Honest Abe's 200th

One of the perennial problems us book addicts have is that the books we want to read always outstrip the books we can read.  And as a blogger I regularly dream of connecting my reading to current events and/or holidays and presenting a timely and insightful commentary on the appropriate date.

Alas, it is most often not to be.  And today’s 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln‘s birthday is no different.  I had grand plans only to fall behind schedule and miss the deadline.  There will be no great Abraham Lincoln post from me today I am afraid (except this one).  Instead, I thought I might point out some books on Lincoln that might be of interest to readers.

Let me start with a book I have read, Thomas Keneally’s Penguin Lives Series volume on Abraham Lincoln.  I am a big fan of the series and have collected, and read, quite a few of the volumes.  I concluded my review of Keneally this way:

If you are looking for an in-depth and analytical study of Lincoln, Keneally’s work is really not for you. If on the other hand you are looking for a brief but fascinating narrative of his life, this work might suit you. It is an interesting and easy read largely because the subject is so fascinating and important.

There is no shortage of large tomes on Lincoln so if, like me, you enjoy shorter works Keneally is a good place to start.

I have already mentioned in these pages my guilt (this is a reoccurring problem and thus complaint) over not having read The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer. At that time I wanted to read it for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.  But it equally applies to Lincoln’s Birthday.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had this to say about this interesting book:

John Stauffer’s collective biography of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln stands apart from other biographies by focusing on how each man continually remade himself, with help from women, words, self-education, physical strength, and luck. In the process Stauffer gives us the texture and feel–a “thick description”–of the strange worlds that Douglass and Lincoln inhabited. The result is a path-breaking work that dissolves traditional conceptions of these two seminal figures (Lincoln the “redeemer” president, Douglass the assimilationist). He reveals how Douglass towered over Lincoln as a brilliant orator, writer, agitator, and public figure for most of his life. He shows us how words became potent weapons for both men. And he tells the poignant story of how these preeminent self-made men ultimately converged, despite their vastly different agendas and politics, and helped transform the nation.

And last but not least, another book in the TBR pile is 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Bracelen Flood.  Publishers Weekly offered this Starred Review:

Critically acclaimed historian Flood (Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War) provides a brilliant, compelling account of Lincoln’s dramatic final full year of life-a year in which the war finally turned in the Union’s favor and Lincoln faced a tough battle for re-election. After Union defeats at the Battle of Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg, Confederate General Jubal Early came within five miles of Washington, D.C., before he was beaten back; General Sherman’s September victory at Atlanta followed, with his bloody march to the sea. At the same time, Lincoln found himself running against his own secretary of the treasury, Salmon Chase, for the Republican nomination, and then against the Democrat (and general) George B. McClellan for the presidency. Lincoln won by a narrow popular majority, but a significant electoral majority. At the close of 1864, as Lincoln celebrated both his re-election and the coming end of the war, John Wilkes Booth laid down an ambitious plan for kidnapping that soon evolved into a map for murder. Combining a novelist’s flair with the authority and deep knowledge of a scholar, Flood artfully integrates this complex web of storylines.

So if you are looking for some books on Lincoln in honnor of his bicentenial birthday all of the above are worthy of consideration.

If you have a favorite book on Lincoln drop it in the comment section below.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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