95 books like Rebels on the Border

By Aaron Astor,

Here are 95 books that Rebels on the Border fans have personally recommended if you like Rebels on the Border. 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 Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border

Brad Asher Author Of The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge

From my list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian based in Louisville, Kentucky. When I moved here two decades ago, I could tell the vibe was different than other places I had been. Southern—but not like Tennessee. Midwestern—but not like Illinois. So I started reading, and eventually writing, about the state’s history. I have a Ph.D. in United States history so I lean toward academic books. I like authors who dig into the primary sources of history and then come out and make an argument about the evidence that they uncovered. I also lean toward social and cultural history—rather than military history—of the Civil War.

Brad's book list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky

Brad Asher Why did Brad love this book?

To outsiders, Kentucky is clearly part of the South. For those of us who live here—especially those who know a little about the state’s history—it can be a little more nebulous. Phillips’ book helps explain why. Kentucky had a lot in common with its fellow states of the first West like Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, and those northern states could be a lot more “southern” than commonly understood. Phillips’s book shows how the Civil War remade those regional boundaries, turning the Ohio River into a line of separation between “North” and “South.”

By Christopher Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Most Americans believe that the Ohio River was a clearly defined and static demographic and political boundary between North and South, an extension of the Mason-Dixon Line. Once settled, the new states west of the Appalachians - the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and of the free states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas - formed a fixed boundary between freedom and slavery, extending the border that inevitably produced the war. None of this is true,
except perhaps the outcome of war. But the centrality of the Civil War and its outcome in the making of these tropes is…


Book cover of Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia

Brad Asher Author Of The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge

From my list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian based in Louisville, Kentucky. When I moved here two decades ago, I could tell the vibe was different than other places I had been. Southern—but not like Tennessee. Midwestern—but not like Illinois. So I started reading, and eventually writing, about the state’s history. I have a Ph.D. in United States history so I lean toward academic books. I like authors who dig into the primary sources of history and then come out and make an argument about the evidence that they uncovered. I also lean toward social and cultural history—rather than military history—of the Civil War.

Brad's book list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky

Brad Asher Why did Brad love this book?

I once stumbled onto a celebration of Confederate Memorial Day in a small Kentucky mountain town, but I had always been told that the mountains of eastern Kentucky were a stronghold of Unionism during the Civil War. McKnight’s book helped me understand the complexity of the Appalachian region and its experience of the war. Both armies used the mountain gaps as gateways to invasion, exploited the local residents, and despoiled the landscape. Life in the mountains in the 19th century had always been hard; the Civil War made it a lot harder.

By Brian D. McKnight,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From 1861 to 1865, the border separating eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia was more than just a geographic marker -- it represented a major ideological split, serving as an "international" boundary between the United States and the Confederacy. The loyalties of those who lived in this mountainous region could not be so easily divided, and large segments of the population remained neutral or vacillated in their support. Location and a wealth of resources made the region strategically important to both sides in the conflict, and both armies fought for control. In Contested Borderland, Brian D. McKnight shows how military invasion…


Book cover of Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880

Brad Asher Author Of The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge

From my list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian based in Louisville, Kentucky. When I moved here two decades ago, I could tell the vibe was different than other places I had been. Southern—but not like Tennessee. Midwestern—but not like Illinois. So I started reading, and eventually writing, about the state’s history. I have a Ph.D. in United States history so I lean toward academic books. I like authors who dig into the primary sources of history and then come out and make an argument about the evidence that they uncovered. I also lean toward social and cultural history—rather than military history—of the Civil War.

Brad's book list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky

Brad Asher Why did Brad love this book?

I have long been interested in the history of US religion but a lot of religious history can be, well, boring. Harlow’s book is not. People interested in the Civil War often forget about the role religious belief played in the lives of 19th-century Americans, preferring to focus on military strategy or the politics of emancipation and Reconstruction. Harlow’s book foregrounds religion and shows how pro-slavery theology united Kentuckians even as they split over the war. And how that same theology helps explain why they turned their back on their wartime Unionism and embraced the Lost Cause version of events.

By Luke E. Harlow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book sheds new light on the role of religion in the nineteenth-century slavery debates. Luke E. Harlow argues that the ongoing conflict over the meaning of Christian 'orthodoxy' constrained the political and cultural horizons available for defenders and opponents of American slavery. The central locus of these debates was Kentucky, a border slave state with a long-standing antislavery presence. Although white Kentuckians famously cast themselves as moderates in the period and remained with the Union during the Civil War, their religious values showed no moderation on the slavery question. When the war ultimately brought emancipation, white Kentuckians found themselves…


Book cover of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

Brad Asher Author Of The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge

From my list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian based in Louisville, Kentucky. When I moved here two decades ago, I could tell the vibe was different than other places I had been. Southern—but not like Tennessee. Midwestern—but not like Illinois. So I started reading, and eventually writing, about the state’s history. I have a Ph.D. in United States history so I lean toward academic books. I like authors who dig into the primary sources of history and then come out and make an argument about the evidence that they uncovered. I also lean toward social and cultural history—rather than military history—of the Civil War.

Brad's book list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky

Brad Asher Why did Brad love this book?

When I moved to Kentucky many years ago, the large Confederate memorial on a downtown street was a puzzle to me because I knew that Kentucky had been a Union state. As one historian said many years ago, “Kentucky seceded after the war was over.” Marshall’s book walks us through that process. She covers everything from politics to postwar violence to children’s literature to the resistance efforts of Kentucky’s African Americans as she explains why those Confederate memorials and monuments went up all around the state. 

By Anne E. Marshall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Creating a Confederate Kentucky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Historian E. Merton Coulter famously said that Kentucky ""waited until after the war was over to secede from the Union."" In this fresh study, Anne E. Marshall traces the development of a Confederate identity in Kentucky between 1865 and 1925 that belied the fact that Kentucky never left the Union and that more Kentuckians fought for the North than for the South. Following the Civil War, the people of Kentucky appeared to forget their Union loyalties, embracing the Democratic politics, racial violence, and Jim Crow laws associated with formerly Confederate states. Although, on the surface, white Confederate memory appeared to…


Book cover of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States

Mark Robert Rank Author Of The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity

From my list on understanding the paradox of American inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

For much of my career as a sociologist and professor of social welfare, I’ve focused my research and teaching on the issue of economic and social inequality in America. Why should the United States have both great wealth and yet at the same time extreme poverty and inequities? This question has motivated much of my scholarly and popular writing over the years. For me, this represents the fault line of America. We profess the importance that all are created equal, and yet our actions undermine such a belief. Why should this be the case, and how can we change the reality to reflect the ideal? 

Mark's book list on understanding the paradox of American inequality

Mark Robert Rank Why did Mark love this book?

This is a very powerful book that takes the city of St. Louis as a case study to illustrate the amount of violence, discrimination, and inequities that have happened across a 300-year period, particularly with respect to race. 

Johnson develops the idea of racial capitalism throughout the book, and notes that “the red thread that runs through this entire book is the historical relationship between imperialism and anti-Blackness.” At the same time, the city has also been home to both communist and Black radical organizing into the 20th century. 

A highly interesting and important case study of American inequality and exploitation.

By Walter Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A searing and "magisterial" (Cornel West) history of American racial exploitation and resistance, told through the turbulent past of the city of St. Louis. From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, American history has been made in St. Louis. And as Walter Johnson shows in The Broken Heart of America, the city exemplifies how imperialism, racism, and capitalism have persistently entwined to corrupt the nation's past. St. Louis was a staging post for Indian removal and imperial expansion, and its wealth grew on the backs of its poor Black residents, from slavery through redlining and…


Book cover of Death in Lover's Lane

Vee Kumari Author Of Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery

From my list on families disguised as mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being an immigrant from India, a culture that places family values above all else, I am drawn to books that explore family conflicts, secrets, and the triumph of love against all odds. When an author incorporates these themes into a mystery, the book becomes more than a simple formulaic whodunnit story that educates me about the complexities of our lives.

Vee's book list on families disguised as mysteries

Vee Kumari Why did Vee love this book?

One of the best Henrie O novels, I love it that this takes place within the hallowed halls of the academia at the fictitious Thorndyke University, where the sixty-something journalism professor-turned sleuth encourages an ambitious student to dig up the dirt on three unsolved local crimes. Of course, the student gets killed, and against the wishes of the police and the powers-that-be Henrie O gets involved, dredging up a past everyone wants to keep buried. I now realize that not knowingly, but at a subconscious level, this novel inspired me to write mine!

By Carolyn G. Hart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death in Lover's Lane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-reporter and journalism teacher at ivy-covered Thorndyke University, Henrietta "Henrie O" Collins demands of her students the same steadfast dedication to the truth that was the cornerstone of her own illustrious career. So when beautiful, ambitious Maggie Winslow decides to investigate a trio of hitherto unresolved local crimes, Henrie O urges her to pursue the story with uncommon vigor.

But the gifted future journalist's zeal may have cost her her life. The next day Maggie's corpse is discovered in Lovers' Lane--the very site of one of the unsolved mysteries the extraordinary young woman was exploring at the…


Book cover of Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South

Betsy Wood Author Of Upon the Altar of Work: Child Labor and the Rise of a New American Sectionalism

From my list on to make you excited about labor history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by how ordinary people can change the course of their own lives since I was a child. However, I had no idea until later in life that there were entire fields of study devoted to understanding how this process works historically. When I discovered “new labor history” many years ago, I knew I wanted to be part of it. It was the privilege of a lifetime to study under some of the best labor historians in the world at the University of Chicago. And I can’t describe how I felt when my dissertation won the Herbert Gutman Prize in Labor History. I hope these books spark your interest!

Betsy's book list on to make you excited about labor history

Betsy Wood Why did Betsy love this book?

Let’s face it. Christianity has been used to support slavery, encourage white people to be racist, and send women back to the 1950s.

That’s why I found Jarod Roll’s Spirit of Rebellion refreshing and important. It was a good reminder that faith can also provide the moral courage necessary for change. It can unite people instead of dividing them.

I can’t imagine a place and time more disposed to racist divisions than rural Missouri in the late 19th century. Yet, poor white and Black farmers there found common ground as rebels against the emerging capitalist order. How? Through the Pentecostal revivals that swept the region in this same period. If that’s not a message of hope in these trying times, then I don’t know what is.

By Jarod Roll,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Herbert G. Gutman Prize from the Labor and Working-Class History Association

In Spirit of Rebellion, Jarod Roll documents an alternative tradition of American protest by linking working-class political movements to grassroots religious revivals. He reveals how ordinary rural citizens in the south used available resources and their shared faith to defend their agrarian livelihoods amid the political and economic upheaval of the first half of the twentieth century.

On the frontier of the New Cotton South in Missouri's Bootheel, the relationships between black and white farmers were complicated by racial tensions and bitter competition. Despite these divisions,…


Book cover of Tending Roses

Myra Johnson Author Of The Soft Whisper of Roses

From my list on Christian true-to-life women dealing with life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a native of Texas who loves bluebonnets, big skies, and barbecue! With 25+ books in print, I write about imperfect characters who discover their inner strength as they lean on God and learn to trust each other and themselves. I’m fascinated by the dynamics of personalities and relationships, as well as the backstories that made the individuals who they are now. If you’re looking for stories of true-to-life characters growing deeper in faith while dealing with all the messiness human relationships entail, here are some novels you may enjoy.

Myra's book list on Christian true-to-life women dealing with life

Myra Johnson Why did Myra love this book?

When I read this book several years ago, I was just starting out in my writing career, and I remember thinking, If only someday I could write like this! Lisa Wingate has a beautiful way of eliciting emotion and empathy, of creating scenes and situations so true-to-life that she never fails to draw me in. Like all her books, Tending Roses takes a deeply honest look at human relationships—the good, the bad, and the in-between—and always with an underlying current of faith. Kate’s situation may be different from my own, but I could still relate to her feelings and struggles, her questions and doubts. That resonance—that connection—is what makes any story memorable.

By Lisa Wingate,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Friends and Before We Were Yours comes a heartfelt novel about the bonds of family and the power of second chances.

When Kate Bowman temporarily moves to her grandmother’s Missouri farm with her husband and baby son, she learns that the lessons that most enrich our lives often come unexpectedly. The family has given Kate the job of convincing Grandma Rose, who’s become increasingly stubborn and forgetful, to move off her beloved land and into a nursing home. But Kate knows such a change would break her…


Book cover of Indigo

Delaney Diamond Author Of Ethan

From my list on swoon-worthy heroes in romance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a published romance author since 2010, but even before I published my first romance novel, I was an avid reader of the genre. In fact, I started at the very young age of eleven, checking out romance novels from my local public library. Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of books and found the ones that I enjoy the most have the most intriguing heroes who fall hard for the heroine. 

Delaney's book list on swoon-worthy heroes in romance

Delaney Diamond Why did Delaney love this book?

This book was my first Beverly Jenkins novel, and it made me fall in love with her historical romance novels. Before I read it, all the historicals I’d read were Regencies. I was thrilled to find a historical romance with black characters in the United States, which opened my eyes to a part of history I didn’t know much about.

But, the historical aspects were not the only thing that captured my attention. Galen, the Creole hero and free Black man who worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, is the reason I recommend this book. There is plenty of chemistry and sensuality between the couple, but his gentleness and love for Hester, a former slave, is unmatched. Galen is one of the best kinds of heroes, and Hester deserves all the love he showers her with. 

By Beverly Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*** Now with new material -- Hester and Galen's favorite Mud Pie Recipe ***

As a child Hester Wyatt escaped slavery, but now the dark skinned beauty is a dedicated member of Michigan's Underground railroad, offering other runaways a chance at the freedom she has learned to love. When one of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, Hester doesn't hesitate…even after she is told about the price on his head.

The man in question is the great conductor known as the "Black Daniel" a vital member of the North's Underground railroad network. But Hester finds him…


Book cover of Street Justice: Retaliation in the Criminal Underworld

Jill Leovy Author Of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

From my list on escaping the true-crime rut.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside, is a journalist and independent researcher who covered the Los Angeles Police Department and homicide for fifteen years, and who is currently working on a book dealing with murder and feud in human history. She has covered hundreds of street homicides and shadowed patrol cops, and she spent several years embedded in homicide detective units. More recently, she has been a Harvard sociology fellow and a featured speaker on Homer and violence at St. John's College, New Mexico. She is a senior fellow at the USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.

Jill's book list on escaping the true-crime rut

Jill Leovy Why did Jill love this book?

Street Justice is a terrific ethnography on an issue too seldom talked about in criminal justice textbooks, namely, payback in the context of drug dealing.

Jacobs and Wright did not set out here for any new philosophical insights about revenge. Instead, they are interested in its reality. What emerges from this study is a stark catalog of how retaliation actually works, among real people, in a real American city, and what a chilling picture it is.

Based on interviews with actual St. Louis offenders who related their personal experiences with loss, pain, humiliation, and anger, Street Justice is an eye-opener even for those of us who thought we knew something about this topic.

Read this book if you a cop. If you are just interested in law and violence, as I am, read this one alongside Miller, Gould, and a few of the Icelandic Sagas, and I guarantee you will…

By Bruce A. Jacobs, Richard Wright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Street criminals live in a dangerous world, but they cannot realistically rely on the criminal justice system to protect them from predation by fellow lawbreakers; they are on their own when it comes to dealing with crimes perpetrated against them and often use retaliation as a mechanism for deterring and responding to victimization. Although retaliation lies at the heart of much of the violence that plagues many inner-city neighborhoods across the United States, it has received scant attention from criminologists. As a result, the structure, process, and forms of retaliation in the real world setting of urban America remain poorly…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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