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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ten for the Fourth


To celebrate the birthday of the United States, why not dive into a little American History? Don't know where to start? Looking for something a bit different? Just want to read a good book? Well, here are ten to seek out:

Howard Zinn A People's History of the United States
A classic! A history of America written from the point of view of the people who engaged in struggles for freedom and equality. Written in lively prose, this is not a boring run through of names and dates, but a story that will give you hope for the future by learning about the struggles of the past.

Ernesto Galarza Barrio Boy
Galarza was born in Mexico, but grew up in Sacramento. This is the story of his youth in the 1940s. Galarza grew up to help establish the field of Latino Studies and wrote many groundbreaking works, including Merchants of Labor, his study of immigrant farm workers.

Anthony Swofford Jarhead
Since we are on the subject of local boys, time to push Sacramentan Anthony Swofford's excellent memoir of his stint as a Marine during the Gulf War. Surreal, frustrating, exciting, and insightful, this is one hell of a book.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn The Rebel Girl
Wobbley, radical, communist, feminist, and All American rabble rouser, Flynn's story is a great read. Why no one has made a movie of her life is beyond my comprehension.

Edward Sanders America: A History in Verse
Poet and Fug, Ed Sanders lays out the history of this country in poetry, in verse that reminds me both of Carl Sandberg's The People Yes! and Alan Ginsberg's The Fall of America.

John Hope Franklin From Slavery to Freedom
Franklin's From Slavery to Freedom is easily one of the most import books of American history written. A thoughtful, even poetic look at the struggle of African Americans to throw off slavery and live lives as free Americans.

Martin Lee Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, & the Sixties Rebellion
If that titles doesn't sell you, I don't know what will. A great journey through the psychedelic Sixties, peopled with as strange a cast as you will find.

Peter Guralnick Sweet Soul Music
The story of the Memphis rhythm & blues label Stax is as relevant a story of America as any other on this page. Plus if you want to do further research, the music you will be turned onto is dynamite.

David Halberstam The Best & the Brightest
Halbertam's award-winning study of the lead into the War on Vietnam and how a bunch of "smart guys" "stayed the course" despite every sign that the war had turned into little more than a meat grinder, as well as what happens when politics trump everything.

Alvin Josephy The Patriot Chiefs
Subtitled "A Chronicle of American Indian Resistance," Josephy sketches the lives of nine Native American leaders - Hiawatha, King Philip, Pope, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Osceola, Black Hawk, Crazy Horse, and Chief Joseph - who resisted the European conquest of America.

--Scott S.


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