100 books like Freeman

By Leonard Pitts, Jr.,

Here are 100 books that Freeman fans have personally recommended if you like Freeman. 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 The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part I: The Witnesses

Elizabeth Bell Author Of Necessary Sins

From my list on the human toll of American slavery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an American novelist and a lifelong, enthusiastic student of American history. To me, history is people. In addition to first-hand accounts and biographies, one of the best ways to understand those people is historical fiction. For the last two decades, I’ve lived in the Southern United States, surrounded by the legacy of slavery, America’s “peculiar institution” that claimed an unequivocal evil was a positive good. Because both the enslaved and their enslavers were human beings, the ways that evil manifested were as complex as each individual—as were the ways people maintained their humanity. These are a few of the novels on the subject that blew me away.

Elizabeth's book list on the human toll of American slavery

Elizabeth Bell Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Until I read The Resurrection of Nat Turner, I considered myself a pacifist. I ended this novel and its sequel rooting for violent resistance and for Nat Turner, the man who led the most famous slave rebellion in American history, a man who was responsible for the deaths of women and children. In a culture of violence and unequivocal evil, turning the other cheek cannot be the only recourse. Foster left me forever changed.

By Sharon Ewell Foster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A riveting novel about tragic hero Nat Turner's uprising, capture, and trial-and how he impacted life in the United States forever.

The truth has been buried more than one hundred years . . .

Leading a small army of slaves, Nat Turner was a man born with a mission: to set the captives free. When words failed, he ignited an uprising that left over fifty whites dead. In the predawn hours of August 22, 1831, Nat Turner stormed into history with a Bible in one hand, brandishing a sword in the other. His rebellion shined a national spotlight on slavery…


Book cover of The Prophets

Jeffrey Richards Author Of We Are Only Ghosts

From my list on LGBT+ novels that haunt me (in a good way).

Why am I passionate about this?

I came of age in Oklahoma as a gay youth in the late 1970s and early 1980s, keeping myself hidden out of safety and shame. Once I was old enough to leave my small-minded town and be myself, I crashed headlong into the oncoming AIDS epidemic. It set me on a path to understanding the world and my place in it as a homosexual. I turned to reading about the lives and histories of those who came before me, to learn about their deaths and survivals in what could be an ugly, brutal world. These works continue to draw me, haunt me, and inspire me to share my story through my writing. 

Jeffrey's book list on LGBT+ novels that haunt me (in a good way)

Jeffrey Richards Why did Jeffrey love this book?

This is one of those novels I read as a writer, and I thought I should just pack it in because I’ll never be able to write anything so gloriously beautiful, heartbreaking, and perfect.

While Robert Jones, Jr. meticulously creates an atmosphere of the harsh realities of slavery–stretching from the shores of Africa to the cotton fields of Mississippi–he brings us up above all that ugliness, all that inhumanity by offering a transcendental love story between two of the slaves, Samuel and Isaiah.

Even though the harshness, so realized that it made my stomach turn while reading the story, is so visceral and painful, it is the love story that not only infuses itself throughout the plantation–from the slave quarters to the main house–that supersedes all and wends its way into your skin, your heart, your soul. This novel is an achievement beyond anything I expected.

By Robert Jones, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER*

'This visionary and deeply evocative debut carves a radiant love story out of the bleakest of landscapes.' Waterstones - Best Books to Look Out For in 2021

'An Outstanding novel' Guardian
'A lyrical, poetic novel' Independent
'Epic in its scale' Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
'A rare marvel' Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
'Magisterial' Courttia Newland, author of A River Called Time
'A spellbinding debut' COSMO
'Ambitious and intense' Vanity Fair

In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr. blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose…


Book cover of Douglass' Women

Elizabeth Bell Author Of Necessary Sins

From my list on the human toll of American slavery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an American novelist and a lifelong, enthusiastic student of American history. To me, history is people. In addition to first-hand accounts and biographies, one of the best ways to understand those people is historical fiction. For the last two decades, I’ve lived in the Southern United States, surrounded by the legacy of slavery, America’s “peculiar institution” that claimed an unequivocal evil was a positive good. Because both the enslaved and their enslavers were human beings, the ways that evil manifested were as complex as each individual—as were the ways people maintained their humanity. These are a few of the novels on the subject that blew me away.

Elizabeth's book list on the human toll of American slavery

Elizabeth Bell Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Escaping slavery doesn’t make you a saint. Even Frederick Douglass, one of the world’s most famous former slaves, one of history’s greatest writers, orators, and human rights activists, had feet of clay. His wife Anna was a free Black woman who helped him escape bondage and bore him five children. Yet Frederick cheated on her in a decades-long affair with a White German woman—who is somehow equally sympathetic here. I finished this novel loving all three of these flawed, complex characters, all of whom were real people. Rhodes’s psychological insight leaves me in awe.

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Douglass' Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2003 PEN OAKLAND JOSEPHINE MILES AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING WRITING AND THE BLACK CAUCUS OF THE ALA LITERARY AWARD
Frederick Douglass, the great African-American abolitionist, was a man who cherished freedom in life and in love. In this ambitious work of historical fiction, Douglass' passions come vividly to life in the form of two women: Anna Murray Douglass and Ottilie Assing.
Douglass' Women is an imaginative rendering of these two women -- one black, the other white -- in Douglass' life. Anna, his wife, was a free woman of color who helped Douglass escape as a slave. She…


Book cover of Sister of Mine

Elizabeth Bell Author Of Necessary Sins

From my list on the human toll of American slavery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an American novelist and a lifelong, enthusiastic student of American history. To me, history is people. In addition to first-hand accounts and biographies, one of the best ways to understand those people is historical fiction. For the last two decades, I’ve lived in the Southern United States, surrounded by the legacy of slavery, America’s “peculiar institution” that claimed an unequivocal evil was a positive good. Because both the enslaved and their enslavers were human beings, the ways that evil manifested were as complex as each individual—as were the ways people maintained their humanity. These are a few of the novels on the subject that blew me away.

Elizabeth's book list on the human toll of American slavery

Elizabeth Bell Why did Elizabeth love this book?

The Jewish people have been persecuted—even enslaved—for millennia. One would hope this would make them more compassionate toward another persecuted and enslaved group, American Blacks. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the way human nature works. To quote Frederick Douglass: “Everybody, in the south, wants the privilege of whipping somebody else.” If humans can get ahead by oppressing someone else, we too often do. With her fictional Jewish family and the Blacks they enslave—one of whom is also their blood kin—Waldfogel explores this terrible truth. A hundred and fifty years after its setting, this novel challenged me to be a better human.

By Sabra Waldfogel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When two Union soldiers stumble onto a plantation in northern Georgia on a warm May day in 1864, the last thing they expect is to see the Union flag flying high-or to be greeted by a group of freed slaves and their Jewish mistress. Little do they know that this place has an unusual history.

Twelve years prior, Adelaide Mannheim-daughter of Mordecai, the only Jewish planter in the county-was given her own maid, a young slave named Rachel. The two became friends, and soon they discovered a secret: Mordecai was Rachel's father, too.

As the country moved toward war, Adelaide…


Book cover of Uncle Tom's Cabin

John J. Miller Author Of The First Assassin

From my list on the American Civil War and 5 novels to immerse yourself within it.

Why am I passionate about this?

John J. Miller is director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, a writer for National Review, and the host of two book-themed podcasts, The Great Books and The Bookmonger. His books include The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football and Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas. He lives on a dirt road in rural Michigan.

John's book list on the American Civil War and 5 novels to immerse yourself within it

John J. Miller Why did John love this book?

“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said when he met Stowe. The quote may be apocryphal, but it points to a truth about the 1852 novel that shaped American opinions about the cruelty and injustice of slavery. The writing is a bit melodramatic for modern sensibilities, but it’s hard to beat the scene in which the escaped slave Eliza tries to carry her young son across an icy river for freedom on the other side.

By Harriet Beecher Stowe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Uncle Tom's Cabin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most powerful and enduring work of art ever written about American slavery"-Alfred Kazin

"To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom's cabin may...prove a startling experience"-Edmund Wilson

In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe created America's first black literary hero as well as the nation's antecedent protest novel. The novel's vast influence on attitudes towards African American slavery was considered an incitation towards the American Civil War; conjointly, its powerful anti-slavery message resonated with readers around the world at its time of publication.

With unashamed sentimentality and expressions of faith, Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle…


Book cover of The Bloody Shirt: Terror After the Civil War

John Poniske Author Of Snakebit: Prelude to War

From my list on reflecting on our current cultural impasse.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in Springfield, Illinois, what is considered Lincoln’s backyard. I grew up fascinated by history, and the Civil War in particular. The trouble was, its racial overtones always bothered me. Later in life, I became a high school history and journalism teacher and turned my interest in historical-based board gaming into a business I called Indulgent Wife Enterprises (because my wife is so incredibly supportive). To date, I have published 30 board games based mostly on American conflicts. When I retired, I began the ambitious project of writing a strongly researched account of the divisions leading up to the Civil War and through to the Reconstruction period that followed. 

John's book list on reflecting on our current cultural impasse

John Poniske Why did John love this book?

Ever since I was a little kid in Springfield, Illinois (Lincoln’s hometown), I found racism hard to understand. Where did it come from? Why is it so rooted in our society?

This book taught me about black dreams, freedom, and rights ravaged by widespread violence and intimidation. I was particularly impressed by General Lewis Merrill, assigned by Grant to prosecute KKK excesses in the northern counties of South Carolina; he was a man who, like me, could not believe the cruel outrages he was told… until he saw them for himself.

By Stephen Budiansky,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Barn Burning

Stephanie Harrison Author Of Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen: 35 Great Stories That Have Inspired Great Films

From my list on stories that have been adapted again and again.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid, I looked forward to Fridays. Not just because it was the end of a school week, but because that’s when the TV Guide arrived with the morning newspaper. While I ate my cereal, I’d circle the movies I wanted to watch the following week. If they were late-late movies, I’d set my alarm and get up and watch them alone in the living room (with the sound turned way down). I was also an avid reader, and it wasn’t long before I started pairing my reading and my viewing. I still do that, with a special interest in short stories and their film adaptations. 

Stephanie's book list on stories that have been adapted again and again

Stephanie Harrison Why did Stephanie love this book?

What I find striking about this story is that Faulkner’s depiction of Abner Snopes—the barn burner—is so uncompromising. He’s an angry, disaffected man who, when he can’t find his footing in society, reacts with violence. The reader is given no reason to sympathize with him, just asked to understand that he has a code: Integrity through vengeance. If that’s hard to understand—(it is for me)—that is, I think, the point. For a story published in 1939 about Mississippi in the late 1800s, it feels dishearteningly relevant. 

The 1958 film adaptation, The Long, Hot Summer, chops this story up and tosses it in with a few other Faulkner works. It’s far less edgy, but it stars Paul Newman.

By William Faulkner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reprinted from Collected Stories of William Faulkner, by permission of Random House, Inc.


Book cover of Soul Catcher

Robert J. Begiebing Author Of The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

From my list on British and American historical fiction, 1850-1960.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of ten books, including fiction, memoir, collected journalism, and criticism. My novels are historical fiction, hence my decision to make my recommendations within that genre, mostly. My own historical novels comprise a tetralogy beginning with The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin and ending with The Turner Erotica, so the series takes the reader roughly from 1648 to 1900. The second book chronologically in the series, Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction, won the 2003 Langum Prize for historical fiction. Retired now, I was the founding director of the MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University.

Robert's book list on British and American historical fiction, 1850-1960

Robert J. Begiebing Why did Robert love this book?

This historical novel is set just before the American Civil War. What singles it out is not the theme—the struggle of an African American slave and mother, Rosetta, for her freedom. More unusual is White’s courageous depiction of the full yet flawed humanity of her slave (“soul”) catcher, Augustus Cain, as Rosetta flees her inhumane conditions in Virginia enroute to Boston. Cain is one of the best at what he does, but the journey both characters endure also brings both toward mutual compassion and redemption. Though published in 2007, the book fits perfectly into, and helps to amplify further, our current awakening to our historical racism and the vast suffering white Americans have inflicted on their Black brothers and sisters. 

By Michael C. White,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Augustus Cain is a man with his back against the wall. A war-scarred wanderer, he faces a past he wants to forget, a present without prospect or fortune, and an uncertain future marred by the loss of his most prized possession - his horse - which he has carelessly gambled away. But he is not without skill - he has an uncanny, if unwelcome, ability to track the most elusive runaway slaves. And to repay a debt and keep his horse, he must head north from Virginia and retrieve a runaway named Rosetta. When he eventually runs Rosetta to ground…


Book cover of Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

William C. Davis Author Of An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government

From my list on the politics of the Confederacy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the early days of the Confederacy to be fascinating, a chance to look at Americans in the act of nation-making while surrounded by fear and crisis. Far more than in the convention of 1776, this episode offers sources that allow us to look inside their motives, and to evaluate them both as impractical rebels, and social and political idealists [albeit their idealism was always encased within the confines of a slave society]. Having written biographies of Jefferson Davis, Alexander H Stephens, Robert Toombs, and other Confederate politicians, this subject is a natural object of my interest. While I do not at all agree with or endorse the political measures they took in the secession crisis, I can feel some empathy for them and their people who felt themselves caught in a no-win position, facing [in their view] the possible destruction of their economy, society, and culture.

William's book list on the politics of the Confederacy

William C. Davis Why did William love this book?

This new 2020 book is a fresh synthesis of the scholarly work that has been done on secession and the young Confederacy in the past 30 years and has much that is new to offer  Its treatment of the weeks in Montgomery is rather brief, but insightful, and overall it makes a fine introduction to the political life of the CSA.

By William L. Barney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebels in the Making as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Regardless of whether they owned slaves, Southern whites lived in a world defined by slavery. As shown by their blaming British and Northern slave traders for saddling them with slavery, most were uncomfortable with the institution. While many wanted it ended, most were content to leave that up to God. All that changed with the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Rebels in the Making is a narrative-driven history of how and why secession occurred. In this work, senior Civil War historian William L. Barney narrates the explosion of the sectional conflict into secession and civil war. Carefully examining the events in…


Book cover of Gendered Strife and Confusion: The Political Culture of Reconstruction

Lee Ann Timreck Author Of Pieces of Freedom: The Emancipation Sculptures of Edmonia Lewis and Meta Warrick Fuller

From my list on the activism of African American women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm fascinated with material culture – studying the things we make and use – and what they tell us about our history. My particular passion is for nineteenth-century Black material culture, often the only tangible history of enslaved and newly-emancipated Black lives. The books on my list educated me of the historical realities for African Americans, from emancipation to Jim Crow – providing critical context for deciphering the stories embedded in historical artifacts. Overall, the gendered (and harrowing) history these books provide on the contributions of African-American women to civil rights and social justice should be required reading for everyone. 

Lee's book list on the activism of African American women

Lee Ann Timreck Why did Lee love this book?

The period after the Civil War known as Reconstruction has long been overlooked by historians and educators; even less has been written about this period from a gendered perspective.

Laura Edwards provides an excellent analysis of the experiences of newly-emancipated women in shaping and surviving the political, social, and economic landscape of Reconstruction. She studies their history through first-hand narratives of how they established households, pursued their legal rights, and claimed their new roles as free women.

The book is not only a fascinating read about Reconstruction, it helped contextualize Edmonia Lewis’s and Meta Fuller’s emancipation sculptures, and their message about the freedwoman’s new identity.

By Laura F. Edwards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gendered Strife and Confusion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Exploring the gendered dimension of political conflicts, Laura Edwards links transformations in private and public life in the era following the Civil War. Ideas about men's and women's roles within households shaped the ways groups of southerners-elite and poor, whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans-envisioned the public arena and their own places in it. By using those on the margins to define the center, Edwards demonstrates that Reconstruction was a complicated process of conflict and negotiation that lasted long beyond 1877 and involved all southerners and every aspect of life.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the South, reconstruction era, and the American Civil War?

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