81 books like Book of Ages

By Jill Lepore,

Here are 81 books that Book of Ages fans have personally recommended if you like Book of Ages. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

William Barney Author Of Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

From my list on an offbeat look at the Confederacy.

Why am I passionate about this?

From a youth devouring the books of Bruce Catton to my formative years as a historian, I’ve been fascinated by the Civil War, especially the thinking and experiences of southerners who lived through the cataclysmic war years. In my teaching and writing, I’ve tried to focus on the lived experiences, the hopes and fears, of southerners who seemingly embraced secession and an independent Southern Confederacy in the expectation of a short, victorious war only to become disenchanted when the war they thought would come to pass turned into a long, bloody stalemate. The books I’ve listed share my passion for the war and open new and often unexpected windows into the Confederate experience.

William's book list on an offbeat look at the Confederacy

William Barney Why did William love this book?

A great book for teaching me how much the wartime experiences and political resistance of the soldiers’ wives and the slaves impacted the fate of the Confederacy and pushed it in directions never imagined by the planters who created the Confederacy to serve their interests and not the majority of the population they expected to do their bidding. 

By Stephanie McCurry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Confederate Reckoning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize Finalist
Winner of the Frederick Douglass Book Prize
Winner of the Merle Curti Award

"McCurry strips the Confederacy of myth and romance to reveal its doomed essence. Dedicated to the proposition that men were not created equal, the Confederacy had to fight a two-front war. Not only against Union armies, but also slaves and poor white women who rose in revolt across the South. Richly detailed and lucidly told, Confederate Reckoning is a fresh, bold take on the Civil War that every student of the conflict should read."
-Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic

"McCurry challenges…


Book cover of A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812

Edward G. Gray Author Of Tom Paine's Iron Bridge: Building a United States

From my list on ingenuity and innovation in the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in the American Revolution began with a college course on the French Revolution. I was enthralled by the drama of it all. Being the impressionable late adolescent that I was, I naturally explained to my professor, a famous French historian of the French Revolution, that I wanted to dedicate my life to the study of this fascinating historical period. My professor urged me to reconsider. He suggested I look at a less well-known Revolution, the one British colonists undertook a decade earlier. I started reading books about the American Revolution. Now, forty years on, I’m still enthralled by the astonishing creative energy of this period in American history. 

Edward's book list on ingenuity and innovation in the American Revolution

Edward G. Gray Why did Edward love this book?

Paine, Copley, and Priestley were all beneficiaries of formal institutional associations, mostly through the voluntary scientific and art associations, the American Philosophical Society in America and the Royal Society and Royal Academy in Britain. Martha Ballard, a midwife living during the early years of the American Republic in Maine (at the time a province of Massachusetts), had no formal associations but she did have deep and abiding affiliations. If not with elite academies, sanctioned by kings, and populated by periwigged gentlemen, then with family and community.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale remains the finest study ever written about the generative power of family and community in the early history of the American republic. Ballard’s meticulous diary, nearly 10,000 entries, afforded Ulrich access to the full, grueling realities of this remarkable woman’s life—through her own family’s trials, which included the births of her nine children, and the more than eight…

By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Midwife's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • Drawing on the diaries of one woman in eighteenth-century Maine, "A truly talented historian unravels the fascinating life of a community that is so foreign, and yet so similar to our own" (The New York Times Book Review).

Between 1785 and 1812 a midwife and healer named Martha Ballard kept a diary that recorded her arduous work (in 27 years she attended 816 births) as well as her domestic life in Hallowell, Maine. On the basis of that diary, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gives us an intimate and densely imagined portrait, not only of the industrious and…


Book cover of Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells

Frances McNamara Author Of Molasses Murder in a Nutshell: A Nutshell Murder Mystery

From my list on real women in criminology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was frustrated by stories of gilded-age women who floundered around and were pitied because of the limitations society put on them. I thought the heroine of House of Mirth was not heroine but a loser. It seemed to me there must be other women out there who weren’t just sitting around bemoaning their predicament. Since I’m a mystery writer I was especially pleased to find some women who were out there doing things, even in criminology. Finding Frances Glessner Lee was the icing on the cake when I learned that she is known as the Mother of Forensic Science. Had to be great stories there.

Frances' book list on real women in criminology

Frances McNamara Why did Frances love this book?

Ida B. Wells was a journalist. She was also an organizer of an anti-lynching campaign.

She’s a wonderful example of a woman who ignored the limitations the world of the time set on her to do what she felt was needed. She and others collected accounts of lynchings, many of them from white newspapers and published them to force society to confront the fact that they were happening.

As a young woman she sued a railroad for physically ejecting her from a carriage because she was African American. She won.

She’s just a great example of a young woman bucking the system. I’m so glad my feminine forebearers did!

By Ida B. Wells,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Crusade for Justice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"She fought a lonely and almost single-handed fight, with the single-mindedness of a crusader, long before men or women of any race entered the arena; and the measure of success she achieved goes far beyond the credit she has been given in the history of the country."-Alfreda M. Duster

Ida B. Wells is an American icon of truth telling. Born to slaves, she was a pioneer of investigative journalism, a crusader against lynching, and a tireless advocate for suffrage, both for women and for African Americans. She co-founded the NAACP, started the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, and was a…


Book cover of The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

Sarah Horowitz Author Of The Red Widow: The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind it All

From my list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved reading about women who lived in earlier eras, whether that was through nonfiction or historical fiction. Books gave me access to worlds beyond my own and I loved thinking about what I would do in a particular situation, whether I would have made the same choices as the women I was reading about. I suppose it’s no surprise that I have a Ph.D. in history and teach European history. I love sharing my passion for the past and I hope you love the books I recommended as much as I do!

Sarah's book list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of

Sarah Horowitz Why did Sarah love this book?

Ok, so I’m cheating a little bit here. A lot of people have heard of the women Rubenhold writes about because they’re famous for being Jack the Ripper’s victims.

And for many of the women, what they did was not particularly scandalous, since Rubenhold goes a long way to show that not all of them were streetwalkers. But this book is such a beautiful and heartbreaking read. It’s a meticulous and gripping reconstruction of the lives of women we thought we knew but don’t. She brings nineteenth-century London alive in a way that few authors have – when I read the book, I felt like I was there.

By Hallie Rubenhold,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE #1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2019
'An angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth. Powerful and shaming' GUARDIAN

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but…


Book cover of The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up

Yang Huang Author Of Living Treasures

From my list on China’s one-child policy and Tiananmen Square protests.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in China during the years of the one-child policy. In 1989 I joined millions of people in the pro-democracy protests. Our hope and joy were crushed by the Tiananmen Square Massacre. A year later, I left China and came to the States. I wanted to write a story about the students’ fight but create a more meaningful arc. It took me twenty years of soul searching to find my story. At the heart of my novel Living Treasures is a metaphor for the Tiananmen Square Massacre. My heroine continues the fight by doing grassroots work and helping rural women, who are victimized by the one-child policy.

Yang's book list on China’s one-child policy and Tiananmen Square protests

Yang Huang Why did Yang love this book?

The 27 interviews in The Corpse Walker are selected from the 60 interviews in Liao Yiwu’s book, originally titled Interviews with People from the Bottom Rung of Society in Chinese. Liao gives voices to social outcasts: a human trafficker, corpse walkers, a leper, a peasant emperor, an abbot, a mortician, a Tiananmen father, artists and shamans, crooks, even cannibals. Ironically, every one of them speaks more honestly than Chinese official media, which causes the book to be banned in mainland China. These are the stories of unsung heroes and epic tragedies, but to me, most importantly, the work that people performed, the families they raised, many lost to famines, political purges, and massacres, and the persecutors they forgave, the conscience they wrestled with, their past, present, and future—these are the remarkable stories of ordinary Chinese people from 1949 to present in their raw, unvarnished form.

By Liao Yiwu,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Corpse Walker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Corpse Walker introduces us to regular men and women at the bottom of Chinese society, most of whom have been battered by life but have managed to retain their dignity: a professional mourner, a human trafficker, a public toilet manager, a leper, a grave robber, and a Falung Gong practitioner, among others. By asking challenging questions with respect and empathy, Liao Yiwu managed to get his subjects to talk openly and sometimes hilariously about their lives, desires, and vulnerabilities, creating a book that is an instance par excellence of what was once upon a time called “The New Journalism.”…


Book cover of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Marlene G. Fine and Fern L. Johnson Author Of Let's Talk Race: A Guide for White People

From my list on the experiences of Black people in the US that white people don’t know but should.

Why we are passionate about this?

We grew up in predominantly white communities and came of age during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. As academics, we focused on issues of race in our research and teaching. Yet, despite our reading and writing about race, we still hadn’t made a connection to our own lives and how our white privilege shielded us and made us complicit in perpetuating racial inequities. We didn’t fully see our role in white supremacy until we adopted our sons. Becoming an interracial family and parenting Black sons taught us about white privilege and the myriad ways that Blacks confront racism in education, criminal justice, health care, and simply living day-to-day. 

Marlene and Fern's book list on the experiences of Black people in the US that white people don’t know but should

Marlene G. Fine and Fern L. Johnson Why did Marlene and Fern love this book?

Growing up, Marlene learned about the Holocaust through stories about members of her mother’s family who died in the Holocaust. As a Lutheran growing up in Minnesota, Fern learned little about the Holocaust. As whites, neither of us learned much about the Jim Crow era in the US or the northern migration of southern African Americans during that era.

Isabelle Wilkerson grew up knowing the stories of her parents’ migration north to Washington, DC. Those stories shaped her desire to chronicle the Great Migration (1915-1970), in which millions of African Americans left the Jim Crow South for better lives in northern cities. Although many achieved success that would not have been possible, they experienced the same interpersonal and institutional racism in the North that they thought they were escaping from.

Wilkerson, a journalist, gives us the sweep of history grounded by the stories of four African Americans. 

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Warmth of Other Suns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this beautifully written masterwork, the Pulitzer Prize–winnner and bestselling author of Caste chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official…


Book cover of The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Ninetenth-Century New York

Rebecca Frost Author Of Words of a Monster: Analyzing the Writings of H.H. Holmes, America's First Serial Killer

From my list on crimes you've never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I picked up my first book about Jack the Ripper the summer after college and never looked back. Since then my collection of true crime has grown to overflow my office bookshelves and I’ve written a PhD dissertation and multiple books about true crime, focusing on serial killers. The genre is so much more than Bundy, Gacy, and Dahmer and I love talking with people about the less mainstream cases that interest them, and the newer victim-centered approaches that—fingers crossed—mark a change in how we talk about criminals and victims.

Rebecca's book list on crimes you've never heard of

Rebecca Frost Why did Rebecca love this book?

Helen Jewett was a sex worker living in New York in the 1830s. She worked in a brothel under a matron, which should have been a safe enough situation—she wasn’t out on the street, at least, and others knew when she had clients. Early one morning, however, others in the house wake up to realize there’s a fire in Helen’s room, and that she’s dead. Was it a murder committed by her last client, a man quickly identified as Richard Robinson, or was it a suicide? If she hadn’t died so brutally, we wouldn’t know Helen Jewett’s name, so she’s become another victim only known for her murder. Cohen reminds us that she’s more than just her death.

By Patricia Cline Cohen,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Murder of Helen Jewett as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1836, the murder of a young prostitute made headlines in New York City and around the country, inaugurating a sex-and-death sensationalism in news reporting that haunts us today. Patricia Cline Cohen goes behind these first lurid accounts to reconstruct the story of the mysterious victim, Helen Jewett.

From her beginnings as a servant girl in Maine, Helen Jewett refashioned herself, using four successive aliases, into a highly paid courtesan. She invented life stories for herself that helped her build a sympathetic clientele among New York City's elite, and she further captivated her customers through her seductive letters, which mixed…


Book cover of Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

John Wood Sweet Author Of The Sewing Girl's Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America

From my list on Revolutionary America focus on the lives of women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an American historian and former director of UNC-Chapel Hill's Program in Sexuality Studies—and former pizza maker, gas pumper, park ranger, and tour guide at the house in which Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. As a historian, I've spent my career trying to understand the lives of people in early American history who weren't well known at the time. In writing the Sewing Girl's Tale, which focuses on a survivor of a sexual assault, it was especially important to keep her at the center of the story. Ultimately, I wanted to know: What was life in the aftermath of the American Revolution like—not for some Founding Father—but for an ordinary young woman.

John's book list on Revolutionary America focus on the lives of women

John Wood Sweet Why did John love this book?

This best-selling book tells an important story about Black women's struggles for freedom and autonomy at the founding of the American nation. And tells it so well! One of my favorite things about this book is that the title is a bit misleading: this is not actually (another) book about the Washingtons.The book centers on Ona Judge, a woman who freed herself after the Revolution and forged a new life in the tumultuous world of the newly independent United States. Dramatic and suspenseful as her personal story is, this book also tells a bigger story about how it was enslaved people themselves who made the North free. Heartbreaking, heroic, dramatic, suspenseful, inspiring.

By Erica Strong Dunbar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Never Caught as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A startling and eye-opening look into America's First Family, Never Caught is the powerful story about a daring woman of "extraordinary grit" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation's capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the President grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn't abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to…


Book cover of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

Daniel Byman Author Of Spreading Hate: The Global Rise of White Supremacist Terrorism

From my list on understanding white supremacy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in extremism and terrorism when I was young, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. As a student and then as an intelligence analyst, I became deeply immersed in terrorism emanating from the Middle East and later served with the 9/11 Commission. In the last decade, I focused on the white supremacist threat, motivated both by its growing lethality and its political impact during the Trump era and today. In this book, I share my insights on the movement’s modern history, global dimensions, presence on social media, and numerous vulnerabilities.

Daniel's book list on understanding white supremacy

Daniel Byman Why did Daniel love this book?

If most Americans are like me, Reconstruction is vaguely remembered from high school history classes as a time when corrupt and incompetent Carpetbaggers and Scalawags reigned while the South struggled to recover from the devastation of the Civil War. Historians have rescued Reconstruction from this neglect and misunderstanding, revealing it as a second American revolution – but one that failed. It was a time of stunning progress in the rights of Black Americans, a reconceptualization of the role of government in society, and staggering violence to preserve white supremacy. Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Eric Foner’s book is the Bible for this era–lucidly written, carefully researched, and painful in its assessment of this lost moment in American history.

By Eric Foner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Newly Reissued with a New Introduction: From the "preeminent historian of Reconstruction" (New York Times Book Review), a newly updated edition of the prize-winning classic work on the post-Civil War period which shaped modern America. Eric Foner's "masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history" (New Republic) redefined how the post-Civil War period was viewed. Reconstruction chronicles the way in which Americans-black and white-responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the war and the end of slavery. It addresses the ways in which the emancipated slaves' quest for economic autonomy and equal citizenship shaped the political…


Book cover of The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815

William Heath Author Of William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest

From my list on the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley Frontier.

Why am I passionate about this?

William Heath has a Ph.D. in American Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He has taught American history and literature as well as creative writing at Kenyon, Transylvania, Vassar, the University of Seville, and Mount Saint Mary’s University, retiring as a professor emeritus. He has published two poetry books, The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy; two chapbooks, Night Moves in Ohio and Leaving Seville; three novels: The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Award), Devil Dancer, and Blacksnake’s Path; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards); and a collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone

William's book list on the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley Frontier

William Heath Why did William love this book?

The Middle Ground is by far the best overview of the Great Lakes frontier over a period of almost two hundred years. White traces how French fur traders were able to establish a fluctuating “middle ground” with the Indian nations of the region that allowed for a degree of respect, understanding, and intermarriage. When the French were succeeded by the British, this middle ground began to shrink, as English traders wanted to let the cash nexus determine their business practices. When the Americans came to dominate the situation, the middle ground, with the exception of a few figures like William Wells, almost entirely disappeared. The result was devastating for the Indian nations, whose cultures nearly disappeared. White’s thesis has been challenged by Alan Taylor and other historians of the period, but the book remains an essential classic.  

By Richard White,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Middle Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An acclaimed book and widely acknowledged classic, The Middle Ground steps outside the simple stories of Indian-white relations - stories of conquest and assimilation and stories of cultural persistence. It is, instead, about a search for accommodation and common meaning. It tells how Europeans and Indians met, regarding each other as alien, as other, as virtually nonhuman, and how between 1650 and 1815 they constructed a common, mutually comprehensible world in the region around the Great Lakes that the French called pays d'en haut. Here the older worlds of the Algonquians and of various Europeans overlapped, and their mixture created…


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