Apr 22, 2014

Possible Books for Club Reading on the U.S. Civil War

The members of our history book club expressed interest in reading books related to the anniversary celebrations we are experiencing simultaneously this year:
  • The final year of the War of 1812
  • The fourth year of the Civil War
  • The first year of World War I.
We have chosen to read The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies by Alan Taylor.

The following is revised, based on helpful comments from members of the Civil War Book Club that meets at Barnes and Noble at the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center.

Note that we read 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart in May, 2012. We have also read a couple of books on slavery and Jim Crow, including American Slavery: 1619-1877 by Peter Kolchin in November 2011.

In thinking about a book on the Civil War, we can benefit from several articles giving their author's ideas on the best Civil War histories. Here are three:
The following list is drawn from these sources, eliminating the longer books and those not available in paperback (criteria for our group).

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner (2011, 436 pages of text, 4+ stars) Listed in two of the three lists. Eddie Patrick wrote that the Civil War Book Club liked this book.

The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans by Charles Royster  (1993, 418 pages of text, 4+ stars)  Listed in all three lists.

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory by David W. Blight (2002, 398 pages of text, 4 stars) Listed in all three lists. John Crowe would like to read this, noting that it is about the aftermath rather than the Civil War itself.

Additions to the list:

Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood (2006, 402 pages of text, 4+ stars) This book it also on the first of the lists shown above, and Eddie Patrick read and liked it; it was not a selection of the Civil War Book Club.

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War by James M. McPherson (1996, 256 pages, 4+ stars) Jacque Pickett said this is great.

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz. (2011 ,294 pages of text, 4+ stars) Eddie Patrick found it riveting and said the club liked it.

Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War by Gilpin Faust. (2004, 326 pages, 4 stars) Jacque Pickett recommended this book.

Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters by Elizabeth Brown Pryor ( 474 pages of text, 3+ stars) Sam Steppel recommended  this book.

Widely admired books by Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, James McPherson and Doris Kearns Goodwin are quite long, exceeding the length mandate set by club members. Such a book might be considered for a two month period.

Other possibilities:

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust (2009, 346 pages, 4+ stars) Listed in all three lists. John Crowe said the book is good but a "very depressing read". Jacque Pickett said this book is great. Sam Steppel said he could not recommend the book as too depressing.

Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen W. Sears (2003, 372 pages including an Epilogue and three Appendices, 5 stars) Listed in two of the three lists. Eddie Patrick notes that this is about a single battle, and our group might prefer a broader view of the war. John Crowe mentions that it was originally published in 1973

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz (1999, 432 pages, 4+ stars) Listed in two of the three lists. Eddie Patrick says probably not right for this purpose as it is not about the Civil War per se, but rather about the author's travels through the modern South and current views there looking back at the Civil War.

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