Top 10 Civil War Bestsellers: July 2008

I thought it might be fun to take a monthly look at the top 10 Civil War bestsellers and see how (if?) this list changes much over time.  The first thing I noticed was the strange inclusion of several titles which have either little or no real connection to the Civil War.  I’ve taken the liberty of removing these books from my list below, and my decision-making process was arbitrary.  I excluded Alexander Hamilton, for instance, and that was an easy choice to make.  Something like A Terrible Glory, which covers Custer at the Little Bighorn, was a tougher decision.  In the end I cut it too.  The books below are in the Civil War top 10 as of the second week of July 2008.

Note: Some of these are the Kindle edition.  Kindle is Amazon’s handheld device for reading books electronically.  Click on the link in the left sidebar for more information.

1.  Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Summary: Goodwin covers the “team” Abraham Lincoln put together to form his cabinet.  Dimitri would dispute the validity of the term “team”.

2.  The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Summary: Although obscure when initially written in the 1970s, Michael Shaara’s fictional account of Gettysburg has been a bestseller pretty much since the movie GETTYSBURG was released in 1993.

3.  The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Mark Epstein

Summary: I don’t know too much about this one other than that it covers Abe and Mary’s marriage, obviously.  Would any readers care to share?

4.  Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson

Summary: This has been the standard one volume history of the Civil War since its release.

5.  This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust

Summary: Faust argues that 1860s America’s familiarity with death led to massive casualty rates, acceptable by those standards but appalling when looked at through today’s lens.

6.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass

Summary: The autobiography of one of the most famous Abolitionists ever.  I have not yet had the pleasure of reading this one.

7.  Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

Summary: Donald’s biography of Lincoln is arguably the greatest ever written on our Sixteenth President.

8.  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Summary: Jacobs was a slave, and she chronicled her experiences in this book, released in 1861.  Her attacks on slavery served to further educate the public as to the evils of the peculiar institution.

9.  Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Summary: Swanson’s book covers the hunt for John Wilkes Booth in the days immediately following Lincoln’s assassination.

10. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

Summary: This is one book I’m genuinely sorry I haven’t yet had the chance to read.  Horwitz, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his foreign war correspondence work, here details Civil War re-enactors and the continuing hold the Civil War has on the American public.

You may have noticed a glaring absence in this top 10 list.  There are no campaign or battle studies.  Lincoln and slavery appear to be two of the more popular topics.  Dimitri Rotov has commented on these lists and the types of books which show up in the past at Civil War Bookshelf.  I wish there was a way to separate those who consider themselves Civil War “buffs” to see how (and even if) their top 10 list would be very different.  I will continue to monitor the Civil War top 10 each month and I will very likely have more to say about the topics which appear here most frequently.

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4 responses to “Top 10 Civil War Bestsellers: July 2008”

  1. Richard D. Boles Avatar

    In response to the top ten list by First is this list based on any particular criteria such as how many books were sold , how good a read was it, how conprehensive the particular subject matter? How recent the book or printing ,how popular to Civil War Buffs or the general puplic? For myself It appears that there is always an agenda or politics or favoritism or something behind a top ten list of anything. Can I list my top ten list of Civil War Books?

  2. admin Avatar


    This list, based on my understanding, is the list of best selling Civil War books on Amazon, so it is based solely on how many books were sold. As I’ve learned, this does not always mean every book on the list is a good one. It may have just had better marketing. The audience is the general public. I unfortunately do not have a way to see how self-described Civil War buffs bought Civil War books on Amazon. I don’t know that there is any favoritism in this list or agenda other than Amazon’s obvious agenda to want to sell as many books as possible. If you want to post your top 10 list here, I’d welcome it!


  3. Richard D. Boles Avatar

    Thank you very much , I shall.
    I usually buy my books from lists of books in bibliographies. Also I try and not buy books that are under 500 pages unless the author is really good or if there are several volumes. Of course I break these simple rules all the time especially if the book or author is recommended by some one I can trust. My list is not in any particular order. Also sense it is my list I’ll include more than one book by an author as one book.

    All books about the Civil War by Bruce Catton.
    Mr. Lincolns Army
    Glory Road
    Stillnes at Appomatox
    Grant moves South
    Grant takes Command
    The Coming Fury
    Terrible Swift Sword
    Never Call Retreat

    Lee’s Lieutenants 3 Vol
    by Douglas S. Freeman

    R.E. Lee the abridged version
    by Douglas S. Freeman
    I’ve read the 4 Vol version by Freeman , To me the abridged version was better .

    Grants Memoirs
    by U.S.Grant

    Henry Hallecks War
    by Curt Anders

    Fighting for the Confederacy
    by E.P. Alexander

    The Civil War 3 Vol
    by Shelby Foote

    The Gettysburg Campaign
    by Edwin Coddington

    The first 4 Vol of the Overland Campaign
    by Gordan Rhea

    To the Gates of Richmond
    by Stephen Sears also all the rest of Sears books.

    Battles and Leaders of the Civil War 4 Vol
    by various authors

    I know I took liberties with the numbers game but hey, This list will change soon and will always change as I read new books by new authors and old books by old authors. I had 300+ books by 1998 and I sold them all to 2 used book sellers. Boy did they get a steal. I’m back up to 230+ now and have included the first 18 vols Of the Official Records or the War of the Rebellion. I have read the first two vol already and really enjoyed them very much.

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