100 books like The Sinking of the Eastland

By Jay Bonansinga,

Here are 100 books that The Sinking of the Eastland fans have personally recommended if you like The Sinking of the Eastland. 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 Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

Sylvia Shults Author Of Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

From my list on nonfiction books that read like a novel.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sylvia Shults is a librarian by day, a ghost hunter by night, and the “hostess with the mostest ghosties” of the Lights Out podcast. During her twenty-plus-year career in libraries, she has managed to smuggle enough words out in her pockets to put together several books of her own, including 44 Years in Darkness, Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, and Spirits of Christmas. She sits in dark, spooky places so you don't have to, and shares her experiences of her brushes with the other side of the Veil.

Sylvia's book list on nonfiction books that read like a novel

Sylvia Shults Why did Sylvia love this book?

This book rocked my world. Imagine this: Congress is meeting to ratify the election of a new president. But half the country doesn't want the new guy; in fact, there are armed thugs wandering around the streets of Washington, making noise about insurrection. The rumors of violence are so disturbing that the police force is put on high alert, and the Vice President, carrying the election paperwork, is assigned extra security. Sound familiar? This was the situation in 1861, as Abraham Lincoln was readying himself for his trip to the Capitol to take office. The book follows his train ride there, and the writing rollicks along just like a train speeding down a track. I adored this book, and for me, it was made even more compelling because I read it about a week after the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021. As a really well-written book, filled with history…

By Ted Widmer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE LINCOLN FORUM BOOK PRIZE

"A Lincoln classic...superb." -The Washington Post

"A book for our time."-Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lincoln on the Verge tells the dramatic story of America's greatest president discovering his own strength to save the Republic.

As a divided nation plunges into the deepest crisis in its history, Abraham Lincoln boards a train for Washington and his inauguration-an inauguration Southerners have vowed to prevent. Lincoln on the Verge charts these pivotal thirteen days of travel, as Lincoln discovers his power, speaks directly to the public, and sees his country up close. Drawing on new research, this…


Book cover of Wicked Mortals

Sylvia Shults Author Of Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

From my list on nonfiction books that read like a novel.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sylvia Shults is a librarian by day, a ghost hunter by night, and the “hostess with the mostest ghosties” of the Lights Out podcast. During her twenty-plus-year career in libraries, she has managed to smuggle enough words out in her pockets to put together several books of her own, including 44 Years in Darkness, Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, and Spirits of Christmas. She sits in dark, spooky places so you don't have to, and shares her experiences of her brushes with the other side of the Veil.

Sylvia's book list on nonfiction books that read like a novel

Sylvia Shults Why did Sylvia love this book?

The Lore series, based on the World of Lore podcast, is a wonderful collection of the strange, bizarre, and creepy. This particular book focuses on people who gained fame through their disturbing hobbies and unpleasant predilections: serial killers, criminals, psychopaths, and other associated weirdos. I've always been drawn to collections like these, and this is one of the best. Check out the others in the series too.

By Aaron Mahnke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A chilling, lavishly illustrated who's-who of the most despicable people ever to walk the earth, featuring both rare and best-loved stories from the hit podcast Lore, now an online streaming series.

Here are the incredible true stories of some of the mortals who achieved notoriety in history and folklore through horrible means. Monsters of this sort - serial killers, desperate criminals, and socially mobile people with a much darker double-life - are, in fact, quite real . . . including H. H. Holmes, the infamous Chicago serial killer; William Brodie, the Edinburgh criminal mastermind who inspired The Strange Case of…


Book cover of Spirits of the Cage: True Accounts of Living in a Haunted Medieval Prison

Sylvia Shults Author Of Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories

From my list on for paranormal enthusiasts.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a paranormal investigator (a paranormal reporter, actually) for over a decade. One of the very best parts of my job is that I get to gorge myself on books of true accounts of the paranormal. It's exciting to see what else is out there, and what other people have experienced – both historically, and personally. I'm so grateful for the chance to add to this body of work; there are many renowned investigators and writers out there, and I'm thrilled to be counted among them. And someday, someone will read about my experiences and be terrified and intrigued and inspired by them.

Sylvia's book list on for paranormal enthusiasts

Sylvia Shults Why did Sylvia love this book?

I will read absolutely anything that Richard Estep writes. He has written books about the Villisca Ax Murders, Malvern Manor, and other crazy-haunted places. This one, about a site in his native England, is utterly terrifying. Estep writes with a very straightforward, matter-of-fact style (his writing reminds me much of my own style), and the evidence he presents for this haunted site is deeply chilling -- especially since his team is one of the groups that has investigated the Cage. 

By Richard Estep, Vanessa Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Spirits of the Cage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When single mother Vanessa Mitchell moved into a historic cottage in Essex, she had no idea that a paranormal nightmare was about to unfold. The cottage, known as the Cage, used to imprison those accused of witchcraft back in the 1500s. From her first day living there, Vanessa saw apparitions walk through her room, heard ghostly growls, and was even slapped and pushed by invisible hands. Unable to handle the dark phenomena after three years, Vanessa moved out and paranormal investigator Richard Estep moved in. Spirits of the Cage chronicles the years that Vanessa and Richard spent in the Cage,…


Book cover of Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Sylvia Shults Author Of Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

From my list on nonfiction books that read like a novel.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sylvia Shults is a librarian by day, a ghost hunter by night, and the “hostess with the mostest ghosties” of the Lights Out podcast. During her twenty-plus-year career in libraries, she has managed to smuggle enough words out in her pockets to put together several books of her own, including 44 Years in Darkness, Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, and Spirits of Christmas. She sits in dark, spooky places so you don't have to, and shares her experiences of her brushes with the other side of the Veil.

Sylvia's book list on nonfiction books that read like a novel

Sylvia Shults Why did Sylvia love this book?

Because of my work with the splendidly haunted Peoria State Hospital, I have a massive soft spot for tales of struggles with mental illness. This is a topic that is very close to my heart for many reasons, and it's fascinating to read about historical figures that suffered with mental illness or mental disabilities. Rosemary Kennedy was a beautiful, lively, spirited girl who grew up in one of the most famous families in America. But due to injuries suffered during her birth, she was mentally challenged – and this did not sit well with the Kennedys. Rosemary's disability was at odds with their own image of themselves as a powerful political juggernaut ... so she was shunted aside. As a young woman, she was lobotomized, which destroyed her bubbly, outgoing personality. After this, she was institutionalized and largely forgotten. This is a painful story to read, but Rosemary, and others…

By Kate Clifford Larson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The revelatory, poignant story of Rosemary Kennedy, the eldest and eventually secreted-away Kennedy daughter, and how her life transformed her family, its women especially, and an entire nation.
"[Larson] succeeds in providing a well-rounded portrait of a woman who, until now, has never been viewed in full."-The Boston Globe
"A biography that chronicles her life with fresh details . . . By making Rosemary the central character, [Larson] has produced a valuable account of a mental health tragedy and an influential family's belated efforts to make amends."-The New York Times Book Review
Joe and Rose Kennedy's strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary…


Book cover of Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

Ray Pace Author Of Disappearing Act: A Las Vegas Love Story, Sort of...

From my list on wise guys you’ll love.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve worked both in politics and as an investigative reporter in print and broadcasting in Chicago, Miami, Key West, San Francisco, and Honolulu. I’ve had an up-close look at how the system doesn’t work and how the wise guys get their share. I find it easy to use fiction to get to the truth.

Ray's book list on wise guys you’ll love

Ray Pace Why did Ray love this book?

Chicago is where I grew up watching the fascinating interplay between the so-called forces of law and order battle the criminal element. It wasn’t much of a battle unless the law-and-order guys and the crooks found themselves reaching for the same loot. Mike Royko’s book describes very well the interplay. On a personal note, I once worked for one of the Illinois governors who ran as a reform candidate. He ended up going to jail on a fraud scheme.

By Mike Royko,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The best book ever written about an American city, by the best journalist of his time."- Jimmy Breslin

New edition of the classic story of the late Richard J. Daley, politician and self-promoter extraordinaire, from his inauspicious youth on Chicago's South Side through his rapid climb to the seat of power as mayor and boss of the Democratic Party machine. A bare-all account of Daley's cardinal sins as well as his milestone achievements, this scathing work by Chicago journalist Mike Royko brings to life the most powerful political figure of his time: his laissez-faire policy toward corruption, his unique brand…


Book cover of The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

Paul Bass Author Of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of a Killer

From my list on Black protest and government resistance.

Why am I passionate about this?

Paul Bass is the co-author with Douglas W. Rae of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of A Killer. Paul has been a reporter and editor in New Haven, Conn., for over 40 years. He is the founder and editor of the online New Haven Independent.

Paul's book list on Black protest and government resistance

Paul Bass Why did Paul love this book?

The era of COINTELPRO and Black Power is filled with stories that can become muddier to tease out as more gets revealed. Not Fred Hampton’s story  —  this was clear-cut, brutal FBI and Chicago police overreach to silence dissent. Haas’s book offers a firsthand account by an attorney who helped dig out the facts, and preserved the poignancy of what it felt like to experience the events.

By Jeffrey Haas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Read the story behind the award-winning film Judas and the Black Messiah

On December 4, 1969, attorney Jeff Haas was in a police lockup in Chicago, interviewing Fred Hampton’s fiancée. Deborah Johnson described how the police pulled her from the room as Fred lay unconscious on their bed.

She heard one officer say, “He’s still alive.” She then heard two shots. A second officer said, “He’s good and dead now.” She looked at Jeff and asked, “What can you do?” The Assassination of Fred Hampton remains Haas’s personal account of how he and People’s Law Office partner Flint Taylor pursued…


Book cover of South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration

Mark Whitaker Author Of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance

From my list on the great Black migration.

Why am I passionate about this?

For more than thirty years, I worked as journalist covering the biggest news stories of the day—at Newsweek magazine (where I became the publication’s first African-American top editor), then as a news executive at NBC News and CNN. Now, I keep a hand in that world as a judge of several prestigious journalism awards while taking a longer view in my own work as a contributor for CBS Sunday Morning, Washington Post book reviewer, and author of narrative non-fiction books with a focus on key personalities and turning points in Black History.

Mark's book list on the great Black migration

Mark Whitaker Why did Mark love this book?

Mining contemporaneous news accounts, personal letters and diaries, and dozens of in-depth interviews, scholar Marcia Chatelain explores the impact that the Great Migration had on a generation of young Black Chicago women, who coped with coming of age in the urban North while shouldering the expectations and aspirations of their uprooted parents. Anyone new to Chatelain’s work should also check out her next and equally original book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, a study of the deeply mixed legacy of McDonald’s restaurants in Black neighborhoods that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for History.

By Marcia Chatelain, Marcia Chatelain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In South Side Girls Marcia Chatelain recasts Chicago's Great Migration through the lens of black girls. Focusing on the years between 1910 and 1940, when Chicago's black population quintupled, Chatelain describes how Chicago's black social scientists, urban reformers, journalists and activists formulated a vulnerable image of urban black girlhood that needed protecting. She argues that the construction and meaning of black girlhood shifted in response to major economic, social, and cultural changes and crises, and that it reflected parents' and community leaders' anxieties about urbanization and its meaning for racial progress. Girls shouldered much of the burden of black aspiration,…


Book cover of Dollface: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties

Susan Sage Author Of Dancing in the Ring

From my list on the ‘herstory’ of women of the 1920s.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been intrigued by the Roaring 20s, and specifically in how the lives of women truly began to change during this time. My grandmother loved to boast about how she had been a flapper as a young woman. Her sister-in-law was one of the first female attorneys in Detroit in the mid-20s. The era brought about opportunities and freedoms previously unknown to women. Many women suddenly had options, both in terms of careers and lifestyles. Goals of first wave feminists were beginning to be reached. The research I did for my book furthered my understanding of society at the time, particularly in America. 

Susan's book list on the ‘herstory’ of women of the 1920s

Susan Sage Why did Susan love this book?

Vera Abramowitz, ‘Dollface,’ was a flapper who got caught up with the mob.

Her two mobster lovers cause her life to take a downward spiral. Read how she puts the broken pieces of her life back together. Realistic and gritty, we see the flip side of the frivolous life of flappers seen in the movies.

By Renee Rosen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

America in the 1920s was a country alive with the wild fun of jazz, speakeasies, and a new kind of woman—the flapper.

Vera Abramowitz is determined to leave her gritty childhood behind and live a more exciting life, one that her mother never dreamed of. Bobbing her hair and showing her knees, the lipsticked beauty dazzles, doing the Charleston in nightclubs and earning the nickname “Dollface.” 

As the ultimate flapper, Vera captures the attention of two high rollers, a handsome nightclub owner and a sexy gambler. On their arms, she gains entrée into a world filled with bootleg bourbon, wailing…


Book cover of The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service

Kimberly A. Hamlin Author Of Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener

From my list on women fighting for bodily and political autonomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in 1974 and grew up in a time when, at least on paper, women had equal rights. I also grew up not far from Harriet Tubman’s home, not far from Seneca Falls, not far from Susan B. Anthony’s house. I became a historian of women’s rights and, I sometimes joke, a secular evangelical for women’s history. Writing Free Thinker was, professionally, the most fun I have ever had. I can think of no better time than right now to study the histories of women who understood that bodily autonomy and political autonomy are two sides of the same coin and who dedicated their lives to securing both. 

Kimberly's book list on women fighting for bodily and political autonomy

Kimberly A. Hamlin Why did Kimberly love this book?

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, I think it is imperative to remember what life was like before Roe v. Wade and what women did to survive and to live their lives on their own terms. Kaplan’s book tells the story of the Jane Collective in the words of the women who made Jane work, which makes for powerful reading. And, I think it is important to ask ourselves what about today’s post-Roe era is “like before” and what is very different. For example, pre-Roe, most state restrictions on abortion contained exceptions for rape and incest. Post-Roe, nearly all state abortion bans contain no exceptions for rape or incest. The Story of Jane also chronicles, in some ways, a freer time in which one’s every query and movement was not tracked by one’s phone. 

By Laura Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary history by one of its members, this is the first account of Jane's evolution, the conflicts within the group, and the impact its work had both on the women it helped and the members themselves. This book stands as a compelling testament to a woman's most essential freedom--control over her own body--and to the power of women helping women.


Book cover of City Indian: Native American Activism in Chicago, 1893-1934

Coll Thrush Author Of Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire

From my list on urban Indigenous lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Indigenous history through the experience as a settler growing up at the edge of a reservation. I also love cities as “texts,” and the ways in which urban places never fully erase what came before. These two interests led me to urban Indigenous studies. Urban and Indigenous histories are often treated as though they are mutually exclusive, when in fact they are deeply entangled with each other: for example, the majority of Indigenous people in the United States live in urban areas. These works capture the rich history of migration, political organizing, and cultural production that has taken place in Indigenous cities.

Coll's book list on urban Indigenous lives

Coll Thrush Why did Coll love this book?

LaPier and Beck’s book is the perfect backstory to Van Alst’s.

Chicago, built on the lands of the Three Fires Council, has a long history as an Indigenous metropolis, from activism around the famous 1893 World’s Fair to the building of urban Indian organizations. The authors show how Indigenous people are everywhere in the archives. 

By Rosalyn R. LaPier, David R. M. Beck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Robert G. Athearn Award from the Western History Association

In City Indian Rosalyn R. LaPier and David R. M. Beck tell the engaging story of American Indians who migrated to Chicago from across America to work and emerged as activists. From the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition to the 1934 Century of Progress Fair, American Indians in Chicago voiced their opinions about political, social, educational, and racial issues.
City Indian focuses on the privileged members of the American Indian community in Chicago: doctors, nurses, business owners, teachers, and entertainers. During the Progressive Era more than any other time in the city's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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