A People’s History of the United States 1492 – Present by Howard Zinn (HarperCollins, 1999)
This is the twentieth edition of a book originally published in 1979, updated with coverage of the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is often mentioned by left-wing activists, so when I saw it on the library bookshelf I took the opportunity to read it. Zinn (a retired professor of American history) provides a very comprehensive history of the United States from the point of view of the people. Absorbing its 655 pages meant taking the heavy book with me as I spent time in various waiting rooms over more than a month. When she saw it, the cashier at the Toyota dealer exclaimed that she had listened to the book on CD and thought it was great. Zinn really does start with 1492, explaining how much was left out of the story of Columbus we learn in elementary school. In this book we learn about history as experienced by Indians, servants, laborers, soldiers, slaves, women, Blacks, and immigrants. Although Zinn doesn’t hesitate to offer his own analysis, all of his facts are backed up with copious evidence from books, articles, and primary sources. In some ways it is an alternate history, because it brings to light events that were never reported in the mainstream media, such as instances of labor strikes during time periods when labor issues were not in the headlines. It is clear as you read this history that both our major parties have always been on the side of the 1% (Zinn may be the source of the 1% meme, in fact) and not the people. This is a very educational book and a great resource.