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2021: A Historian’s Reading


Time for my year-end list of what I’ve read.

Here are the past lists:

2020; 2019; 2018; 2017; 2016.

Let me use the same language explaining this as last year:

I read these books for my own purposes–to prepare for teaching, to keep up or catch up on the historiography in my fields, occasionally to broaden my horizons. So I do not read every word of these books, nor do I generally read for factual information. I read for preparation for my work, whether my own professional writing, to inform my blog posts, to prepare for new courses, or to think through harder questions. That often means simply being aware of the basic outlines of a book so that I can go into more detail later when I need to write about a given subject. I also included the few books on contemporary politics I read this year, since there’s not much sense separating those out from historical books given my writing. Some of these are new books, most are from the last decade or so, a few are old classics that I had either never read or haven’t read in the last decade.

There’s a lot of really good books. I have also placed bold faced asterisks after 20 books I think LGM readers would find particularly useful/I think you should buy and read. That’s not necessarily the same as what I think are the 20 best books, although there is obviously a lot of crossover. So if you are looking for a good reading list for 2022, here you go. There are well more than 20 of these that are excellent and I made my selections based on a combination of clear writing, what I think LGM readers should be reading from a political perspective, and the quality of the book. I am more than happy to talk about any of these books in comments. There were a lot more than 20 that were excellent in this year’s list.

  1. Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts, Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy
  2. Stephanie McCurry, Women’s War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War ****
  3. Rihan Yeh, Passing: Two Publics in a Mexican Border City
  4. Rachel Devlin, A Girl Stands At the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America’s Schools ****
  5. David Biggs, Quagmire: Nation-Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta
  6. Susan Scott Parrish, The Flood Year 1927: A Cultural History
  7. Robert L. Kramm, Sanitized Sex: Regulating Prostitution, Venereal Disease, and Intimacy in Occupied Japan, 1945-1952
  8. Allison Hepler, Women in Labor: Mothers, Medicine, and Occupational Health in the United States, 1890-1980
  9. Megan Black, The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power
  10. Keisha Blain, Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom ****
  11. Sarah Wald, The Nature of California: Race, Citizenship, and Farming since the Dust Bowl
  12. Justin Akers Chacon, Radicals in the Barrio: Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican-American Working Class
  13. Amy Greenberg, A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 Invasion of Mexico
  14. Christy Thornton, Revolution in Development: Mexico and the Governance of the Global Economy
  15. Jeffrey C. Sanders, Razing Kids: Youth, Environment, and the Postwar American West
  16. Adam Slez, The Making of the Populist Movement: State, Market, and Party on the Western Frontier
  17. Beth Lew-Williams, The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America *****
  18. Kregg Hetherington, The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops
  19. Lorena Oropeza, The King of Adobe: Reies Lopez Tijerina: Lost Prophet of the Chicano Movement
  20. Barbara Ransby, Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson
  21. Linda Sargent Wood, A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II
  22. Angela Stuesse, Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South
  23. Hagen Koo, Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation
  24. Isser Woloch, The Postwar Moment: Progressive Forces in Britain, France, and the United States after World War II
  25. Nathaniel Chapman and David Brunsma, Beer and Racism: How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements to Change It
  26. Irving Bernstein, The Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941
  27. Jeffrey C. Stewart, The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
  28. William Thomas Okie, The Georgia Peach: Culture, Agriculture, and Environment in the American South
  29. Alison M. Parker, Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell ****
  30. Marco Armiero and Lise Sedrez, A History of Environmentalism: Local Struggles, Global Histories
  31. Henry Henderson and David Woolner, FDR and the Environment
  32. Hartmut Bergoff and Adam Rome, eds., Green Capitalism? Business and the Environment in the Twentieth Century
  33. Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States ****
  34. Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
  35. Ana Raquel Minian, Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration
  36. Shana Bernstein, Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Twentieth Century Los Angeles
  37. James R. Barrett, History from the Bottom Up: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Working-Class History
  38. Celeste Monforton and Jane M. Von Bergen, On the Job: The Untold Story of Workers Centers and the New Fight for Wages, Dignity, and Health
  39. Joshua Clover, Riot, Strike, Riot: The New Era of Uprisings
  40. Michael G. Hillard, Shredding Paper: The Rise and Fall of Maine’s Mighty Paper Industry
  41. Nancy Langston, Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Challenging World
  42. Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, The Ideas that Made America: A Brief History ****
  43. Niels Eichhorn, Liberty and Slavery: European Separatists, Southern Secession, and the American Civil War
  44. William D. Green, The Children of Lincoln: White Paternalism and the Limits of Black Opportunity in Minnesota, 1860-1876
  45. Nancy J. Altman and Eric R. Kingston, Social Security Works for Everyone! Protecting and Expanding the Insurance Americans Love and Count On
  46. Elizabeth Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America
  47. Cary Carson, Face Value: The Consumer Revolution and the Colonizing of America
  48. David Ray Papke, The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America
  49. David A. Bello, Across Forest, Steppe, and Mountain: Environment, Identity, and Empire in Qing China’s Borderlands
  50. M. John Lubetkin, Jay Cooke’s Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic of 1873
  51. Kara Dixon Vuic, The Girls Next Door: Bringing the Home Front to the Front Lines
  52. Raymond Caballero, McCarthyism vs. Clinton Jencks
  53. Peter Eisenstadt, Against the Hounds of Hell: A Life of Howard Thurman
  54. Katherine Morrissey and John-Michael Warner, Border Spaces: Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Frontera
  55. Zaragosa Vargas, Labor Rights are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in Twentieth-Century America
  56. Gary Clayton Anderson, Massacre in Minnesota: The Dakota War of 1862, the Most Violent Ethnic Conflict in American History (Interesting note here, this is by far the worst book I read this year, openly pro-settler)
  57. C.J. Alvarez, Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the U.S.-Mexico Divide
  58. Michael P. Roller, An Archaeology of Structural Violence: Life in Twentieth Century Coal Town
  59. Mike Davis, ed., Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism
  60. Shane Hamilton, Supermarket USA: Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race ******
  61. Joshua Specht, Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America
  62. Paul Adler, No Globalization without Representation: U.S. Activists and World Inequality ******
  63. Elizabeth Eittreim, Teaching Empire: Native Americans, Filipinos, and US Imperial Education, 1879-1918
  64. Dana Powell, Landscapes of Power: Politics of Energy in the Navajo Nation
  65. Miles Powell, Vanishing America: Species Extinction, Racial Peril, and the Origins of Conservation   
  66. Tom Nicholas, VC: An American History
  67. Kristin Hoganson and Jay Sexton, Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain
  68. Chris Duvall, The African Roots of Marijuana
  69. Erik Gelman, Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights
  70. Chris Dubbs, American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting
  71. Anna Zeide, Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry
  72. Louise Mozingo, Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes *******
  73. Ashanté Reese, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C.
  74. Piya Pangsapa, Textures of Struggle: The Emergence of Resistance among Garment Workers in Thailand
  75. Jenny Tote-Pah-Hote, Crafting an Indigenous Nation: Kiowa Expressive Culture in the Progressive Era ****
  76. Mireya Loza, Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom
  77. Rebecca Scofield, Outriders: Rodeo at the Fringes of the American West ****
  78. Susan L. Smith, Toxic Exposures: Mustard Gas and the Health Consequences of World War II in the United States
  79. Gregory Wood, Clearing the Air: The Rise and Fall of Smoking in the Workplace
  80. Amy Murrell Taylor, Embattled Freedom: Journeys Through the Civil War’s Refugee Camps
  81. Bryant Simon, The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives ****
  82. Aaron Sachs, Arcadian America: The Life and Death of an Environmental Tradition
  83. Greta de Jong, You Can’t Eat Freedom: Southerners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement
  84. Ian Miller, The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo ****
  85. Martha S. Jones, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America
  86. Brett M.S. Campney, Hostile Heartland: Racism, Repression, and Resistance in the Midwest
  87. Martin Melosi, Coping with Abundance: Energy and Environment in Industrial America
  88. Kristen Swinth, Feminism’s Forgotten Fight: The Unfinished Struggle for Work and Family *****
  89. J.L. Anderson, Capitalist Pigs: Pigs, Pork, and Power in America
  90. David Treuer, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present
  91. Rick Perlstein, Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-1980 ******
  92. Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development
  93. Dorothy Nelkin and Michael Brown, Workers at Risk: Voices from the Workplace
  94. Jan Lucassen, The Story of Work: A New History of Humankind *****
  95. James C. Blight, et al, eds., Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979-1988
  96. Veronica Martinez-Matsuda, Migrant Citizenship: Race, Rights, and Reform in the U.S. Farm Labor Camp Program
  97. Pierre Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965 
  98. Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America
  99. Pramila Jayapal, Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics and Political Change
  100. Lane Windham, Knocking on Labor’s Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide
  101. Mark Brilliant, The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978
  102. Matthew Vitz, A City on a Lake: Urban Political Ecology and the Growth of Mexico City
  103. Steven Greenhouse, Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor
  104. Michael Streissguth, City on the Edge: Hard Choices in the American Rust Belt
  105. Glenn Altschuler and Stuart Blumen, The GI Bill: A New Deal for Veterans
  106. Kyle Ciani, Choosing to Care: A Century of Childcare and Social Reform in San Diego, 1850-1950
  107. Hannah Knox, Thinking Like a Climate: Governing a City in Times of Environmental Change
  108. Bernice Yeung, In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers
  109. Louis Warren, God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America ****
  110. James P. Kraft, Havoc and Reform: Workplace Disasters in Modern America
  111. S. Charles Bolton, Fugitivism: Escaping Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1820-1860
  112. Sarah Jaffe, Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone ****
  113. Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Getting Tough: Welfare and Imprisonment in 1970s America
  114. Kathleen C. Schwartzman, The Chicken Trail: Following Workers, Migrants, and Corporations across the Americas
  115. Sarah Igo, The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America
  116. Andrew Gordon, The Wages of Affluence: Labor and Management in Postwar Japan
  117. S. Max Edelson, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina
  118. Alford A. Young, Jr., From the Edge of the Ghetto: African Americans and the World of Work
  119. Andrew Robichaud, Animal City: The Domestication of America
  120. Nell McShane Wulfhart, The Great Stewardess Rebellion: How Women Launched a Workplace Rebellion at 30,000 Feet (this is an unpublished book that I read as an advance copy, check it out when it gets released this spring)
  121. Summer Brennan, The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America
  122. Tania Murray Li, Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier

Also, here is my fiction/literary non-fiction reading list. A little lower this year than last, as being able to go outside and do things got in the way of reading. Date is when I finished the book, asterisks are for books I read before.

  1. Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, 1/2/21*
  2. Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, 1/2/21
  3. Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory, 1/20/21
  4. David Cantwell, Merle Haggard: The Running Kind, 2/5/21
  5. Michael Twitty, The Cooking Gene, 2/9/21
  6. Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose, 2/22/21*
  7. Jesus Diaz, The Initials of the Earth, 2/23/21*
  8. Richard Powers, The Overstory, 3/15/21
  9. Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show, 3/18/21*
  10. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, 3/18/21*
  11. Kenji Miyazawa, Once and Forever, 3/28/21
  12. John Dos Passos, The Big Money, 4/2/21*
  13. Hiroko Oyamada, The Hole, 4/3/21
  14. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Purple Hibiscus, 4/13/21
  15. Guido Morselli, Dissipatio H.G., 4/20/21
  16. Alice Munro, The Moons of Jupiter, 4/23/21*
  17. Robert Stone, Dog Soldiers, 5/3/21*
  18. Simon Han, Nights When Nothing Happened, 5/3/21
  19. J.M. Coetzee, Age of Iron, 5/13/21
  20. Stephen Deusner, Where The Devil Don’t Stay: Traveling the South with the Drive-By Truckers 5/30/21
  21. Kyung-Sook Shin, Please Look After Mom, 6/4/21
  22. Elmore Leonard, Tishomingo Blues, 6/6/21
  23. Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions, 6/21/21
  24. Albert Murray, Train Whistle Guitar, 7/20/21
  25. Raymond Chandler, Lady in the Lake, 7/21/21
  26. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera, 7/29/21*
  27. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 8/3/21
  28. Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding, 8/17/21
  29. Mark Kemp, Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and Beginnings in a New South, 8/18/21
  30. Judy Fong Bates, Midnight at the Dragon Café, 8/18/21
  31. Gerald Haslam, Workin’ Man Blues: Country Music in California, 8/21/21
  32. Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland, 8/26/21
  33. Nuruddin Farah, Secrets, 9/7/21
  34. Barry Lopez, Crossing Open Ground, 9/14/21
  35. Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, 9/23/21*
  36. Gavin Smith, ed., Sayles on Sayles, 9/23/21
  37. John Edgar Wideman, The Cattle Killing, 12/5/21
  38. Peter Matthiessen, Killing Mister Watson, 12/5/21*
  39. Donal Ryan, The Spinning Heart, 12/10/21
  40. Guillermo Martinez, The Oxford Murders, 12/11/21*
  41. Ernest Hemingway, The Old Mand the Sea, 12/11/21*
  42. Jean-Patrick Manchette, The N’Gustro Affair, 12/23/21
  43. Jose Saramago, Cain, 12/25/21
  44. R.O. Kwon, The Incendiaries, 12/28/21
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