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Steve's Book List
June 2010 - present

Westward Expansion     Civil War     Mountain West    New Deal

Third Reich     Soviet Union     World War II


American History

Western Expansion and Emigration

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (1996) by Stephen Ambrose. The story of the Corps of Discovery, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, which left Saint Louis in 1804 and returned to Washington, D.C. in 1806, bringing with them maps, descriptions, and knowledge of the recently-acquired Louisiana Purchase.

Across the Great Divide: Robert Stuart and the Discovery of the Oregon Trail (2003) by Laton McCartney. The story of Robert Stuart, who was the leader of the party consisting of the first white men to traverse South Pass in 1812 - albeit from west-to-east - the opposite direction to what was the usual westward emigration route to Oregon and California.

Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West (1953) by Dale L.Morgan. Jedediah Smith, but also a general history of the early fur trappers and mountain men, including John Colter, Thomas Fitzpatrick, David Jackson, William Sublette, Hugh Glass, Jim Bridger, and many others.

Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men (1973) by Win Blevins. Factual history of mountain men and fur trappers, with some details intentionally embellished for effect.

Across the Wide Missouri (1947) by Bernard DeVoto. History of the fur trapping industry in the 1830s. Pultizer Prize winner.

The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60 (1979) by John D. Unruh, Jr. Detailed account of westward emigration on the Oregon and California Trails from 1840 to 1860. Originally written as a PhD dissertation.

The Year of Decision: 1846 (1942) by Bernard DeVoto. Three major themes involving westward expansion centered on the year 1846: the acquisition of Oregon Territory through treaty with Great Britain, the acquisition of most of the southwest U.S. through war with Mexico, and the first significant surges of emigration along the Oregon and California Trails.

Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West (2008) by Ethan Rarick. A well-documented and even-handed version of the Donner Party story.

Winter of Entrapment: A New Look at the Donner Party (1992) by Joseph A. King. This treatment of the Donner Party saga puts particular emphasis on descriptions and activities of the particular individuals involved (especially the Breen family), the relief parties, and a detailed account of the aftermath.

One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church (2002) by Richard Abanes. A history of the Mormon Church, beginning with the birth of Joseph Smith in 1805 and continuing up to 2002. [In progress]

Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad 1863 - 1869 (2000) by Stephen Ambrose. Entertaining, comprehensive, and well-written but subject to some criticism concerning the accuracy of several accounts and statements.

Civil War

The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861 (1976) by David M. Potter. Describes the chaotic political situation in the United States in the thirteen years prior to the firing on Fort Sumter. Emphasizes the interaction of westward expansion and the slavery question as a significant contributor. Pulitzer Prize winner.

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (2002) by Thomas J. DiLorenzo. Critical analysis of Abraham Lincoln's handling of the Civil War.

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988) by James McPherson. One-volume history of the Civil War. Pulitzer Prize winner.

Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War (1996) by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. Critical analysis of some of the less-commonly considered aspects of the Civil War.

The Mountain West

The Explorer King: Adventure, Science, and the Great Diamond Hoax -- Clarence King in the Old West (2006) by Robert Wilson. Biography of Clarence King and the mapping surveys of California and the 40th Parallel. Also includes the story of the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872.

Rocky Mountain West: Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, 1859-1915 (1992) by Duane A. Smith. History of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana from 1859 to 1915.

Rocky Mountain Heartland: Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming in the Twentieth Century (2008) by Duane A. Smith. History of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana in the 20th Century. [In progress]

Great Depression and the New Deal

New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America (2008) by Burton Folsom, Jr. History and critical analysis of the New Deal era.

The New Dealers' War: F.D.R. and the War Within World War II (2001) by Thomas Fleming. Revealing history of behind-the-scenes dealings and policy-making in the Great Depression and WWII eras.


1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005) by Charles C.Mann. Description of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.

European History

The Coming of the Third Reich (2003) by Richard J. Evans. The origins and growth of the Nazi Party, leading to the establishment of the Third Reich after Adolph Hitler's accession to the office of Reich Chancellor on 30 January 1933. First of a trilogy.

The Third Reich in Power (2005) by Richard J. Evans. The consolidation of power and the transformation of German politics and society from 1933 to 1939 during the buildup to the Second World War. Second of a trilogy. [In progress]

The Third Reich at War (2008) by Richard J. Evans. Third of a trilogy. [Acquired but not yet read.]

Soviet Union

The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1986) by Robert Conquest. Account of the collectivization, dekulakization, and other atrocities imposed by the Soviet regime on the peasantry during the 1920s and early 1930s, topped off by the terror-famine of 1932-33.

World War II

D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (2009) by Anthony Beevor. Preparation and execution of the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944. Includes the post-invasion breakout from the beachhead and covers the Allied advances until the liberation of Paris on 25 August.

Classical History


Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic (2003) by Tom Holland. Focus on the last century of the Roman Republic, during which transformations and upheavals paved the way for the formation of Imperial Rome. [In progress]

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Last Updated: 20 December 2011