9 books like Apple TV+’s ‘Manhunt’ for presidential history buffs

9 books like Apple TV+’s ‘Manhunt’ for presidential history buffs

In Reading Lists by Ashley McDonnell

9 books like Apple TV+’s ‘Manhunt’ for presidential history buffs

You have to be at least a little bit out of your mind to want to be president of the United States. Not only is the job stressful, but out of the 46 presidents the country has had so far, four have been assassinated, and another two wounded in assassination attempts. That means there’s a 13%+ chance of being killed or severely wounded on the job, which are high odds when you’re talking about life and death.

Perhaps the only people more off their rocker than U.S. presidents are the people who try to kill them, and by extension, those who become invested in finding the killers. That’s what I’ve deduced, anyway, from reading about John Wilkes Booth, who killed President Abraham Lincoln, and all the hubbub over who really killed JFK

The hunt for Booth is the subject of Apple TV+’s Manhunt (which is based on a book of the same name) and the Everand Original Killing the Guys Who Killed the Guy Who Killed Lincoln. This list of books like Manhunt provides more backstory on Lincoln’s murder, plus the assassinations and attempts on other president’s lives. These books are full of high stakes, larger-than-life characters, and some of the wildest stories in history.

1. Manhunt by James L. Swanson

Sure, you know the story of how, just after the Civil War ended, actor John Wilkes Booth brazenly murdered President Abraham Lincoln during a play. But have you heard about the breathtaking chase that ensued to capture the assassin? 

Booth evaded the law for almost two weeks, crossing state lines and rough territory with a broken leg. Feel the thrill of the chase in this day-by-day account of that suspenseful manhunt.

Swanson’s Edgar Award-winning book is the basis for Apple TV+’s Manhunt, making it a must-read for fans of the show.

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This wry, rollicking history from stand-up comedian Joyce provides an eye-opening account of America’s colorful past, focusing not on John WIlkes Booth, but instead, the people looking to kill him after he murdered President Lincoln.

Prepare to learn the far more outlandish stories of Booth’s killers — Boston Corbett, a literal mad hatter who castrated himself, and John Wilkes’ brother, Edwin Booth, a renowned but troubled actor — in this Everand Original.

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3. American Brutus by Michael W. Kauffman

By now, we all know “Booth immortalized himself by staging one of history’s greatest dramas,” as Kauffman writes in American Brutus. “In the process, he accomplished what every actor aspires to do: he made us all wonder where the play ended and reality began.”

There are plenty of interpretations of Booth that take away his agency, but Kauffman’s portrait shows he was far more than a pawn. In Kauffman’s nonfiction narrative, Booth is a diabolically effective antagonist, flanked by plenty of other bad actors discontent with — and thus manipulating — the political landscape.

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4. The Lincoln Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Okay, enough about Booth. Now let’s learn about the first time Lincoln’s life was in danger and the assassination plot he narrowly escaped, just before his first inauguration as president.

The Lincoln Conspiracy details how a group of Southern sympathizers almost killed Lincoln before he ever set foot inside the White House. The hero is famed private investigator Allan Pinkerton, along with America’s first woman detective, Kate Warne.

Thriller writer Meltzer and producer Mensch keep the prose punchy and the tension high, a masterful feat considering you know Lincoln is destined to serve out his first presidential term and lead the country through the Civil War.

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5. The Day Lincoln Was Shot by Jim Bishop

By now, you know everything there is to know about Lincoln’s murder, right? Wrong! 

Bishop digs deep into the minutiae of what went down the Good Friday that Lincoln was slain. Readers get a lovingly constructed hour-by-hour breakdown of what the key figures who converged on the deadly scene were doing before Lincoln’s blood was spilled and the course of history altered forever. The Day Lincoln Was Shot shows off the strengths of maximalist storytelling.

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6. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

NPR’s Vowell takes readers on an insightful, introspective, and irreverent tour of America, as she chases the ghosts of presidents Lincoln, James A. Garfield, and William McKinley — all assassinated — through modern-day monuments to their murder.

While Vowell’s strange book is hard to categorize, it is as all vacations should be: a fun, relaxing time where you also learn something new (like that Robert Todd Lincoln, the only one of Lincoln’s sons to outlive both his parents, was present for the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Fishy!).

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7. Rawhide Down by Del Quentin Wilber

If you asked me about the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life, the only thing I would really have known before Rawhide Down was that there was an assassination attempt. While this downplaying of the incident in the 1980s, with the country still fretful from the Cold War, made sense, it’s now become clear that Reagan’s life was in greater danger than the general public believed.

By conducting over 100 interviews with members of Reagan’s team and the medical staff who treated the former president, Wilber reconstructs just how dire — potentially fatal — the gunshot wound really was. Whether you love Reagan or attribute what’s wrong with modern America back to his policies, the story of his failed assassination is emotional and riveting.

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8. Accidental Presidents by Jared Cohen

So presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and John F. Kennedy were murdered. What’s a country to do? Cohen’s Accidental Presidents tells the story of all the men who weren’t elected by the general public to the presidency, but wound up being Commander in Chief anyway. This quirky take on history will have you considering the credentials of potential vice presidents just as seriously as the head candidate in the future.

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9. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

High school English teacher Jake Epping travels back in time through a portal in his friend’s diner, hoping to stop the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963. 11/22/63 is recognized as one of King’s best novels and was adapted into a miniseries by Hulu. 

King toyed with the idea of an alternate history about preventing JFK’s assassination for several decades and brought the plot to life in this gripping novel that follows a man with the power to change the course of history. At nearly 1000 pages, this is a wild, imaginative ride from start to finish that will leave you wanting to know more about JFK conspiracy theories. 

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About the Author: Ashley McDonnell

Ashley is an Everand editor who loves Ernest Hemingway, “The Hunger Games,” and EDM. When she’s not reading, she’s making nerdy podcasts about anime and manga and learning to DJ.