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With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln Paperback – February 8, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Someone once said that more books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than any other person in history save Jesus and Shakespeare. Indeed, it is impossible to understand the Civil War without getting to know the complex figure of the 16th president. More than any other biographer, Stephen B. Oates brings the plain-talking man from Illinois to life as a canny politician, a doting husband, and a determined wartime leader. Oates has an appealing appreciation for Lincoln's majestic control of the English language, his raw humor, and his undeniable heroism. The final pages, covering Lincoln's death and his legacy, are graceful and moving.

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“The standard one-volume biography of Lincoln” (Washington Post)

“A superb biography” (Chicago Tribune)

“Hailed as the best one-volume biography of Lincoln” (Boston Globe)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060924713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060924713
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David E. Levine on July 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have read (and earlier reviewed) David Herbert Donald's biography of Lincoln and I found it to be more comprehensive than this book. But, then again, Donald's biography is well over 800 pages whereas this one is a mere 440 or so. With more brevity, Oates, nonetheless does a great job and he humanizes Lincoln as well as does Donald.
There are some shortcomings, however. For example, Oates does not delve very deeply into Lincoln's strong antipathy towards his father, nor does he go into great depth as to his strong love of his stepmother. Likewise, he does not recognize Licoln's first love for what it was, as does Donald. Rather, he treats Ann Rutledge merely as a close friend.
Both Donald and Oates do a good job in showing Lincoln to be a master politician but, with more pages, Donald is able to more fully illustrate this. But, many people don't have the patience to read a legnthy tome. Although I think that Donald's biography is the single best one of Lincoln, for a work half of that legnth, this fine biography is five stars.
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I have been studying Abraham Lincoln for nearly 40 years. Many Lincoln scholars consider WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE by Stephen B. Oates one of three BEST one-volume biographies of Abraham Lincoln ever written to date. The other two are LINCOLN by David Herbert Donald and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: A BIOGRAPHY by Benjamin P. Thomas.
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"With Malice Towards None" is a very creditable work and a fine attempt to explain the author's view of Abraham Lincoln. Oates views Lincoln as a genuinely good man, highly ambitious, self-made, and first and foremost: a politician. Like all politicians who are heads of state, Lincoln had to grapple with the issues of his day. In his day, however, the issues were unusually intractable, difficult, and complex, such that the nation was unable to solve them through established institutions. It took an actual Civil War to decide whether slavery in America must go, whether America is first and foremost a union of united States, or whether it was a Union of essentially sovereign single states. These were and are great issues, and the greatness of Lincoln is that he stood in the center of these issues, spent his entire presidency grappling with them, and ultimately, it was his unswerving leadership, not perfect but great, that ultimately led America to resolution of these issues.
Oates shows us that Lincoln was a politician. He wheedled, compromised, and was carried by great events as often as he shaped them. This does nothing to take away from the man who, along with Washington, ranks as doubtless one of our two greatest presidents. While opposing slavery, Lincoln was ready to compromise with it, at least sometimes to some extent. Oates does a good job of explaining this in a non-revisionist way that shows respect to Lincoln and to history.
Oates' writing is clear, and his research thorough. This is not a perfect book in that it is not a complete view of Lincoln. No 400 or so page book about this complicated man could achieve that. On the other hand, Oates portrays Lincoln brilliantly, and with insight, as a gifted leader and politician in an incredibly difficult time.
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IMO, this is "the" biography of Abraham Lincoln. While I consider David H. Donald's bio of Lincoln to be slightly more sophisticated and detailed, Stephen Oates' bio of Lincoln is the most enjoyable and interesting to read. Prof. Oates has a smooth writing style that tackles complex issues and makes them easy to understand. He never gets bogged down in boring, hard-to-understand statistics or details.
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This is an excellent biography of Lincoln. I own this book, and I would like to respond to the claim that the author plagiarized when writing this book.

What happened is that the author chose to write a good book for the general reader while still trying to be highly authoritative. The book is well researched, drawing on the extensive amount of knowledge about Lincoln. At the back of the book he included footnotes to cite the research he used, but he only listed the page of his book where he used the material and not the specific paragraph. He did this to make his writing smoother and to write a good book for the general reader. So he did not steal anything. Unfortunately, this looseness with his citations resulted in mild charges of plagiarism.

The plagarism charges were totally refuted. The people making the charges seemed to be simply trying to make the papers. A panel of historians reviewd the plagerism charges and found them to be completely unsubstantiated.

The author is an expert on the era. His work is excellent. This is not a work of plagerism.

I felt that the author succeeds brilliantly in portraying Lincoln. On the one hand, the book is very authoritative and factual. On the other hand, it reads well. I highly recommend this book.

Lincoln grew up poor and distanced himself from his childhood. He became a very successful lawyer. He had his failures and successes. As president, he seemed to many as a dumb baboon. So many things went wrong. He was continuously frustrated that he early general would not fight. He had to juggle the wishes of the radical Republicans with those of the conservative Republicans. Then there were the abolitionists and the Democrats. In the end, his leadership was excellent.
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