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Abraham Lincoln: A Life Slp Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801889936
ISBN-10: 0801889936
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SignatureReviewed by James L. SwansonBetween this fall and the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in February 2009, publishers will overwhelm bookstores and readers alike with a flood of more than 60 titles on the ever-popular president. One can hardly keep track of them all: one certainly cannot read them all. Of the dozens of these books competing for attention, a few stand out, foremost among them this title. The trend in Lincoln scholarship has been away from the magisterial narrative comprehensiveness of Carl Sandburg in favor of a narrow, deep dive resulting in the so-called slice book: thus entire volumes about one magnificent speech; a key incident; the deepest crisis; the most pivotal year; and so on. A number of these works have merit, but have failed to capture a wide, popular audience.Abraham Lincoln: A Life is the antithesis of a thin slice from the Lincoln pie. In the sweeping style of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, Burlingame has produced the finest Lincoln biography in more than 60 years and one of the two or three best Lincoln books on any subject in a generation. A distinguished scholar who probably knows more about Abraham Lincoln and his world than anyone else alive, Burlingame has devoted the last quarter century to editing 11 books on the Lincoln primary sources, including the writings of the president's secretaries John Hay, John Nicolay and William Stoddard. Now Burlingame has produced the most meticulously researched Lincoln biography ever written. He resurrected Lincoln's lost early journalism, when the young prairie politician—little more than an immature, unscrupulous hack—wrote more than 200 anonymous op-eds; Burlingame scoured thousands of 19th-century newspapers and discovered hitherto unknown stories; he read hundreds of oral histories, unpublished letters, and journals from Lincoln's contemporaries; and he re-examined the vast manuscript collections at the Library of Congress and National Archives. Burlingame's astonishing chapters covering Lincoln's hard early years and his difficult marriage, and his fresh insights on the profound crisis that made Lincoln great, are worth the price of the book. Do not let the intimidating length or the formidable price deter you. The book need not be read in one sitting. Each part stands alone. Burlingame's Lincoln comes alive as the author unfolds vast amounts of new research while breathing new life into familiar stories. This is a critical, skeptical, loving but never fawning tribute to the man Burlingame praises for achiev[ing] a level of psychological maturity unmatched in the history of American public life. This book supplants Sandburg and supersedes all other biographies. Future Lincoln books cannot be written without it, and from no other book can a general reader learn so much about Abraham Lincoln. It is the essential title for the bicentennial. (Nov.)James L. Swanson is the author of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. His next book is Chasing Lincoln's Killer (Scholastic, Feb. 2009).
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"This book supplants [Carl] Sandburg and supersedes all other biographies. Future Lincoln books cannot be written without it, and from no other book can a general reader learn so much about Abraham Lincoln. It is the essential title for the bicentennial." -- James L. Swanson, Publishers Weekly

"A complete view of Lincoln's life... thorough." -- Diane Cole, U.S. News & World Report

"A monumental boxed effort that weighs in at 10 pounds... The result is a picture of Lincoln from all sides, in a style that is relentless but not daunting." -- Bloomberg News

"A magisterial enterprise." -- William Safire, New York Times

"If you aspire to Ultimate Lincoln Knowledge this is a must-read." -- Chicago Tribune

"These monumental volumes deserve a wide readership." -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Burlingame is a towering figure in Lincoln scholarship, and students of the 16th president have been waiting for this book for years. For all his learning -- Burlingame may know more about Lincoln and his era than anyone in the world -- his take on his subject is fresh, and he doesn't gloss over Lincoln's less appealing attributes. Abraham Lincoln comes as close to being the definitive biography as anything the world has seen in decades." -- Time.com

"An exhaustive and stylishly written biography." -- Greg Rienzi, Gazette

"A stunning feat of research." -- Michael Bishop, Publishers Weekly

"The two-volume set is being heralded as the ultimate new biography of Lincoln, an essential work to be used by all future biographers of the 16th president." -- Anne Byle, Grand Rapids Press

"The granddaddy of all the recent books [on Lincoln] is Michael Burlingame's Abraham Lincoln: A Life... monumental in size, depth and scholarship, this is the new standard biography of our time and surpasses all other life portraits of our 16th president, and is the most important book of the bicentennial." -- James L. Swanson, Washington Times

"Lincoln scholars have waited anxiously for this book for decades. Its triumphant publication proves it was well worth the wait. Few scholars have written with greater insight about the psychology of Lincoln. No one in recent history has uncovered more fresh sources than Michael Burlingame. This profound and masterful portrait will be read and studied for years to come." -- Doris Kearns Goodwin

"The remarkable breadth of Burlingame's research has resulted in a book unlike anything else written about Lincoln. It will be a major contribution to the field." -- Gerald J. Prokopowicz, East Carolina University

"Burlingame has developed a familiarity with the details of Lincoln's life that is truly authoritative, even definitive, and he has genuinely earned his reputation for knowing more about Lincoln than just about anyone who has ever studied him." -- Kenneth J. Winkle, University of Nebraska--Lincoln

"No review could do complete justice to the magnificent two-volume biography that has been so well-wrought by Michael Burlingame." -- Christopher Hitchens, Atlantic Monthly

"The bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth has generated a plethora of Lincoln-related items, but none impresses more than this two-volume biography... Essential." -- Choice

"The author knows more about Lincoln than any other living person." -- New York Review of Books

"Most thorough account of the development of Lincoln as a man and politician against the backdrop of America's struggle to mature as an idea and a nation... Not a Lincoln for our times, but the Lincoln of his times, and future biographers would do well to take note(s)." -- Books and Culture: A Christian Review


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 2008 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Slp edition (December 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801889936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801889936
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.3 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Michael Burlingame, whose website is www.michaelburlingame.com, is the holder of the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

He was born in Washington DC and attended Phillips Academy, Andover. As a freshman at Princeton University, he took the Civil War course taught by the eminent Lincolnian David Herbert Donald, who hired him a research assistant. When Professor Donald moved on to Johns Hopkins University, Burlingame upon graduation from Princeton followed him to that institution. There he received his Ph.D.

In 1968 he joined the History Department at Connecticut College in New London, where he taught until retiring in 2001 as the May Buckley Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus. He joined the faculty of the University of Illinois-Springfield in 2009.

He currently lives in Springfield, where he is working on several Lincoln-related projects.

He is an avid fan of opera and hockey.

Professor Burlingame is the author of "Abraham Lincoln: A Life" (2 vols.; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) and "The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

In addition, he has edited several volumes of Lincoln primary source materials:

An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay's Interviews and Essays (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996)

Inside Lincoln's White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997) - co-edited with John R. Turner Ettlinger

Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)

Lincoln's Journalist: John Hay's Anonymous Writings for the Press, 1860-1864 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998)

An expanded edition of A Reporter's Lincoln by Walter B. Stevens (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998)

With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000)

At Lincoln's Side: John Hay's Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000)

Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary by William O. Stoddard (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000)

Dispatches from Lincoln's White House: The Anonymous Civil War Journalism of Presidential Secretary William O. Stoddard (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002)

An expanded edition of The Real Lincoln: A Portrait, by Jesse W. Weik (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002)

"Lincoln's Humor" and Other Essays by Benjamin P. Thomas (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002);

Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007).

He has received the Abraham Lincoln Association Book Prize (1996), the Lincoln Diploma of Honor from Lincoln Memorial University (1998), Honorable Mention for the Lincoln Prize, Gettsyburg College (2001), and was inducted into the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 2009.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Many valuable additions to the ever-expanding collection of books written about Abraham Lincoln have already appeared in this, the bicentennial year of his birth, and many undoubtedly will follow. At least one of them, Michael Burlingame's two-volume set "Abraham Lincoln: A Life," will likely be viewed as one of the classics in the years and decades ahead.

Many full life biographies continue to be written about Lincoln. Many more yet focus on various aspects of his life or personal qualities. Others address how he relates to specific events or ideas of the era in which he lived. There has not been a multi-volume biography written on him in decades. While that alone speaks both to its value and uniqueness, the vast amount of information relating to Lincoln's life that has been uncovered since then puts this one in a category all its own.

I would be surprised if any Lincoln scholar anywhere has done more to uncover previously unknown material relative to Lincoln's life than Burlingame. He has shared results of his research for countless other books written on Lincoln in recent years as is shown by the large number of acknowledgments he has received from other grateful authors. It's only fitting that he be the one to produce what will likely be acknowledged as the definitive work on Lincoln.

The first volume covers Lincoln's life through his Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois years. The second begins with him boarding the train as he departs Springfield, his home for the previous twenty or so years and one to which he'll never return, for Washington.
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I have not finished reading the books, but in owning over 150 of the best Lincoln books, I believe this one has captured what the other bios were not quite able to get at (In part due to the on going research etc. since the late 40's) Burlingame adds his own twist on a lot of previous ideas we thought were straight forward. For example Thomas Lincoln, now I'm not so sure he was a hardworker, and Lincoln's side of depression may have come fron him..... One of many new insignts. Just a great two volume set. It just falls short - 4 stars.... Why? The binding of the books are cheap cheap cheap. I Had to do repair work on the back bindings (Fine if you happen to have book repair items on hand). I bet you won't find many of these 1st edition sets in mint condition 50 years from now. You will see what I mean, when you get the books. Cheap binding for a book that deserved better. For the price, leather should not have been out of the question! Still a great read. In my review, I believe the cover also needs to be judged.
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This book is that wonderful combination of research and readibility that is rare in such a lengthy work. Sure to be a standard reference for years to come except the copy I received has what only can be described as cheap or defective binding. The problem is, as Mr. DiCola described, the cover of the book seperates from the page binding, giving one the feel that the book is falling apart in your hands as you are reading it. Quite disappointing. Still, five stars for the author's contribution to Lincoln biography. Since writing this initial review I have contacted John Hopkins about the issues with the quality of the binding and have been most impressed with their response. They are aware of some issues with the binding and will work to correct them and make sure all customers get quality products. Refreshing.
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Michael Burlingame's "Abraham Lincoln: A Life" is superbly researched and magisterial in scope. The use of quotes of Lincoln and from people who were eyewitnesses to Lincoln makes you feel that you are eavesdropping on the actual conversations. Although there are few reference citations to works other than various letters and reminiscences, the Lincoln Center at Knox College's promised full bibliography should be helpful.

I experienced a problem with the structural integrity of volume one and, considering the weight of each tome, I hope others do not experience the same. However, a librarian has restored the problem I experienced.

The illustrations are fewer than one might expect in a biography of this scope, and there are no frontpieces (I would suggest that the Hesler June 3,1860 and Gardner November 8, 1863 would have been good choices for volumes 1 and 2, respectively). From that perspective the volumes compare unfavorably with the Sandburg biography published by Harcourt, Brace and Company decades ago.

Nevertheless, Michael Burlingame's biography will be the standard by which all later biographies will be judged. Kudos to the author and publisher.
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The best political biography I've ever read; even better than Harry William's bio of Huey Long; beautifully written, it reads like a novel. Compelling, brilliant, erudite; I'd read a lot about Lincoln, but this has so much new material, and puts it together with the old to lend new insights.
Because of previous reviews about the poor binding quality, I waited to buy it; called the publisher 3 times, was finally assured the problems had been solved: and my copy is well-bound, strong, just right.
I dont understand why the price changes every six minutes, but this is a terrific book.
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