Year of Historical Reading – August Update

So far, 2020 has been one of my best reading years.  Whether it is the extra time due to the pandemic restrictions or just the focus on reading my favorite genres, I have already read more this year than I have in previous years.  My goal was to read 100 books, and since I am at 81 through August, I think I will hit it!

During this Year of Historical Reading, I have focused my reading on historical fiction and nonfiction, and out of the 81 books read, 72 books have been (loosely!) in those genres. 

This month’s reading was a little different, as I was trying to focus on books related to Gettysburg and the Civil War.  This time period is my favorite to study, and I have become immersed in these books due to our visit and upcoming review of the historical site. 

Here are my books for August, and I have indicated if they were pulled from my unread shelves, purchased, or borrowed from the library.  **All links are affiliate links with either Bookshop.org or Amazon.

One more reminder, don’t forget to sign up for my new monthly newsletter here where you will get a bonus mini-review each month!


Historical Fiction

Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini (own)

Purchase on Bookshop.org or Amazon

Jennifer Chiaverini is one of my go-to historical fiction authors.  I tend to pre-order or purchase all of her historical fiction books, which focus on strong, real-life women from different time periods.  She has written many books about women during the Civil War time period, including some of my favorites, Resistance Women, The Spymistress, Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters, and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker.  This month, I realized that I had a Chiaverini book on my unread shelves and decided to read it.  This book contains fascinating historical tidbits about Julia Grant, wife of Union General Ulysses S. Grant, and her enslaved maid, Jule.  Just think of how it must have looked for the Union General who was fighting to end slavery to have his wife bring her enslaved maid to the army camps?  Chiaverini packs her books with real historical facts, which sometimes makes the plot seem secondary.  You can see that in this book since there are many historical records about Grant’s movements and Julia’s appearance at army camps but little to no records about the enslaved people.  I recommend it for readers who like books about women’s lives during the Civil War.

I Survived The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 by Lauren Tarshis (own)

Purchase on Bookshop.org or Amazon

The I Survived book series is one of my favorite historical fiction series for kids.  It takes hard-to-describe events, such as 9/11, natural disasters, or war battles, and puts kids in the middle of action so they can understand and empathize with those who went through these tragic events.  This book, about an enslaved brother and sister who march with the Union Army to Gettysburg, PA in 1863, not only puts you in the middle of the horrific battle at Little Round Top in Gettysburg, it also gives you the perspective of enslaved children who have escaped from bondage on a Virginia plantation.  As always, Tarshis does a great job at weaving in historical fact and the story.  I reread this in preparation for a Travel with Books video that I did at Gettysburg.  I highly recommend this entire series of books for all children!

Two Girls of Gettysburg by Lisa Klein (library)

Purchase at Amazon

This Young Adult novel about two cousins who find themselves on opposite sides of the Civil War was a good look into the civilians whose lives were forever altered by the battle in Gettysburg.  I found this novel especially intriguing since one of the storylines took a character to Richmond as well.  I love reading about the daily lives of civilians, particularly women, during a war.  Much of the focus in Gettysburg is on the horrific battle but as this book makes clear, the women and children who were in the middle of the battle also suffered tremendously.  The main character of this book is even based on a real teenager (see book review below)!  While the writing is tailored to the YA audience and some of the language is hard to hear from a 21st century perspective, I did enjoy the story and think it is especially worthwhile to read before visiting Gettysburg.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (library)

Purchase at Bookshop.org or Amazon

This book had been on my TBR list for years since it is considered the definitive novel about the Battle at Gettysburg.  I tend to read more books about women’s lives during the war so I was unsure if a book about the battle would keep my focus.  Boy, did it ever!  This is easily one of the best books that I have ever read about the Civil War – it is a classic for a reason!  This book humanizes the generals and soldiers and shows them in their best and worst moments.  How these men were able to make decisions that they knew would take the lives of thousands of young soldiers, I have no idea.  Shaara gets into the mind of the generals, including Chamberlain, Buford, Longstreet, and Lee, and shows you their deep anguish, pain, and courage.  It is a must read for all! Now I have to watch the Gettysburg movie, which is based on this book.

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown (library)

Purchase at Bookshop.org or Amazon

I heard this described on a bookish podcast and thought it sounded intriguing.  Its premise is definitely original – a modern-day NYC transplant to the suburbs finds a 1950s cookbook from her new home’s previous inhabitant.  Their lives run in similar paths as they grapple with the age-old quandary between women, work, and home life.  While I loved the 1950s storyline and could just picture the events through the lens of Betty Draper from Mad Men, I was not a fan of the modern storyline, especially the characters.  I think this is why I tend to not read many books set in contemporary times.  Historical fiction is based on fact – things that have actually happened or could have happened – while contemporary fiction leaves me with the thoughts (valid or not!) like, “This never would happen!” or “She would never do that!”  I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about 1950s America, especially food!  The book has recipes preceding many of the chapters, including delicacies such as bread and cheese pudding, meatloaf with oatmeal, and busy day cake.  It is so interesting to read how cooking has changed over the years!

Historical Nonfiction

Tillie Pierce by Tanya Anderson (library)

Purchase on Bookshop.org or Amazon

This book was recommended to me by a blog reader, and I am so glad that I picked it up!  It is a nonfiction book written for teens about the adventures of Tillie Pierce, a teenage girl who lived in Gettysburg during the Civil War.  Tillie was the inspiration for one of the main characters in the Two Girls from Gettysburg book mentioned above.  This book brings to life the amazing story of a young woman who found herself in the middle of battle, with bullets flying and soldiers needing aid.  How she managed to become a nurse, caretaker, informant, and defender of her friends and family is amazing.  I also love the Google Earth directions at the end so your teen can take a virtual tour of Tillie’s Gettysburg.

I read two other historical nonfiction books (one I owned, one from the library) for a writing project that I have been working on for years.  Stay tuned for more information on that when I am ready to share!

I also read one other book this month, a parenting book, from my library.


Stats for August:

89% historical fiction and nonfiction 

2 of 120+ unread books 

1 reread

6 library books


If you enjoy following along on my Year of Historical Reading, be sure to friend The History Mom on Goodreads and to follow me on Instagram, where I post the books I am reading in real time.  You can also visit my shop on Bookshop.org, an Amazon alternative that supports independent bookstores.  This link is an affiliate link where I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

What was your favorite book from your August reads?  Comment below!

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