…”A.Lincoln” by Ronald C. White, Jr.
Anyone surprised by that? Didn’t think so. Last year my favorite book was also about my favorite guy too.
Sadly, the pool of books I had to choose from this year was pretty shallow. Compared to 2016, 2017 was definitely not the year of the book for me. Yes, I read and I had several books on the go. But nothing was getting finished.
Thanks to my best friend and the genius idea of each of us reading the same book at the same, I managed to finish a few books in the latter part of the year. Having someone kick your ass back into reading is awesome and that’s basically what we did for each other. We both are book geeks and reading is a huge passion for both of us. Hence the proverbial ass kicking, which, so far, has worked splendidly.
So, onto “A. Lincoln”…
This a phenomenal biography of Lincoln. White is a brilliant author with a clear and elegant way of writing. His writing flows beautifully. As the reader, I was very engaged throughout the whole book and I absolutely loved being taken into the world of Lincoln. Be warned though – it is one of those books where I found myself thinking “Okay, just five more pages…”.
We all know how that goes with a good book…
100 pages later and you’re still saying the same thing about “just five more pages…”.
There are many things to love about this biography, besides the obvious that it is about one of the greatest men to ever live – Abraham Lincoln.
At the very beginning, White has listed all the major people who are mentioned in the book. He calls it the “Cast of Characters”. This is a great reference to check back on because believe me, there are MANY people mentioned in the book that play key roles in Lincoln’s life.
The other thing I loved? White’s analysis of Lincoln’s speeches. They are some of the best I’ve ever read. I have come away with a better understanding of them. And his chapter on the Lincoln-Douglas debates? WOW!! Sheer brilliance!
My only criticism of the book is a I felt there were, at times, that White almost seemed to gloss over certain events in Lincoln’s life. The one that sticks out the most for me is the removal of Simon Cameron as Secretary of War early in Lincoln’s presidency. Without going into too much detail, Cameron was a corrupt individual and things happened that made Lincoln decide “hey, dude, enough is enough. You’re not Secretary of War anymore and I’ve found it more fitting to make you ambassador to Russia. Have fun!”. I felt in the book it was as though Cameron was Secretary of War, than he was off to Russia and boom…Edwin Stanton is now Secretary of War. There was not much of an explanation as to why this happened and Cameron was a man where it was once remarked that ” he was so corrupt, the only thing he wouldn’t steal was a red-hot stove”. So clearly, there was more going on that White, for whatever reason, chooses not to go into detail about.
I feel as though this does not detract from the brilliance that this biography is. No biography is perfect and not every detail can be covered (see Michael Burlingame if you want detail). White has given us a brilliant, down-to-earth story of Abraham Lincoln. While the biography is detailed, it is most certainly not dense. I never felt like I was overwhelmed with information and thinking “damn it, this is too much!”. It is the perfect amount of detail, especially if this is your first Lincoln bio (for me, it was not. I started reading David Herbert Donald’s bio before this and I’ve read a couple others too). Speaking of which, if you are new to the world of Lincoln, this is the perfect bio to start with! It’s the one I’ve started recommending as a way for Lincoln newbies to start off their journey in learning about this amazing gentleman.
To me, the central theme of the book is to show how much Lincoln grew as a person. Not just from a political standpoint but also from a spiritual one too. This is why it is such a human portrayal of Lincoln. One comes away with a better understanding of the things Lincoln wrestled with his mind, most notably slavery. We see how much he grew as a person, how his beliefs changed, especially throughout his time as President. To me, seeing his growth as a person make him even more relatable and it truly shows how he can still inspire many of us today.
And that is why “A.Lincoln” by Ronald C. White, Jr. is my book of 2017. It is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read and one I know I can pick up to read again and enjoy it just as much the second time through.
Here’s what I’ve also come to believe about Lincoln and the many bios there are of him – I don’t believe there is one definitive one. With Lincoln, there is always something new to learn or a different interpretation of an event in his life or in his beliefs. It is always good to keep learning and reading about him. I don’t think you can read just one bio about him and say “that is it”. He’s a complex man and really, if you’re like me, once you start reading about him, you can’t get enough.
So, please, give “A. Lincoln” a try, especially if it is your first biography about him. But after that – there are countless others to read too.
What other Lincoln biographies have you read? Which are your favorites? Please tell me on Twitter or leave a comment below.
What books did you enjoy reading in 2017? What is your favourite book of 2017? Tell me on Twitter or leave a comment below. I’d love to know!
One more thing…
I’m now part of an Abraham Lincoln podcast! It’s called “The Railsplitter: The Abraham Lincoln Podcast”. Jeremy and Nick, my fellow railsplitters and co-hosts, were incredibly kind and asked me to join back in August. It is awesome to be part of a podcast with two other Lincoln geeks! It’s been both fun and rewarding! Our listeners are a really awesome group too and we have a great Facebook group for the podcast. You can check it out here. There’s always great discussion going on there that is , of course, Lincoln related. Also, please give us a listen.
So, a very Happy New Year to my readers! And also to my followers on Twitter. All of you are awesome and I love all the discussions that happen on Twitter.
And again, please let me know what you favourite book was of 2017! I’d love to know since I’m always looking for more books to add to ever-growing to-read list.
Until next time,