I’ve decided to do the Abraham Lincoln Amazon.com Top 10 bestsellers on a bi-monthly basis since the topic doesn’t fit this blog as well as the Top 10 Civil War bestsellers. Check out the April 2009 Amazon.com Top 10 Civil War bestsellers if you haven’t already, and look for the next Abe Top 10 in June. 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 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 May 22, 2009. Numbers in parentheses mark the book’s prior position in the Top 10 from the last time I did the 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. (1) Vicksburg, 1863 by Winston Groom
Summary: Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, tries his hand at recounting the Vicksburg Campaign. Several reviews have stated Groom uses no notes, so this is probably a book I won’t be buying now or in the future.
2. (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.
3. (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.
4. (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.
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.
6. (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. (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. (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. (-) 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. Douglass’ book is the first on this list which focuses mainly on slavery and the life of slaves to remain near the top of the bestseller list. So much for harping on readers’ complete ignorance concerning the great racial elephant in the room, or what some corners of the Civil War blogosphere would call the ONLY reason to even study the conflict.
10. (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:
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 awhile ago, and it received quite a few comments, including some from the author himself. Unfortunately, this book looks to me to be an attempt to raise Thomas up at the expense of Sherman and Grant. If you are looking for a balanced biography of George Thomas, this isn’t it.
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. As you can see, there was not much change in the Top 10 Civil War Bestsellers this month. This has been atypical of the list in my past experience. Keep in mind that “bestselling” definitely does not always mean “best”. Instead, this is a glimpse into what is popular among Amazon’s admittedly large customer base. 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 was reset last month. Check back in June 2009 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!