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What Are the Best AP US History Textbooks and Prep Books?

4 min readseptember 30, 2021

sander-o

Sander Owens


AP US History 🇺🇸

Bookmarked 11k • 426 resources
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Hello, and welcome! 👋 This guide will help you figure out what textbooks, review books, and prep books are best for your learning and preparation for the exam, as well as provide links to updated versions.

Textbooks 📖

Generally, if you are self-studying (which is probably why you're looking for a textbook), textbooks are typically not the best option, especially if your school does not offer APUSH, and you don't have access to a textbook. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  • Textbooks are generally expensive, usually well over $100 💰, and there are frequently more cost-effective ways to study than by using a textbook.
  • Because textbooks are designed, for the most part, as a supplement or framework for a traditional class with a teacher, they often are a bit dry and boring 😩, and many people find reading through one a bit tedious and boring.
However, if you do want a textbook, there is a list of textbooks on the College Board website that are specifically approved for APUSH. One important one to note on this list is U.S. History, by OpenStax, which is available for free, completely legitimately, from the publisher. If you understand the caveats and would still like a textbook, try asking a history teacher at your school to see if they have a US History textbook, and check to see if it is AP aligned.
You may see that there are websites that have pirated copies of textbooks. We would recommend you stay away from those for multiple reasons: frequently, there are malware risks, it is illegal and unethical to pirate material, and it quite frankly isn't worth it to be shady when there are plenty of legitimate resources out there for free or little cost!

Best Prep Books According to Students 📚

🏅 Most Concise APUSH Review Book: 5 Steps to A 5: AP US History 2020 (Amazon)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-fTK7HWq92DU7.png?alt=media&token=4ef92acc-09bc-4c64-95c6-42b277528b80

Image Courtesy of Amazon

$12.39 New/$9.43 Used: This book is relatively inexpensive, contains multiple practice exams, and is available on multiple platforms if that kind of learning helps you. If you would like to use the digital resources, it might be worth purchasing a new copy so that you can have guaranteed access to the online resources. Although it may not have as much depth as some other books, it contains concise, helpful review materials.

🏅 Best Content in a review book: Princeton Review's ASAP U.S. History (Amazon)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-3jju0sakxoH0.png?alt=media&token=c873e7ce-79be-4321-a115-174590d334cf

Image Courtesy of Amazon

$9.69 New: Although ASAP does not have any test review prep, it is one of the best for content review, thanks to its digestible style as well as a variety of charts and other more visual methods for quick learning or review of content and lists. This book is definitely the go-to if you want to learn all of the content easily, although you will need some supplemental test-prep review if you want to feel confident for the exam.

🏅 Most Thorough APUSH Prep Book: Barron's AP US History (Amazon)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-Uvqq5UG5c4PW.png?alt=media&token=7f653e81-c97e-480d-b8ae-b21fef5b2f41

Image Courtesy of Amazon

$16.69 New: If you are the kind of person who wants a thorough review of everything you need to know for APUSH, then Barron's book is for you. It contains an in-depth explanation of all of the content that you will need to know (although it may be too in-depth for you), as well as 5 practice tests, of which three are online. This could be a drawback as it is not a perfect preparation for the real paper exam. However, if you want a comprehensive guide, Barron's is the go-to pick.

🏅 The Happy Medium? AMSCO'S APUSH (Amazon)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-kI6dqQcPohiy.png?alt=media&token=dcc6f9cb-72da-4e7c-af40-e9e28461632d

Image Courtesy of Amazon

$20.49 New:
The AMSCO book is unique in that it is somewhere between a textbook and a prep book. Instead of a general overview of content, like a prep book might have, the information goes more in-depth, but still remains digestible and concise for the reader. Thus, we would recommend it for the best of both worlds. It is much easier to read than a textbook, but it is quick and to the point like a prep book.
Although it does not contain a full practice exam, it contains practice questions and is centered around the APUSH themes, and is designed to help you learn skills that you will need on the exam, such as analyzing secondary sources. If you are unsure of what book to get, we would highly recommend you make the jump to the slightly higher price for AMSCO and begin learning there - you can add one of the prep books mentioned above if you feel AMSCO isn't sufficient.
I hope this guide has provided you with some information to help you make the right choice about which book to use, and you can make the right decision to help you get the score on the exam you want!
Thanks to Fiveable team members Charly Castillo, Harrison Burnside, and Samantha Himegarner for their insight and reviews of some of the resources in this article.
All prices are current as of writing Summer 2020 and are subject to change.
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