American History

AMERICAN HISTORY….Here’s a little bit of an odd request for my readers.

I’ve read quite a bit of American history. Among other things, I’ve read histories of the Depression, the 1950s, and the Civil War. I’ve read biographies of Washington, Franklin, both Roosevelts, McCarthy, LBJ, Rockefeller, and Reagan. (Not Lincoln, though. Odd, that.) I’ve read lengthy accounts of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the New York Times, and Southern California.

But it occurred to me the other day that I’ve never read a complete history of the United States. What’s more, due to a peculiar accident of scheduling, I never took American History in high school, even though this is required by the California education code. (Long story. Technically I met the requirement, though.) This means that although I’ve read a lot of American history, I also have a lot of odd gaps in my knowledge.

So I decided I should remedy this. But when I walked up to my local bookstore, my only choices were Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the United States. I have nothing against either people or cartoons, but that’s not quite what I was after.

Now, as it happens, the question is moot as far as my own personal reading is concerned. After a bit of rummaging around, I discovered that I had purchased Samuel Eliot Morison’s Oxford History of the American People many years ago, but had then stuck it up on a shelf and never read it. So I’m doing that now.

Still, there must be quite a few good one-volume histories of America out there, even if my local Barnes & Noble doesn’t carry any of them. So what do you recommend? No textbooks, please, and no specialty books (economic histories, social histories, military histories, etc.). Just sparkling, erudite, makes-the-subject-come-alive general purpose histories of the United States. What’s the best one out there?