Is it just me or does summer feel like an especially patriotic time of year? As soon as the 80 degree weather rolls in, I’m ready to roll out all the red, white, and blue.
This inclination is likely for good reason: late spring and summer offer multiple patriotic holidays.
Cue a John Phillip Sousa march! 🎶
We just marked the solemn occasions of Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during WWII–both necessary and important reminders of the cost of our freedom here in this sweet land of liberty.
Now, we are on to more festive and jubilant holidays: Flag Day (also the US Army’s Birthday) today, June 14th and, of course, Independence Day on July 4th!! #partylikeits1776
What better time than these sun-drenched days of summer to lay on a hammock with a cool drink on a lazy afternoon and learn more about our nation’s history and the people who have helped to shape it both in the past and the present?
It may make all these patriotic holidays even more meaningful.
So without further ado, I thought I’d share some books I think are worth reading.
1) 1776 by David McCullough
1776 reads more like a novel than a history book. McCullough’s writing is engaging and vivid. He presents all the historical figures, American and British, in their full humanity with strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, and idiosyncrasies. Ample recourse to primary sources such as letters serves almost as dialogue in this riveting story. I learned much about this pivotal year in America’s founding as well as the characters of its principle playmakers, especially the admirable, fallible, courageous tenacity and leadership of George Washington whose circumstances and obstacles frequently appeared insurmountable.
2) The Faiths of Our Fathers: What America’s Founders Really Believed by Alf J. Mapp, Jr.
I haven’t read this book in a few years, but I remember it as an interesting look at the Founders’ religious beliefs, which ranged from orthodox to definitely not-so-orthodox. It’s not a continuous narrative but divided up by individual, so it’s a book you can set aside and then pick up again without having to refresh your memory about what just transpired.
3) The Declaration of Independence
Okay, this one isn’t a book, but what more appropriate time than Independence Day to read the document that officially declared that our country was the United States of America! It’s kind of like our nation’s birth certificate. You can find it online.
Under this entry, I’ll also add The Patriot’s Reference: Documents, Speeches, and Sermons that Compose the American Soul edited by Joel J. Miller and Kristen Parrish. This book contains the Declaration and numerous other primary sources of American History. I have not read them all but it’s a good book to have on hand.
4) Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose
This is the book on which the popular TV mini-series was based. It brings home the unthinkable realities of war. Well-written and engrossing.
5) When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
If you’re a voracious bookworm and a fan of WWII history like me, this book is a perfect combination. I had no idea of the tremendous impact that books, especially the Armed Services Editions paperbacks, had on the morale of our troops. Not only that but the books turned a whole sector of the population into readers and learners post-War. Books were “weapons in the war of ideas,” which this book shows was just as critical as the physical battles being fought. Books represented democracy and freedom in contrast to the Axis powers’ tyranny and oppression. Amazingly, the U.S. distributed more books to the troops than Hitler destroyed.
6) Over Here, Over There: The Andrew Sisters and the USO Stars in World War II by Maxine Andrews and Bill Gilbert
A more light-hearted but still informative look at the WWII years and just how much every part of society gave up to support the war effort. Makes one wistful for a time when the country was so united and everyone was willing to sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves.
7) American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice
I have not seen the movie based on this memoir but the book is certainly an eye-opening and gritty firsthand account of war.
8) Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Lutrell and Patrick Robinson
Gripping and page-turning story of endurance and sacrifice as told by the Lone Survivor Marcus Lutrell. In recent years,his story was also turned into a movie (haven’t seen that one either.)
Both American Sniper and Lone Survivor are intense accounts of war but they offer authentic, thought-provoking perspectives for civilians who have never had to endure the unimaginable atmosphere of modern warfare. Both Kyle and Lutrell are gloriously unpolitically correct. They definitely pull no punches in their accounts in order to sugar coat harsh realities or to protect feelings. Yet they are not writing to sensationalize their experiences but to honor those who served alongside them. These aren’t always easy books to read but they are certainly impactful and profound.
9) Grateful American: A Journey From Self to Service by Gary Sinise
You may know Gary Sinise from the movie Forrest Gump in which he played Lieutenant Dan or from the TV series CSI:NY but you may not know all he has done to support our military service members, veterans, first responders, and their families. He has gone on 100 USO tours to entertain the troops, and he has established the Gary Sinise Foundation, which has several different programs assisting our service members, veterans, and first responders. He is such a decent, good man and a true patriot. His story really inspires you to support those who protect our freedoms as well as to persevere through one’s own challenges.
10) My Grandfather’s Son by Clarence Thomas
Very interesting autobiographical account of the life of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He writes honestly of his own shortcomings and the obstacles he faced as an African-American man raised in the South and coming of age in the Civil Rights era. His determination and thoughtful opinions based on experience when it came to things like Affirmative Action are certainly valuable to today’s public discourse.
11) Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meachem
I checked this book out at the library shortly after President George H. W. Bush passed away last December. It is quite the tome but Meachem’s writing is not dry and this book is a lesson not only in the life of our late president but also in how politics functions and in the historical and cultural changes that transpired during Bush’s life span which covered the back half of the twentieth century. Side note: Jon Meachem eulogized Bush at his funeral.
12) Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice
I’ve read this book a couple times. Rice’s journey from a little girl in the segregated South to her service in the national government is inspiring. Her attitude of never succumbing to victimhood in the face of prejudice and of striving always to be her best and pursue her passions is inspiring.
Note: Obviously, recommending a book does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of everything contained in said books.
Happy Reading and Happy Summer!!