100 books like The Rivers Ran Backward

By Christopher Phillips,

Here are 100 books that The Rivers Ran Backward fans have personally recommended if you like The Rivers Ran Backward. 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 Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri

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?

This book reminded me of the deep parallels in the histories of Missouri and Kentucky. I don’t tend to associate Kentucky with Missouri, but Astor’s book really drives home why that is wrongheaded. Both were border states and, during the war, both suffered guerrilla insurgencies, had divided populations, and ended up supporting the pro-Confederate Lost Cause vision of the war. And when so much writing on Kentucky’s history is focused on its white inhabitants, Astor restores agency to its African American residents, showing how they resisted slavery and then, after emancipation, created their own institutions to contest for racial equality in the face of fierce opposition.

By Aaron Astor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rebels on the Border offers a remarkably compelling and significant study of the Civil War South's highly contested and bloodiest border states: Kentucky and Missouri. By far the most complex examination to date, the book sharply focuses on the ""borderland"" between the free North and the Confederate South. As a result, Rebels on the Border deepens and enhances understanding of the sectional conflict, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

After slaves in central Kentucky and Missouri gained their emancipation, author Aaron Astor contends, they transformed informal kin and social networks of resistance against slavery into more formalized processes of electoral participation…


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 In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong

Uzi Rabi Author Of The Return of the Past: State, Identity, and Society in the Post-Arab Spring Middle East

From my list on political identity and divisions.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. My interest lies in modern history and evolution of states and societies in the Middle East: Iranian- Arab relations, oil and politics, and Sunni- Shi’i dynamics. It is a particularly important period in time for the Middle East as there is a changing paradigm of geopolitics in the region. During the course of the last decade, we have seen repercussions of the Arab Spring, withdrawal of US troops from the region and signing of the Abraham Accords. I follow these developments and frequently provide expert commentary and analysis in various forums. 

Uzi's book list on political identity and divisions

Uzi Rabi Why did Uzi love this book?

In the Name of Identity challenges our thinking about how we decide who we are as individuals, as groups and what makes us behave as we do with each other.

Maalouf addresses the dangers of defining people solely on a singular component of their identity rather than their identity as a whole. He examines his own identity, and acknowledges that it is complex.

He is Arab and Christian, both Lebanese and French. Yet his identity is more than the aggregate of these components. He urges the reader to avoid generalizing based on a singular component of one’s identity and convincingly argues how this can lead to violence.

Maalouf’s wisdom on how we use our identities to define ourselves against each other can help us understand how to avoid hatred and violence. 

By Amin Maalouf, Barbara Bray (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Name of Identity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Makes for compelling reading in America today.”—New York Times Book Review.

“I want to try and understand why so many people commit crimes in the name of identity,” writes Amin Maalouf. Identity is the crucible out of which we come: our background, our race, our gender, our tribal affiliations, our religion (or lack thereof), all go into making up who we are. All too often, however, the notion of identity—personal, religious, ethnic, or national—has given rise to heated passions and even massive crimes.

Moving across the world’s history, faiths, and politics, he argues against an oversimplified and hostile interpretation of…


Book cover of Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Sarah Pegrum Author Of Break the Binds of Weight Stigma: Free Yourself from Body Image Struggles Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

From my list on getting perspective about life and be inspired.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a clinical psychologist, which gifts me the experience of being part of people's journey of looking at their lives differently and transforming. Early in my career, throughout my academic studies, I was particularly curious about and drawn to existential perspectives. Sadly, with multiple losses of close loved ones, I was pushed into grappling with existential questions at a more personal level. Yet the pain of loss created shifts in perspective that have helped shape who I am, and the work that I do. I have found that connecting with people, travel, and books are avenues that help me continue to ask questions about life and inspire new directions. 

Sarah's book list on getting perspective about life and be inspired

Sarah Pegrum Why did Sarah love this book?

Braving the Wilderness sparked a shift in my perspective on self and relationships.

What struck me most was the separation of belonging and fitting in. I realized how much energy I had put into fitting in, all the while betraying what was true to me. Not only did Braving the Wilderness get me thinking, but it also provided practical steps on how to do things differently.

Since reading the book I have changed how I interact with others, steering away from connection through shared enemies, and instead moving towards connection through authenticity and vulnerability.

My favorite quote: “We can spend our entire life betraying ourself and choosing fitting in over standing alone. But once we've stood up for ourself and our beliefs, the bar is higher. A wild heart fights fitting in and grieves betrayal.”

By Brene Brown,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Braving the Wilderness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A timely and important new book that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture, from the #1 bestselling author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection.

'True belonging doesn't require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.' Social scientist Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives - experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an…


Book cover of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

Susie Orbach Author Of Bodies

From my list on contemporary memoirs by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Memoirs have crept up on me as favorites. I could list many more. Please let me! As a psychoanalyst, I listen to the pains and struggles of individuals trying to become more at ease with themselves. They engage with their demons and try to make sense of how to manage the way their personal history has created their worldview and how to expand it enough to enter a present. Memoirs are another way of addressing such struggles. They have an elegance and a universality that emerges out of their individual stories. We learn about the other and we learn about ourselves.

Susie's book list on contemporary memoirs by women

Susie Orbach Why did Susie love this book?

Afua’s father is from a Jewish refugee family, her mother is Ghanian. She grows up in an affluent middle-class suburb of London. As she explores her Black and Ghanian identity she looks at what it means to be British; the political heritage, race, and identity from the inside of a loving mix raced family. It is an important commentary on her experience of being in more than one place at the same time.

By Afua Hirsch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brit(ish) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Afua Hirsch - co-presenter of Samuel L. Jackson's major BBC TV series Enslaved - the Sunday Times bestseller that reveals the uncomfortable truth about race and identity in Britain today.

You're British.

Your parents are British.

Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British.

So why do people keep asking where you're from?

We are a nation in denial about our imperial past and the racism that plagues our present. Brit(ish) is Afua Hirsch's personal and provocative exploration of how this came to be - and an urgent call for change.

'The book for our divided…


Book cover of Gender as Love: A Theological Account of Human Identity, Embodied Desire, and Our Social Worlds

Amy Peeler Author Of Women and the Gender of God

From my list on understanding the historic and modern roles of men and women in Christianity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was the little girl who always wanted to be at church, who felt compelled to tell people about the goodness of God, but because my religious communities did not allow women to be church leaders, I never imagined this was a path I could pursue. As an undergraduate, I was captured by the academic study of the Bible and could not imagine doing anything else with my life. Now, for the past 20+ years, I have been teaching the Bible in academic and ecclesial settings and have become one of many good scholars who are making a case that the Christian God fully values men and women.

Amy's book list on understanding the historic and modern roles of men and women in Christianity

Amy Peeler Why did Amy love this book?

No other book has helped me understand the categories of sex and gender and given me the language to define them. Even more important, that clarity has given me the confidence to affirm the goodness of different created bodies and allow the beautiful variety in which those bodies serve God’s kingdom.

By Fellipe Do Vale, Beth Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In recent years, the issue of gender has become a topic of great importance and has generated discussion from the kitchen table to the academy. It is an issue that churches and Christian educational institutions are grappling with as well, since gender is a crucial aspect of identity, affecting how we engage socially and understand our embodiment. Upstream from all these conversations lies a more basic question: What is gender?

In Gender as Love, Fellipe do Vale takes a theological approach to understanding gender, employing both biblical exegesis and historical theology and emphasizing the role human love plays in shaping…


Book cover of Rome's Cultural Revolution

Judith Harris Author Of Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery

From my list on the joys of life in classical antiquity.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a freelance journalist in Italy, I covered, for Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and others, tough topics: terrorism, the Mafia, the heroin traffic which passed via Sicilian laboratories to the U.S. At a certain point I found this overly negative. After taking a course in Rome on archaeology, by chance I was asked to direct a BBC half-hour documentary on Pompeii. In so doing, I realized that it was  time to focus upon the many positive elements of Italian life and history. From that life-changing documentary came this book on Pompeii, on which I worked for five rewarding years. My next book was on historical Venice.

Judith's book list on the joys of life in classical antiquity

Judith Harris Why did Judith love this book?

Classicist Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, a professor at Sidney Sussex College, was for fourteen years director of the British School in Rome. Among his highly recommended books are Rome's Cultural Revolution and Herculaneum: Past and Future. Prof. Wallace-Hadrill, OBE, who directed the Herculaneum Conservation Project for fifteen years, currently specializes in studying the impact the ancient city has had upon the world.

By Andrew Wallace-Hadrill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The period of Rome's imperial expansion, the late Republic and early Empire, saw transformations of its society, culture and identity. Drawing equally on archaeological and literary evidence, this book offers an original and provocative interpretation of these changes. Moving from recent debates about colonialism and cultural identity, both in the Roman world and more broadly, and challenging the traditional picture of 'Romanization' and 'Hellenization', it offers instead a model of overlapping cultural identities in dialogue with one another. It attributes a central role to cultural change in the process of redefinition of Roman identity, represented politically by the crisis of…


Book cover of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

Friederike Otto Author Of Angry Weather: Heat Waves, Floods, Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change

From my list on starting to think about the much abused idea of freedom.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a physicist who ended up doing their PhD in philosophy, because the “so what” question for me always was more interesting to answer than finding out how the physical world is changing. Working as a climate scientist I see how climate change and extreme weather devastate livelihoods on a daily basis. It makes me very aware I know nothing, but also that the philosophical and humanist ideas we build our societies upon are much more important to solve the climate crisis than physics and technology. One of the most important ones is to reclaim freedom and actually allow people to live good lives.

Friederike's book list on starting to think about the much abused idea of freedom

Friederike Otto Why did Friederike love this book?

Identity isn’t personal, it is shaped by all sorts of influences, some of them we are very aware of and some of them we have never thought about. To be free means to be aware of all of them.

Appiah shows that while you cannot escape identity, you can pick and choose much more than most people make us believe. There is no inevitability and that is extremely liberating.

As a white woman, it made me see much better how not to equate privilege with guilt only, but responsibility and agency. 

By Kwame Anthony Appiah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who do you think you are? That's a question bound up in another: What do you think you are? Gender. Religion. Race. Nationality. Class. Culture. Such affiliations give contours to our sense of self, and shape our polarized world. Yet the collective identities they spawn are riddled with contradictions, and cratered with falsehoods.

Kwame Anthony Appiah's The Lies That Bind is an incandescent exploration of the nature and history of the identities that define us. It challenges our assumptions about how identities work. We all know there are conflicts between identities, but Appiah shows how identities are created by conflict.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in collective identity, the American Civil War, and Kentucky?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about collective identity, the American Civil War, and Kentucky.

Collective Identity Explore 13 books about collective identity
The American Civil War Explore 314 books about the American Civil War
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