The Books That Inspire Me: Pulitzer Prize-Winner David McCollough

David McCullough is one of the most beloved and respected historians of our time—a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize whose works explore the private lives of American presidents and delve into the underpinnings of conflicts, events, and personalities that changed history.

But even a genius needs inspiration, so on the eve of the release of his latest book, The Pioneers (available now in a Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition featuring an unpublished lecture from the author), we asked him to share with us the works that have shaped him as a thinker, a writer, and one of our most-trusted authorities on the world as it was.

Ben and Me, by Robert Lawson
I read this wonderful account of the “real” Benjamin Franklin as told by a mouse that lived in Ben’s hat, when I was about ten and suddenly history came to life in a way I loved. I’ve been strongly recommending it ever since.

A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord
This superb book entered my life not long after I had finished college and started work in publishing in New York. It is a story powerfully told and not long after reading it, I met and got to know Walter from whom I learned a lot about how he went about the process of writing as he did, which was of great help to me.

The Trees, by Conrad Richter
A superb example, like Ben and Me, of historical fiction at its best, and it set me to reading all of Richter’s work and a subsequent friendship with him. And again, as with Walter Lord, much that I learned from him about the art of storytelling shaped my own development as a writer.

The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman
The admiration I’ve long had for all of Tuchman’s books could not be greater, but it was at the time I was writing my own first book, The Johnstown Flood, that The Proud Tower, a portrait of the world from 1890 to 1914, was first published, and I turned to it again and again for inspiration.

A Stillness at Appomattox, by Bruce Catton
A landmark publishing event, a book that set much of the country reading about the Civil War for the first time and certainly awakened my interest in the subject as nothing had until then.

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara
Another example of historical fiction that works its magic in its way and brings the reader into the human reality of history in brilliant fashion.

The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
An autobiography by one of the most interesting and amusing Americans of the nineteenth century and a reminder that history is not about politics and war only.

The Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of David McCullough’s The Pioneers is available May 7.

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