The United States of America is a unique country and a place of enormous social, political and cultural change. There are positive and negative realities of this country’s relatively brief history. One that requires both a nuanced and a diverse perspective to understand. For readers feeling out of place in the melting pot and curious historians who feel there is more to the story, these books are a starting point for getting a range of perspectives on the USA.

Tales of Two Americas

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation by John Freeman

In this collection of essays, stories and poems, John Freeman rounds up some of today’s most astounding writers to shine some light on the disparities of the nation. From Roxanne Gay to Anthony Doer to Ann Patchett, great literary minds converge in this one book to discuss topics ranging from inequality, systemic racism, immigration to the war on drugs. With 36 different stories, this anthology is the perfect place to start getting a better understanding of the many experiences in America.

Stamped from the Beginning

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

To understand where a nation is, curious minds have to look at the history that brought us to the present day. Winner of the National Book Award, Stamped from the Beginning is Ibram X. Kendi’s brilliant exploration of the country’s rooted racism. By looking at five major American intellectuals, Kendi explores the history of race in America and the inescapable way it has been woven into the culture and the system from the beginning.

The Soul of America

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

For anyone looking around at the political landscape and wondering if the country can survive the divide, Jon Meacham takes an optimistic look at the country’s history. Seeking what Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature,” he combs through America’s history in search of the light even in the darkest of times and reassures readers that we can indeed survive this moment as well.

Call us what we carry

Call Us What We Carry: Poems by Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman took the nation by storm reading her poem The Hill We Climb during the 2021 inauguration. In her full collection, Gorman explores themes of identity, history and erasure in an assortment of poems that evokes both hope and grief for our present. For a lyrical look at America through the eyes of a young and brilliant mind, this read gets to the heart of this moment.

The System

The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It by Robert B. Reich

It’s impossible to talk about America accurately without discussing the growing economic disparity that is allowing for a wealthy few to direct the millions living in this country. Reich takes a look at how the U.S. has migrated towards an oligarchy and the deep need for righting the course and providing prosperity for all who live here. This book demystifies our current system and points towards a brighter future where the economic power is returned to the people.

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

History in this country did not begin with our independence. It didn’t begin with colonization. It began long before Europeans ever stepped foot on this continent. Through the lens of the silenced, original occupants of this place Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz explores the genocidal and brutal history of America from an indigenous perspective. From present battles to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the ruthlessness history of Andrew Jackson’s era, this book takes a look at established U.S. history from one of America’s most prosecuted groups of people.


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

American life isn’t exactly what it seems. In this award-winning, beautifully researched book Isabel Wilkerson examines the invisible Caste system creating immense disparity in the country. Examining America, India and Nazi Germany, she uses laser precision to identify a hidden hierarchy that creates a range of problems from economic to life expectancy to mental health. And then with daring hopefulness, she looks to a future that doesn’t involve human division.

Real Queer America

Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen

In one way a memoir, in another way a travel guide, Samantha Allen’s book takes a geographical approach to being queer in America. Looking to the red states where it may be considered dangerous for a trans woman, Allen explores the existence of the LGBTQ community across the nation and finds hope and sanctuary in places that would ordinarily be deemed unsafe.

Democracy Awakening

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson

Historian Heather Cox Richardson saw the daily news trap unfolding in 2019 and took to Facebook to produce historical articles that helped ground the headlines. Amassing over 2 million readers, Richardson is now taking her deep understanding of the past and using it to explore how America’s democracy has been overtaken by a wealthy few. Using the past as a roadmap for untangling our messy present, Democracy Awakening looks at the span of history to find a hopeful future.