I've found history is one of the top three things my reading pile falls into. And often, it helps me to come up with context for what has happened before. Like everything else I read, it helps me to figure out my own writing and thinking. Here's a quick review about Team of Rivals.
Team of Rivals looks at Lincoln's rise to the presidency by also analyzing and looking at each member of his cabinet. This interesting because Lincoln filled his cabinet with those men who'd been his rivals for the Republican nomination in 1860.
Detailing their histories and comparing how different each man compared to Lincoln, as well as how similar they were, you get the political picture of Lincoln's presidency. Of how he cleverly would push for legislation only after having solid public support for it or how he treated each man in his cabinet with respect. Or he managed to become the republican nominee during the republican convention despite being in last place.
Biographical content like this feeds my imagination. You get an understanding of a person in Team of Rivals based on their history, who they were born to, where they were born and how they got to be who they became. One gets to see the full butterfly effect of how close two men could've been the same, yet departed such different tracks in their lives.
And it all is framed in the national tragedy that was the american Civil War.
Perhaps the best kinds of history bring you closer understanding with the subject, even if total and complete comprehension of subjects still elude us to some degree. But history like Team of Rivals is excellent for fueling ideas for the origins of characters and getting a good grip on historical subject matter without having (although you should still look at some of the primary material if you get the chance) dig deep into the main historical material yourself.