I last looked at the Amazon.com Top 10 Civil War bestsellers in March 2009. I’ve enjoyed keeping an eye on this list to see how books move over time, and the Amazon.com Top 10 Civil War Books list has become a monthly or every other monthly feature here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog. Readers who are looking for books many people are currently reading and commenting on can’t go wrong selecting books from this list.
As in each entry in the series, I’ve taken the liberty of removing non-Civil War related books from the list. The books below are in the Civil War Top 10 as of April 27, 2009. Numbers in parentheses usually mark the book’s prior position in the Top 10, but due to the massive influx of and interest in Abraham Lincoln in this bicentennial anniversary of his birth, I’ve split out the Lincoln books into an Amazon.com Top 10 Abraham Lincoln bestsellers list, the first of which debuted this month. Any Lincoln books with a Civil War focus can be found there rather than in this list.
Note: Some of these are the Kindle edition. Kindle is Amazon’s handheld device for reading books electronically. Since last time, Amazon has come out with Kindle 2, a sleeker version which also allows you to upload many public domain books for minimal or no cost!
1. (-) Vicksburg, 1863 by Winston Groom
Summary: Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, tries his hand at recounting the Vicksburg Campaign. Several reviews Groom uses no notes, so this is probably a book I won’t be buying now or in the future.
2. (-) 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. This book has been one of the most reviewed Civil War books I’ve seen over the past 3 or so years since I started blogging.
Summary: I recently received a copy of Sultana for review, so regular TOCWOC readers should definitely find out what I thought of the book in the coming months. Journalist Alan Huffman tells the story of America’s worst maritime disaster (for once a subtitle is not complete hyperbole) by following four Union soldiers who were present.
4. (-) Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson
Summary: Quite simply the best single volume history of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom should be in every Civil War buff’s collection.
5. (-) 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.
6. (-) The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War by H. W. Crocker III
Summary: There has been some interesting discussion lately on this one recently in the Civil War blogosphere. The author appears to have a bit of a Southern bias judging from reading the blog entries referenced here.
7. (-) Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
Summary: At a time when most personal memoirs were full of self-serving propaganda designed to make the memoirist look as good as possible, Grant’s memoirs have been lauded for their honesty. Grant struggled to finish the book as he was dying of throat cancer, and narrowly succeeded, securing a nice amount of money for his family in the process. This is another classic Civil War book which almost anyone will want to own.
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. (-) Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas by Benson Bobrick
Summary: Fellow TOCWOC blogger Jim Durney reviewed Master of War rather unfavorably last month, and it received quite a few comments, including some from the author himself. Unfortunately, this one looks like a hagiography to me. Bobrick uses an odd notes system which is described well in Jim’s review as well. If you are looking for a balanced biography of George Thomas, this isn’t it.
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. There has been some criticism from certain groups about Horwitz’ misrepresentation of typical reenactors, but I’m in no position to judge the validity of that argument.
Dropped Out This Month:
Since we are in a sense starting over I’m going to “reset” this section as well.
Brett’s Final Thoughts:
Now that I’ve gone through and removed the Abraham Lincoln books from the list, we are starting to see a better representation of books focusing on the Civil War in this list. We’ve got everything from the best one volume history of the war to one of the most famous Civil War novels ever written. Keep in mind that “bestselling” definitely does not always mean “best”, especially considering a few of the entries in this month’s list. In any event, whether you are new to the study of the Civil War or an experienced veteran, check out the Amazon.com Top 10 Civil War Books List and see if there is something there for you.
Previous Books in the Top 10 Prior to Last Month’s Top 10:
This section is also being reset this month. Check back next month to see which books drop out and which ones take their place in the Civil War Top 10.
Look over past Top 10 Civil War Books lists to see how various books have done over time!
Are you interested in Civil War books? Read some Civil War Book Reviews here at TOCWOC!
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