Posted: September 5th, 2022

American History

Dr. Markum’s “Choose Your Adventure!” Book Review/Reflection

Assignment Sheet


For each You-Choose assignment, you will choose, acquire, and read one book from the list below, or according to the guidelines stipulated at the bottom of the list.  You will then complete BOTH of the following assignment components.  Start each component on a new page, but keep them in a single document.  *Each of the two books chosen must come from a different chronological period.*



Review #1: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30                  Review #2: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18

For each assignment, submit both components in a single doc to the portal on Canvas.


Component 1:

Write a “scholarly review” of the selected book.  A guide for writing book reviews is on Canvas.  Follow the style described in the Powerpoint guide on Canvas, and shown in the sample review on Canvas.  Head the review with only the book’s publication information, and put your name at the close of the review.  Your review should be typed, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font.  It should contain a content word count between 500-650.

Please note that the purpose of the review is to summarize the author’s arguments, rather than to simply summarize the book itself.  Draw out the meaning of the author’s work—what is the purpose of the book?  What is the central lesson the author would have readers take away?  Clearly state the thesis of the book, then lay out the evidence with which the author argues his/her thesis.  Address strengths/weaknesses of the book, but avoid superlatives, as the Powerpoint explains.


Component 2:

Write an ~2-3 page essay (word count between 600-800) reflecting on how the book relates to broader American History in this course, and on how the reading influenced the way you think about the subject addressed by the book.  Did the book make you aware of a previously-unknown topic?  Did it change your mind about a topic?  Did it reinforce your prior views on a subject?  What is the value in reading this book?  Is this a work that makes American History easier to understand, and more clear?  Or does it complicate the subject, making American History more nuanced and more “gray” than black-and-white?  In what specific ways did the book shape your views, or elicit a reaction/response from you?

Book Options:

Colonial/Revolutionary Era

– Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

– Emerson Baker, A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience

– Gregory Dowd, A Spirited Resistance : the North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815

– Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia

            – Thomas Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America

– Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence

– Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

– Jill Lepore, The Name of War : King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity

– Kevin Kenny, Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment

– Greg Massey, John Laurens and the American Revolution

– Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812


Early National/Antebellum Era

– Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash: Women & Politics in the Early American Republic

– Frank Lambert, The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World

– Charles Faulkner, Massacre at Cavett’s Station : Frontier Tennessee During the Cherokee Wars

– Joanne Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

– Martha S. Jones, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America

– Adam Jortner, Gods of Prophetstown OR Blood from the Sky

– Louis Masur, 1831

– Johnson & Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th Century America

– Timothy Henderson, A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States

– Mark Cheatham, Andrew Jackson, Southerner

– C.S. Monaco, The Second Seminole War and the Limits of American Aggression

            – Eric Lehman, Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P.T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity

            – Paul Conkin, Cane Ridge: America’s Pentecost

*- Stephen Oates, The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion

*- Daniel Rasmussen, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt


Sectionalism/Civil War/Reconstruction Era

– Beilein and Hulbert, eds., The Civil War Guerrilla: Unfolding the Black Flag in History, Memory, and Myth

– Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”

            – Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

– Michael Doyle, The Ministers’ War : John W. Mears, the Oneida Community, and the Crusade for Public Morality

– Drew Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

– C.C. Goen, Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the American Civil War

            – Mark Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865

            – Charles Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War

– Keith Griffler, Front Line of Freedom: African-Americans and the Forging of the Underground Railroad in the Ohio Valley

– Stephen Ambrose, Nothing Like It In The World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869

– Daniel Stowell, Rebuilding Zion: The Religious Reconstruction of the South, 1863-1877

– Baker and Kelly, eds., After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South


***Students may also select any book that meets the following qualifications:***

            – Published by a university press (you can find this out in the library record by clicking on the book title, then clicking “View Description”; if the publisher in the “Publication” includes any form of “university press” in the name [i.e., Oxford University Press, University of North Carolina Press, etc.], you’re good)

            – At least 200 pp. total (at least 150 pp. before notes/bibliography)

            – Primarily deals with a topic within US history prior to 1877

                        – Consider the chronological categories as follows:

                                    – Colonial/Revolutionary: Up to 1789

                                    – Early National/Antebellum: 1789-1850

                                    – Sectionalism/Civil War/Reconstruction: 1850-1877


            ***Students must GAIN PROFESSOR’S APPROVAL IN WRITING for any book not on the list by SEPT. 2 for Review #1, and by OCT. 14 for Review #2.***

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