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Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Patriot Week! Books That Shaped America

It is Patriot Week (September 11-17)  in the state of Michigan.  This is the week set aside in September to remember, reflect and renew the American spirit by celebrating the First Principles and the Founding Fathers.  It is a grassroots effort that began and was embraced in the Great Lakes State and is now spreading to other states as well, such as Wisconsin and South Carolina.  With this in mind,  here are a few favorites titles that are for the serious and thoughtful readers of history.  There is much to be gleaned from these books and if readers were to dabble in even just one chapter of each of these books it would be well worth the time spent.

It cannot be denied that Thomas Paine's work, Common Sense (1776) provided the rational and convincing arguments to why the Colonies should choose independence from King George III.  This pamphlet was so widely read that it had in its first year of printing, half a million copies in twenty five editions.  Without this masterful piece of writing, American may have never existed.

The Federalist Papers (1787)  is another collection of writings that spurred the colonies to take a pivotal stand in America's young history.  This time it was to support the ratification of the American Constitution.  Although originally published under the pen name "Publius" it was later revealed that the authors were Alexander Hamilton,  John Jay and James Madison.   This is first contribution to political literature in America.

Democracy in America (1835) is the observation of a Frenchmen Alexi de Tocqueville when he came to observe the prisons in America and came away with a whole lot more.  Although this is not authored by an American it has been very influential on how Europeans view Americans as well as how Americans view themselves.  For the reader who is a historical buff this is a must read.

It is true that all three books,  Common Sense Federalist Papers  and Democracy In America are not to be bedtime reading materials but to complete the well rounded historical reader these are for the hardcore historians in our midst.

For readers who want serious historical fiction, these next three books should fill that void perfectly.
Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (1895) is a tale of a young Civil War solider, who witnesses the battles of wars with all of it's horrors.  This is the first book to look at war through the eyes of the solider  instead of through the lenses of the battle in general.  Even if this book was read years ago in a Freshman's English class it is still worth it to pick it up again.  As an adult reader, there are many threads woven through this book that may have been missed earlier, such as the loneliness, regrets and sacrifices of the Civil War.  This book does not paint a pretty picture of war, and that was Crane's intent.

Uncle Tom's Cabin made such a mark in American History, that even President Abraham Lincoln said he had to meet the little lady, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned this novel.  In March 1852 ,  Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in novel form (previously it had been serials written in an Anti-slavery magazine) and sold over 300,000.  It can be said that Ms. Stowe proved that the pen is mighty , words are powerful and one person can make a difference.  Uncle Tom's Cabin persuaded enough Northerners to ignore the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and changed public opinion of slavery in the days proceeding the Civil War.

It would be unconscionable not to mention Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).  This book is still a delight to reread time and time again.  Huck and Jim's adventures led them  to see the violence, hypocrisy and racism in American society.  It also taught them about themselves and the value of friendship.  Twain's simple language and easy going style gives the reader's a rare view down the Mississippi.  If one is willing to travel down the river again, it is suggested to bring along a friend or two.  This book is wonderful to read aloud in a classroom or at home with the kids.

There are many other books that have given American readers reason to celebrate their heritage but for the moment,  in the spirit of Patriot Week,  the focus will be left with Early American History.  
Once a reader dives into those books, there is no doubt left in their mind that the formation of this country is nothing short of amazing and inspiring.    Happy Patriot Week!


For a complete list of books that are for children and adults that help celebrate Patriot Week, request a digital copy of Patriotic Books for Patriotic Families at thelibrarianatlarge@gmail.com.     For more information about Patriot Week please visit www.patriotweek.org. 



 

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