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Abraham Lincoln (The American Presidents Series: The 16th President, 1861-1865) Hardcover – December 23, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There's probably not much left to learn about Lincoln's life, but the flood of bicentennial studies attest that he apparently still has things to teach us. In this modest, fluent bio, part of the American Presidents Series, former Democratic senator and presidential nominee McGovern (Social Security and the Golden Age) finds an inspiring lesson in what a man can do with his life. McGovern's Lincoln is a smart, ambitious striver who overcame humble origins, repeated setbacks and spells of depression. He is an idealist who, though burdened with the racial prejudices of his day, embraced the principle of equal opportunity. Most resonantly for the author, he is a brilliant politician who, combining pragmatism with high purpose, steered a crooked course through ugly political realities to end the intractable curse of slavery. Some of McGovern's judgments, like his overstated depiction of Lincoln as an exponent of "total war," miss the mark, and his subject remains something of a paragon. (His chief complaint is about Lincoln's wartime suspensions of habeas corpus and press freedoms.) Still, when McGovern's lucid homage concludes. "We wish our leaders could be more like Lincoln; we wish we all could be," readers are likely to agree. Photos.
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Review

“A startlingly original and deeply thoughtful analysis of Abraham Lincoln. If you are looking to read just one book on Lincoln, this landmark gem is the one!” ―Douglas Brinkley

“A dramatically engaging and intellectually stimulating rendering of the life of our greatest president.” ―Thomas J. Knock, Southern Methodist University

“McGovern's Lincoln is a finely wrought gem. In this small volume McGovern captures Lincoln's character and leadership strength better than many weighty tomes. It is a worthy addition to the brilliant American Presidents Series.” ―Doris Kearns Goodwin

“Short and sweet… a well-timed entry in Times Books' presidents series.” ―Boston Sunday Globe

Abraham Lincoln is an entry in the highly regarded American Presidents series… A fine read for those who want to know about Lincoln but may not have the time for the more in-depth biographies.” ―Bookpage

“Compact and commanding… With considerable skill and insight, McGovern… crafts a biography snappy, clear and comprehensive enough to please general readers, students and scholars alike… he nails the essential strengths, flaws, failures and achievements of America's most revered leader… McGovern's overall depiction is one of a complex, tolerant and extraordinary man who simultaneously preserved the Union and transformed the nation.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“McGovern finds an inspiring lesson in what a man can do with his life. McGovern's Lincoln is a smart, ambitious striver who overcame humble origins, repeated setbacks and spells of depression… when McGovern's lucid homage concludes, ‘We wish our leaders could be more like Lincoln; we wish we all could be,' readers are likely to agree.” ―Publishers Weekly

“In this compact but convincing portrait, [McGovern] assesses Lincoln's greatness in terms of his ability to use his humble origins… faith in American democracy, gifts of language, and personal self-confidence… The biography warrants reading to catch the sense of Lincoln's greatness, both for his own day and ours.” ―Library Journal

“[A] fine préscis… [McGovern] clearly enunciates the great changes that Lincoln and the war began to effect.” ―Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805083456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805083453
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"How do you buy a gift for someone who already has everything?" we often ask. Whenever I pick up a new book about Lincoln, I ask a similar question: "How can anyone write another book about a man who has been the topic of more books than any other human being, save Jesus Christ?" George McGovern shows us how. This easy-to-read and hard-to-put-down 155-page biography of our 16th President, which is another installment from the American Presidents Series, is a wonderful addition to the Lincoln library. Lincoln's entire life story, from his humble Kentucky origins to his leadership of our war-stricken country in the early 1860s to his untimely assassination and death, is laid out in this concise biography. Obviously those who write books on Lincoln have to narrow their focus considerably, especially when having to keep your story to 155 pages, like McGovern did. I appreciate McGovern's editorial emphasis on several aspects of Lincoln's presidency that I have not learned a great deal about through reading other biographies of him, namely, Lincoln's controversial decision to suspend the writ of habeas corpus during war time, his stifling of the disloyal press, and his personal doubts about his chances of being re-elected in 1864. For the more experienced reader of Lincoln, and especially for the novice or beginner, this biography is a delightful read. McGovern successfully reminds us yet again of the greatness of this humble man whom God lifted up to a position of greatness in our land and who will continue to serve as a hero for many more generations to come.
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Format: Hardcover
I am writing this review of George McGovern's new short biography of Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the upcoming presidential inauguration. At this time of transition and difficulty, it is fitting to consider our greatest president and the qualities he displayed in uniting and shaping our nation and in bringing about a "new birth of freedom."

McGovern's book is part of the American Presidents series of short biographies of each of our nation's presidents. The late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was the original editor of the series, which has been carried forward by Sean Willentz. The series offers a way to consider each president, whether famous or little-known, and to reflect upon his accomplishments and on the nature of leadership. Each of the volumes in the series is written by a different scholar in the hope that the writer will bring a unique perspective to bear upon his or her subject. McGovern brings both an extensive political and academic background to his study of Lincoln. McGovern served in the Senate for eighteen years and was the unsuccessful presidential candidate against Richard Nixon in 1972. He also holds a PhD in American history and government from Northwestern University. McGovern acknowledges receiving both research and writing assistance in this book from Larry Mansch of Montana.

McGovern offers a good overview of Lincoln's life and accomplishments. Although he is critical of Lincoln for the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War and for other infringements of individual liberty, the tone of the book is otherwise highly laudatory. McGovern describes Lincoln as not only our greatest president but also as "certainly more than that." For McGovern, Lincoln is "an unparallelled national treasure, a legend that best represents the democratic ideal".
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Format: Hardcover
Senator George McGovern knows more about what it takes to become the President of the United States than you or I. In 1972 the Nixon landslide swept his hopes away but he got closer to being president than any of us ever will.

McGovern is a student of history. He has been part of it - as we prepare to honor Abraham Lincoln on the 200th anniversary of his birth this February we are engulfed by Lincoln books, most of them thick and wordy.

Let's cut to the chase. This addition to the wonderfully compact American President's series is one of the best yet (I have read a dozen of them so far). McGovern makes his understated case that Abe Lincoln was our best president and that nobody else comes even close.

We learn about Abe's evolving and conflicted views of slavery and civil war. We discover why the Emancipation Proclamation was his greatest achievement. We hear the magnificent wordsmith, the greatest speech writer ever to occupy the White House, as we wait for the inauguration of another brilliant orator, another slender guy from Illinois, another relative newcomer to politics, and we savor the exquisite irony that Abe Lincoln made Barack Obama possible.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I began reading this series to learn more about the obscure Presidents, whereas I already knew a fair amount about Lincoln. It was the identity of the author that intrigued me. It's not that Senator McGovern lacked credentials, having been a politician and before that a history professor. Unfortunately he wrote this mostly political biography in the shadow of "Team of Rivals" which even he acknowledges is the definitive modern work on the Lincoln presidency. You most assuredly don't need both and this book adds nothing to the accumulated knowledge about Lincoln. Still, I give it three stars instead of two, if only because it would be of interest to those who don't have the time or inclination to dig through "Team of Rivals," a rewarding but occasionally challenging work. Consider it a "Cliff Notes" about Lincoln that's well written if not exactly riveting.
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