My love of history began in college when I discovered that instead of the dry list of facts I had assumed history books contained, they were actually full of incredible stories, unbelievable drama, powerful personalities, and world-changing events. And it was all real! However, when real life started for me after college, the time I had available to read enormous historical volumes understandably lessened, and my quest for knowledge about the past was largely put on hold.
But last year that all changed when I discovered the OverDrive collection offered through the library’s website. I downloaded the free app onto my phone, chose a digital audiobook to download, and plugged in my earbuds. As I did yard work or cooked dinner, I could also be experiencing the thrill of political intrigues or the tragedies of the battlefield. Doing the dishes got a whole lot more exciting! Here are five of my favorite audiobooks on American history that are available through OverDrive.
In the middle of the Great Depression, those living in America’s heartland experienced calamity in a form like nothing ever seen before or since: the “black blizzards” of the Dust Bowl. Determined to hold onto their hard-won land, families faced the risk of losing their crops, animals, homes, and health. Telling in their own words how they lived in sod huts with wet sheets placed over the cracks, or how they bottled sagebrush to eat after all the crops were gone, the grit and endurance of these survivors is truly incredible.
A vivid history of the Comanches and their last stand to stop white settlers from taking the Indian lands of the Great Plains. During the 40-year territory war, many fascinating characters arose on both sides, including Quanah Parker, son of a Comanche chief and a white woman who had been kidnapped as a girl but grew to love the Indian way of life so much that she refused rescue by her European relatives.
Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark led an expedition of men and one woman past the boundaries of what was then the United States and into the great unknown. They endured hardships, saw jaw-dropping natural wonders, took specimens of plants and animals unknown to European settlers, and began their education in the complicated relationships of the native peoples with each other and with the whites. The ultimate adventure story that helped make America what it is today.
Although uncomfortable with slavery and not in favor of secession, when Lee was offered the command of the Union Army at the start of the Civil War, he refused the post because he said he could never fight against his beloved Virginia. He became the brilliant Confederate general who would fight the long defeat with dignity and a strong sense of honor. A detailed and fascinating portrait of the man who would become the nation’s greatest military leader and earn respect and admiration from both North and South.
Much has been made of Louisa May Alcott’s father and his influence on her and her writing. But now a great niece of Louisa’s, with the help of newly discovered family letters, brings Louisa’s mother, Abigail May, out of obscurity. She effectively argues that it was Louisa’s intensely close relationship with her mother -- and their shared frustration at being intellectual and ambitious women in a time that discouraged female independence -- that was truly the greatest shaping force in Louisa’s life.
(Need help with OverDrive? Check out our tutorials page.)