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Old 03-13-2013, 07:02 PM   #1
stop__dreaming
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Books on Abraham Lincoln

With the masses of books on and about Abraham Lincoln out there, I ask, which is the best book out there?

I have two that are unread:

A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White Jnr
Lincoln by David Herbert Donald


Thanks.
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Old 03-13-2013, 08:33 PM   #2
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Well, I was going to recommend A. Lincoln, but you've already got it.

In that case, try Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Not an complete biography. Basically from the runup to his election as President until his assassination. A terrific book on his ability to form a team from men who had been his rivals for the presidency.

Last edited by jgaiser; 03-13-2013 at 09:29 PM. Reason: Biography, not Autobiography .. Sheesh
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Old 03-13-2013, 11:46 PM   #3
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I enjoyed A. Lincoln a lot but I also noticed that the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum store heavily promotes the biography by David Herbert Donald. I haven't read that one yet. Team of Rivals is a good book too if you don't mind that much of the book is about Lincoln's contemporaries.

Last edited by LovesMacs; 03-13-2013 at 11:47 PM. Reason: Replaced "his" with "Lincoln's".
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:56 AM   #4
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One of the first Lincoln books I read was the below. It is a historical work and the quote from a review explains it well, I think.
Lincoln: A Novel by Gore Vidal
Quote:
I recommend this novel in the strongest possible terms. It is not just a very fine novel: it is a great way to internalize history in a way that is rarely as possible in a straightforward historical account. Moreover, it is a richly complex Lincoln that is presented here. In contrast to the blandly hagiographic portrait by Carl Sandburg, this is a warts and all version. Lincoln isn't idealized, but is shown with both his virtues and vices, from his astonishing ability to handle people who imagined that they were handling him, to his self-proclaimed ignorance of financial matters. But he is more the admirable for his portrayal as a believable, flesh and blood human being, instead of mere statue.
There is also an old thread here on MR that may have some other suggestions:
Looking for a good Abraham Lincoln Biography
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Old 03-14-2013, 06:09 AM   #5
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Probably the most authoritative and complete biography of Lincoln, and the one that I think will be the seminal biography for years to come, is Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame. It is a 2-volume massive biography that is exceedingly well-written and loaded with information. I bought it when it was first released by Johns Hopkins Press and spent many hours reading and enjoying it.

I bought the 2-volume hardcover but it appears now to be available in paperback, audibook, and ebook formats. The ebook is available from Johns Hopkins (and probably elsewhere) in 2 volumes: volume 1 and volume 2. The ebooks (and the pbooks) are not inexpensive, but if you really want to know Lincoln inside and out, this is the book to read.

A Team of Rivals, which was mentioned by jgaiser, is also excellent, but is not a substitute for a complete biography. It is narrowly focused on Lincoln's cabinet and the interaction between men who disliked each other, and even disliked Lincoln in some instances, but how Lincoln and they rose to serve their country and put aside much of the pettiness of politics (but not all). It is worth reading on its own.
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Old 03-14-2013, 08:57 AM   #6
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I would go with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer.
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:57 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Ninjalawyer View Post
I would go with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer.
Living as I do in Springfield, Illinois, and once having lived on the same street as A. Lincoln (though not at the same time). I can say without fear of contradiction, that Central Illinois is over run with vampires. We are all vampire hunters at one time or another. Like tornadoes, it is part of the cost of living in Illinois.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:11 PM   #8
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Since my reading challenge this year is to read 20 books about the Civil War, I have set aside these books to read about Lincoln:

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White Jr.

These two come highly rated and you have them on your list. I have also looked at:

Abraham Lincoln by James M. McPherson

I have read Battle Cry of Freedom, which is a book about the Civil War from this author and it was very good.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:32 PM   #9
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I listened to this one as an audiobook:



It dealt mainly with Lincoln's views on and difficulties with the slavery issue. It was fascinating.
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Old 03-14-2013, 04:36 PM   #10
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The Gore Vidal novel is excellent. But if you want a definitive biography, I would agree with Jerseyman and recommend the one by James M. McPherson.

I can also recommend Manhunt, by James L Swanson. It's not about Lincoln as such, but about his assassination and the hunt for the conspirators. It's really quite gripping. I started browsing it in a Barnes & Noble, decided to buy, and finished it almost at one sitting.

Mike
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Old 03-14-2013, 11:31 PM   #11
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I snatched up the biography by McPherson when it was on sale. The book is rather short, and if you are a Lincoln enthusiast, it will leave you wanting more. I suggest going with one of the longer biographies if you have more than a passing interest in the man or the times.
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Old 03-15-2013, 04:55 AM   #12
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The Gore Vidal novel is excellent. But if you want a definitive biography, I would agree with Jerseyman and recommend the one by James M. McPherson.
The McPherson biography is very good but far from definitive. The only two Lincoln biographies that have been properly labeled as definitive are the biographies by Michael Burlingame and Carl Sandburg, both of which are multivolume. Many historians believe that prior to the publication of Burlingame's biography, the Sandburg biography was the standard, even though the volumes were published decades ago.

Of course, if you combine the McPherson volume with several other single-volume Lincoln books, you get a more complete picture of Lincoln, perhaps even more complete than Burlingame's biography, although I personally think that the single-volume works act more like more in-depth explorations of parts of Burlingame's book rather than rounding out a perspective of Lincoln.

You can't go wrong with McPherson's biography of Lincoln, just don't view it as definitive.
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Old 03-15-2013, 06:54 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Mike L View Post
The Gore Vidal novel is excellent. But if you want a definitive biography, I would agree with Jerseyman and recommend the one by James M. McPherson.

I can also recommend Manhunt, by James L Swanson. It's not about Lincoln as such, but about his assassination and the hunt for the conspirators. It's really quite gripping. I started browsing it in a Barnes & Noble, decided to buy, and finished it almost at one sitting.

Mike
Thanks for the recommendation.

Will definitely be acquiring 'Manhunt'. Sounds like a fascinating insight.
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Old 03-15-2013, 12:20 PM   #14
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The McPherson biography is very good but far from definitive. ....You can't go wrong with McPherson's biography of Lincoln, just don't view it as definitive.
Fair comment. Maybe definitive wasn't the ideal word. But I would recommend it for anyone wanting an aproachable biography.

I have to say that I have been favourably disposed to James McPherson since reading his Battle Cry Freedom. It was that book that encouraged me to read the biographies of Lincoln and of other leaders of the era.

Mike
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Old 03-15-2013, 01:25 PM   #15
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Fair comment. Maybe definitive wasn't the ideal word. But I would recommend it for anyone wanting an aproachable biography.

I have to say that I have been favourably disposed to James McPherson since reading his Battle Cry Freedom. It was that book that encouraged me to read the biographies of Lincoln and of other leaders of the era.

Mike
^ This!

These are exactly my thoughts! What a great book Battle Cry of Freedom was. It has led me to really get deeper in the history of that time. I think that is what a non-fiction book should do. Open your eyes to the subject of the book and open the possibilities of digging in deeper for a greater understanding.
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