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10 Independence Day Reads to Celebrate 245 Years

Updated: 4 hours ago

BOOKTRIB: By Friends & Fiction | July 2nd, 2021

Every year on the Fourth of July, we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which in 1776 pronounced the Colonies were sovereign states no longer subject to the rule of Britain. The document goes beyond the boundaries of government to famously declare that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And while this statement may have been heartfelt, written as it was by men who had been subjugated by a monarch who gave them little in return, it has proven very difficult to put into practice. The concepts of “equal rights” and “liberty” have been particularly challenging for us throughout our 245 years as a nation.

This year, after one of the most tumultuous times in recent American history, we here at the weekly live web show and podcast Friends & Fiction urge book lovers to step back and read more deeply and widely about our country and its painful, sometimes complicated, but always fascinating history.

The ten books we have chosen — fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults — represent a mixture of the history surrounding Independence Day and the trials we have faced in living up to and defending its ideals, from the nation’s inception to our present day. We offer these as just a starting point for deeper conversations about our country’s past, and our future.

Patti Callahan —∞—

The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed (W. W. Norton & Company) This extraordinary book won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in History. Written by an American historian and professor at Harvard, it is an intricate history of the enslaved Hemings family and their relation to Thomas Jefferson who had seven children with Sally Hemings. It is particularly remarkable for its empathetic and insightful consideration of human beings acting in almost unimaginably difficult and complicated family circumstances. Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) A story of Boston in revolt, this classic novel is about 14-year-old Johnny Tremain, who is forced to ride for the patriotic newspaper as a messenger for the Sons of Liberty, involving him in the pivotal events that shaped the American Revolution. It was a 1944 Newbery Medal Winner and is still a bestselling children’s book today. Amazon | Barnes & Noble |