- 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: 35 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Abraham Lincoln: A Life Slp Edition
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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thousands of 19th-century newspapers and discovered hitherto unknown stories; he read hundreds of oral histories, unpublished letters, and journals from Lincoln's contemporaries; and he re-examined the vast manuscript collections at the Library of Congress and National Archives.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
Top customer reviews
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This is not a battlefield history of the Civil War. It is the life story of a man from the humblest of roots whose work culminated in the preservation of the Union and the end of slavery.
Professor Burlingame is comprehensive and balanced in his approach, with a mastery of the vast sea of source and secondary material covering the full span of Abraham Lincoln's life.
(A reader will walk away with many reasons to 1) dislike the shrewish wife, Mary, and 2) like the devoted aide John Hay, with his sparkling observations.)
To understand both the Civil War and today's America, read this book.
Overall, I was not disappointed and you won't be either. I can't imagine anyone ever topping this one.
Since the book is available in PDF for free, the condition of the editorial work is shameful. I have plowed through the book, but feel less exhaustive detail would have made the book much more readable and interesting.
The author is masterful in his presentation. You never casually flip through a chapter in search of something better; everything is connected and an important part of the story.
My impressions of this man Lincoln were nothing less than adoration. He came from such a humble background, living in shacks in essentially the wilderness with a shiftless father and assorted family members after his mother's death. Obviously, he was not educated in any traditional sense, largely self taught in a wilderness where books were rare, and the most available were the Holy Bible, and Shakespeare. It may indeed be that his first words of the Gettysburg Address were of a biblical connotation when he wrote and spoke "four score and seven years ago."
Of special interest is the author's complete representation of the Lincoln Douglas debates. These debates show the genius of Lincoln in speaking to crowds mostly hostile to any kind of rights and liberties to black people whether free or slave and providing such a clear and forcefull logic that even many of these people were in agreement with what he said during that time. It was shocking to me how much of a racist Stephen Douglas was and how he catered to the darker side of many people. Although he was a racist, I have to admit that I violate one of my rules in judging the long dead by 21st century standards. Douglas was a politician and the vast majority of white people in Illinois were firmly against any civil rights to blacks who were free, and quite frankly, did not even want them in the state. Too often, Lincoln is also compared in his beliefs to 21st century standards, and this is not only unfair, but irrelevant. For his time, he was brilliant and far ahead of most of Americans yet deliberatly trying to distance himself from the radical abolitionists. The main difference is that Lincoln explored through his debates and the long process of dealing with this issue in his mind, an attempt to get people to understand that slavery was bad, not only in terms of bondage but also in terms of local economies. He kept going back to the analogy that one man should not toil to make his bread and have another man take it from him. It made sense to a lot of people at that time and while most were not willing to welcome black people into society, they became, over time, firmly set against the concept that one man could own another.
His mind was filled with brilliance for he taught himself and read and studied every chance he had. He was probably more honest than he should have been in such a high office. He dealt fairly with people, but was shrewd enough to understand politics and his road to the nomination in 1860 was nothing less than genius.
We all know his capabilities with the English language, for none except for the likes of Jefferson and Adams could rival his use of words, and yet he managed all this without formal education.
The war killed him, even more so than Booth. His anguish over the killing tore at his heart. I think he would not have lived through the second term. The bitterness of the nation after the war would have been a constant worry for him. And, in family matters, he never got over the death of Willie and was a long suffering husband to a she wolf who loved him and tormented him for their entire marriage, but he endured through the war, through the politics and the personal matters and, in the end, it is his vision concerning government, the people, and a democracy that would endear him to the American people and the ages for all time.
His patience was saintly; his determination was boundless, and his legacy will live as long as civilization.
This is no casual read or beach book. This is like looking into the heart of the greatest leader this country ever had.
Do not fret about the binding and do not worry about the cost. This is as important a work as you can find on an American president.