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Lincoln Paperback – November 5, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer prize winner Donald's biography was a PW bestseller for 11 weeks.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, most recently for Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe (LJ 12/86), Donald proves himself the superb biographer of Lincoln, though two recent biographies, Michael Burlingame's The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln (LJ 4/1/94) and Merrill Peterson's Lincoln in American Memory (LJ 10/1/94), are both important studies. Donald's profile of the 16th president focuses entirely on Lincoln, seldom straying from the subject. It looks primarily at what Lincoln "knew, when he knew it, and why he made his decisions." Donald's Lincoln emerges as ambitious, often defeated, tormented by his married life, but with a remarkable capacity for growth?and the nation's greatest president. What really stands out in a lively narrative are Lincoln's abilities to hold together a nation of vastly diverse regional interests during the turmoil and tragedy of the Civil War. Donald's biography will appeal to all readers and will undoubtedly corral its share of book awards. Highly recommended for all libraries.?Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (November 5, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068482535X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684825359
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I think it's an easy book to read and it flows very well.
Andrew Alexander
Reading a variety of biographies about Abraham Lincoln will give you an overall and better picture than one book can alone.
William J. Romanos
Lincoln still emerges as a great man, but tentative and complex.
Kevin Brianton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

232 of 246 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on February 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Lincoln" is a remarkable look at Abraham Lincoln as he advanced from extremely poor, rural roots, in what was then the western United States, into both the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Congress for one term, through a career as a self-taught lawyer, and finally to the presidency. The author has extensively researched Lincoln's movements, first-hand accounts of his utterances, his formal speeches and writings, as well as official records kept in the discharge of his various duties and offices.
It is a fascinating look at the evolution of the character and personality of a man of meager origins and virtually no formal education. Lincoln was driven to make something of himself; this is best seen in his insatiable desire to educate himself. Beyond self-development, Lincoln had an inherent ability to relate to others. He combined humility with a great ability to tell stories. This ease among his fellow citizens led to his being elected to the Illinois legislature at a fairly young age and to a reasonably successful career as a lawyer.
Lincoln was a Whig and devotee of Henry Clay and his American system of internal improvements. But it would be completely wrong to regard Lincoln as mostly an opportunistic politician. He was principled, if anything. Manipulating a political view to get elected would have never occurred to Lincoln. Furthermore, Lincoln was a man of his word. When elected to Congress in 1846, he returned home after one term as he promised, though undoubtedly he could have been re-elected. However, the author shows that Lincoln became very astute politically with a substantial network of political friends both at the state and national levels.
Early in Lincoln's career, slavery was seldom an issue.
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84 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on June 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Herbert Donald's biography of Abraham Lincoln is an outstanding work that emphasizes his most important aspect, his humanity. Lincoln came to the presidency with one of the skimpiest political resumes of any non-General in American History. Donald shows how this Washington outsider had to grope his way around at first, but then used his remarkable skills to find the political center, which was vital though he often seemed to stand alone. Donald's book focusses on Lincoln's life through Lincoln's eyes. He does not go into great detail about Civil War battles or anything else that Lincoln did not personally witness. The result is a biography that is as thorough as it is readable and that, like its subject, will stand the test of time.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on January 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Before reading _Lincoln_, I had read David McCullough's _John Adams_. The latter is good but nonetheless unsatisfying, because McCullough clearly worships Adams. (See my review of McCullough's book.) I went right into _Lincoln_. All I can say is that it's astonishing.
The organizing principle of _Lincoln_ makes Donald's job very hard. When Donald met JFK during the latter's presidency, Kennedy attacked historians for retrospectively judging the worth of presidents. Historians, said Kennedy, had no right to make such judgments until they sat in the presidential desk and had to make the tough decisions.
Donald wrote _Lincoln_ in an attempt to honor Kennedy's wishes, and he more than succeeded. Every sentence in _Lincoln_ is guided by the question, ``What did Lincoln know at the time he made this decision? What information did he have on hand? What could he have been reasonably expected to know? Why did he make this decision?" At no moment does Donald judge Lincoln - he is a scrupulous researcher, not historiography's answer to God.
Through this biography, we learn that Lincoln was very human. He made mistakes. Not only did he mess up, but Donald makes it clear that he wasn't always as revered as he is today. Through newspaper clippings, diary entries, and hundreds of other primary sources, Donald paints a picture of a man who very nearly lost the Union as well as his second term. Only through skillful politicking did Lincoln neutralize his enemies and get reelected.
I came into this book curious how Lincoln moved from his first inaugural address, during which he said
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution
of slavery in the States where it exists.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Clarity O. Thought on November 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this dense, but extremely informative Lincoln biography. The biography demands that we reexamine Lincoln. Not in some politically correct revisionist view, but rather as a man with many human frailties and a relatively limited ability to influence the behavior of key individuals around him. Often times, you wonder how much he is controlling the fate of the country and it is controlling him.
This book does not diminish Lincoln as a President or a man, but does provide deeper insight into his character, his view of race relations and how little (or at least public) thought he gave to the practical effects of emancipation, expecially prior to his presidency.
I should probably have given this book 5 stars, but I thought Donald spent too much time on newly discovered evidence of Lincoln's uniteresting legal practice prior to his public life. Moreover, while this is obviously a biography and not a history of the Civil War, the description of the war effort was at times meager given the significance of certain battles and how they ultimately affected the outcome of the war.
All in all, these are very minor concerns over what has been called our generation's biography of Lincoln.
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