Presidency Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060831455
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - December 1st, 2009

At the start of the Civil War, Lincoln, a commander in chief with little military experience, was in a vulnerable position as he faced Jefferson Davis, a graduate of West Point and colonel in the Mexican War.  Lincoln had a brilliantly analytical mind, and, just as he had taught himself law and Euclidean geometry, he mastered military strategy. In Tried By War (Penguin Press, $35), Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson argues that Lincoln succeeded in becoming possibly the best war president in history—a hands-on commander, and a better strategist than his generals. Lincoln also had to manage public opinion, fickle in its support of the war.  He needed to create a national consensus not only to restore the Union, but to abolish slavery. In actions with parallels today, Lincoln proclaimed his right in an emergency to suspend habeas corpus and create military tribunals. McPherson contends that Lincoln’s violation of civil liberties was a greater threat to the preservation of the Union than any civil liberties crisis since.

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143116141
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Penguin Books - September 29th, 2009