68 books like Notes on the State of Virginia

By Thomas Jefferson,

Here are 68 books that Notes on the State of Virginia fans have personally recommended if you like Notes on the State of Virginia. 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 An Hour Before Daylight: Memories Of A Rural Boyhood

Craig Fehrman Author Of Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote

From my list on written by American presidents.

Why am I passionate about this?

Craig Fehrman spent ten years writing Author in Chief, his book on presidents and the books they wrote. When readers would learn about his research, they'd always ask -- "Are any of them worth reading?" The answer turned out to be a definitive yes! Presidential books have won elections, redefined careers, and shaped America's place in the world. It's easy to eye-roll at modern political volumes, but for most of American history, books have been our popular culture -- and presidential books have changed our nation. Here are a few of the books that will reward readers today. 

Craig's book list on written by American presidents

Craig Fehrman Why did Craig love this book?

Carter has written a huge number of books, including a historical novel and a volume of poetry, but this one is definitely his best. Like Coolidge's, it’s simple, detail-driven, and always personal, capturing Carter's Georgia childhood and connecting it to bigger issues like the Great Depression and the Jim Crow South. There's a handful of shorter, more intimate books by ex-presidents—not only Carter’s but also Harry Truman’s Mr. Citizen and Dwight Eisenhower’s At Ease—and these books always read better and reveal more than their authors’ official presidential memoirs. I wish more ex-presidents would follow Coolidge in writing that punchy and personal book first, about their White House years. If they tried this approach, they would find that it makes everyone a winner—not just the presidents but also their readers.

By Jimmy Carter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An Hour Before Daylight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this powerful memoir, former President and bestselling author Jimmy Carter writes about the powerful rhythms of countryside and community in a sharecropping economy. He offers an unforgettable portrait of his father, a brilliant farmer and strict segregationist who treated black workers with his own brand of 'separate' respect and fairness; and his strong-willed and well-read mother, a nurse who cared for all in need. He describes the five other people who shaped his early life, only two of them white; his eccentric relatives; and the boyhood friends with whom he worked the farm and hunted with slingshots and boomerangs,…


Book cover of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Craig Fehrman Author Of Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote

From my list on written by American presidents.

Why am I passionate about this?

Craig Fehrman spent ten years writing Author in Chief, his book on presidents and the books they wrote. When readers would learn about his research, they'd always ask -- "Are any of them worth reading?" The answer turned out to be a definitive yes! Presidential books have won elections, redefined careers, and shaped America's place in the world. It's easy to eye-roll at modern political volumes, but for most of American history, books have been our popular culture -- and presidential books have changed our nation. Here are a few of the books that will reward readers today. 

Craig's book list on written by American presidents

Craig Fehrman Why did Craig love this book?

Grant’s book is deservingly celebrated as the best presidential book, even if it's mostly a work of military history. Still, my favorite parts are the character descriptions. They show a surprising side of Grant: as a reader, he was America’s first full-blown fiction-loving president, and his obsession with novels clearly influenced his own writing. If you have the Library of America edition, you can quickly turn to the book’s sketch of Lincoln (page 469), which captures that president’s graciousness, and the sketch of Robert E. Lee (page 732), which captures Grant’s.

By John F. Marszalek, Ulysses S. Grant,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This fine volume leaps straight onto the roster of essential reading for anyone even vaguely interested in Grant and the Civil War. The book is deeply researched, but it introduces its scholarship with a light touch that never interferes with the reader's enjoyment of Grant's fluent narrative."-Ron Chernow, author of Grant

Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs, sold door-to-door by former Union soldiers, were once as ubiquitous in American households as the Bible. Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, Henry James, and Edmund Wilson hailed them as great literature, and countless presidents, including Clinton and George W. Bush, credit Grant with influencing their own…


Book cover of The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge

Craig Fehrman Author Of Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote

From my list on written by American presidents.

Why am I passionate about this?

Craig Fehrman spent ten years writing Author in Chief, his book on presidents and the books they wrote. When readers would learn about his research, they'd always ask -- "Are any of them worth reading?" The answer turned out to be a definitive yes! Presidential books have won elections, redefined careers, and shaped America's place in the world. It's easy to eye-roll at modern political volumes, but for most of American history, books have been our popular culture -- and presidential books have changed our nation. Here are a few of the books that will reward readers today. 

Craig's book list on written by American presidents

Craig Fehrman Why did Craig love this book?

This book is the forgotten classic of presidential writing—a blockbuster in its own time and a model for how modern political memoirs could be better. Coolidge was a stunningly good writer. (The New York Times called him “the most literary man who has occupied the White House since 1865.”) In his autobiography, he included many memorable stories, including one about his son, Calvin Jr., and his summer job picking tobacco. “If my father was president,” one of the laborers told him, “I would not work in a tobacco field.” “If my father were your father,” Calvin Jr. replied, “you would.” Yet the most memorable passage comes later, when the president describes Calvin Jr.’s shocking death. “In his suffering,” the most powerful man in the world wrote, “he was asking me to make him well. I could not.”

By Calvin Coolidge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Amity Shlaes reclaimed a misunderstood president with her bestselling biography Coolidge. Now she presents an expanded and annotated edition of that president's masterful memoir.

The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge is as unjustly neglected as Calvin Coolidge himself. The man caricatured as 'Silent Cal' was a gifted writer. The New York Times called him 'the most literary man who has occupied the White House since 1865.' One biographer wrote that Coolidge's autobiography 'displays a literary grace that is lacking in most such books by former presidents.'

The Coolidge who emerges in these pages is a model of character, principle, and humility…


Book cover of Where's the Rest of Me? The Autobiography of Ronald Reagan

Craig Fehrman Author Of Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote

From my list on written by American presidents.

Why am I passionate about this?

Craig Fehrman spent ten years writing Author in Chief, his book on presidents and the books they wrote. When readers would learn about his research, they'd always ask -- "Are any of them worth reading?" The answer turned out to be a definitive yes! Presidential books have won elections, redefined careers, and shaped America's place in the world. It's easy to eye-roll at modern political volumes, but for most of American history, books have been our popular culture -- and presidential books have changed our nation. Here are a few of the books that will reward readers today. 

Craig's book list on written by American presidents

Craig Fehrman Why did Craig love this book?

Another forgotten book, Where’s the Rest of Me? covered Reagan’s early life and set him up for his post-Hollywood pivot. Reagan was always more literary than his opponents understood, and in this book he managed to define his sunny political image several years before his famous political aides showed up to help. I discovered this after finding a set of letters no other Reagan biographer had seen, but you could also see it just by reading his book’s opening, which is far too strange and memorable to get past a good flack:

The story begins with the close-up of a bottom in a small town called Tampico in Illinois, on February 6, 1911. My face was blue from screaming, my bottom was red from whacking, and my father claimed afterward that he was white.

The punch line: “Ever since my birth,” Reagan wrote, “I have been particularly fond of the…

By Ronald Reagan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where's the Rest of Me? The Autobiography of Ronald Reagan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

President Reagan recounts his childhood, education, acting career, two marriages, and the events that shaped his political philosophy


Book cover of Thomas Jefferson's Education

Seth Mallios Author Of Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State

From my list on the surprising histories of college campuses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the archaeology of here to be just as interesting and enlightening as any faraway land. For those of us at universities, that means that the campus itself is worthy of historical, archaeological, and anthropological study. I have been San Diego State’s University History Curator for decades and never tire of uncovering new insights into an institution with a 125-year history, nearly 500,000 alumni, and a bevy of bizarre tales. Whether it be hidden student murals, supernatural claims from the gridiron, or disputed dinosaur footprints, the immediate landscape of our workplace is often full of historical treasures.

Seth's book list on the surprising histories of college campuses

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Whereas many books research the history of higher education are full of lofty ideals and collegiate high jinks, Alan Taylor’s book Thomas Jefferson’s Education is an insightful yet sobering look at the historical context and inception of the University of Virginia. This text is no hagiography and details how Jefferson’s university was deeply intertwined with slavery and many of the elitist vices common to Virginia gentry.

By Alan Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By turns entertaining and tragic, this beautifully crafted history reveals the origins of a great university in the dilemmas of Virginia slavery. Thomas Jefferson shares centre stage with his family and fellow planters, all dependent on the labour of enslaved black families. With a declining Virginia yielding to commercially vibrant northern states, in 1819 Jefferson proposed to build a university to educate and improve the sons of the planter elite. He hoped they might one day lead a revitalised Virginia free of slavery-and free of the former slaves.

Jefferson's campaign was a contest for the future of a state and…


Book cover of Haunted Virginia: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Old Dominion

Pamela K. Kinney Author Of Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales

From my list on paranormal to scare up myths and legends.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long before I began writing my first fictional story and way before I researched for my first nonfiction paranormal book, I gave up ignoring the voices in my head and began writing horror, fantasy, and six nonfiction books on the paranormal in Virginia. Besides learning a new piece of history or legend I never knew before, the research for my nonfiction books and articles inspired me to incorporate it into my horror or fantasy fiction. I enjoy writing fiction, but I believe I learn as much as my readers when I write nonfiction. 

Pamela's book list on paranormal to scare up myths and legends

Pamela K. Kinney Why did Pamela love this book?

Before other authors (including me) published books on Virginia’s ghosts and legends, it was L. B. Taylor who’d written many spooky tales that haunted the Old Dominion in a long span of books, including this one. Not just Virginians, but as someone who moved here in 1985, I learned about the state’s many ghosts, monsters, and legends that taught me a new view of the state. No one needs to live in Virginia to enjoy reading this book.

By Jr. Taylor, L. B.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Old Dominion has been one of the nation's most embattled states. Serving as center stage for both the American Revolution and the Civil War, it is also one of the most haunted. In addition to the sagas of the tragic spirits from these wars, this volume includes stories on the female stranger of Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, the mysterious stone showers in Newport, the ghost hound of the Blue Ridge, Mad Lucy of Williamsburg, and the spirits of native sons Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, and Edgar Allan Poe.


Book cover of In The Shadow Of The Greenbrier

Kitty Zeldis Author Of The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights

From my list on historical novels that feature bad-ass women.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a girl growing up in the 1960s, I loved books that were set in the past—Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn were among my favorites. But those books weren’t historical fiction because they were written back then. So discovering that I could set my own books in the past was a thrill. I love evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of the past. And I especially love describing what my characters wear. Vintage clothes are my passion and being able to incorporate that love into my work is an ongoing delight.

Kitty's book list on historical novels that feature bad-ass women

Kitty Zeldis Why did Kitty love this book?

Here’s another one about tony people leading their tony lives, this time in the hills of West Virginia which is home to the Greenbrier Resort, a real place that catered to the rich and famous. This novel follows the story of four members of the Zelner family—Jews in a decidedly inhospitable environment.

It’s the women who really stand out. First, there is scrappy, defiant Sylvia, unhappy in her marriage and seeking consolation in another man’s bed, and then later, her daughter Doree, who, like her mother, chafes against the restrictions imposed by class and religion. But Doree is more adept at navigating a hostile world and finds happiness in a way her mother never did.

The mother-daughter relationship, by turns fraught, contentious, and tender is at the heart of this story, and it won my heart too.

By Emily Matchar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In The Shadow Of The Greenbrier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Four generations. One remarkable hotel. Countless secrets.

Nestled in the hills of West Virginia lies White Sulphur Springs, home to the Greenbrier Resort. Long a playground for presidents and film stars, the Greenbrier has its own gravitational pull. Over ten decades, four generations of the Zelner family must grapple with their place in its shadow . . . and within their own family.

In 1942, young mother Sylvia is desperate to escape her stifling marriage, especially when it means co-running Zelner’s general store with her husband. When the Greenbrier is commandeered for use as a luxury prison, Sylvia finds her…


Book cover of Father Melancholy's Daughter

Sandra Hutchison Author Of The Awful Mess

From my list on deliciously wry novels with Christian themes.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone who grew up agnostic and somehow ended up an Episcopal Church lady, I’m intrigued by writers who deal with Christian belief respectfully without leaving their sense of humor behind. I don’t believe that faith is required to be moral—my nonreligious parents are more principled than many Christians I know—but I like to see characters work out that tension between what we’re taught in Scripture, what we believe or want to believe, and how we actually live it out in daily life (sins and all). I especially enjoy watching this happen in that peculiar petri dish of personalities that is any local church.

Sandra's book list on deliciously wry novels with Christian themes

Sandra Hutchison Why did Sandra love this book?

This novel traces the coming of age of the only child, a daughter, of a very traditional Episcopal priest. He struggles with depression, a failed marriage, and his work. She struggles to keep up her father’s spirits and tend to his household, as well as with the abandonment of them by her mother and with the question of who she shall be when she isn’t just tending to her dad. Ultimately, she arrives at a calling of her own. It’s a warm-hearted, leisurely novel that also can be quite comical about church people and human interaction of all kinds, but also treats faith seriously. (There’s also a good sequel that takes us into her ministry, Evensong.)     

By Gail Godwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A moving story of a father/daughter relationship set in present day small town America.


Book cover of Virginia Folk Legends

Pamela K. Kinney Author Of Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales

From my list on paranormal to scare up myths and legends.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long before I began writing my first fictional story and way before I researched for my first nonfiction paranormal book, I gave up ignoring the voices in my head and began writing horror, fantasy, and six nonfiction books on the paranormal in Virginia. Besides learning a new piece of history or legend I never knew before, the research for my nonfiction books and articles inspired me to incorporate it into my horror or fantasy fiction. I enjoy writing fiction, but I believe I learn as much as my readers when I write nonfiction. 

Pamela's book list on paranormal to scare up myths and legends

Pamela K. Kinney Why did Pamela love this book?

This book is a collection of legends and folklore gathered by field workers of the Virginia Writers Project of the WPA that languished for decades in the libraries of the University of Virginia. It took folklorist Thomas E. Barde to put them in a book endorsed by the American Folklore Society. It helped me discover the witch stories told in the past until the 40s in the western part of Virginia, as I researched for the witch chapter of my own book. I enjoyed these tales and believed other armchair folklorists would enjoy them, too. 

By Thomas E. Barden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Virginia Folk Legends as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What do devil dogs, witches, haunted houses, Daniel Boone, Railroad Bill, "Justice John" Crutchfield, and lost silver mines have in common? All are among the subjects included in the vast collection of legends gathered between 1937 and 1942 by the field workers of the Virginia Writers Project of the WPA. For decades following the end of the project, these stories lay untouched in the libraries of the University of Virginia. Now, folklorist Thomas E. Barden brings to light these delightful tales, most of which have never been in print. Virginia Folk Legends presents the first valid published collection of Virginia…


Book cover of The Homecoming

Michelle Buckman Author Of Turning in Circles

From my list on teens suffering in bad relationships or tragedy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a novelist who loves stories that express deep emotions and life-changing experiences, suspenseful stories that explore how humankind responds to tragedy, to heartache, and to joy, so that is what I write. My stories don’t come from me; they come through me. I often listen to scene-setting music full blast over and over again as scenes form in my head and the words pour onto the page. I don’t write my stories in order. I usually know the beginning and end, but I write whatever scene I “see” and then arrange them in the right order when I’m done. 

Michelle's book list on teens suffering in bad relationships or tragedy

Michelle Buckman Why did Michelle love this book?

I loved The Waltons, the closeness of the family, and how they solved typical family squabbles. As an adult, I watched every episode again with my kids, so I was thrilled when I actually met The Homecoming author Earl Hamner, Jr. (the real John-Boy Walton/Clay-Boy Spencer) in an online writers’ group way back when the internet was first invented. We became great online friends. His John-Boy character inspired the character in my book, a good-hearted teen who, despite living in modern times, traverses his small southern town on a horse, just as John-Boy rode Blue, his mule.

By Earl Hamner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young man searches for his missing father on Christmas Eve in this sequel to Spencer’s Mountain, the novel that inspired The Waltons.
 
It’s the night before Christmas, but Clay Spencer has failed to return home. Leaving his worried family to keep watch at the homestead, his son, Clay-Boy, takes to the snowy Virginia hills in search of his father. Along the way, he will meet an irate deer, a threatening county sheriff, a congregation of African American churchgoers, and two elderly women who happen to be bootleggers—in this tale filled with warmth, humor, and emotion.
 
Along with Spencer’s Mountain,…


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