The best nonfiction about First Lady Mary Lincoln

Who am I?

I write historical fiction about real-life characters, some relatively obscure, some very well known. One of my main goals is to avoid the stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions that have gathered around historical figures. At the same time, I strive to remain true to known historical facts and to the mores of the times in which my characters lived. I use both primary sources—letters, newspapers, diaries, wills, and so forth—and modern historical research to bring my characters to life.


I wrote...

The First Lady and the Rebel

By Susan Higginbotham,

Book cover of The First Lady and the Rebel

What is my book about?

The First Lady and the Rebel is the story of Mary Lincoln and Emily Todd Helm, half-sisters whose affection for each other is tried when they find themselves on the opposite sides of civil war.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mrs. Lincoln: A Life

Susan Higginbotham Why did I love this book?

While Mary Lincoln (although we often call her "Mary Todd Lincoln," she preferred "Mary Lincoln," "Mrs. Abraham Lincoln," or the unassuming "Mrs. A. Lincoln") has been the subject of several biographies, this is my favorite, and one which I always used as my first resource when checking a fact or looking for a reference about Mary Lincoln. It's readable, well-sourced, and sympathetic toward its subject without veering into hagiography or being overly indulgent of Mary's foibles.

By Catherine Clinton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mrs. Lincoln as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“This engaging, wonderfully written narrative provides fresh insight into this complex woman. It is a triumph.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin

Catherine Clinton, author of the award-winning Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, returns with Mrs. Lincoln, the first new biography in almost 20 years of Mary Todd Lincoln, one of the most enigmatic First Ladies in American history. Called “fascinating” by Ken Burns and “spirited and fast-paced” by the Boston Globe, Mrs. Lincoln is a meticulously researched and long overdue addition to the historical record. In the words of Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Joseph Ellis, Mrs. Lincoln “is distinctive for its abiding…


Book cover of Mary Lincoln's Insanity Case: A Documentary History

Susan Higginbotham Why did I love this book?

In 1875, the nation was shocked when Robert Lincoln, by then the only surviving son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, began proceedings to have his mother declared insane by an Illinois jury. As a result, Mary spent several months in a private asylum before she managed to regain her freedom. In this book, Jason Emerson collects family correspondence, newspaper accounts, asylum progress reports, and other documents, allowing us to review the evidence for this tragic, often luridly misrepresented period of Mary Lincoln's life. As someone who likes to consult primary sources whenever possible, I found it invaluable.

By Jason Emerson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary Lincoln's Insanity Case as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1875 Mary Lincoln, the widow of a revered president, was committed to an insane asylum by her son, Robert. The trial that preceded her internment was a subject of keen national interest. The focus of public attention since Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860, Mary Lincoln had attracted plentiful criticism and visible scorn from much of the public, who perceived her as spoiled, a spendthrift, and even too much of a Southern sympathizer. Widespread scrutiny only increased following her husband's assassination in 1865 and her son Tad's death six years later, after which her overwhelming grief led to the increasingly…


Book cover of The Mary Lincoln Enigma: Historians on America's Most Controversial First Lady

Susan Higginbotham Why did I love this book?

This collection of essays focuses on a variety of topics, including Mary's relationships, her siblings, her life at the only home she and her husband owned together, her travels, her fashion sense, her psyche, her depiction in photographs and illustrations, and her portrayal in fiction. Although these essays are relatively short, they're crammed full of interesting details. You can read the book straight through or (as I prefer) dip in and out of it at your leisure.

By Frank J. Williams (editor), Michael Burkhimer (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mary Lincoln Enigma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mary Lincoln is a lightning rod for controversy. Stories reveal widely different interpretations, and it is impossible to write a definitive version of her life that will suit everyone. The thirteen engaging essays in this collection introduce Mary Lincoln's complex nature and show how she is viewed today. The authors' explanations of her personal and private image stem from a variety of backgrounds, and through these lenses-history, theater, graphic arts, and psychiatry-they present their latest research and assessments. Here they reveal the effects of familial culture and society on her life and give a broader assessment of Mary Lincoln as…


Book cover of House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, a Family Divided by War

Susan Higginbotham Why did I love this book?

When Abraham Lincoln came to Washington to assume the presidency, he was surrounded not by members of his own family, but by his wife's. Some of the Todds would remain loyal to the Union; others would fight for (and die for) the Confederacy; a few would find themselves hopelessly pulled between the two sides. I found this to be an absorbing story of the sprawling, quarrelsome Kentucky clan who helped shape Mary and whose division mirrored that of the nation.

By Stephen Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked House of Abraham as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Addressing the personal costs of a family divided by the Civil War, a historian focuses on Mary Todd Lincoln's family, whose loyalties were split between the Union and Confederacy, examining the influence of the Todd family saga on how Lincoln approached the war and his humanistic dealings with the shared tragedy on both sides of the Civil War.


Book cover of Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters

Susan Higginbotham Why did I love this book?

Without talking to someone in person, the next best thing we can do is to read his or her letters. This volume collects over 600 written by Mary Lincoln, spanning the time from her days as a marriageable young belle in the raw frontier capital of Springfield, Illinois, to her lonely final years, when she was plagued by grief and ill-health. We see Mary at her most imperious, her most vulnerable, her most charming—and always, at her most human. To me, one letter epitomizes Mary: that to a milliner in which Mary, all but prostrate from the recent death of her son Willie, nonetheless finds it within herself to give the most exacting details about her sought-after mourning bonnet, "which must be exceedingly plain & genteel."

By Justin G. Turner, Linda Levitt Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mary Todd Lincoln as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The personal correspondences of Mary Todd Lincoln create an intimate portrait of her life and marriage to Lincoln as well as her struggles after his death


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Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

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Who am I?

Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

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What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,


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Interested in Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, and American first ladies?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, and American first ladies.

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