In an era when so many uninformed people act as if they know it all, it is refreshing to get requests from people who want to educate themselves on particular subjects or just to get the basic education that they feel they missed when they were in school or college. Many of these people are middle aged or older.
These days, it is very easy to go through college without getting an education. A recent report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni revealed that not one of the top 50 colleges in the country requires a course in American history and only 10 percent require any history course at all.
One of the best histories of the United States is A History of the American People by Paul Johnson. If you want a history focussed on social developments, then The Americans by Daniel Boorstin is a very readable three-volume treasure.
For histories of particular groups within the United States who originated in different parts of Britain, there is Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer. For histories of other ethnic groups, there is my own Ethnic America.
Anyone wanting a sober and informed look at today's racial problems by scholars who have spent years studying the issues can read Beyond the Color Line, edited by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom. It is almost a mini-encyclopedia, written in plain English.
If you want a general introduction to the history of the rise of various civilizations around the world, A History of Civilizations by Fernand Braudel is a very readable account. A more detailed account is William McNeill's The Rise of the West, which is about more than the West and in fact begins with the earliest known civilizations in the Middle East.