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What are your top five Lincoln books? - Rob Wick - 07-27-2012 06:36 PM

If you had a person come to you asking for just five books they should read on Abraham Lincoln, what would you tell them? Five books on any aspect of Lincoln's life. I'm going to wait to see what other responses come in before listing mine. Oh, and please explain why you chose them.


RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - HerbS - 07-27-2012 07:01 PM

1-"The inner Lincoln"2-"They Have Killed Papa Dead"3-"Blood On The Moon"4-"American Brutus"5-"The Day Lincoln Was Shot".I like them because they are Factual and Honest!Swanson's book "Manhunt"got me stimulated into finding out the truth!

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - LincolnMan - 07-27-2012 08:07 PM

Mine in no particular order: 1) one volume edition of Carl Sandburg's work on Lincoln (for the sheer beauty of the writing) ; 2) Abraham Lincoln by Benjamin P. Thomas (for my book still the best single work on Lincoln) ; 3) Blood On The Moon by Edward Steers (a masterpiece of work) ; 4) The Gettysburg Gospel by Gabor Boritt ( I love this book! Best study of the Gettysburg Address I ever read) ; and 5) With Malice Toward None by Stephen Oates ( covers Lincoln the master politician so well). Thank you for the question!

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - RJNorton - 07-28-2012 04:00 AM

I think I will skirt this question by recommending Mike Burkhimer's book titled "100 Essential Lincoln Books." It's amazing that the book is now nearly 10 years old as it seems like just yesterday when Mike came out with it. Mike is a teacher and also the Review Editor for the Lincoln Herald. I think the book is great for folks who don't have the time or desire to read every single book out there. It has 2-3 page "capsules" of what Mike feels are the best 100 books on Lincoln. The books that came out after 2003 are not included.

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - BettyO - 07-28-2012 06:17 AM

Since I'm an assassination nut, and that constitutes most of my llibrary, my selection would be:

1) Oldroyd, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, good relevant information plus it contains the first ever JWB Escape Route Tour; 2) American Brutus, one of the best compilations of verifiable information on the assassination compiled all in one place; 3) Blood on the Moon; Good verifiable facts - plus it is an instant classic; no one does the Military Commission better than Ed! HA! 4) Ed Steer's Lincoln Assassination Encyclopedia; great information at your fingertips; and 5) The Evidence - 'Nuff Said!

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - Rob Wick - 07-28-2012 07:32 AM

My five are going to be a little different. I realize that they won't be what many would think of when recommending a book, but I'll explain further in a minute.

1. Herndon's Informants -- It's because of William H. Herndon that we know anything about Lincoln's early days. However, people wanting to understand where he came from need a guide a little more accessible. Although it's an expensive book, it's a requirement for anyone wanting to know about the very early years. Douglas Wilson and Rodney O. Davis leave all of Herndon's evidence intact, but provide a context for what is wheat and what is chaff.

2. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln -- In my opinion, the only way to truly know who Lincoln is, or what he stood for, is to read what he wrote and what he said. The one thing I've always admired about Lincoln is his clarity in thought and writing. Oh, and even though it is a multi-volume set, it is one title, so it still counts.

3. Abraham Lincoln: A Biography -- When a person familiarizes themselves with the first two, then they are ready to begin on secondary works. Even though it's old, Benjamin Thomas's book is still considered one of the best single-volume biographies. Thomas, like Lincoln, wrote with clarity and wit.

4, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years -- OK, I know. This is a six-volume set and includes two different titles. It's my post, and I'll cheat if i want to. Big Grin If one reads the first three selections, they can then make their way through Sandburg's million+ word opus with a little more confidence that they can pick out the dross and still maintain the poetry and magic that Sandburg put into the work.

5. The Evidence -- Again, someone wanting to know about Lincoln's assassination would probably prefer to read Blood on the Moon or American Brutus, but to get a handle on what the country faced when Lincoln was murdered, they need to walk through what investigators pursued and see what they saw.

As most of you can tell, I strongly prefer primary material over secondary sources. Of course, no one who just wants to familiarize themselves with Lincoln will go through three of the works I've outlined. I understand that. But if one wants to get as true a picture of just who Abraham Lincoln was, they have to do more than read what biographers, no matter how good their works may be, thought of him.


RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - Gene C - 07-28-2012 07:35 AM

I don't have a big Lincoln library but my favorites in no particular order are....
1. Lincoln an illustrated biography by Philip Kunhardt (I like all the pictures)
2. Carl Sanburg's one volume editon of Abraham Lincoln
3. 20 Days by Kunhardt (I like the photos and one of my first assassination books)
4. Recollections of Abraham Lincoln by Ward Hill Lamon
5. Great American Myth by George Bryan

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - L Verge - 07-28-2012 12:57 PM

Like Betty, I can only speak to the assassination-related books because that's my specialty. However, in the postings by the Lincoln experts, I'm noticing a distinct absence of David Herbert Donald's "Lincoln." A decade or so ago, it was all the rage. Opinions???

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - Rob Wick - 07-28-2012 01:07 PM


Donald's is still one of the best, but in terms of single-volume bios, I like Thomas better. I don't know that I can put my finger on any particular reason, other than a personal preference. I also liked A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White, especially his interpretation of Lincoln's speeches, but there's something about Thomas that makes it stand out for me.


RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - LincolnMan - 07-28-2012 01:10 PM

Laurie: Rob said exactly my thoughts on it!

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - L Verge - 07-28-2012 01:26 PM

We just put an old copy of Thomas's book out on our used book sale table at Surratt House. Maybe I better grab it and read it, if it's still there.

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - Craig Hipkins - 07-28-2012 06:51 PM

As far as non-assassination related books on Lincoln I enjoyed Ronald White's biography A. Lincoln.


RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - LincolnMan - 07-31-2012 12:46 PM

I have not read Abraham Lincoln. A Life by Michael Burlingame. Any comments on it? I have heard very positive things about it.

RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - Rob Wick - 07-31-2012 12:53 PM

It's sitting in my bookcase, Bill, but I haven't had a chance to do more than a cursory reading of it. What I like is that Burlingame put the entire unedited manuscript on Knox College's website (as if it wasn't big enoughBig Grin).


RE: What are your top five Lincoln books? - Joe Di Cola - 07-31-2012 02:11 PM

It comes so much alive that you feel like you are a fly on the wall at history's great events. The only trouble I had with the volumes was the price paid for books that were so shoddy in the quality of the bindings. They "fell apart" and I had to have them fixed by a librarian friend. I mentioned this in a review and Johns Hopkins Press got quite defensive.
Benjamin Thomas I feel has written the best-to-date one-volume biography. David Donald's and Carl Sandburg's I would pick for 2nd place in the one-volume bio category--Sandburg for the sheer joy of reading his prose. I think the 6-volume Sandburg is one I would also rank high. In spite of the shoddy bindings, the Burlingame 2-volume will set the standard for years to come. Since I am most interested in Lincoln's earlier life and the people, events, and forces that shaped him (especially the New Salem Years), Thomas' New Salem, Wilson's Honor's Voice, and Wilson and Davis Herndon's Informants are two of my favories. Finally, a must for Lincoln libraries are Lincoln Day by Day and the Collected Works.

One more...If one wishes to get a cross-section of biographers on Lincoln's Life, Paul Angle's THE LINCOLN READER is an old but sure source.