What Did You Read This Past Year?

I plan on sharing my favoite Civil War titles before the end of the year.  [Fellow blogger and NPS historian John Hoptak has already published his “best of” list for 2008.] In the meantime I am interested to know what you found worthwhile from this year’s offerings.  I don’t mind at all if you want to cite something published in 2007 that you only got around to reading this year.

19 comments… add one
  • Bob Pollock Dec 13, 2008 @ 8:58

    I’ve read some of the books mentioned so far. Thought I would add two published in ’07 that I read this year.

    Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters by Elizabeth Brown Pryor

    What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War by Chandra Manning

    Although it was published in ’03, I also want to note Legacy of Disunion: The Enduring Significance of the American Civil War, ed. by Susan-Mary Grant and Peter J. Parish. I particularly liked the essay “Forget, Hell!” by Charles Joyner.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 13, 2008 @ 9:00

      Great choices Bob. The collection of essays in Legacy of Disunion are indeed quite good. Keep an eye out for a new collection of essays on similar topics edited by Gary Gallagher and Joan Waugh and published by UNC Press. I believe the publication date is July 2009.

    • Bob Pollock Dec 13, 2008 @ 9:07

      Forgot, I was going to mention that I read “Troubled Commemoration” which has a couple references to William Garrett Piston, who was the chair of my graduate committee at Missouri State University the last three years. After reading the book, I mentioned to Prof. Piston that he was referred to in the book. He had not read the book and seemed quite pleased that Cook had included him. He said Cook had called him a couple of years ago and he had almost forgotten about it.

  • Dara Dec 12, 2008 @ 16:59

    You might be interested to know that podcasts of David Blight’s course “Civil War and Reconstruction Era” are available at Yale’s open courseware website: http://oyc.yale.edu/history/civil-war-and-reconstruction

    • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2008 @ 17:41

      Hi Dara, — Thanks so much for passing this along. My interest in Civil War memory can be traced directly to reading his book, Race and Reunion.

    • Greg Rowe Dec 13, 2008 @ 17:10

      Thanks for bringing this to Kevin’s attention and thanks to Kevin for adding it as a main post for all his readers.

  • Harry Dec 11, 2008 @ 13:37

    I’ll second McClintock’s book. I’m reading Holzer now, and while it has lots more good Lincoln “stuff”, considering it is more of a Lincoln book that is “Decision for War”, I find it lacking, pedestrian really, in its analysis. AL is still pretty much infallible. McClintock’s Lincoln is far more believable. Holzer’s book is well written (though I’ve found way too many typos), and sometimes laying out the who, what, when, and where is enough. Now I’m being nagged by the quesiton of whether or not George Latham, Bob Lincoln’s school chum who recieved a famous note from AL, is related to Confederate Battery commander A. C. Latham.

    I read lots of Lincoln this year. Really enjoyed Ferguson’s “Land of Lincoln”. Also Prokopowicz’s “Did Lincoln Own Slaves”, Emerson’s “The Madness of Mary Lincoln”, Steers’ “Lincoln Legends” and Craughwell’s “Stealing Lincoln’s Body”. Not too thrilled with Percoco’s “Summers with Lincoln” – seemed to lose focus and I suspect evidenced the evils of cutting and pasting while editing.

    The only “shoot ’em up” was Marion Armstrong’s “Unfurl those Colors” about 2nd Corps in Maryland 1862 – good when he stayed on the tactical level, but I think he lost it when he examined things on higher than corps level.

    Read two Reconstruction books, though one was from 2006, Lemann’s “Redemption”, the other Budiansky’s “The Bloody Shirt”. I give the nod to Lemann, though Budiansky is a better writer.

    Also read Faust – beautiful book, but not much there there, if you know what I mean. Good style. Nice presentation. Like Chinese food.

    Glatthaar’s book on the AoNV was good, but got off to a very slow start. I think he had a hard time trimming off the fat. Great contrarian stuff in there though, which I guess is why it wasn’t greeted with open arms. I’ll be writing a blog article about one of these tidbits pretty soon, tying in like thoughts of Jefferson and Lee.

    I skimmed a ton of other books for America’s Civil War. I’m intrigued by “Saving Savannah”, which I think might be right up your alley, Kevin.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 11, 2008 @ 14:10

      Although I only read the beginning of the Holzer book I think you are right in your critique. Than again most of his books are written in this style, but that’s o.k. as he does it quite well. The McClintock book gives the reader much more to chew on.

      I disagree with you on the Faust book as I think there is a great deal of analysis and done in a way that doesn’t alienate general readers. There is a little fat on the Glatthaar book, but this pales in comparison with its virtues.

      Thanks for recommending “Saving Savannah”. I’ve passed it by a couple of times and it does look interesting. Perhaps over the Christmas break. Thanks for sharing Harry.

  • Kevin Levin Dec 11, 2008 @ 13:16

    Jim, — I received an advanced copy, but unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to read it.

    Greg, — I also received an advanced copy of this book. I did start it, but will probably wait until over the summer to read through it.

  • Greg Rowe Dec 11, 2008 @ 8:26

    Most of what I have read this year has been older titles, as I have only recently engrossed myself with scholarship rather than popular titles. I am currently reading Holzer’s _Lincoln, President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861_. I seem to remember you were disappointed in Holzer’s promo for the book on C-SPAN’s “Book TV.” I only recently started it and can’t give a real good assessment, but it’s the only thing from ’08 I have looked at this year.

  • Jim Rosebrock Dec 11, 2008 @ 6:11

    I think Peter Cozzens did a terrific job with Shenandoah 1862. I enjoyed his balanced look at both sides of the campaign.

  • Stephen Graham Dec 10, 2008 @ 21:22

    For me, the most thought-provoking books of the year were McClintock’s Lincoln and the Decision for War and Myers’ Caution and Cooperation: The American Civil War in British-American Relations. Though I’d still like to see a really good history on the North in the Secession Winter outside of D.C. and the immediate neighborhood of Lincoln.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 11, 2008 @ 2:02

      I just finished a review of the McClintock book for Louisiana History and in my mind it is one of the best books from the past year. Thanks for the other reference.

  • Rob Wick Dec 10, 2008 @ 16:41

    I read “Troubled Commemoration” by Robert J. Cook (which if I remember correctly, you recommended). I found it to be very interesting. I bought “An Old Creed for the New South” which I had wanted to start this year but will likely get to it sometime in 2009.


    • Kevin Levin Dec 10, 2008 @ 17:31

      Cook’s book is indeed an excellent read on a very relevant subject given preparations for the sesquicentennial. Gaston’s book is also well worth reading. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lizzie Dec 10, 2008 @ 14:25

    Gallagher- Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten
    Faust- This Republic of Suffering

    I am in the midst of reading Paul Escott’s essay’s on North Carolinians in the era of Civil War and Reconstruction which has been great so far.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 10, 2008 @ 14:31

      Both good choices. I was disappointed to read that Gordon-Reed beat out Faust for the National Book Award. Faust deserved it. At some point I will read the Escott collection.

  • Kevin Levin Dec 10, 2008 @ 9:02

    I am writing a review of Wert’s biography for Civil War Book Review. I don’t think I will get around to Trudeau’s book.

  • Eric Wittenberg Dec 10, 2008 @ 7:50


    I particularly liked Jeff Wert’s bio of Jeb Stuart, Cavalryman for the Lost Cause, and Andy Trudeau’s fine work on the March to the Sea.


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