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A full history of America

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I've decided to take up a project that's going to be rather big for me, but before I can do so, I need to get a strong understanding of the full history of America, from its founding to today. The intention is to take notes on all the major events and eventually come to at least a general understanding of America's history and key events. The goal of this is to basically answer "How did we get to where we are today?"

I'm not looking for a single book on the full history of America, although that would be great too. It can be any number of books on different periods and the such. The problem is, I have virtually no knowledge of good authors or books on the topic, and I don't want to pick up books written by authors with bad premises and end up having to wade through crap to get to the actual facts and ideas.

So, any recommendations for books on any period of America's history would be great. I expect that this project will take some time, especially since I'm going to be taking notes, but I'm hoping to not have to read too great a number of books

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One book that has been well-recommended to me is "A History of the American People" by Paul Johnson

While I have not read it, I've read another of Paul Johnson's books and would recommend him as an author. His religious bias shows through, but (at least in the book I read) was parenthetical enough not to get in the way. Also, he can sometimes get into more detail than required, but he is rarely boring.

If you want to start with a quick overview by reading a very simple book, A History of the United States and its People, by Eggleston is an old school-book that has regained popularity among home-schoolers. However, if you already know the rudiments of the main events, then this would be too elementary.

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David Mccullough's books are recommendable. He has written several biographies (most notably John Adams), as well as books on particular events (such as the American Revolution and the construction of the Panama Canal).

Also, although I am somewhat loath to do so, I would also suggest that you read A People's History Of The United States, by Howard Zinn. I am reluctant to suggest it because Howard Zinn is a Marxist, but he does do a very nice job covering the country's labor history, which is a topic in American history that is seldom discussed but is nonetheless very important.

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Not a book, and perhaps a bit expensive, but I highly recommend Scott Powell's "A First History for Adults". It's an excellent, integrated overview of American history. (The subsequent courses on European, Middle Eastern and Ancient history are also very good.)

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