Friday, May 29, 2009

Finished, a key book review!!!!

For the 200th Anniv. of Lincoln's birth I chose to purchase and read A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White Jr. In my youth I read the late David Herbert Donald's Lincoln and actually felt that it was the one and only true biography of our 16th President. I will pay David Donald what he deserves, his book will always be the best biography of Lincoln but White's book is a close second. It is a wonderful examination about the life of Lincoln and it has a bit of something for both beginners and Lincoln experts.

White liberally shares photographs, maps, illustrations, documents, even signatures of key characters. Unlike many history/biography books, these are not confined to a few glossy pages in the middle of the book, but appear frequently throughout the text. I like this because it allows the reader to see what he is talking about without having to flip to a specific section of the book reserved for photos. The bibliography is amazing and this book could serve people looking to research the life and time of Lincoln. Ronald White Jr.'s research is as good as anyone could ask for.

Like most Lincoln biographies the first half of the book deals with his early life, his times as a leglislator, lawyer and family man. The second half deals with his presidency with White providing you just enough details in both sections (700+ pages) without bogging the reader down with too many details. He finds time to analyze Lincoln's inagural addresses, the Gettysburg Address and other key speeches. He balances Lincolns home life with Mary and his sons versus his political and law career. White even talks about Lincoln's highs and lows as our nation's Commander in Chief. In short, White's A. Lincoln provides great detail without sacrificing the larger picture.

My only disappointment, though it may have been not included because of the books length was the assassination plot by John Wilkes booth and Lincoln's funeral. One can't fault White though because the book itself might have went over 1,000 pages if it was included.

Another good thing about White's biography is it stays true to the facts that we know about Lincoln. So many books recently have focused on his depression, his possibly homosexuality and other generatic things that avoid painting Lincoln as a hero. Lets face it, Abraham Lincoln is a hero and this book lets everybody know that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest men to ever call himself an American. White himself sets it up on the books first page when he states "He signed his name `A. Lincoln.' A visitor to Abraham Lincoln's Springfield, Illinois, home at Eighth and Jackson would find `A. Lincoln' in silvered Roman characters affixed to an octagonal blue plate on the front door. All throughout his life, people sought to complete the A - to define Lincoln, to label or libel him. Immediately after his death and continuing to the present, Americans have tried to explain the nation's most revered president. A. Lincoln continues to fascinate us because he eludes simple definitions and final judgments." White is pointing out to his readers that the search for Lincoln goes on and that his book is one step in an important process that paints a clearer picture of Abraham Lincoln.

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