Thursday, February 12, 2009

Celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday!

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. One of the most important, interesting and yes, most written about of Americans. The volumes devoted in print to "Honest Abe" are seemingly endless [a keyword search in our catalog leads to over 300 titles about him!] and not too surprisingly, expect many new titles to be issued this year. Your Burbank Public Library has a good number of them and I've spotlighted a few of the best for your reading consideration. More of the best Lincoln books can be found on our Lincoln bookmark available in the library or online

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin observes two rather startling situations having to do with Lincoln’s political genius: that despite coming from nowhere, he won the 1860 Republican nomination, snatching it from the anticipating hands of his chief contenders, all of whom were not only well known but also known to be presidential material; and that once Lincoln achieved the nomination and won the election, he brought his rivals into his cabinet and built them into a remarkable team to lead the Union during the Civil War.

McPherson, James M. Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. McPherson’s fluid narrative renders balanced judgments of Lincoln’s performance as a war president. As with the law, Lincoln was a self-taught strategist whose political acumen, McPherson illustrates in instance after instance, was vital to his conduct of the Union cause.

Donald, David Herbert Lincoln. In this magisterial yet intimate biography, the highly regarded Lincoln scholar brilliantly interprets the wondrous story of a prairie lawyer who arguably became the greatest of our presidents.

The newly published, A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White is poised to supersede Donald's book as the go to single volume biography of Lincoln. White offers a fresh definition of Lincoln as a man of integrity and uses meticulous research of the newly completed Lincoln Legal Papers, as well as recently discovered letters and photographs, to provide a portrait of Lincoln's personal, political, and moral evolution.

McGovern, George Abraham Lincoln. McGovern—a Midwesterner, former U.S. senator, presidential candidate, veteran, and historian by training—offers his unique insight into our sixteenth president. He shows how Lincoln sometimes went astray, particularly in his restrictions on civil liberties, but also how he adjusted his sights and transformed the Civil War from a political dispute to a moral crusade. McGovern’s account reminds us why we hold Lincoln in such esteem and why he remains the standard by which all of his successors are measured.

Wills, Garry Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words that remade America Wills combines semantics and political analysis in his account of the most famous speech in U.S. history. Lincoln's words are put in their cultural and intellectual contexts, establishing the contributions of New England Transcendentalism and the Greek Revival to the structure and the substance of the address.

Oates, Stephen B. With Malice toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. This is among the first of the thoroughly conceived, greatly detailed, and artfully presented major biographies of Lincoln to emerge in the third quarter of the twentieth century. The author calls his treatment an “empathetic narrative” without “hero worship”; he peers successfully “behind the myth, behind the god of marble and stone” to find a “man of rich humanity.” It belongs in every Lincoln collection and can sit comfortably next to more recent definitive accounts.

Sandburg, Carl Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years. Originally published in six volumes (1926 to 1939), this abridgment is generally regarded as the best place to appreciate the well-known American poet’s particularly beautiful and sensitive discernment of the early life and presidential administration of the sixteenth president. This is one of the great biographies of all time.

Swanson, James L. Manhunt: the twelve-day chase for Lincoln’s killer. The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror.

Prefer your Lincoln in fiction? Then try Abe: A novel by Richard Slotkin, which provides an authentic immersion into the young Lincoln’s experiences from the rural Kentucky of his birth to his young manhood in New Salem, Illinois or Lincoln by Gore Vidal, one of the volumes in his American Chronicle series; it is vast in scope and number of characters, but it is intimate in revealing the humanity behind his main one and all the supporting ones.

Or how about a play? If so, try Abe Lincoln in Illinois by Robert Sherwood. The genesis of Lincoln’s genius is visited in 13 riveting scenes that follow Lincoln’s early years, from his postmaster days in New Salem, Illinois, to his advent into local politics, marriage to Mary Todd, and senatorial campaign against Stephen Douglas, concluding with his election to the presidency

Recommendations for children naturally lead to two Lincoln books that have won major children's book awards; the Newbery Award, Lincoln : a photobiography by Russel Freedman winner of the 1987 Newbery Award and Abraham Lincoln by Ingri D'Aulaire which won the 1940 Caldecott Award for illustration. One other children's book that I'll mention is currently on order. Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson is a children's/young adult version of his Manhunt book listed above. Definitely worth looking for when it arrives.

These and many more books about Abraham Lincoln are available at your library, we hope that you'll stop by and check them out!

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