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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars definitive Lincoln by one of America's best
Thousands upon thousands of Civil War books are available, as American readers seem to have a limitless appetite for that era. If you are looking for the best, read Sandburg on Lincoln. A major American poet takes on one of the best-known, best-loved, most tragic of American historical figures.
When I was a freshman in high school, our English teacher offered us a...
Published on August 23, 2002 by Karen Sampson Hudson

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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too impressionistic
This biography is a must-read simply because it is by Sandburg and thus a thread of the national literary fabric. However, Sandburg tends to fictionalize or fill in the blanks of Lincoln's boyhood to the point where it sometimes becomes embarrassing. The narrative picks up speed and credibility, however, when it gets to the documented period of Lincoln's life; and...
Published on February 22, 2006 by Dr. Emily Kurtz


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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars definitive Lincoln by one of America's best, August 23, 2002
By 
Karen Sampson Hudson (Reno, NV United States) - See all my reviews
Thousands upon thousands of Civil War books are available, as American readers seem to have a limitless appetite for that era. If you are looking for the best, read Sandburg on Lincoln. A major American poet takes on one of the best-known, best-loved, most tragic of American historical figures.
When I was a freshman in high school, our English teacher offered us a deal: Anyone who read Sandburg's biography (then in six rather daunting volumes) would not have to attend class for a semester. I took him up on that offer, and was blessed to find my way through Sandburg's gift to the American people. Here is the highly detailed, thoroughly researched, and articulately written story of Abe Lincoln's years among us.
If you have time to read only one of the Civil War books from that burgeoning genre, read this one. You will come to know, from the inside out, this prairie boy who became a towering figure in American history.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pulitzer Prize winner's master work., October 27, 1999
I believe Sandburg is the only author to win the Pulitzer for both poetry and history. Originally a multi volume history taking decades to complete, this single volume work is an appetizer. I read it in the 1960's and went on with relish to the full multi volume work.
This single volume is insightful, laser like in it's detail yet painting the times of Lincoln in a broad and beautiful brush. Did you know that in 1860 tools could be honed to within one ten thousandth of an inch of accuracy? That magazines and newspapers said the world would change for-ever because of the new "instant" communication nation wide?
This is more than biography. It is a woven fabric depicting the times and life of Abraham Lincoln.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Classic on a Classic American, March 15, 1999
By A Customer
I collect old and rare books. My mother bought me a copy of Sandburg's one-volume edition published in 1954. Honestly, it was slow to start, but once it got to the 1850's, I couldn't put it down. Lincoln's deeds are so often trivialized in our history books. But Sandburg meticulously builds up the background in a way that forces his reader to appreciate the magnitude of the moment, and the importance of each decision--whether right or wrong--that President Lincoln made. It easily took three full weeks to read, but it was more than worth it. I closed the book thinking, "I can't believe it's over!" My advice: Read this book right away, and make someone else read it too. You'll need someone to talk to when you're through!
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the gold standard but an excellent start, March 10, 2003
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More books are published about Lincon than any other public figure and Carl Sandburg's take on America's 16th president is a good place to start your learning on this extraordinary individual. Sandburg's style shows his roots as a poet; the writing is lyrical and captivating. Though it leans towards myth-making, Sandburg doesn't leave out Lincoln's flaws. Other biographies go deeper into Lincoln's psyche or touch on specific chapters from Lincoln's life; however this book is a good start to begin your education on Abraham Lincoln. Find the complete six-volume set if you can. It does a much better job of putting Lincoln's life into the historical context of the 1800s than this abridged volume does.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A monumental work, December 2, 2008
By 
William Nash (Sterling Heights, MI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Abraham Lincoln (Hardcover)
If you are a student of Abraham Lincoln your education is not complete without having read Sandburg's Lincoln. Yes, it is poetic. Yes, he strays into myth making and telling. Even so, it is a masterpiece.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for those who want to know America, April 27, 1998
By A Customer
I read this book in 1995 and even today think of it as political and social changes unfold. The civil war and Lincoln's leadership during it impacts us in ways we take for granted. Sandburg captures these events and this man in a way which gives us the detail and facts to bring them to life.

The writing is a blend of the Doris Kearns Goodwin and the William Manchester styles. Sandburg demonstrates the craft that made him poet laureate. He will dedicate pages, chapters to the social context and events of the times, and then place the players in that context to show the reasons decisions were made as they were. It should be said that this work is actually a distillation of a multi-volume work that Sandburg wrote earlier. It keeps that historical accuracy, and yet is very readable for the non-historian.

As good as Sandburg is, the story is of Lincoln, and it is a story worth reading (maybe more than once). I have bought extra copies and given them out to friends. You will come to know greatness in a flawed and sometimes crude man. You will take new found reverance in the monuments and symbols we have created to him. Their is a quote in the preface that best sums this up: "There is no new thing to be said about Lincoln. Thee is no new thing to be said of the moutains, or of the sea, or of the stars. The years go their way, but the same old mountains lift their granite shoulders above the drifting clouds; the same mysterious sea beats upon the shore; the same silent stars keep holy vigil above a tired world. But to the mountains and sea and stars men turn forever in unwearied homage. And thus with Lincoln. For he was a mountain in grandeur of soul. He was a sea in deep undervoice of mystic loneliness. He was a star in steadfast purity of purpose and service. And he abides."

Read this book, and you will soon find the poetry in these words too.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too impressionistic, February 22, 2006
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This biography is a must-read simply because it is by Sandburg and thus a thread of the national literary fabric. However, Sandburg tends to fictionalize or fill in the blanks of Lincoln's boyhood to the point where it sometimes becomes embarrassing. The narrative picks up speed and credibility, however, when it gets to the documented period of Lincoln's life; and ironically, the folksiness now works in its favor by evoking a very human and real portrait of Lincoln, unlike the current revisionist history drivel about his being gay, manic-depressive, or pro-slavery.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thorough and Artistic Teatment, October 8, 2002
By 
Greg Bueltmann (Miller Beach, Indiana) - See all my reviews
Abraham Lincoln comes to life through the words of his devoted and talented biographer, Carl Sandburg. This edition is an excellent compromise between Sandburg's six-volume edition and the shorter, incomplete texts that abound regarding Lincoln. Take your time with this masterpiece and follow Lincoln from youth through the climax of his political career in Washington.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of facts to chew on and not a book to be taken lightly., March 11, 1999
This biography of lincoln is an unbiased look into the man's life. You'll find everything you would expect and much, much, more. This is not a book for the weak hearted reader. Many of the sections seem to be endless. This is not however a negative, the opposite is true. Sandburg's quest for a truly indepth redering of the Lincoln story creates these long spells and the pay off is just. Much of the humor in the book is dated and therefore will be lost on many readers. Once again, an outstanding book that gets an easy 5 stars.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broad shoulders from the heartland..., March 12, 2010
It is fitting that the man whose 1916 poem popularized the expression "city of broad shoulders" for Chicago should write the definitive biography of Abraham Lincoln. The President who had to have the broadest shoulders of all, even more so than Franklin Roosevelt, since Lincoln presided over the American Civil War, came from the America's heartland, Kentucky, Indiana, and most certainly, Illinois. Carl Sandburg's monumental work was first published in 1954. Subsequently there have been various editions; mine was published by Harvest/HBJ in 1982. Sandburg, who was born not that long after the Civil War, says in the preface to this edition: "As a growing boy in an Illinois prairie town I saw marching men who had fought under Grant and Sherman..."

At over 1200 pages, Sandburg's portrait of Lincoln is an in-depth one, and the author has a knack for identifying telling details that illuminate Lincoln's character. For example, in terms of economics, he was a strong advocate of autarky; national self-sufficiency, calling the efforts to produce products abroad and bring them to America "useless labor" (p 155). The book is replete with photographs, a technology which finally came into its own during the Civil War. There is a telling one of Lincoln, in top hat, a full head taller than McClellan, and the rest of his staff, at a meeting in Antietam.

Long before teleprompters and speech writers, Lincoln was perhaps our most articulate President. Most famously, he is known for the Gettysburg address, but Sandburg highlighted other brilliant formulations, for example, during Lincoln's debates with Judge Douglas, in the campaign for the Senate seat in 1958, he said: "It is the eternal struggle between these two principles...The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same...spirit that says, `You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race..."

This book rectified a major deficiency in my American education, almost certainly shared by other readers of this review. Sandburg thoroughly covers Lincoln's "feet of clay." Like most schoolchildren, I was taught that "Lincoln freed the slaves," with the Emancipation Proclamation. In reality, he ONLY freed the slaves in areas that the Union troops did NOT control. The Proclamation specifically excluded, county by county, the areas that Union troops controlled in Louisiana and Virginia, the entire state of Tennessee, and the four "Border States" of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware. The New York Herald commented on this cynical political maneuver thusly: "While the Proclamation leaves slavery untouched where his decree can be enforced, he emancipated slaves where his decree cannot be enforced. Friends of human rights will be at a loss to understand this discrimination." (Note: at the end of the war, all slaves were freed.)

Lincoln the statesman, Lincoln the man, Lincoln the essential President, Lincoln the cynical politician; it is all here in Sandburg's superlative work.

Ancient history, or words for the present? Lincoln also said: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves." A quaint verb for the present: "disenthrall." Turn off the TV, and read a 5-star book, for example.
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Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years
Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years by Carl Sandburg (Paperback - November 1, 2002)
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