The most recommended books on the Crimean War

Who picked these books? Meet our 20 experts.

20 authors created a book list connected to the Crimean War, and here are their favorite Crimean War books.
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What type of Crimean War book?


Book cover of Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not

Lisa M. Lane Author Of Murder at Old St. Thomas's

From my list on the wonders of Victorian medicine.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in the history of medicine, particularly the ways in which historical methods are portrayed to be inferior to modern medicine. As a historian, I am alternately amused and horrified at the way we go overboard in discarding historical methods of healthcare, ridding ourselves of perfectly useful techniques, drugs, and therapies. The more I learn about older curative methods, the more I’ve become sensitive to the knowledge and technologies that have been lost. At the same time, I am fascinated by new technologies, and find anesthesia particularly captivating as a technique that improved survival and recovery from what had previously been deadly conditions.

Lisa's book list on the wonders of Victorian medicine

Lisa M. Lane Why did Lisa love this book?

Although known for being the “Lady with the Lamp” during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was also a statistician and tireless crusader for more hygienic conditions in hospitals both temporary and permanent. This book explains how to nurse a loved one or client at home, and includes advice we should follow today, particularly about ventilation in the sickroom. When she herself became ill later in life, she became a sofa-bound activist, influencing policies via correspondence. Nightingale founded a nursing school at St. Thomas’s Hospital, and the nurse probationers featured in my book attended her school. Mrs. Sarah Wardroper, a character in the novel, was Nightingale’s lieutenant in real life.

By Florence Nightingale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written by the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, Notes of Nursing was the first book of its kind. It was originally published when the simple rules of health were only beginning to be known. Its topics were of vital importance for the well-being and recovery of patients, when hospitals were riddled with infection.

In this edition, Mark Stinson adds his commentary, writing that this book "portrays the background for understanding the historical evolution from Nightingale’s experiences and sine qa non of her day to today’s utilization of evidence-based medicine in healthcare. The Nightingale legacy is also a call to…

Book cover of Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse

Amy Gary Author Of In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown

From my list on biographies of bold women.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1990, Amy Gary discovered unpublished manuscripts and songs from Margaret Wise Brown tucked away in a trunk in the attic of Margaret’s sister’s barn. Since then, Gary has catalogued, edited, and researched all of Margaret’s writings. She has worked with several publishers to publish more than 100 of those manuscripts, which include bestsellers and Caldecott nominees.

Amy’s work on Margaret has been covered in Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, and on NPR. Her biography on Margaret, In the Great Green Room, was published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, and was named a best book of the year in 2017 by Amazon.

She was formerly the Director of Publishing at Lucasfilm and headed the publishing department at Pixar Animation studios. In addition to writing, she packages books for retailers and consults with publishers. In that capacity, she has worked with Sam’s Wholesale, Books-a-Million, Sterling Publishers, and Charles Schultz Creative Associates.

Amy's book list on biographies of bold women

Amy Gary Why did Amy love this book?

I loved the way this book intertwined Florence Nightingale’s story with images of her life. It may have been written for young adults, but readers of any age will be immersed in this well-written and graphically beautiful book. Catherine Reed’s engaging story of Nightingale combating the gruesome hygienic conditions at the Crimean battlefront, going against Victorian society expectations, creating sanitary methods still used today, and earning the moniker of The Lady with the Lamp is a testament to the difference one life can make.

By Catherine Reef,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Florence Nightingale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Most people know Florence Nightingale was a compassionate and legendary nurse, but they don't know her full story. She is best known for her work during the Crimean War, when she vastly improved gruesome and deadly conditions and made nightly rounds to visit patients, becoming known around the world as the Lady with the Lamp. Her tireless and inspiring work continued after the war, and her modern methods in nursing became the defining standards still used today. Includes notes, bibliography, and index.

Book cover of Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

Lydia Murdoch Author Of Daily Life of Victorian Women

From my list on Victorian women who defied stereotypes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of modern Britain with a specialty in nineteenth-century social history. I’m drawn to sources and topics that tell us about how everyday people lived and thought about their lives. One favorite part of my job is the challenge of discovering more about those groups, like working-class women or children, who weren’t the main focus of earlier histories. Since 2000, I’ve taught classes at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Victorian Britain, the British Empire, the First World War, and the history of childhood.

Lydia's book list on Victorian women who defied stereotypes

Lydia Murdoch Why did Lydia love this book?

I love this book for what it teaches us about the global nineteenth century and the complexities of identity.

Seacole traveled widely as a medical practitioner—from Kingston to London, Cruces to the Crimea, and eventually settled in England. Identifying herself as a “doctress,” an “unprotected female,” and “Mother Seacole,” she underscored the plasticity of Victorian gender ideals of separate spheres as she claimed her role on the battlefront.

She condemned the racism she faced as a Black Creole woman, yet also supported the British empire. Most of all, as my students often point out, she had the bravery to tell her own story.

By Mary Seacole, Sara Salih (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written in 1857, this is the autobiography of a Jamaican woman whose fame rivalled Florence Nightingale's during the Crimean War. Seacole's offer to volunteer as a nurse in the war met with racism and refusal. Undaunted, Seacole set out independently to the Crimea where she acted as doctor and 'mother' to wounded soldiers while running her business, the 'British Hotel'. A witness to key battles, she gives vivid accounts of how she coped with disease, bombardment and other hardships at the Crimean battlefront.
"In her introduction to the very welcome Penguin edition, Sara Salih expertly analyses the rhetorical complexities of…

Book cover of Daughters of the Lake

Julia Ash Author Of Find Them

From Julia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Ghost survivor Lake lover Hiker Former PIO

Julia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Julia Ash Why did Julia love this book?

Webb uses dreams and ghosts to bridge a historical mystery with present-day events.

Take recently divorced Kate Granger. Her life is a mess, so she is recuperating at her parents’ waterfront home on Lake Superior. While there, a perfectly preserved woman, with her baby tucked in the folds of her gown, washes ashore. Kate shouldn’t recognize her, but she does.

She’s been dreaming of the woman who lived 100 years ago. Not only that, but the woman’s unsolved murder is connected to Harrison’s House which Kate’s great-grandfather built; it’s now her cousin’s bed and breakfast.

Will Kate’s dreams and the secrets hidden within Harrison’s House solve the mystery before Kate completely unravels?

Count on being afraid of the fog!

By Wendy Webb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ghosts of the past come calling in a spellbinding heart-stopper from the "Queen of the Northern Gothic."

After the end of her marriage, Kate Granger has retreated to her parents' home on Lake Superior to pull herself together-only to discover the body of a murdered woman washed into the shallows. Tucked in the folds of the woman's curiously vintage gown is an infant, as cold and at peace as its mother. No one can identify the woman. Except for Kate. She's seen her before. In her dreams...

One hundred years ago, a love story ended in tragedy, its mysteries…

Book cover of Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness

Katherine Ashenburg Author Of The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History

From my list on the history of washing our bodies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to social history, so the chance to learn what people used for toilet paper in the middle ages or how deodorant was invented and popularized in the early 20th century was perfect for me. The three years I spent researching The Dirt on Clean included trips to see the bathing facilities in Pompeii and actually bathing in ancient mineral baths and spas in Hungary, Switzerland, and Germany, and what’s not to like about that?

Katherine's book list on the history of washing our bodies

Katherine Ashenburg Why did Katherine love this book?

How did Americans in the 19th century, who were described by one traveller as “filthy, bordering on the beastly,” transform themselves into arguably the cleanest people in the Western world? Hint: unexpected things such as the rise of hotels, the Civil War, and the growth of advertising are important parts of this journey towards obsessive cleanliness. Hoy charts this surprising transformation with wit and skill.

By Suellen Hoy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Americans in the early 19th century were, as one foreign traveller bluntly put it, "filthy, bordering on the beastly"-perfectly at home in dirty, bug-infested, malodorous surroundings. Many a home swarmed with flies, barnyard animals, dust, and dirt; clothes were seldom washed; men hardly ever shaved or bathed. Yet gradually all this changed, and today, Americans are known worldwide for their obsession with cleanliness-for their sophisticated plumbing, daily
bathing, shiny hair and teeth, and spotless clothes. In Chasing Dirt, Suellen Hoy provides a colorful history of this remarkable transformation from "dreadfully dirty" to "cleaner than clean," ranging from the pre-Civil War…

Book cover of Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands

Tracey Jean Boisseau Author Of Sultan To Sultan - Adventures Among The Masai And Other Tribes Of East Africa

From my list on travel and exploration written by women in the Victorian Era.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of feminism, I am always on the lookout for sources that reveal women’s voices and interpretation of experiences often imagined as belonging primarily to men. Whether erudite travelogue, personal journey of discovery, or sensationalist narrative of adventure and exploration, books written by women traveling on their own were among the most popular writings published in the Victorian era. Often aimed at justifying the expansion of woman’s proper “sphere,” these books are perhaps even more enthralling to the contemporary reader —since they seem to defy everything we think we know about the constrained lives of women in this era. In addition to illuminating the significant roles that women played in the principal conflicts and international crises of the nineteenth century, these stories of women wading through swamps, joining military campaigns, marching across deserts, up mountains, and through contested lands often armed only with walking sticks, enormous determination, and sheer chutzpah, never fail to fascinate!

Tracey's book list on travel and exploration written by women in the Victorian Era

Tracey Jean Boisseau Why did Tracey love this book?

The first autobiography published by an Afro-Caribbean (“Creole”) woman, this “adventure story” chronicles the life of Jamaican icon and national heroine, Mary Seacole who, in her own time, rivaled Florence Nightingale as a founder of modern nursing. The “yaller doctress” became known for her devising of successful treatments for cholera, yellow fever, and malaria in Jamaica and, later, Panama, and became internationally renowned after founding her own hospital-hotel at the frontlines of the Crimean War (1853-1856) where she nursed members of the British military. Upon publication, Seacole’s best-selling life-story gained her awards, acclaim, and the respect of the British nation (denied her by Florence Nightingale, by the way). Seacole’s effervescent writing bubbles over with optimism and can-do spirit.

By Mary Seacole,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HarperCollins is proud to present its incredible range of best-loved, essential classics.

Unless I am allowed to tell the story of my life in my own way, I cannot tell it at all

Mary Seacole - traveller, nurse, businesswoman and radical for her time - defied a prejudiced British government to care for soldiers wounded during the Crimean War.

This ground breaking account, written by Seacole in 1857, brings to life her incredible journey from Jamaica to Central America and England, and then on to modern-day Ukraine, where she acted as nurse to injured soldiers while running her business, the…

Book cover of Spike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital

Emily Mayhew Author Of Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I

From my list on human casualties of World War One.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dr. Emily Mayhew is the historian in residence in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London. Her primary research interest is the infliction, treatment, and long-term outcomes of complex casualty in contemporary warfare. She is the author of the Wounded trilogy. A Heavy Reckoning, The Guinea Pig Club, and Wounded: From Battlefield to Blighty which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize in 2014. She is Imperial College Internal Lead on the Paediatric Blast Injury Partnership and co-edited The Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual.

Emily's book list on human casualties of World War One

Emily Mayhew Why did Emily love this book?

A biography of an extraordinary building: the biggest hospital ever built, to contain the casualties of Britain's biggest and worst wars from Crimea to World War Two. Perhaps the most original work of medical historical writing in the English language, as the ghosts of the nurses, doctors, and their broken shell-shocked patients haunt its pages and its writer through his family connections.

By Philip Hoare,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of Netley in Southampton - its hospital, its people and the secret history of the 20th-century. Now with a new afterword uncovering astonishing evidence of Netley's links with Porton Down & experiments with LSD in the 1950s.

It was the biggest hospital ever built. Stretching for a quarter of a mile along the banks of Southampton Water, the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley was an expression of Victorian imperialism in a million red bricks, a sprawling behemoth so vast that when the Americans took it over in World War II, GIs drove their jeeps down its corridors.…

Book cover of The Face of a Stranger

Jeanne M. Dams Author Of Murder in the Park

From my list on historical mysteries that make the period come alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I used to hate history, until I made the startling discovery that history wasn’t about dates and wars—the stuff we had to memorize in high school—but about people. And what can be more absorbing than people? When I started my first historical series, set in the very early 20th century in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana, I delved into the local newspaper and learned that the people of the time and their problems were very much like today’s. That pulled me in, and never let go. Now, researching the 1920s, I’m meeting people who might live next door. It’s so much fun!

Jeanne's book list on historical mysteries that make the period come alive

Jeanne M. Dams Why did Jeanne love this book?

Anne Perry is too well known for me to add anything about her or her many books.

This particular one, though, the first in the William Monk series, intrigues me particularly because of the startling idea of a detective who doesn’t know who he is, knows nothing about his past. What a challenge to the writer!

Monk is understandably ill-tempered and extremely touchy, but this, oddly enough, makes him, for me, a sympathetic character.

As always, the brooding descriptions of Victorian London set the scene perfectly, and I was desperately hoping for Monk to resolve not only the crime but his personal problems. And, as with all books that I love, it’s beautifully written. 

By Anne Perry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Face of a Stranger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

He is not going to die, after all, in this Victorian pesthouse called a hospital. But the accident that felled him on a London street has left him with only half a life, because his memory and his entire past have vanished. His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective; the mirror reflects a face that women woud like, but he senses he has been more feared than loved.
Monk is given a particularly sensational case: the brutal murder of Major the Honourable Joscelin Grey, Crimean war hero and a popular man about…

Book cover of The Eyre Affair

J.J. Cagney Author Of A Pilgrimage to Death

From my list on mystery for Agatha Christie readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started reading mysteries in elementary school: Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and Stephen King fed my thirst for story, puzzles, and the “super-psychological.” There’s so much about the mind we don’t understand—including our relationships with animals (like an octopus detective)—or the bond between twins (like the one in my Cici series). When I worked with Irene Webb as an associate literary agent in the 2000s, my fascination with the written word and “super-psychological” blossomed. I enjoy connecting motivations, secrets, and passions into a tapestry of humanity. At their core, stories teach us how to be more human, and I want to be part of that lesson. Please enjoy this book list I’ve curated for you.

J.J.'s book list on mystery for Agatha Christie readers

J.J. Cagney Why did J.J. love this book?

A friend recommended this series to me and, because we both enjoy British literature, I knew I’d give it a go.

What I didn’t expect was to be so utterly charmed, not just by the Britishism, but by the premise: literary detectives must stop her former professor before he can murder Jane Eyre…and have the heroine disappear from literature forever.

The alternative reality is a surreal, quirky 1985 that I reveled in (who wouldn’t want a pet dodo, airships, literary detectors, or a Prose Portal?), but it’s Thursday Next’s insights into her own mistakes, human motivation, and the beauty of the written word that gripped me until I’d finished the last page.

By Jasper Fforde,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Eyre Affair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Thursday Next, literary detective without equal, fear or boyfriend

Jasper Fforde's beloved New York Times bestselling novel introduces literary detective Thursday Next and her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England-from the author of The Constant Rabbit

Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde's Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it's a bibliophile's dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic…

Book cover of The Shadow of Isandlwana: The Life and Times of General Lord Chelmsford and his Disaster in Zululand

Ian F.W. Beckett Author Of The British Army: A New Short History

From Ian's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Professor Military historian Victorian army and Great War specialist

Ian's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ian F.W. Beckett Why did Ian love this book?

The first biography of Chelmsford since 1939, a definitive study by the leading historian of the Zulu War utilizing a wide range of primary archival sources and providing expert analysis of Chelmsford’s career, emphasizing his conduct of the Anglo-Zulu War.

Despite the support of the Queen, Chelmsford never recovered his reputation, and Laband explores not only the series of fatal errors that led to the loss of the British camp at Isandlwana but also the constant underestimation of the difficulties of campaigning in South Africa. 

Laband’s mastery of the sources is impressive, and his sound judgment shines through a readily accessible text.

By John Laband,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lord Chelmsford is not a bad man. He is industrious and conscientious so far as his lights guide him. But nature has refused to him the qualities of a great captain. He has suffered much and is entitled to certain commiseration. - Thomas Gibson Bowles, Vanity Fair

General Lord Chelmsford's military career took him around the world; he served in the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and the Abyssinian Expedition, before commanding the British invasion of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa.

In January 1879, disaster struck when Chelmsford divided his forces at Isandlwana in the face of the enemy…