The best American Civil War books

Who picked these books? Meet our 224 experts.

224 authors created a book list connected to the American Civil War, and here are their favorite American Civil War books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

What type of American Civil War book?

Loading...
Loading...

Candle in the Darkness

By Lynn Austin,

Book cover of Candle in the Darkness

Stephenia H. McGee Author Of In His Eyes

From the list on Civil War historical fiction for Christians.

Who am I?

I’ve found that the most tumultuous time in our nation’s history provides a poignant backdrop for fiction. As a firm believer that all people are God’s masterpiece and are created in his image, this time period can be difficult to read. However, I also believe there is a lot of potential to see how good can overcome evil, how faith can lead to healing, and how we can be overcomers. I’ve chosen books for this list that handle history with nuance and sensitivity, showcase fierce characters, provide embedded layers of faith, and leave you thinking long after the final page. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! 

Stephenia's book list on Civil War historical fiction for Christians

Discover why each book is one of Stephenia's favorite books.

Why did Stephenia love this book?

Lynn Austin does a beautiful job of showing people who lived in the South yet hated slavery. As women, they often had no say at all in the situation. This book highlights the horror of people you care about enduring enslavement, while also detailing the complexities of the situations these people faced. The characters are both true to the time yet identifiable across generations. Faith plays a major role, and Austin deals with the questions of how belief and hardships can intertwine. 

By Lynn Austin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Candle in the Darkness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A gripping tale told by a gifted writer."--Beverly Lewis

Caroline Fletcher is caught in a nation split apart and torn between the ones she loves and a truth she can't deny


The daughter of a wealthy slave-holding family from Richmond, Virginia, Caroline Fletcher is raised to believe slavery is God-ordained and acceptable. But on awakening to its cruelty and injustice, her eyes are opened to the men and women who have cared tirelessly for her. At the same time, her father and her fiance, Charles St. John, are fighting for the Confederacy and their beloved way of life and traditions.…


Grant Moves South

By Bruce Catton,

Book cover of Grant Moves South

Donald L. Miller Author Of Vicksburg: Grant's Campaign That Broke the Confederacy

From the list on the life of Ulysses S. Grant.

Who am I?

I’ve written ten books, four of them prize-winning best sellers, but this is my first book on the Civil War. Fortunately, it’s been generously received. The Wall Street Journal declared it “an epic story” and “rattling good history,” while Pulitzer Prize-winning James M. McPherson declared it “the fullest and best history of the Vicksburg campaign.“ Another Pulitzer receipient, David Blight, praised it for its “sizzling and persuasive prose. Miller has found the way,” he said, “to write both military and emancipation history in one profound package.”

Donald's book list on the life of Ulysses S. Grant

Discover why each book is one of Donald's favorite books.

Why did Donald love this book?

The war’s greatest military historian takes on its greatest military figure in Bruce Catton’s spirited two-volume classic: Grant Moves South and Grant Takes Command. Written decades ago, these paired volumes remain the finest historical account of Grant’s triumphant Civil War career. In the opening volume, we meet the recently minted brigadier in September 1861 as he prepares to join his army at desolate Cairo, Illinois, having just recovered from a succession of crushing personal failures. In the concluding volume, we leave him at Petersburg Virginia in April 1865, after he demolishes R. E. Lee’s army in the climactic battle of the war. Wannabe revisionists think Catton is outdated. Don’t believe them.

By Bruce Catton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the first part of the military biography of Ulysses S. Grant and follows Grant from the summer of 1861 when he takes on his first Civil War command through battles at Belmont, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth and Vicksburg to the summer of 1863. The author has used letters, diaries and despatches in order to provide a rounded picture of this general's personality. "Grant Takes Command" forms the second part of this biography.


Fateful Lightning

By Allen C. Guelzo,

Book cover of Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction

David Prior Author Of Between Freedom and Progress: The Lost World of Reconstruction Politics

From the list on how the Civil War changed history.

Who am I?

As a historian of the Civil War, I love thinking about how the war shaped what came after it. The Civil War, and the abolition of slavery that was wrapped up with it, is perhaps the most important turning point in the history of the United States. It had so many afterlives and made such a deep impact on everything from the daily lives of the formerly enslaved in the southern states to popular culture to the shape of the country’s economy. As a historian of the period, I’ve written and edited multiple books and scholarly articles on the period. Still, I remain fascinated by how much more there is to learn and study!  

David's book list on how the Civil War changed history

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

Even as a seasoned historian, I find the volume essential and prescient. It does an excellent job of offering a clear view of the major issues and developments in such a complex period of history.

Fateful Lightning offers a wide-ranging look at the Civil War, including how it was fought, what it meant, why people signed up, and how it changed the country. As a one-book overview, you’d be hard placed to find a better volume.

It also provides a helpful look at the complex period that followed the war, which saw the abolition of slavery, the redefinition and expansion of American citizenship, and the rise of a fledgling multiracial democracy in the South. 

By Allen C. Guelzo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Civil War is the greatest trauma ever experienced by the American nation, a four-year paroxysm of violence that left in its wake more than 600,000 dead, more than 2 million refugees, and the destruction (in modern dollars) of more than $700 billion in property. The war also sparked some of the most heroic moments in American history and enshrined a galaxy of American heroes. Above all, it permanently ended the practice of slavery and proved, in an age of
resurgent monarchies, that a liberal democracy could survive the most frightful of challenges.

In Fateful Lightning, two-time Lincoln Prize-winning historian…


The Children of the New Forest

By Frederick Marryat,

Book cover of The Children of the New Forest

Stella Riley Author Of The Black Madonna

From the list on books set in 17th century England.

Who am I?

I am the author of sixteen novels—six of them set in the mid-seventeenth century. The English Civil Wars and their aftermath is a period very close to my heartcombining as it does fascinating personalities, incredibly complicated politics, and all the drama and bloodshed of civil conflict. My greatest pleasure has been finding and featuring real men whose names are now largely forgotten.

Stella's book list on books set in 17th century England

Discover why each book is one of Stella's favorite books.

Why did Stella love this book?

First published in 1847, the writing style seems somewhat ponderous these days. I read it when I was about twelve—and this is where I discovered the English Civil War. It begins in 1647 and tells the story of four children who, their home burned by Parliamentary soldiers, flee to hide in the forest during a time of danger, persecution, and war. Its bias is unashamedly Royalist but that isn’t necessarily a flaw.

By Frederick Marryat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.


Lone Star Blue and Gray

By Ralph Wooster,

Book cover of Lone Star Blue and Gray: Essays on Texas and the Civil War

Ed Cotham Author Of Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston

From the list on Civil War Texas.

Who am I?

Ed Cotham, is the prize-winning author of numerous books and articles on Texas Civil War history. A frequent lecturer, with appearances on television and radio, Ed has probably given more tours of Texas Civil War battlefields than anyone. Ed has written the texts for many historic markers and has served as project historian for several important shipwrecks in Texas waters.

Ed's book list on Civil War Texas

Discover why each book is one of Ed's favorite books.

Why did Ed love this book?

This book includes 16 important essays by prominent Texas historians exploring a wide variety of themes relating to Texas and the war. The editors provide a useful introduction to the subject and the essays themselves are among the best things ever written on the chosen subjects. Alwyn Barr’s article on “Texas Coastal Defense,” for example, is a short but complete description of the ways that Texas Confederates chose to creatively and successfully defend their large coast. If you are interested in Texas history, this book is essential reading. I find myself returning to its pages again and again.

By Ralph Wooster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lone Star Blue and Gray as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bitter disputes over secession to the ways in which the conflict would be remembered, Texas and Texans were caught up in the momentous struggles of the American Civil War. Tens of thousands of Texans joined military units, and scarcely a household in the state was unaffected as mothers and wives assumed new roles in managing farms and plantations. Still others grappled with the massive social, political, and economic changes wrought by the bloodiest conflict in American history.

The sixteen essays from some of the leading historians in the field (eleven of them new) in the second edition of…


Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

By Roy Basler, Carl Sandburg,

Book cover of Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

Dennis E. Shasha Author Of The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco

From the list on to help you to think logically.

Who am I?

I became a scientist because I enjoyed the puzzles in Scientific American. I loved the notion that through mere thought, one could solve a question that at first glance seemed impossible to solve. When I had to design methods to detect ephemeral failures in electronic circuits underlying a mainframe computer, I created a puzzle having occasional liars. When I thought about ways to understand global wars, I constructed a puzzle about bullies in a playground. Some of my puzzles have been very computational, some purely paper and pencil. Over the years, my puzzles have appeared in Scientific American, Dr. Dobb’s Journal, and the Communications of the ACM.

Dennis' book list on to help you to think logically

Discover why each book is one of Dennis' favorite books.

Why did Dennis love this book?

Abraham Lincoln famously had little formal education but was capable of sophisticated logical thinking in his arguments. He credits his ability to form his arguments to his encounter with Euclid’s writings about geometry. He felt in awe by the notion of “demonstration” and went on to apply that notion to his compelling arguments about the injustice and hypocrisy of slavery. 

By Roy Basler, Carl Sandburg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume presents nearly 250 of Lincoln's most important speeches, state papers, and letters in their entirety. Here are not only the masterpieces,the Gettysburg Address, the Inaugural Addresses, the 1858 Republican Convention Speech, the Emancipation Proclamation,but hundreds of lesser-known gems. Alfred Kazin has written that Lincoln was "not just the greatest writer among our Presidents . . . but the most telling and unforgettable of all American'public' writer-speakers," and it's never been cleaner than in this comprehensive edition.


The Red Badge of Courage

By Stephen Crane,

Book cover of The Red Badge of Courage

Rebecca Mascull Author Of The Wild Air

From the list on how people get swept up in the winds of war.

Who am I?

I’m an author of historical fiction and many of my books have included war. I find I just cannot stay away from it as a subject. Obviously any war is full of natural drama which makes for wonderful narratives, but it’s more than that; it’s something to do with how war tests people to their limits, a veritable crucible. I’m fascinated by the way loyalties are split and how conflict is never simple. To paraphrase my character Helena from The Seamstress of Warsaw, war is peopled by a few heroes, a few bastards, and everyone else in the middle just trying to get through it in one piece…

Rebecca's book list on how people get swept up in the winds of war

Discover why each book is one of Rebecca's favorite books.

Why did Rebecca love this book?

A stone-cold classic in war writing, I studied this short novel at university and loved it. Crane never actually went to war and yet his depiction of men fighting in the American Civil War felt so real, that it gave me the confidence to write historical fiction, knowing I’d never experienced these things but my research and imagination could be brought to bear and hopefully transport the reader in the same way Crane did. It also began a lifelong obsession for me with the American Civil War. When I first started writing historical novels I knew I wanted to write about other combat arenas than the two C20th world wars, choosing the Boer War and The Seven Years’ War respectively. 

By Stephen Crane,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Red Badge of Courage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is Stephen Crane's masterpiece, The Red Badge of Courage, together with four of his most famous short stories. Outstanding in their portrayal of violent emotion and quiet tension, these texts led the way for great American writers such as Ernest Hemingway.


Troubled Refuge

By Chandra Manning,

Book cover of Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War

John C. Rodrigue Author Of Freedom's Crescent: The Civil War and the Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley

From the list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War.

Who am I?

I am a historian who has always been fascinated by the problem of slavery in American history. Although a “Yankee” by birth and upbringing, I have also always been drawn to the history of the American South—probably because it runs so counter to the dominant narrative of U.S. history. My childhood interest in history—especially in wars, and the Civil War in particular—was transformed in college into a serious engagement with the causes and consequences of the Civil War. I pursued this interest in undertaking graduate study, and I have devoted my entire scholarly career to the examination of slavery and emancipation—and their consequences for today.

John's book list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

Chandra Manning explores an essential but oddly overlooked aspect of wartime emancipation—the experiences of freed people in the “contraband” camps and other places of refuge that the federal military established in occupied Confederate territory. While this might seem like a narrow topic, Manning’s book addresses any number of larger issues surrounding the war and emancipation, and it brims with original insights. She provides an overview of life in these places of “troubled refuge,” but she also delves deeply into particular camps, showing the experiences of individual people. Manning also argues—persuasively, I think—that the camps served as training grounds in which the freed people came to stake a claim not only to freedom but also to equal citizenship guaranteed by the national government.

By Chandra Manning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of What This Cruel War Was Over, a vivid portrait of the Union army’s escaped-slave refugee camps and how they shaped the course of emancipation and citizenship in the United States.

Even before shots were fired at Fort Sumter, slaves recognized that their bondage was at the root of the war they knew was coming, and they began running to the Union army. By the war’s end, nearly half a million had taken refuge behind Union lines in improvised “contraband camps.” These were crowded and dangerous places, with conditions approaching those of a humanitarian crisis. Yet families…


The Rivers Ran Backward

By Christopher Phillips,

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

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Brad's favorite books.

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…


Champion Hill

By Timothy B. Smith,

Book cover of Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg

David Powell Author Of Maps of Chickamauga: An Atlas of the Chickamauga Campaign

From the list on the American Civil War in the western theater.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the American Civil War since I was 8 years old. I have been a serious student of the subject since my college years, where I majored in American History. I have played and designed boardgames concerning battles of the war, including a number of games on battles in the Western Theater, I have been a living historian and reenactor, and now, an author-published by both academic and popular presses. The battle of Chickamauga became a serious interest as early as 1979.

David's book list on the American Civil War in the western theater

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

Though Dr. Timothy B. Smith has since made quite the splash in Civil War historiography, this was his first book, covering the Battle of Champion Hill. On May 16, 1863, two armies collided between the Confederate fortress of Vicksburg and the Mississippi state capital at Jackson. The Federals were led by Ulysses S. Grant; the Rebels, John C. Pemberton. Each army numbered bout 30,000 men. While neither the largest or most famous battle of the war, Champion Hill was, nevertheless, a crucial engagement, for it decided the fate of Vicksburg. Frustrated for months by his inability to capture the fortress, Grant at last settled on a daring strategy to take it from the rear. Pemberton marched out to meet him. They met at Champion Hill.

Smith’s narrative embraces the top-down commander’s view of the battle, the soldiers’ view from the ranks, and the impact the fighting had on the local…

By Timothy B. Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Battle of Champion Hill on 16 May 1863 was the decisive land engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign. The fighting took place just twenty miles east of the river city, where the advance of General Ulysses S. Grant's Federal army attacked General John C. Pemberton's hastily gathered Confederates.

The bloody fighting see-sawed back and forth until superior Union leadership broke apart the Southern line, sending Pemberton's army into headlong retreat. The victory on Mississippi's wooded hills sealed the fate of both Vicksburg and her large field army, propelled Grant into the national spotlight, and earned him the command of the…


A Savage Conflict

By Daniel E. Sutherland,

Book cover of A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War

Lisa Alther Author Of Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance

From the list on the Hatfield–McCoy feud.

Who am I?

My father’s favorite first cousin Ava married Homer McCoy, a direct descendant of the Fighting McCoys. Homer’s aunt married a Hatfield, so my family is distantly related by marriage to both the Hatfields and McCoys. As a girl, Ava witnessed the aftermath of the feud: The elders in her household froze whenever they heard pounding hoofbeats in the night. She assured me that the reasons for the feud were far more complicated than escaped hogs or the derring-do of sociopathic veterans nostalgic for the bloodbaths of the Civil War. I started reading whatever I could find and visiting feud sites, trying to understand what had really gone on and why.

Lisa's book list on the Hatfield–McCoy feud

Discover why each book is one of Lisa's favorite books.

Why did Lisa love this book?

In researching Blood Feud, I discovered that some of my ancestors were Union guerrillas who operated near the future feud area. Devil Anse Hatfield led a unit of Confederate home guards in that same region. Hatfield’s uncle, who is widely believed to have murdered Harmon McCoy in the opening salvo of the feud, was said subsequently to have killed a cousin of my father’s uncle during a guerrilla skirmish. I had always understood the Civil War to entail vast battalions of uniformed soldiers mowing each other down as they marched toward enemy lines. A Savage Conflict made me realize that the brutal depredations of guerrillas played a major role in the war and left a legacy of bitter factional hatred that factored into the subsequent feuds.

By Daniel E. Sutherland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While the Civil War is famous for epic battles involving massive armies engaged in conventional warfare, A Savage Conflict is the first work to treat guerrilla warfare as critical to understanding the course and outcome of the Civil War. Daniel Sutherland argues that irregular warfare took a large toll on the Confederate war effort by weakening support for state and national governments and diminishing the trust citizens had in their officials to protect them.


This Hallowed Ground

By Bruce Catton,

Book cover of This Hallowed Ground: A History of the Civil War

Prit Buttar Author Of The Reckoning: The Defeat of Army Group South, 1944

From the list on changed my view of history.

Who am I?

"History can become a dull and uninteresting subject, but the stories of the past are far more interesting and inspiring than the very best fiction. These stories tell us about how our world came to be, and the paths that our predecessors travelled; and they show us that, despite the decades and centuries that separate us, they were driven and inspired by the same factors that drive and inspire us today." Prit Buttar was a doctor, first in the British Army and then a GP, until retiring in 2019. Less than a year later, he volunteered to go back to work during the current pandemic.

Prit's book list on changed my view of history

Discover why each book is one of Prit's favorite books.

Why did Prit love this book?

I picked up this book while on a study course in the United States – I was based in Washington DC and intended to visit some of the nearby Civil War battlefields, and decided that I needed to know more about the conflict. It was perhaps the first American history book I had read, and immediately I was struck by the very different style of writing when compared with European works.

For a single-volume account of a terrible conflict that did so much to shape the United States, this is probably unmatched. The people involved, from those in high-level political positions to the men and women caught up in the fighting, are brought to life in an unforgettable way.

By Bruce Catton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic one-volume history of the American Civil War simultaneously captures the dramatic scope and intimate experience of that epic struggle, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Bruce Catton.
 
Covering events from the prelude of the conflict to the death of Lincoln, Catton blends a gripping narrative with deep, yet unassuming, scholarship to bring the war alive on the page in an almost novelistic way. It is this gift for narrative that led contemporary critics to compare this book to War and Peace, and call it a “modern Iliad.” Now over fifty years old, This Hallowed Ground remains one of the best-loved and…


Fighting in the Shadows

By Harry G. Lang,

Book cover of Fighting in the Shadows: Untold Stories of Deaf People in the Civil War

Donna Jo Napoli Author Of In a Flash

From the list on deaf culture.

Who am I?

Years ago, I visited a school for the deaf to see how the children learn to read. It opened my eyes: It is exceedingly difficult to learn to read a language you cannot hear. I am a linguist and a writer for children. So this experience lit a fire under me – I wanted to learn about the deaf experience, sign languages, and what sorts of ways I might be able to support the effort to learn to read. I now analyze sign languages, work with a team to advocate for deaf children’s language rights, and am co-director of the RISE project, producing videobooks for deaf children and their families.

Donna's book list on deaf culture

Discover why each book is one of Donna's favorite books.

Why did Donna love this book?

Deaf people served as soldiers, nurses, cooks, even spies during the American Civil War. This book celebrates their bravery and how they applied their skills to fight for what they believed in.

By Harry G. Lang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fighting in the Shadows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This visually rich volume presents Harry G. Lang's groundbreaking study of deaf people's experiences in the Civil War. Based on meticulous archival research, Fighting in the Shadows reveals the stories of both ordinary and extraordinary deaf soldiers and civilians who lived during this transformative period in American history. Lang documents the participation of deaf soldiers in the war, whose personal tests of fortitude and perseverance have not been previously explored. There were also many deaf people in noncombat roles whose stories have not yet been told clerks and cooks, nurses and spies, tradespeople supporting the armies, farmers supplying food to…


A Book of Tongues

By Gemma Files,

Book cover of A Book of Tongues

Errick Nunnally Author Of All The Dead Men: Alexander Smith #2

From the list on history to thrill, disturb, and intrigue.

Who am I?

Errick Nunnally was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and served one tour in the Marine Corps before deciding art school was a safer pursuit. He enjoys art, comics, and genre novels. A graphic designer, he has trained in Krav Maga and Muay Thai kickboxing. His work has appeared in several anthologies of speculative fiction. His work can be found in Apex Magazine, Fiyah Magazine, Galaxy’s Edge, Lamplight, Nightlight Podcast, and the novels, Lightning Wears a Red Cape, Blood for the Sun, and All the Dead Men.

Errick's book list on history to thrill, disturb, and intrigue

Discover why each book is one of Errick's favorite books.

Why did Errick love this book?

This book falls under the category “urban fiction” or “magical realism” or “western” or…something. At least, that’s what drew me to it in the first place. It takes place in America’s old west, features magic-using criminals leading a gang and draws on some Native American lore. The magic is terrifying, it’s a mix of environmental and mind-altering hoodoo. The most powerful antagonist is rugged, homosexual, unashamed, and a conflicted terror of a person. His partner in crime is simply terrifying. Together, they drive a trilogy that’s so well threaded through the old west you can taste the grit as you turn the page. Though the emphasis is on the pursuit of magic and the machinations it drives, the settings are a delight to experience. Files weaves a world in these novels that is equally fascinating and terrifying. Her prose and daring are an inspiration.

By Gemma Files,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Gemma Files has one of the great dark imaginations in fiction visionary, transgressive, and totally original." -Jeff VanderMeer

In Gemma Files's "boundary-busting horror-fantasy debut," former Confederate chaplain Asher Rook has cheated death and now possesses a dark magic (Publishers Weekly). He uses his power to terrorize the Wild West, leading a gang of outlaws, thieves, and killers, with his cruel lieutenant and lover, Chess Pargeter, by his side.

Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow is going undercover to infiltrate the gang, armed with a shotgun and a device that measures sorcerous energy. His job is to gain knowledge of Rook's power and…


Belligerent Muse

By Stephen Cushman,

Book cover of Belligerent Muse: Five Northern Writers and How They Shaped Our Understanding of the Civil War

Candice Shy Hooper Author Of Lincoln's Generals' Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War--For Better and for Worse

From the list on William Tecumseh Sherman.

Who am I?

I was fated to write about war. Born on Guam to a Navy hospital corpsman and his intrepid wife, I spent four years on tank-littered beaches of Saipan and sailed to Japan on a U.S. Navy LST at the age of seven. When I graduated from college with a major in journalism, a Navy man, the late great Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson hired me as his press secretary, and we talked military history even as he made it in Afghanistan. Thirty-three years later, I went back to school for an MA in History. As I write, my great grandfather’s bugle from the Spanish-American War and the flag that covered my father’s coffin at his Arlington Cemetery funeral sit atop my shelves of military history books.

Candice's book list on William Tecumseh Sherman

Discover why each book is one of Candice's favorite books.

Why did Candice love this book?

If Marszalek’s book is thin on any aspect of Sherman it is on his writing — the eloquent, powerful weapon he brandished during the war and the efficient, versatile tool with which he constructed his legacy in his Memoirs.

As a young man, the letters he wrote to his foster sister and future wife Ellen contained carefully constructed sentences with descriptive flourishes; as an adult, he borrowed liberally from his love of Shakespeare and the theater to craft his persona in his Memoirs.

Cushman, an award-winning poet and historian, places Sherman’s writing in the context of four other Northern writers (Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Ambrose Bierce, and Joshua Chamberlain) who were inspired by the “belligerent muse” — war. You will treasure this book, which is unlike any other book about history or literature you’ve ever read.

By Stephen Cushman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

War destroys, but it also inspires, stimulates, and creates. It is, in this way, a muse, and a powerful one at that. The American Civil War was a particularly prolific muse--unleashing with its violent realities a torrent of language, from soldiers' intimate letters and diaries to everyday newspaper accounts, great speeches, and enduring literary works. In Belligerent Muse, Stephen Cushman considers the Civil War writings of five of the most significant and best known narrators of the conflict: Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ambrose Bierce, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Considering their writings both as literary expressions and as…


Clash of Extremes

By Marc Egnal,

Book cover of Clash of Extremes

Dennis L. Peterson Author Of Christ in Camp and Combat: Religious Work in the Confederate Armies

From the list on little-known aspects of the Confederate era.

Who am I?

I am an author, editor, and former history teacher and curriculum writer with a special interest in Southern history, particularly the Confederate era. I have written and published two books on lesser-known aspects of the Confederacy, the civilian government (Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries), and religious work in the Confederate armies (Christ in Camp and Combat: Religious Work in the Confederate Armies). I taught on various levels, from junior high through college, and have B.S. and M.S. degrees with post-graduate work in Southern history and religion.

Dennis' book list on little-known aspects of the Confederate era

Discover why each book is one of Dennis' favorite books.

Why did Dennis love this book?

Egnal shows that the causes of the war were indeed complex and multifaceted rather than resting on a single simplistic issue. His is a thorough treatment of the many economic factors involved in the war that resulted.

By Marc Egnal,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Clash of Extremes" takes on the reigning orthodoxy that the American Civil War was waged over high moral principles. Marc Egnal contends that economics, more than any other factor, moved the country to war in 1861. Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Egnal shows that between 1820 and 1850, patterns of trade and production drew the North and South together and allowed sectional leaders to broker a series of compromises. After midcentury, however, all that changed as the rise of the Great Lakes economy reoriented Northern trade along east-west lines. Meanwhile, in the South, soil exhaustion, concerns…


Killing Lincoln

By Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard,

Book cover of Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

Nick Vulich Author Of 1861

From the list on capturing the essence of the Civil War.

Who am I?

What could be cooler to a kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s than the Civil War? TV spoon-fed us westerns—Bonanza, F-Troop, The Lone Ranger, and The Wild, Wild West. Many of the stories were set during the Civil War or had characters molded by it. And then, somewhere in the mid-1960s, my parents took me to a civil war reenactment. Guns cracked. Cannons boomed, and men fell. I was hooked. I’ve devoured every Civil War book I could get my hands on for the past fifty years and watched every movie remotely connected to the subject. So, it’s only natural I wrote a book about it.

Nick's book list on capturing the essence of the Civil War

Discover why each book is one of Nick's favorite books.

Why did Nick love this book?

If Abraham Lincoln had survived the war, the country might have followed an entirely different track. Rather than send carpetbaggers to rule the southern states, Lincoln planned on working with the existing rebel governments to transition them back into the Union. However, his policy toward the newly freed blacks was uncertain. Lincoln’s hope was that blacks and whites would learn to live together given time. He just hadn’t figured out how to make that happen.

What’s certain is that Andrew Johnson’s ascendancy to power derailed many of Lincoln’s plans and reversed many of the gains African-Americans had won. Johnson favored quick restoration of the southern states. At the same time, he refused to educate the freedmen and work them into society. His hope was that things would go back to the way they were before the war. Blacks would no longer be slaves but still be dependent on their former…

By Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The anchor of "The O'Reilly Factor" recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history - how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America's Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President Abraham Lincoln's generous terms for Robert E. Lee's surrender are devised to fulfil Lincoln's dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. But one man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not…


Crossing the Deadlines

By Michael P. Gray (editor),

Book cover of Crossing the Deadlines: Civil War Prisons Reconsidered

Derek D. Maxfield Author Of Hellmira: The Union’s Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp - Elmira, NY

From the list on Civil War P.O.W. camps.

Who am I?

The Civil War has been a passion of mine since I was seven years old. This was inflamed by a professor I met at SUNY Cortland—Ellis Johnson, who first told me of the POW camp at Elmira, New York. Even though I grew up just thirty miles from Elmira I was astounded at this revelation. Later I learned that I had a third great-grandfather—William B. Reese—who served in the Veterans Reserve Corps after being wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and was assigned to the garrison in Elmira, where he may have stood guard over the very prison his great grandson would write about.

Derek's book list on Civil War P.O.W. camps

Discover why each book is one of Derek's favorite books.

Why did Derek love this book?

This intriguing collection of essays explores the dark reaches of Civil War prison scholarship from a variety of viewpoints and professions—including historians, anthropologists and public historians. The eclectic mix of topics includes environment, race, material culture, memory, and more. One of the more interesting aspects explored here is the phenomenon of prison camps which became tourist attractions—such as Johnson’s Island off Sandusky, Ohio—where steamboats would ply the waters around the island so guests might be able to spot an actual Rebel officer.

By Michael P. Gray (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The "deadlines" were boundaries prisoners had to stay within or risk being shot. Just as a prisoner would take the daring challenge in "crossing the deadline" to attempt escape, Crossing the Deadlines crosses those boundaries of old scholarship by taking on bold initiatives with new methodologies, filling a void in the current scholarship of Civil War prison historiography, which usually does not go beyond discussing policy, prison history and environmental and social themes. Due to its eclectic mix of contributors-from academic and public historians to anthropologists currently excavating at specific stockade sites-the collection appeals to a variety of scholarly and…


Rebels in the Making

By William L. Barney,

Book cover of Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

William C. Davis Author Of An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government

From the list on the politics of the Confederacy.

Who am I?

I find the early days of the Confederacy to be fascinating, a chance to look at Americans in the act of nation-making while surrounded by fear and crisis. Far more than in the convention of 1776, this episode offers sources that allow us to look inside their motives, and to evaluate them both as impractical rebels, and social and political idealists [albeit their idealism was always encased within the confines of a slave society]. Having written biographies of Jefferson Davis, Alexander H Stephens, Robert Toombs, and other Confederate politicians, this subject is a natural object of my interest. While I do not at all agree with or endorse the political measures they took in the secession crisis, I can feel some empathy for them and their people who felt themselves caught in a no-win position, facing [in their view] the possible destruction of their economy, society, and culture.

William's book list on the politics of the Confederacy

Discover why each book is one of William's favorite books.

Why did William love this book?

This new 2020 book is a fresh synthesis of the scholarly work that has been done on secession and the young Confederacy in the past 30 years and has much that is new to offer  Its treatment of the weeks in Montgomery is rather brief, but insightful, and overall it makes a fine introduction to the political life of the CSA.

By William L. Barney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Regardless of whether they owned slaves, Southern whites lived in a world defined by slavery. As shown by their blaming British and Northern slave traders for saddling them with slavery, most were uncomfortable with the institution. While many wanted it ended, most were content to leave that up to God. All that changed with the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Rebels in the Making is a narrative-driven history of how and why secession occurred. In this work, senior Civil War historian William L. Barney narrates the explosion of the sectional conflict into secession and civil war. Carefully examining the events in…


Book cover of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

David B. Allison Author Of Controversial Monuments and Memorials: A Guide for Community Leaders

From the list on memory that make you question how you see the past.

Who am I?

Memory is capricious and impacts our view of the past. That’s why I do what I do! I am a twenty-year museum professional who began my career at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, worked at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for almost ten years, and am now part of the Arts & History department at the City and County of Broomfield. I have designed and developed programs and events, as well as managed teams in each of these stops. I seek to illuminate stories, elevate critical voices, and advocate for equity through the unique pathways of the arts, history, and museum magic.

David's book list on memory that make you question how you see the past

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

By turns funny, poignant, and incisive, the late author Tony Horwitz tours the South with a journalist’s eye and a sociologist’s heart.

He bravely takes on the memory of the Civil War through the eyes of reenactors, angry neo-Confederates in bars, and Black museum guides (among many others). I recently re-read this book through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of George Floyd, which touched off numerous protests against monuments to Confederate leaders.

When Horwitz wrote this book in the late 1990s, it seemed unlikely that Monument Avenue in Richmond would ever change. In the case of monuments to problematic historic figures, at least, people’s perspectives have indeed shifted over time. Horwitz’s book is a great reminder that change is possible!

By Tony Horwitz,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Confederates in the Attic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent takes us on an explosive adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where Civil War reenactors, battlefield visitors, and fans of history resurrect the ghosts of the Lost Cause through ritual and remembrance.  

"The freshest book about divisiveness in America that I have read in some time. This splendid commemoration of the war and its legacy ... is an eyes–open, humorously no–nonsense survey of complicated Americans." —The New York Times Book Review

For all who remain intrigued by the legacy of the Civil War—reenactors, battlefield visitors, Confederate descendants and other Southerners,…