Top Ten Books About America

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We're posting this top ten in honour of the 4th of July and our friends across the pond. Big, brash, bold, ever-optimistic, there's no missing America. Here are our favourite books in which the United States, or parts of it, take centre stage. Why not tell us about your favourite books about America? By the way, did you know that the 4th of July is also Liberation Day in Rwanda, St Bertha's day (who dat?!) and Michael Johnson's birthday. We've stolen him away for BBC athletics punditry. Sorry, you can't have him back.

This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen


This Land Is Your Land has so much mileage inside it, it's well worth the three week wait from Amazon. It's the perfect picture book for sharing with little ones, yet it has longevity too. From lyrics to art to politics to poverty and to community, there is an enormous amount to talk about. Children will find something new each time they look. It's a real piece of folk art too, in that it is open to everyone, including the grown ups. It deserves a place on every bookshelf. Full review...

Redbirds by Rick Bragg


Wonderfully evocative and fully aware of the storytelling tradition, Redbirds is a deeply moving, honest and affectionate book. It will also add to your understanding of the wider social situation in America's southern states at that time. It is certainly one to which you may well want to return. Full review...

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace


A book about a future American dystopia that is surprisingly gentle, kind and optimistic if unlikely. Lovers of language will find Jim Crace addictive, but his prose poem style may prove a stumbling block for some. Full review...

New England White by Stephen L Carter


What does the murder of an Economics Professor in 2004 have to do with the death of black teenager 30 years before? And are the locally powerfully Carlyles implicated or merely interested? A splendidly old-fashioned murder-mystery-cum-political thriller. Tightly plotted, succinctly characterised, with a sever dose of social comment...a future classic. Full review...

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown


A savage indictment of the genocidal policy Manifest Destiny, which effectively wiped out the indigenous civilisation of the US, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is a sad, sad book. It's long and dense, but eminently readable and a salutary lesson to us all. Full review...

Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Little House In The Big Woods is the first in the famous series of pioneer books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They are deservedly famous. There's history, there's a strong moral code and there's some fabulously sensuous descriptive writing. Easy to read aloud, you could begin with stories at bedtime and end in a Year 6 cross-discipline project if you were educating your children at home. It's a classic. Full review...

Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round by Doreen Rappaport


A powerful anthology chronicling the US civil rights movement. Making use of primary sources and with a strong artistic content, it's a perfect choice for reluctant readers of 8 and up, especially if they prefer fact to fiction. Full review...

The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld


A wonderfully observed vignette of societal breakdown in this creepy vampire fantasy, with New York as a perfect backdrop. Readers of the first book in the series will see it slightly differently to the newbies. Recommended for fans of the genre. Full review...

White Noise by Don DeLillo


A wonderful book: full of meaning, brilliantly written, powerful and touching, compelling and engaging. The author's eye and ear for observation are superb; his satirical touch bit heavy but savage. This book provides a brilliant diagnosis of alienation in a consumerist world of abandoned meanings, where fear of death looms heavily but even the death has changed. Full review...

America, America by Ethan Canin


An astute fable of personal and national loss of innocence, as a young man comes of age against the backdrop of an American political scandal. Full review...

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