100 books like Lincoln

By David Herbert Donald,

Here are 100 books that Lincoln fans have personally recommended if you like Lincoln. 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 Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861

Gary W. Gallagher Author Of The Enduring Civil War: Reflections on the Great American Crisis

From my list on the Civil War era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been captivated by the era of the American Civil War since I was ten years old at the beginning of the conflict’s centennial. I have taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Penn State University, and the University of Virginia. I have written, co-written, or edited more than 40 books on the subject. The compelling personalities, dramatic events, and profoundly important issues at stake compel my continuing attention to the war, its antecedents, and its short- and long-term impact. I recommend five classic titles on the Civil War era (one a trilogy, one a two-volume set, and three single volumes) that will reward readers in the third decade of the 21st Century.

Gary's book list on the Civil War era

Gary W. Gallagher Why did Gary love this book?

David M. Potter’s The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976; winner of a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for History) remains, after nearly half-a-century, the best narrative on the coming of the Civil War. It brims with perceptive analysis and very usefully instructs readers about history’s vexing complications. Completed after Potter’s death by his colleague at Stanford Don E. Fehrenbacher, the engaging text forcefully reminds readers to keep in mind the contingent nature of politics and to avoid assuming events had to play out as they did. Part of the period’s complexity lay in the fact that although the crisis of 1860-1861 had everything to do with slavery’s powerful influence over American political affairs, the increasingly heated rhetoric of the secession winter did not focus on whether the nation would keep or jettison the institution. Four years of war answered that fundamental question.

By David M. Potter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

David M. Potter's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Impending Crisis is the definitive history of antebellum America. Potter's sweeping epic masterfully charts the chaotic forces that climaxed with the outbreak of the Civil War: westward expansion, the divisive issue of slavery, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown's uprising, the ascension of Abraham Lincoln, and the drama of Southern secession. Now available in a new edition, The Impending Crisis remains one of the most celebrated works of American historical writing.


Book cover of War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

Paul D. Escott Author Of Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era.

From my list on politics and race in the Civil War era.

Why am I passionate about this?

Paul D. Escott is the author of thirteen books focused on the Confederacy or the Union, is co-author of other volumes, and has written many articles and book chapters. He won research fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Foundation and is the Reynolds Professor of History Emeritus from Wake Forest University.

Paul's book list on politics and race in the Civil War era

Paul D. Escott Why did Paul love this book?

We frequently read about the glories and historic decisions of the Civil War, but here is an eye-opening book that shows us how enormous was the civilian suffering caused by the conflict. Joan Cashin invigorates Civil War studies by treating military history, material culture, the environment, gender, and military-civilian relations from a fresh perspective. You will think about the war in a changed way after reading this fine book.

By Joan E. Cashin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this path-breaking work on the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin explores the struggle between armies and civilians over the human and material resources necessary to wage war. This war 'stuff' included the skills of white Southern civilians, as well as such material resources as food, timber, and housing. At first, civilians were willing to help Confederate or Union forces, but the war took such a toll that all civilians, regardless of politics, began focusing on their own survival. Both armies took whatever they needed from human beings and the material world, which eventually destroyed the region's ability to…


Book cover of Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

Paul D. Escott Author Of Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era.

From my list on politics and race in the Civil War era.

Why am I passionate about this?

Paul D. Escott is the author of thirteen books focused on the Confederacy or the Union, is co-author of other volumes, and has written many articles and book chapters. He won research fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Foundation and is the Reynolds Professor of History Emeritus from Wake Forest University.

Paul's book list on politics and race in the Civil War era

Paul D. Escott Why did Paul love this book?

The decision to recruit Black soldiers made an enormous difference in the war and in politics. Black recruits to the U.S. Army equaled all the northern men lost in the first two years of fighting and proved themselves on many battlefields. Their sacrifice also made an irrefutable case for Black rights. Joseph Glatthaar’s book admirably tells the story of these soldiers and their white officers.

By Joseph T. Glatthaar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sixteen months after the start of the American Civil War, the Federal government, having vastly underestimated the length and manpower demands of the war, began to recruit black soldiers. This revolutionary policy gave 180,000 free blacks and former slaves the opportunity to prove themselves on the battlefield as part of the United States Colored Troops. By the end of the war, 37,000 in their ranks had given their lives for the cause of freedom.

In Forged in Battle, originally published in 1990, award-winning historian Joseph T. Glatthaar re-creates the events that gave these troops and their 7,000 white officers justifiable…


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 Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Cathal J. Nolan Author Of Mercy: Humanity in War

From my list on how wars are won and lost.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an award-winning teacher and writer who introduces students and readers to war in a profession that today is at best indifferent to military history, and more often hostile. That gives me a wry sense of irony, as colleagues would rather teach about fashion than fascism and truffles over tragedy. Having written a multiple award-winning book that covered 2,000 years of war, frankly I was sickened by how the same mistakes were made over and again. It has made me devoted to exploring possibilities for humane behavior within the most inhumane and degraded moral environment humanity creates; where individuality is subsumed in collective violence and humanity is obscured as a faceless, merciless enemy.

Cathal's book list on how wars are won and lost

Cathal J. Nolan Why did Cathal love this book?

Beautifully written masterwork on one of the most important wars of the 19th century. It takes the reader from the experience of ordinary soldiers in battle to key debates around the cabinet table, in a rare display of dexterity and understanding of all levels of war. You will enter Grant’s HQ from where he ran the critical Western theater of operations and sit across from Lincoln as he makes the key decision for a hard war that let the Union maximize its resources and win. And you will walk into Lee’s HQ where the Confederacy lost the war in bursts of Southern hubris that led to two ill-conceived invasions of the North that provoked the final crushing.  

By James M. McPherson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Battle Cry of Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now featuring a new Afterword by the author, this handy paperback edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom is without question the definitive one-volume history of the Civil War.
James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War including the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. From there it moves into…


Book cover of Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters

Charles B. Strozier Author Of Lincoln's Quest for Union

From my list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst.

Why am I passionate about this?

I got my first job as a professor of history in 1972 in Springfield, Illinois, at a new university there. What can you do in Springfield except work on Lincoln? The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Lincoln draws you in. His lively mind and always well-written letters, along with his brilliant and memorable speeches, are endlessly fascinating. He also had genuine integrity as a human being and as a leader in our greatest crisis as a country. It is hard not to be inspired by Abraham Lincoln.

Charles' book list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst

Charles B. Strozier Why did Charles love this book?

Mary Todd Lincoln has been seriously misunderstood by most observers (including her most recent biographer). She was in fact a smart, lively, well-educated woman whom Lincoln loved and to whom he was emotionally drawn. Her troubled personality led to some distance between her and her husband in the 1850s, and her post-assassination despair grew in large part from the unrelenting criticism she endured. This definitive collection of her letters, interspersed with excellent biographical information, contextualizes the documents in a highly readable volume. Mary Todd Lincoln deserves our close and sympathetic attention.

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


Book cover of Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln

Charles B. Strozier Author Of Lincoln's Quest for Union

From my list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst.

Why am I passionate about this?

I got my first job as a professor of history in 1972 in Springfield, Illinois, at a new university there. What can you do in Springfield except work on Lincoln? The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Lincoln draws you in. His lively mind and always well-written letters, along with his brilliant and memorable speeches, are endlessly fascinating. He also had genuine integrity as a human being and as a leader in our greatest crisis as a country. It is hard not to be inspired by Abraham Lincoln.

Charles' book list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst

Charles B. Strozier Why did Charles love this book?

William Herndon was Lincoln’s law partner and knew and worked with him from the early 1840s until 1861 when Lincoln left for Washington. After Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, Herndon tirelessly interviewed many of Lincoln’s family and neighbors from his childhood and youth. As I noted many years ago, Herndon’s project was the first oral history in American literature. His vast collection was long disdained by scholars. I used the records extensively myself and in the 1980s and 1990s those in the Lincoln field realized the letters and interviews were a priceless source. Doug Wilson and his colleagues did an excellent job in editing the Herndon material that is both invaluable for understanding Lincoln and providing a social history of the frontier in the early part of the 19th century.

By Douglas L. Wilson, Rodney O. Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Award

Women to whom Lincoln proposed marriage, political allies and adversaries, judges and fellow attorneys, longtime comrades, erstwhile friends--all speak out here in words first gathered by William H. Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, between 1865 and 1890. Historian David Herbert Donald has called Herndon's materials "the basic source for Abraham Lincoln's early years."

Now available in paperback, Herndon's Informants collects and annotates more than 600 letters and interviews providing information about Abraham Lincoln's prepolitical and prelegal careers. Some of the people Herndon questioned were illiterate. Others could read but barely write. The editors'…


Book cover of Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850's

Charles B. Strozier Author Of Lincoln's Quest for Union

From my list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst.

Why am I passionate about this?

I got my first job as a professor of history in 1972 in Springfield, Illinois, at a new university there. What can you do in Springfield except work on Lincoln? The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Lincoln draws you in. His lively mind and always well-written letters, along with his brilliant and memorable speeches, are endlessly fascinating. He also had genuine integrity as a human being and as a leader in our greatest crisis as a country. It is hard not to be inspired by Abraham Lincoln.

Charles' book list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst

Charles B. Strozier Why did Charles love this book?

Nothing equals this short introduction to Lincoln’s experience in the 1850s. One gains here an understanding of what Springfield on the urban frontier of America was all about, its muddy streets and yet remarkable collection of politicians like Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. It was truly an Athens on the prairie. Fehrenbacher also masterfully traces the role of circuit riding in Lincoln’s law career throughout the decade, as well as his keen sense of the nation’s crisis over slavery, especially after 1854. The book is very readable and accessible.

By Don E. Fehrenbacher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Prelude to Greatness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

" . . . [The] paperback edition of Professor Fehrenbacher's study, first published in 1962, of Lincoln in the 1850s is a welcome reminder of what can be achieved by a fresh and searching investigation of often-asked questions. . . . The book is lucidly and soberly written, and full of carefully considered argument. It is one more major contribution to the work of putting the slavery issue back where it has always belonged--at the very centre--of any discussion of the origins of the Civil War."--Journal of American Studies





"This is a brilliant book. With thorough research . . .…


Book cover of A. Lincoln: A Biography

Talmage Boston Author Of Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts about Our Presidents

From my list on presidential biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Over the last eight years, I’ve conducted as many onstage interviews with leading presidential historians as anyone else in the country. To prepare for them, I read presidential biographies thoroughly and constantly. The fact that my work has been strongly endorsed by people in presidential history circles with the stature of Ken Burns, David McCullough, James Baker, Jon Meacham, and Douglas Brinkley should be a strong indication that my opinion about this subject matters.

Talmage's book list on presidential biographies

Talmage Boston Why did Talmage love this book?

It’s the best cradle-to-grave biography of Lincoln, quite an accomplishment, given that over 16,000 books have been written on him. The book goes deep on a special interest I have in our 16th president: his long and winding faith journey. White’s passion for his subject serves to energize the reader.

By Ronald C. White Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“If you read one book about Lincoln, make it A. Lincoln.”—USA Today

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • The Philadelphia Inquirer • The Christian Science Monitor • St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE CHRISTOPHER AWARD

Everyone wants to define the man who signed his name “A. Lincoln.” In his lifetime and ever since, friend and foe have taken it upon themselves to characterize Lincoln according to their own label or libel. In this magnificent book, Ronald C. White, Jr., offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as…


Book cover of Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography

Michael Burlingame Author Of The Black Man's President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Equality

From my list on Lincoln as an anti-racist.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a college freshman, I was profoundly affected by a mesmerizing, Pulitzer-Prize-winning professor and Lincoln scholar, David Herbert Donald, who became an important mentor. I was drawn to Lincoln as source of personal inspiration, someone who triumphed over adversity, one who despite a childhood of emotional malnutrition and grinding poverty, despite a lack of formal education, despite a series of career failures, despite a woe-filled marriage, despite a tendency to depression, despite a painful midlife crisis, despite the early death of his mother and his siblings as well as of his sweetheart and two of his four children, became a model of psychological maturity, moral clarity, and unimpeachable integrity.

Michael's book list on Lincoln as an anti-racist

Michael Burlingame Why did Michael love this book?

In this beautifully written study of Lincoln’s pre-presidential years, the political ethicist William Lee Miller, a warm and generous friend as well as a gifted scholar, argued that to “appraise Lincoln fairly” one “should not compare him to unattached abolitionists in Massachusetts or to anyone a century and a half later” but rather to “other engaged politicians in the Old Northwest in the 1850s,” who were far more skeptical about racial equality than Lincoln was.

Miller observed that Lincoln was consistently “cordial and welcoming in his treatment of individual African-Americans,” but that he was more than that. In Miller’s words, Lincoln’s interaction with those Blacks demonstrated “a racially inclusive egalitarianism.” Miller’s companion volume, President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman is an equally insightful examination of Lincoln’s presidential years.

By William Lee Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

William Lee Miller’s ethical biography is a fresh, engaging telling of the story of Lincoln’s rise to power. Through careful scrutiny of Lincoln’s actions, speeches, and writings, and of accounts from those who knew him, Miller gives us insight into the moral development of a great politician — one who made the choice to go into politics, and ultimately realized that vocation’s fullest moral possibilities.

As Lincoln’s Virtues makes refreshingly clear, Lincoln was not born with his face on Mount Rushmore; he was an actual human being making choices — moral choices — in a real world. In an account…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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