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Top 9 TBR list of American Civil War Books

May 24, 2013



O.K. Yesterday I recommended 9 of my favorite Civil War books. Now, I know 9 books are not a lot. And,  I agree with both of the old adages, “The more you know, the more you don’t know” and “So many books, so little time…” So the following are additional Civil War books that have gotten my attention but l’ve been unable to get to—perhaps someday soon…


1. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936; 3.94 GR; 4.4 Am)

Of course, classic Faulkner would have to be on this Southern-girl’s list. It’s a story about three families of the American South, taking place before, during, and after the Civil War, with the focus of the story on the life of Thomas Sutpen. Who can resist a family saga?

2. The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War by Howard Bahr (1997; 4.02 GR; 4.5 Am)

This book is to the battle of Franklin, Tennessee what The Killer Angels was to Gettysburg—this time told from a young Confederate rifleman’s point of view.

3. The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed (2008; 3.79 GR; 3.6 Am)

After visiting the gorgeous and stately Monticello house, I’m primed to read this Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the history of four generations of the African-American Hemings family—including Sally Hemings and her famous partner, Thomas Jefferson! At the risk of losing my male readers at only number 3 in today’s line-up, I’ll mention that this is the only Nonfiction selection on this list. I’ve had this one on the shelves since ’09, I think. Yeah, I’m  a very slow reader.


4. The House Girl by Tara Conklin (2013; 3.8 GR; 4.2 Am)

This showed up on my radar late last year—here’s the description from The House Girl, the historical fiction debut by Tara Conklin, is an unforgettable story of love, history, and a search for justice, set in modern-day New York and 1852 Virginia. Weaving together the story of an escaped slave in the pre–Civil War South and a determined junior lawyer, The House Girl follows Lina Sparrow as she looks for an appropriate lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking compensation for families of slaves. In her research, she learns about Lu Anne Bell, a renowned prewar artist whose famous works might have actually been painted by her slave, Josephine.

5. Lincoln by Gore Vidal (2000; 4.15 GR; 4.5 Am)

A close friend of mine, Kay, is a huge Gore Vidal fan and if she hasn’t read all of his books yet, she will soon complete the list. This one is her all-time favorite. It’s on the shelf. It will be mine.

6. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker  by Jennifer Chiaverini (2013; 3.32 GR; 4.0 Am)

I received a copy of this recently, and after watching the movie, Lincoln, I’m eager to read this one soon! Novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents an account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.


7. The Secrets of Mary Bowser  by Lois Leveen (2012; 3.94 GR; 4.6 Am)

I brought a copy of this one home from Book Expo last year, and am still eager to read it. Here’s what the publisher says: Based on the true story of a freed African-American slave who returned to Virginia at the onset of the Civil War to spy on the Confederates, The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a masterful debut by an exciting new novelist. Author Lois Leveen combines fascinating facts and ingenious speculation to craft a historical novel that will enthrall readers of women’s fiction, historical fiction, and acclaimed works like Cane River and Cold Mountain that offer intimate looks at the twin nightmares of slavery and Civil War. A powerful and unforgettable story of a woman who risked her own freedom to bring freedom to millions of others, The Secrets of Mary Bowser celebrates the courageous achievements of a little known but truly inspirational American heroine.

8. Wash by Margaret Wrinkle (2013; 3.63 GR; 4.0 Am)

I received a copy of this recently, and am quite intrigued by the premise—here’s what the publisher says: In early 1800s Tennessee, two men find themselves locked in an intimate power struggle. Richardson, a troubled Revolutionary War veteran, has spent his life fighting not only for his country but also for wealth and status. When the pressures of westward expansion and debt threaten to destroy everything he’s built, he sets Washington, a young man he owns, to work as his breeding sire. Wash, the first member of his family to be born into slavery, struggles to hold onto his only solace: the spirituality inherited from his shamanic mother. As he navigates the treacherous currents of his position, despair and disease lead him to a potent healer named Pallas. Their tender love unfolds against this turbulent backdrop while she inspires him to forge a new understanding of his heritage and his place in it. Once Richardson and Wash find themselves at a crossroads, all three lives are pushed to the brink.

9. The Widow of the South, by Robert Hicks (2005; 3.69 GR; 4.1 Am)

I met Robert last year at the annual Book Club Convention, Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend and after hearing him speak about this book, I had to get a copy. Yeah, I know, it’s been over a year, and I still haven’t started it—but it’s on my list! Here’s Amazon’s summary: Carnton Plantation, 1894: Carrie McGavock is an old woman who tends the graves of the almost 1,500 soldiers buried there. As she walks among the dead, an elderly man appears–the same soldier she met that fateful day long ago. Today, he asks if the cemetery has room for one more. Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the afternoon of the Civil War. While the fierce fighting rages on Carrie’s land, her plantation turns into a Confederate army hospital; four generals lie dead on her back porch; the pile of amputated limbs rises as tall as the smoke house. But when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives at her house, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead—and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as the war that consumes a nation.

So what else have I missed? What Civil War favorites would you recommend? Don’t hold out on me now—I need a number 10!



10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2013 7:46 am

    Thanks for another set of books to add to my list. They all sound brilliant. What a lot of work you’ve put into sharing these 18 books with us.

  2. Dorothy Nerison permalink
    May 26, 2013 2:48 pm

    Loved your list of books and downloaded Someone Knows My Name which I will recommend to my Book Club. I read other books on the Civil War when I toured the battle fields 35 years ago. The one I like the best is The Civil War by Bruce Cation which is no longer available. My second favorite was The Crisis by Winston Churchill, an American writer not related to the famous British Winston Churchill.

    • May 26, 2013 2:53 pm

      Thanks, Dorothy. I’ll have to check them both out. Imagine two separate mothers choosing to name their children “Winston.” 🙂 Thanks, again for the tips and for stopping by! Cheers!

  3. May 27, 2013 8:29 am

    The Secrets of Mary Bowser is one I’ve been wanting to read. I’ll make sure these are all on the Civil War reading list on War Through the Generations.

  4. May 30, 2013 8:53 am

    Here is another book to sample HIRAM’S HONOR FREE CHAPTERS TO EXPLORE Gettysburg Andersonville Prison Belle Island Prison


  1. Top 9 American Civil War Books | Book Club Cheerleader

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