December 27, 2017
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5 books about America’s innovators that inspired us this year

Independent bookstores recommend their favorite reads

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In honor of Independence Day this summer, we asked a few of America’s independent bookstores to recommend their favorite books about the innovators who made this country what it is today.

These books are timeless and capture the spirit of American renewal, which is why we are re-sharing them as we look forward to the new year.

Happy reading!


The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

“McCullough’s works are always pleasing and entertaining reads. ‘The Wright Brothers’ is an excellent introduction for those new to exploring America’s past. Orville and Wilbur Wright are so important for two essential reasons. First, airplanes have had such a dramatic effect on communication and travel not only in the United States but across the globe. Second, and perhaps most important, the Wright Brothers were excellent examples of the myriad sources of industrial innovation that this country can produce. The story of two owners of a bicycle shop teaching the world to flying is a timeless lesson.”

— Lynn Schwartz, General Manager of Kramerbooks in Washington, D.C.

“It’s the ultimate tale of stubbornness paying off: Wilbur and Orville Wright dreamed of making flight possible and had the smarts and conviction to keep at it, even after failing again and again. Imagine what our present and future would look like if these brothers hadn’t been part of our American past.”

— Ann Patchett, co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee


Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History … and Our Future!” By Kate Schatz with illustrations by Miriam Klein-Stahl

“When we think about history, powerful and influential men generally come to mind. Where and who are the women? This book presents women from all parts of the country, all ethnic backgrounds, and includes influences of all types: art, science, music, and sports. Presented in a very readable format, it is accessible to young readers as well as adults.”

— Susan Murphy, founder of Pages Bookshop in Detroit

“There are very few books that I can recommend for everyone, but this one can be read to the little ones, and truly appreciated by grandma. What other A-Z book celebrates Angela Davis, Carol Burnett, Ella Baker, and Patti Smith? This is a must-have title, that is both beautiful to look at and well-written. ‘Rad American Women A-Z’ brings joy and inspiration to children of all ages, and was a privilege to publish.”

— Stacey Lewis, Vice President of City Lights Publishers in San Francisco, publisher of “Rad American Women A-Z”


This Land: An American Portrait” by photographer Jack Spencer, with a foreword by historian Jon Meacham

“Self-taught photographer Jack Spencer has an enormous talent and distinctive style. The 140 photos in this book represent not only advances in the art and technology of photography but a breathtaking collective portrait of our nation from coast to coast.”

— Karen Hayes, co-owner of Parnassus Books


In the Company of Women” by Grace Bonney

“Every woman (and man) with aspirations of running their own business or pursuing their artistic ambitions needs this fascinating and informative book. Enjoy the stories of what these 100+ entrepreneurs and creators have made, and let them inspire you.”

— Mary Laura Philpott, editor of Musing, the Parnassus Books’ online magazine


Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History” By Camille Dungy

“As a working mom whose livelihood as a writer and lecturer depended on travel, Camille Dungy crisscrossed America with her young child. Her essays explore how they are both seen, not just as mother and child, but as black females in the world.”

— Stacey Lewis of City Lights

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.