Where to begin reading?

A poster on Usenet asks where he should begin reading about the Civil War:
I have been reading James M. McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom", Larry Schweikart's "A Patriot's History of America" (the Civil War sections), Bruce Catton's three part series, and General Grant's memoir. I assume many of you are more educated on the Civil War, and are better read on its various subjects. What do you think of these books? Will they contribute effectively to my understanding of the war? Will they give me good insights into the essentials of what caused the war, how the war was fought, and what the war caused?
Somebody got this fellow started on a reading list, selecting "the usual suspects" for him (with the exception of Schweikart). I like the fact that he's suspicious of these authors after starting his reading.

After thanking people for encouraging him, he asks just the right follow-on question:
I'm also interested in a study of the relationship between the philosophy (the ideology) of the time, and how it motivated the start of the war and the actions of the generals in the war. I've studied a bit, and writers usually have used the terminology of Whig, Know-Nothing, Republican, Democrat, etc. These party names don't tell me much about the uniting and fundamental ideology of each side, and how these ideologies lead men to take cerain actions. Sometimes the constant switching of parties and party titles and party ideology is just plain confusing. Is their a book particularly devoted to explaining these things...
I felt compelled to answer the second post at length:
Why not start with The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, a great introduction to the parties leading up to the ACW with plenty of background on the pre-ACW activities of major personalities of the war? Then, when you go to a McPherson or Catton, and they mention the name of a political personality, you'll have the full dossier.
There's lots more here.