100 books like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

By Frederick Douglass, John R. McKivigan, IV (editor), Peter P. Hinks (editor) , Heather L. Kaufman (editor)

Here are 100 books that Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave fans have personally recommended if you like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Wieland

Scott Peeples Author Of The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City

From my list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by Gothic literature (and art, music, and movies), and I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to talk and write about it—I teach at the College of Charleston (SC), where I just completed a course on American Gothic. I’m especially interested in nineteenth-century American writers, and I’ve written three books on Edgar Allan Poe, the most recent of which is The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City. For this list, I limited myself to Americans who, like Poe, wrote before and during the Civil War.

Scott's book list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe

Scott Peeples Why did Scott love this book?

This early American novel starts off with an episode of human spontaneous combustion, followed by repeated episodes of characters hearing disembodied voices.

Brown’s novel uses these Gothic devices and a couple of real-life murder cases to explore religious and political issues that preoccupied Americans in the years after the Revolution. How do we know whether we’re really being guided by reason? What is the basis of authority?

Most editions of Wieland include Brown’s prequel Memoirs of Carwin, which complicates the story by placing one of the main characters in an Illuminati-like organization. American Gothic literature pretty much starts here.  

Book cover of The House of the Seven Gables

Scott Peeples Author Of The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City

From my list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by Gothic literature (and art, music, and movies), and I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to talk and write about it—I teach at the College of Charleston (SC), where I just completed a course on American Gothic. I’m especially interested in nineteenth-century American writers, and I’ve written three books on Edgar Allan Poe, the most recent of which is The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City. For this list, I limited myself to Americans who, like Poe, wrote before and during the Civil War.

Scott's book list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe

Scott Peeples Why did Scott love this book?

Hawthorne’s House has a little of everything: mystery, romance, the supernatural, family treachery, and a surprising dose of humor.

A family curse, dating back to the days of New England witch trials, hangs over a present-day (1850s) land dispute, pitting strange but lovable Hepzibah and Clifford Pyncheon against their scheming, powerful cousin Jaffrey.

While much of the Gothic plot concerns the way the past controls the present, the novel also involves technologies that will help shape the future: photography (which is linked here to spiritualism) and, in one memorable scene, the railroad.

The popularity of the book and its 1940 film adaptation helped make the house that inspired Hawthorne a tourist attraction (which I also highly recommend) in Salem, Massachusetts.

By Nathaniel Hawthorne,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The House of the Seven Gables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gloomy New England mansion provides the setting for this classic exploration of ancestral guilt and its expiation through the love and goodwill of succeeding generations.
Nathaniel Hawthorne drew inspiration for this story of an immorally obtained property from the role his forebears played in the 17th-century Salem witch trials. Built over an unquiet grave, the House of the Seven Gables carries a dying man's curse that blights the lives of its residents for over two centuries. Now Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, an iron-hearted hypocrite and intellectual heir to the mansion's unscrupulous founder, is attempting to railroad a pair of his…


Book cover of The Quaker City: Or, the Monks of Monk Hall - A Romance of Philadelphia Life, Mystery and Crime

Scott Peeples Author Of The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City

From my list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by Gothic literature (and art, music, and movies), and I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to talk and write about it—I teach at the College of Charleston (SC), where I just completed a course on American Gothic. I’m especially interested in nineteenth-century American writers, and I’ve written three books on Edgar Allan Poe, the most recent of which is The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City. For this list, I limited myself to Americans who, like Poe, wrote before and during the Civil War.

Scott's book list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe

Scott Peeples Why did Scott love this book?

A thousand-page runaway bestseller, The Quaker City sold more copies than any American novel prior to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Lippard happened to be a friend of Poe’s, and he exceeded him when it came to depicting depravity and mayhem. Underneath the surface of order and respectability, Lippard’s Philadelphia is a city pervaded by corruption and crime, and the center of it all is a vast men’s clubhouse called Monk Hall.

Three interlocking plots deploy more sex and violence than most readers would expect from a mid-nineteenth-century novel, or even a twenty-first-century novel. Lippard coins the term “grotesque-sublime” in his description of his main character, Devil-Bug, but that expression applies to the whole novel.

You might get lost in one of his sentences even as he describes a character getting lost in the secret passages of Monk Hall, but it’s a fascinating trip. Think of it as a trashy but bingeworthy…

By George Lippard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

America's best-selling novel in its time, ""The Quaker City"", published in 1845, is a sensational expose of social corruption, personal debauchery and the sexual exploitation of women in antebellum Philadelphia. This new edition, with an introduction by David S. Reynolds, brings back into print this important work by George Lippard (1822-1854), a journalist, freethinker and labour and social reformer.


Book cover of Emily Dickinson's Poems: As She Preserved Them

Scott Peeples Author Of The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City

From my list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by Gothic literature (and art, music, and movies), and I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to talk and write about it—I teach at the College of Charleston (SC), where I just completed a course on American Gothic. I’m especially interested in nineteenth-century American writers, and I’ve written three books on Edgar Allan Poe, the most recent of which is The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City. For this list, I limited myself to Americans who, like Poe, wrote before and during the Civil War.

Scott's book list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe

Scott Peeples Why did Scott love this book?

Dickinson isn’t always Gothic, but many of her best and best-known poems revolve around that central Gothic question: what is it like to be dead?

Poems beginning with lines like “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died,” “Because I could not stop for Death,” “If I may have it, when it’s Dead,” and “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” play along the boundary between the living and the dead and ask uncomfortable questions about the afterlife, such as whether there is one.

It’s surely no coincidence that her creative peak coincided with the Civil War. But what makes Dickinson so compelling, for me at least, is her unique vocabulary, which suggests fears and other (sometimes ecstatic) emotions that no one else has managed to describe. Her poems are full of surprise and mystery.

This edition reproduces Dickinson’s own collections of her poems“fascicles” or homemade booksgiving…

By Emily Dickinson, Cristanne Miller (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Widely considered the definitive edition of Emily Dickinson's poems, this landmark collection presents her poems here for the first time "as she preserved them," and in the order in which she wished them to appear. It is the only edition of Dickinson's complete poems to distinguish clearly those she took pains to copy carefully onto folded sheets in fair hand-presumably to preserve them for posterity-from the ones she kept in rougher form. It is also unique among complete editions in presenting the alternate words and phrases Dickinson chose to use on the copies of the poems she kept, so that…


Book cover of Frederick Douglass

Laurence Fenton Author Of Frederick Douglass in Ireland

From my list on the life of Frederick Douglass.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and editor living in Cork, Ireland. I have a PhD in history from University College Cork and am the author of four books, including two on the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. I have been fascinated by Douglass ever since I discovered he travelled through Ireland as a young man, a tour that coincided with the onset of the Great Irish Famine. Douglass will also appear in the book I am currently writing, ‘Freedom’s Exiles’: The Poets, Plotters and Rebels and Who Found Refuge in Victorian Britain.

Laurence's book list on the life of Frederick Douglass

Laurence Fenton Why did Laurence love this book?

Written at a time when the racist belief that Black authors could not be trusted to write African-American history was still prevalent even in the upper echelons of academia, this deft 1948 portrait of Douglass launched the career of Benjamin Quarles, the pioneering African-American historian whose body of work (including The Negro in the American Revolution and Lincoln and the Negro) transformed thinking about the role African-Americans played in the formation of the United States.

By Benjamin Quarles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The son of a black slave and an unknown white father, Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) experienced first-hand the privations and brutality of America's "peculiar institution". Following his second, successful, attempt to escape, he went on to become a leading abolitionist and militant spokesman for African-American rights. A friend to Abraham Lincoln and other presidents, he held three major government offices and became a writer, orator and editor. This biography moves beyond Douglass' three autobiographies to explore his impact on the anti-slavery movement, the Civil War Reconstruction, women's suffrage, and the Republican Party during its first 40 years, and to look at…


Book cover of Love Twelve Miles Long

Nancy I. Sanders Author Of D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

From my list on inspirational African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books, I’ve been blessed to specialize in writing for kids about the amazing and inspiring legacy of African Americans. From an alphabet book for even the youngest readers to biographies with hands-on activities for middle graders and up, both nonfiction and fiction as well, these stories are my passion because many of these individuals are my personal heroes as well. I want kids to love and honor these men and women who have made a difference in our world as much as I do!

Nancy's book list on inspirational African American history

Nancy I. Sanders Why did Nancy love this book?

The author and I live near each other and we got to know each other at local writer events. So when I heard that her book won Lee and Low’s New Voices Award, I just had to get Glenda’s book. And I did! She autographed a copy for me which I treasure. This is a tender, powerful, and inspiring picture book. It tells the true story of how Frederick Douglass’s mother would visit him. He was a young child working on a plantation. His mother lived and worked six miles away. At night, she would walk six miles through the dark woods to come to visit Frederick, then head back home before dawn. He knew his mother loved him—it was a love that stretched 12 miles long.

Book cover of Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship

Nancy I. Sanders Author Of D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

From my list on inspirational African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books, I’ve been blessed to specialize in writing for kids about the amazing and inspiring legacy of African Americans. From an alphabet book for even the youngest readers to biographies with hands-on activities for middle graders and up, both nonfiction and fiction as well, these stories are my passion because many of these individuals are my personal heroes as well. I want kids to love and honor these men and women who have made a difference in our world as much as I do!

Nancy's book list on inspirational African American history

Nancy I. Sanders Why did Nancy love this book?

This is just a great book by a great author and great illustrator. It’s about the amazing and inspiring friendship of two of the most important men in the history of America. It compares and contrasts different stages of different ages of both these men and gives us a glimpse into the story behind the story of their deep friendship. Every child (and adult) should read this timeless story today.

By Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln and Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

In celebration of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday in February 2009, we present this story of the unusual friendship between two great American leaders. At a time when racial tensions were high and racial equality was not yet established, Lincoln and Douglass formed a strong bond over shared ideals.


Book cover of The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics

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?

I was thrilled when I read this book, the first one I found that cited Frederick Douglass’s little-known 1865 eulogy of Lincoln describing him as “emphatically the black man’s president.”

Historians often cited Douglass’s well-known 1876 speech (where he called Lincoln “preeminently the white man’s president”) but ignored the eulogy that I had discovered in Douglass’s papers at the Library of Congress. In vain I had long tried to call scholars’ attention to it.

So when I read this book I immediately wrote the author, thanking him and praising his work. We became fast friends, enthusiasts for opera as well as history. This book shows how Lincoln and Douglass started out from different political positions but moved together over time. Like Douglass Lincoln was “at bottom a racial egalitarian.”  

By James Oakes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"My husband considered you a dear friend," Mary Todd Lincoln wrote to Frederick Douglass in the weeks after Lincoln's assassination. The frontier lawyer and the former slave, the cautious politician and the fiery reformer, the President and the most famous black man in America-their lives traced different paths that finally met in the bloody landscape of secession, Civil War, and emancipation. Opponents at first, they gradually became allies, each influenced by and attracted to the other. Their three meetings in the White House signaled a profound shift in the direction of the Civil War, and in the fate of the…


Book cover of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Mark Rennella Author Of The One-Idea Rule: An Efficient Way to Improve Your Writing at School and Work

From my list on helping you find and assert your voice in writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mark Rennella has given students and professionals helpful advice about writing throughout his career, most recently as a writing coach for MBA candidates at Harvard Business School. Mark earned a PhD in American history from Brandeis University and has taught literature and American history at Harvard University, the University of Miami, and the University of Tours (France). Mark's books, articles, business case studies, and collaborative writing endeavors have garnered him critical praise from historians, academicians, and business leaders alike. His concept of the “one-idea rule” was included among HBR.org’s ten favorite management tips for 2022 and was featured more recently in Forbes. He currently works as an editor for Harvard Business Publishing.

Mark's book list on helping you find and assert your voice in writing

Mark Rennella Why did Mark love this book?

While writing a paper about Douglass in graduate school in the 1990s, I learned that he had to overcome two obstacles to establishing an authentic voice in his own book.

First, abolitionists argued against slavery by claiming it dehumanized the slave. While that could be true, this theory could not account for charismatic Black writers like Douglass who were anything but dehumanized. Second, slave narratives in the antebellum era often followed a certain formula that limited the narrator’s originality.

In one striking passage in the Narrative, Douglass overcomes both restrictions by evoking an image of his body that offers visual testimony to creatively push back on these limiting conventions: “My feet have been so cracked with the frost [felt during cold nights during enslavement], that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes.”

By Frederick Douglass,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Packaged in handsome and affordable trade editions, Clydesdale Classics is a new series of essential literary works. From the musings of literary geniuses like Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the striking personal narrative of Harriet Jacobs in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, this new series is a comprehensive collection of our literary history through the words of the exceptional few.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is perhaps the most widely read and well-known slave narrative. Originally published in 1845, the work was an instant success, selling more than 11,000 copies…


Book cover of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Rick Swegan Author Of The Practice of Ethical Leadership: Insights from Psychology and Business in Building an Ethical Bottom Line

From my list on moral courage in a world where courage seems to be lacking.

Why am I passionate about this?

For a long time, I’ve been intrigued by the different ways that people reason about moral issues. Add to that a mystification about why smart people do unethical things and you have the basis for our book on ethical leadership. I’ve spent the better part of my career evaluating and coaching potential leaders and realized relatively recently that I wanted to work with people who did the “right thing.” Demonstrating the moral courage to speak up in the face of opposition has become increasingly difficult—hence my list of books on moral courage. I hope you enjoy it.

Rick's book list on moral courage in a world where courage seems to be lacking

Rick Swegan Why did Rick love this book?

I read a lot, and this book always shows up in my top five all-time favorites.

Lovingly written, Blight draws a compelling picture of a complex, endlessly fascinating human being. I love the power of Douglass’s words and voice. In my opinion, this is a great book about the man who arguably may be the greatest African American our country has produced. He was a voice for social justice in a time and place where speaking up brought real physical risk. 

By David W. Blight,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Frederick Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History**

"Extraordinary...a great American biography" (The New Yorker) of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with…


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Interested in Frederick Douglass, African Americans, and Slavery?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Frederick Douglass, African Americans, and Slavery.

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