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One of the books I got for Christmas this year (in addition to a short study of Reconstruction by Allen C. Guelzo) was a book that I imagine would have little broad interest, but is still a fascinating topic, at least to me. It is called Uncivil Warriors: The Lawyer's Civil War by Peter Charles Hoffer. Just looking through the table of contents is what sold it for me. I've always been interested in the question of the legality of secession, and Hoffer actually devotes two chapters to the topic. I haven't read anything on this topic since I read James G. Randall's Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln. As I haven't read Hoffer's book yet, I obviously have no idea what approach he takes, but I'm sure I'll find it interesting. Given that Lincoln was first and foremost an attorney, I'm hoping this will be a good read next year (it will have to take a backseat to the seven or eight other books ahead of it that I want to read).

Anyone else get any Lincoln-related books this season?

Not a new book, but I received a copy of Here I Have Lived: A History of Lincoln's Springfield by Paul Angle.
Not Civil War- I got Mission- about Jimmy Stewart in World War II. Looks like a good book!
I received "Lincoln's Last Trial" by Dan Abrams and a pair of Lincoln socks!
I got a souvenir booklet of the congressional commemoration of Lincoln's 150th anniversary.

Not a present, but I ordered "The Mentelles: Mary Todd Lincoln, Henry Clay, and the Immigrant Family Who Educated Antebellum Kentucky" yesterday after stumbling onto it by accident on Amazon. It came out earlier in 2018 but I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere.
I found two Lincoln-related gifts under my tree: American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague, and an Abe Lincoln Bobblehead (a gift from a coworker).
In reading on Lincoln I sometimes take a break to research different topics.i keep a notebook to write down anything. What I wanting to ask forum members is how to achieve the right balance between Lincoln & other interests. Thanks!
(12-26-2018 04:57 AM)DannyW Wrote: [ -> ]In reading on Lincoln I sometimes take a break to research different topics.i keep a notebook to write down anything. What I wanting to ask forum members is how to achieve the right balance between Lincoln & other interests. Thanks!

What works for me is to keep an eye out for books (old and new) on my other subjects of interest (US Civil War, World War 2, and short stories).
I do the same as both Danny W and Aussie Mick

While studying for my bachelor's degree at Eastern Illinois University in the 1980s, I received some advice that has guided me throughout the years. The Truman scholar and diplomatic historian Robert H. Ferrell was giving a lecture to the history department and the general public. I had used his book of letters that Truman had written to Bess for a paper I wrote. I wanted to meet him before his lecture, which, unfortunately I wasn't going to be able to attend. I noticed he was sitting in an empty classroom going over his talk. Sheepishly, I knocked on the door. He waved me into the room.

He grabbed my hand and said "hello there, I'm Robert Ferrell." I said I knew, and that I had used his book of Harry's letters to Bess on a paper. "And what do you plan to do with your life, Mr. Wick?" he asked. "I want to write history, but I don't know if I'm going about it correctly. Can you give me some advice?" Without missing a beat he said "sell your television." He smiled broadly at me and said "seriously, carve out time to read. It doesn't matter if you're reading for pleasure or for study, give yourself more time to read than anything else." I didn't want to capitalize too much on his time, so I thanked him and turned around and left.

From that point, I've tried to emulate what he told me, although I didn't sell my television. Danny, I can't really provide a sure-fire method to guarantee you'll give the right amount of time to whatever it is you are doing. That really has to come from yourself and the amount of self-discipline you possess. I can tell you what I do that, although not perfect, has worked for me.

I only read for pleasure right before I go to bed. I know some people read while waiting to get their oil changed or waiting for the dentist, but I use that time to look at whatever magazines are available in the waiting room. The reason I do that is because reading magazines is the lowest on my list of priorities. I used to subscribe to Harper's and The Atlantic and I often ended up with literally two or three years worth of magazines unread. I would then have to try to get through a pile in a few weeks, which left me less time to read the books I wanted. Again, it works for me, and it might not work for anyone else.

The other thing I do when it comes to reading for pleasure is to make a list of what I want to read in the next year. I don't make it an iron-clad rule that I can only read what's on the list (given that I often am unaware that a book has come out that I want to read, like the Uncivil Warrior's book). However, it helps me to focus on what I would like to accomplish in the coming year. So far I've got about ten books on that list, none of which relate to Lincoln. Currently, I'm reading Susan Orlean's The Library Book, which is about the 1986 fire that nearly destroyed the central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. I want to use the books I read for pleasure on something that I don't feel like I need to take notes on.

As for when I'm writing, I only read in my office at my desk. I use post-it notes to flag pages that I want to transcribe notes from later and try to use that time to also take personal notes on a separate sheet of paper, which I then transfer to Microsoft Word on my computer. I only read one book at a time because I'm trying to give my complete attention to what it is I'm doing. Every now and then when I get tired of what I'm reading, I will switch over to journal articles that I need to read. However, whether it's books or journals, all the reading I'm doing is for the project at hand. I've found that if I try to work on two or more papers at a time, nothing gets done. Of course, working on only one thing at a time doesn't break any speed records, but I feel my thinking is clearer.

When it comes to what I want to read on Lincoln, I have to make a decision. If there's any part that I might conceivably use in a project, it goes into the desk pile. If it's something that I just want to read and likely will never use in a project, I try to work it on about every second or third book I read for pleasure. I usually limit myself to four or five Lincoln books a year for pleasure, because so much of what I'm working on for my writing has to do with Lincoln I don't want to make myself sick of the subject, especially where my writing is concerned.

Does this work all the time? Hardly. Sometimes I am so sick of having to think about what I'm reading that I do something I refer to as cleansing my literary palate. It's usually a book I don't have to think about too much while reading. Examples of that in 2018 included Rob Lowe's autobiography (I'm a huge fan of The West Wing) and a biography of the journalist James "Scotty" Reston. I would have never picked that to read except walking into the University of Illinois's archives I noticed on an adjoining door that Reston's papers were stored there. It was a very interesting book I would have otherwise missed.

In 2019 I've decided I want to read some of the "classic" works on Lincoln. That would include James G. Randall's four-volume biography of Lincoln as well as the biography by Lord Charnwood. I'd also like to read William Hesseltine's Lincoln and the War Governors. Also on the list is Joseph Fort Newton's book Lincoln and Herndon, which is part of my desire to know more about Herndon after reading David Donald's biography. Of course, part of the problem is that Herndon will figure prominently in part of my work on Tarbell, so I've got to be careful.

Some of you reading this might think it's somewhat rigid, and it is. I do give myself some leeway for books I am unaware of, and I also do take some time (like I'm doing now) away from the scholarly side by catching up on television shows I miss. But after my heart scare in 2014, I've tried to maintain the regimen as much as possible, given that I have several things I want to write and to read.

So, Danny, if I had to boil it down I would say try to be as disciplined as possible as to what you really want to do, but don't worry if once in a while you let yourself go onto a flight of fancy. My latest published Tarbell article took me over five years to write because I had to change focus at least four times. Each time required new research and that required reading new things. In a nutshell, to steal the title of one of the best documentaries on the Civil Rights movement, keep your eyes on the prize and have fun with it. And don't be too hard on yourself if you find your mind wandering somewhat. Some of the best journeys I've ever been on started out that way.

Great advice from each of you, and it is so important to keep one's mind open to new and different things -- even if it is not history-related. There are days when I feel that I have become stagnated by having to spend so much of my life centered around the Lincoln assassination story. It's what I love and what I get paid for, but I often let it become all-consuming (but I bet most of you have already figured that out about me).

I am reminded of a somewhat embarrassing situation that happened to me about 25 years ago. I was doing grocery shopping and had stopped at the section that was dedicated to books and magazines. As I was glancing through one of those scintillating historical novels, a familiar voice behind me said, "Laurie, I thought you only read 'real' history books." It was my priest.

I assured him that there is some good history in certain historical novels, but that I "also needed to occasionally clear the cobwebs of history out of my cluttered mind."
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