Wednesday, June 17, 2015

20th Century US History without a Textbook

Have you ever considered teaching without a textbook?  I never thought I would, but there are so many focused-topic books about American History.  We've found that these books, written by passionate authors are better for us than having a single textbook.   Reading this multitude of books allows us to learn far more than the "overview" a textbook provides.  Although our plans are to fill in with video-based presentations for other topics of the era, these books give us a good background on the writers and themes of the different decades.

In addition, novels, plays, and even memoirs written or set in specific time periods allow us to dig into the culture of an era, which in turn influences its history.  In order to have the time to explore more fully, we've taken a more "unit study" approach and combined literature with history.  This way we can explore both fiction and non-fiction that is either written in or focuses on the prevailing themes and tone of a decade.

This booklist can be used to create a high school level history and literature course of the American 20th century.   It is a lot of reading - far more than a regular text book - but in exchange it gives us a much better understanding of the last 100 or so years.  Note: Fiction books are listed first, with nonfiction the second set of titles for an era.  This list will be updated as we get into the1970s and later - we haven't reached there yet so I want to see how some of the books we have planned work before recommending them.


The Jungle - Upton Sinclair

Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre - Ethan Mordden
(Note: covers beyond 20th century)
Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography - Theodore Roosevelt


A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemmingway

A Night to Remember - Walter Lord 
America's Great War: World War I and the American Experience - Robert Zieger


The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s - Frederick Lewis Allen


To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency - James Tobin
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt - Eleanor Roosevelt
The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

The Greatest Generation - Tom Brokaw
Harry Truman - Margaret Truman


A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams
A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansbury

Profiles in Courage - John F. Kennedy
The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction - Robert J. McMahon


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Boom! Talking About the Sixties - Tom Brokaw
A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr - Clayborne Carson et. al.
Silent Spring - Rachel Carson
A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House - Arthur Schlessinger
The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's War in Vietnam - Andrew Wiest 
Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 - Juan Williams


Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein


Beloved - Toni Morrison

The Making of a Great Communicator: Ronald Reagan's Transformation from Actor to Governor - Ken Holden


 Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire
(in conjunction with the 1899 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum)

What are some of your favorite books that personify the 20th Century in the United States? Share them in the comments!

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