Top Non-Fiction Picks: Civil War edition

One of the most exciting things about ALL FOR ONE is that it effectively kicks off the next phase of my career.

It’s not that I’m abandoning urban fantasy. But I am returning to my first love–historical fiction.

Now obviously, we’re talking history with a twist here. Whether it’s creating a theoretical alternate history, or adding a ghost or two, or rewriting the laws of nature to add magic into the world, the next several books on my production schedule will all be set pre-1930.

That means doing a LOT of research. I don’t know how many hours I spent reading before I ever started working on one of these books. Suffice to say it was a lot.

If you’ve been here for a while then you probably know that one of my key areas of interest is the American Civil War. This happened at a time of great change, both political, social, scientific–it’s during this period that Darwin published The Origin of the Species, which effectively turned the religious world on its head. We have the abolitionist movement gaining speed, and of course the battle of states’ rights vs. federal oversight that continues in the US to this day. The 1840s and 1850s saw an explosion in immigration. Railroads began to criss-cross the nation, and by the end of the 1860s there were tracks coast to coast.

When I started my research, it actually began for my character at the Ohio Village, where I volunteer. Back in 2012 the historical village was still set in the 1860s, so there was a lot of research on food, clothing, and the types of lives women led back than. This research eventually sparked all of the books you’ll be seeing in the coming months/years.

So, if you want to learn more about the Civil War the period leading up to it, or life during that time period, where do you start?

Below, you’ll find my favorite nonfiction picks for starting your own research, across all types of media.


  1. Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts
    This book is part biography, part historical record of the many women who kept Washington DC running–socially and politically, during the Civil War. It’s a great introduction to some notable names of the period and might give you ideas of women to research further.
  2. Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbot
    Like Capital Dames, this book gives brief biographies of several women during the Civil War. Some were spies, some dressed as men and fought on the front lines. If you’re familiar with women of the Civil War this might not be the best pick, but if you’re going to read about women in the war, the names in this book are the names you need to know.
  3. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
    This book looks a little less at the war as it happened, and more at how it has influenced us today.
  4. Reconstruction
    This is a documentary that also popped up on my History in Pictures II post recently. Truly fascinating, and covers a lot of history we never learned about in school.
  5. Newspapers
    Many of you know that I absolutely adore Chronicaling America. They have recently added even MORE historic newspapers from around the US, some dating as far back as the 1700s.

Bonus Picks:

Life in Victorian London
While this book is geared toward life in Britain (obviously), a good portion of the information can carry over to life in the US, particularly in large cities like New York.

BBC Full Steam Ahead documentary
Another Youtube series from History In Pictures II, this 6 episode series looks at how trains changed the landscape of Britain between 1840-1900, in everything from the way their food was prepared to the clothing worn. Again, a lot of the information in this series would carry over to the US and Canada.