I'm currently reading Julie M. Fenster's nonfiction book The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President, and really enjoying it. This may be partly because I've never read a biography of Lincoln, so it's interesting to get a feel for what kind of person he was. It's also because the period covered in the book, 1856, and the political activities described, are vital to early formation of the Republican Party (a development that Lincoln was hugely instrumental in, at least in Illinois).
But I know what you're thinking. What about the adultery and murder mentioned in the subtitle?? Well, that's the other fascinating part of the book. Lincoln was a practicing lawyer, of course, and took on a variety of cases -- slander, property disputes, etc. At the same time that Lincoln's interest in politics was blossoming in the 1856, a blacksmith in town was apparently the victim of an attempted poisoning, then blugeoned to death in his own backyard. The developments in the blacksmith's last weeks and the case eventually brought against his wife and nephew are recounted side by side with the political doings and Lincoln's other law cases. The reader wonders throughout the book what Lincoln's involvement with the case will be -- defense lawyer? Special prosecutor? The trial turns out to be a drama worthy of Law and Order.
More than anything else, though, it may be the day-to-day details that make this book so engaging. The reader gets an immediate feel for the times, its society and customs, and its politics.