The best books on Mississippi, recommended by Ralph Eubanks

Outsiders see Mississippi as a site of slavery and indigenous removal; but to write about Mississippi is to write about the United States as a whole—and its original sins, says Prof Ralph Eubanks, as he recommends five of the best books on Mississippi, the birthplace of the blues.

The best books on The US Cabinet, recommended by Lindsay Chervinsky

In contrast to many other countries, the secretaries who serve in the United States cabinet aren’t chosen from among the country’s elected officials but entirely reflect the president’s personal choices. Here, presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, talks us through the role of the cabinet and recommends which books to read to understand more about it.

The best books on The Harlem Renaissance, recommended by William J. Maxwell

It was a golden age for American culture, a flourishing of Black literature, music and the arts that exploded in the 1910s and lasted through to the Great Depression. It was focused on Harlem, the area of New York City above Central Park, but its origins and its impact were much, much broader. William J. Maxwell, Professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, recommends some of the best books on the Harlem Renaissance.

Best History of Medicine Books, recommended by Keith Wailoo

The history of medicine is not just the story of life-saving discoveries, it’s also about how medical advances interact with the society from which they emerge. Here Professor Keith Wailoo, a historian of medicine and public health at Princeton University, recommends books that shed light on the social history of medicine, especially in the United States.

The Best Books for an Introduction to Octavia Butler, selected by Nisi Shawl

In 1995, Octavia Butler became the first science fiction and fantasy author to be awarded a Macarthur ‘genius’ grant. Her writing often dealt with the moral complexities of survival, and foregrounded African American characters at a time where Black protagonists were few. Nisi Shawl, a personal friend and editor of Butler’s collected works, selects five of the best books to read for an introduction to Octavia Butler’s writing.

The best books on Immigration and Race, recommended by Reece Jones

In a series of books, Reece Jones, Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawaii, has explored the impact of borders on our lives. In his latest book, White Borders, he delves into the history of immigration and race in the United States, and explains the connection between the two. Here, he recommends the best books he’s read on the topic and explains why he’s not optimistic about the future.

The best books on Asian American History, recommended by Melissa Borja

Anti-Asian incidents in America are bringing overdue attention to the history of Asian Americans. University of Michigan Professor Melissa Borja recommends five books that illuminate the understudied history of Asian Americans, explain the connection to empire and shine a spotlight on this “coalitional identity.”

The best books on American Film, recommended by Mark Harris

Five fantastic books on American film, selected by Mark Harris, bestselling author of Mike Nichols: A Life, who explains how “movies can reflect what’s going on in American society—sometimes anticipate it, sometimes fall behind it, sometimes lead it, and sometimes change it.”

The best books on Abraham Lincoln, recommended by Ted Widmer

He came from humble beginnings and never went to high school. Going into the presidency, he had limited political experience and lacked business, legislative and military achievements. The one thing he did not lack was a moral compass, says historian and author Ted Widmer. He picks the best books on the ups and downs and Shakespearean-style plot twists that were the life of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.

The best books on Migrant Workers, recommended by Mireya Loza

American society and American history marginalized migrant workers for too long. New scholarship shows that migrant workers were central to America’s cultural and economic development. Mireya Loza, a historian at Georgetown University and author of Defiant Braceros, talks us through the best books about migrant workers—and why their stories are integral to understanding the past and present of United States.  

The best books on Veterans, recommended by Phil Klay

While many of us in the West commemorate the contribution of war veterans and the soldiers who lost their lives on our behalf, there’s also a tendency to see war as something distant and unconnected with our daily lives. Here Phil Klay, veteran of the US Marine Corps and award-winning novelist, recommends books that help bridge that gap—and capture the complicated relationship between soldiers and the societies on whose behalf they fight.

The best books on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, recommended by Amanda Tyler

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933—2020) spent her life working tirelessly for a more just society, says Amanda Tyler, Shannon C. Turner Professor of Law at Berkeley and former law clerk to the Supreme Court Justice. She recommends the best books to read about RBG: her life, her work, and even her personal training regime.

The best books on The Supreme Court of the United States, recommended by Michael Klarman

It may be nice to think of America’s Supreme Court justices as neutral interpreters of the law, but the reality is that they are a reflection of the cultural and historical moment in which they operate. Legal scholar and author Michael Klarman, Kirkland & Ellis Professor at Harvard Law School, recommends the best books to learn more about the Supreme Court of the United States and its history.

The best books on The First Amendment, recommended by Suzanne Nossel

Frequently appealed to, less frequently understood, and by no means a free pass to say or write whatever you feel like: Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, the nonprofit dedicated to free expression, talks us through the best books to better understand America's venerated First Amendment.

The Best Movies about Race, recommended by Greg Garrett

Movies are a big part of American cultural life and also one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. As a result, movies play an important role in how Americans see themselves, including in attitudes to race. Here Professor Greg Garrett of Baylor University—film historian, cultural theologian and author of A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation—talks us through five movies that best illustrate how Hollywood has evolved in terms of race over the past century, from Gone with the Wind to Get Out.

The best books on National Security, recommended by Juliette Kayyem

National security isn’t just about foreign policy and counterterrorism, but has a broad set of concerns—including climate change, national disasters and pandemics. Juliette Kayyem, Senior Lecturer in International Security at Harvard and author of Security Mom, recommends books to get us all thinking about national security and the challenges we face.

The Best Books for Juneteenth, recommended by Barbara Krauthamer

June 19th, or ‘Juneteenth,’ is a holiday commemorating the final end of slavery in the United States. Professor Barbara Krauthamer, a leading historian of African American slavery and emancipation, talks us through its significance down the decades and which books to read to get a better understanding of what it’s all about.

The best books on New England, recommended by Mark Peterson

New England: it’s the northeastern-most region of the United States, encompasses six states, is slightly larger than England itself, and half of it is rural, remote Maine. Yale Professor Mark Peterson introduces us to the rich history of New England, going back to its Puritan roots and the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The best books on Women’s Suffrage, recommended by Susan Ware

How many suffragists can you name? Feminist historian Susan Ware, author of a new history of the American women’s suffrage movement, urges us to remember how important suffrage was in the fight for women’s rights, on the cusp of its US centennial—and reveals the story of women getting the right to vote didn’t just begin at Seneca Falls.

African American History Books, recommended by Imani Perry

Princeton Professor Imani Perry—a prolific scholar of African American Studies whose biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Looking For Lorraine,  won the 2019 PEN Biography Prize—recommends five books she considers essential to an understanding of the history of black life in America.

The Best African American Literature, recommended by Farah Jasmine Griffin

An ever-growing body of authors are writing about the reality of what it means to be black in America, says Farah Jasmine Griffin, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. Here she recommends five works of African American literature, from greats like Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison to lesser-known gems by Ann Petry.

The best books on Boston, recommended by Jane Kamensky

The idea of Boston as “a place of revolutionary fervour because liberty is somehow baked into its bones” is loaded with a “very heavy dose of self-mythologizing,” says American historian Jane Kamensky. Here, the Harvard professor lifts the veil on this quintessential New England city and recommends five books for understanding its history

The best books on American History, recommended by Brent Glass

Which are the best books on American history? Brent Glass, Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the world’s largest museum devoted to telling the story of America, chooses five standout books in a crowded field.

Hermione Hoby on New York Novels

The writer and journalist Hermione Hoby’s highly acclaimed first novel is set during a New York heatwave. Here she picks five books inspired by this capacious, overstated, indomitable city and discusses how it shaped her as a writer.

The best books on Immigration, recommended by Ana Minian

How did the concept of United States immigration being a ‘melting pot’ of diverse nationalities come to be? In this interview, Stanford historian Ana Raquel Minian explores America’s complex, highly racialized history of immigration and recommends five of the books on the subject that have most influenced her.

The Best San Francisco Novels, recommended by Armistead Maupin

The author of the Tales of the City novel series, Armistead Maupin, tells us about San Francisco’s spirit of place, and the books that best capture the city’s sense of possibility and noirish feel. He recommends the best novels set in San Francisco.

The best books on American Imperialism, recommended by A G Hopkins

When George W Bush declared that America “has never been an empire,” he elided a half century of colonial rule over its overseas dependencies. But American expansionism has manifested in other forms too, says A G Hopkins, imperial historian and author of a panoramic new work of American history.

The Best Transnational Literature, recommended by Mohsin Hamid

Beleaguered ‘citizens of nowhere’ will be pleased to know they have their own literary genre. For anyone who has ever wondered where they belong, or why, when you leave your home country, it’s never the same when you return, here are the best five books to read—including some by the greatest authors of the 20th century.

Essential New York Novels, recommended by Jay McInerney

The author of Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney, tells us what changed after 9/11 and which books best capture the ambition, romance and creativity of New York. He chooses his list of  “essential New York novels”

The best books on Emerging Markets, recommended by George Magnus

What determines whether a country goes backwards or forwards? Why have so few developing countries joined the ranks of rich nations? George Magnus, former chief economist of UBS, chooses books to help us reflect on what it is that societies need in order to be successful.

The best books on Drone Warfare, recommended by Hugh Gusterson

The introduction of drones “makes possible perpetual war without costs”, warns the anthropology professor and security expert Hugh Gusterson. Here he selects the best books that examine their ethical, psychological and political impact upon 21st century warfare.

Stephanie Burt on Contemporary American Poetry

As distinctions between traditional and avant-garde, central and marginal dissolve, poet and critic Stephanie Burt discusses some of America’s most exciting contemporary poets, who are speaking to and from diverse experiences and backgrounds – sometimes with a disco beat