The books I've been using for US history are the ones by Winston Churchill, Hugh Brogan, Paul Johnson, and Larry Schweikart; and I just scored the beautiful two-volume seventh edition of "Growth of the American Republic" by Samuel Eliot Morison et al. Of the four single-volume histories, two are by Americans and two by Brits; Brogan is the lone liberal of the group. It's interesting to cross-reference between the books and compare accounts and interpretations of each event. I started with the Revolution and went straight through to the present day (except in Churchill's book, which ends with WWII). This week I'm going to go back and review, and highlight certain key areas that are of interest to me, for example the birth of the Progressive movement of about a hundred years ago - the forerunner of modern liberalism as we now know it.
Last week I got busy on Middle East history with Arthur Goldschmidt's and Bernard Lewis' concise histories. Again, cross-referencing and comparing accounts is fun, and helps to build a well-rounded picture. And of course the material is fascinating. Just tonight I was reading about the Safavid dynasty in Persia; the story of the thirteen-year-old kid named Ismail, who after fleeing a massacre of the ruling family, showed up in Azerbaijan, declared himself the shah, and set out to conquer the Ottoman Empire in the name of Shi'a Islam, is alone worth the price of admission. And then in 13th-century Egypt there was the female sultan, Shajar al-Durr ... but I digress.
I got Norman Davies' big fat book on European history (through 1991) last week. It's enormously user-friendly and fun to read. Ultimately I want to tie my history project together by looking at the relationships between the US, Europe, and the Middle East.
And just in time, my friend Michael Totten, who has traveled all over the Middle East (and he's a big hero of mine), recommends "Power, Faith, and Fantasy" by Michael Oren. Michael T. says: "It is the first and only book ever written about America’s involvement in the Middle East from the founding of the republic in 1776 to the present." MJT is a great admirer of Oren, so on his recommendation I've ordered the book; it should arrive next week. I'll post on it as soon as I've read it.