Candice Millard's The Destiny of the Republic is a great read, great history, and perhaps more importantly a wonderful tale of just how human we are and always have been. Perhaps dryily sitting on a shelf and looking like an account of the assassaination of President Garfield, Millard weaves together an accounting of that event with the persons around it (including the assassain) that lays bare a fascinating look into our polictical, cultural, medical, and scientific history as a country.
If you witness today's events and occassionally scratch your head in wonder at how we can often appear so silly and misguided, all you need do is read this book to realize that we always have been. Too bad we never learn from our history. Case in point, did you know that modern medical thought at the time was largely dismissive on Lister's theories on antisepis, used in Europe to treat infection? I didn't until I read the book.
Read it. Good stuff.