Abraham Lincoln: Life & Legacy

Celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, with these books examining his life and legacy, from his leadership skills to his rhetoric to his personal relationships.

General biographies | Leadership | Civil War | Race | Politics | Assassination | Writings | Photos & documents |
Personal life | In popular culture

General biographies

Lincoln
By David Herbert Donald
Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Herbert Donald offers a masterly account of how one man's extraordinary political acumen steered the Union to victory in the Civil War, and of how his soaring rhetoric gave meaning to that agonizing struggle for nationhood and equality.

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years
By Carl Sandburg
Originally published in six volumes, Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln was praised as “the greatest historical biography of our generation.” Sandburg later distilled this monumental work into this one-volume edition that critics and readers alike consider the author's crowning achievement and the definitive life of Lincoln. Sandburg's extraordinary portrait brings fully to life the young country lawyer as well as the president who became the central figure in the wildest storm that ever shook the American Republic.

The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America
By Mark E. Neely, Jr.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian vividly recaptures the central place of politics in Lincoln's life. Richly illustrated and written with attention to the age in which Lincoln lived, yet ever alert to universal moral questions, this book provides a portrait of Lincoln as an extraordinary man in his own time and ours.

With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln
By Stephen B. Oates
This masterful and moving biography follows Lincoln's bitter struggle with poverty, his self-made success in business and law, his early disappointing political career, and his leadership as President during one of America's most turbulent periods.

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography
By William E. Gienapp
A former backwoodsman and country lawyer, Abraham Lincoln rose to become one of our greatest presidents. This biography offers a vivid account of Lincoln's dramatic ascension to the pinnacle of American history.

Abraham Lincoln and a Nation Worth Fighting For
By James A. Rawley
The many sides of Abraham Lincoln--war leader, humorist, commander in chief, politician, and emancipator--are vividly depicted in this concise and fresh look at his presidential years. Pivotal events, decisions, and issues in Lincoln's private and public life are scrutinized and explained clearly by noted historian James A. Rawley.

Leadership

 Abraham Lincoln as Commander In Chief book jacket

Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander In Chief
By James M. McPherson
A bestselling historian of the Civil War illuminates how Lincoln worked with--and often against--his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and create the role of commander in chief as we know it. Tried by War offers a revelatory portrait of leadership during the greatest crisis America has ever endured.

President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman
By William Lee Miller
Faced with a radical moral contradiction left by the nation's Founders, Lincoln struggled to find a balance between the universal ideals of Equality and Liberty and the monstrous injustice of human slavery. With wit and penetrating sensitivity, Miller brings together the great themes that have become Lincoln's legacy--preserving the United States of America while ending the odious institution that corrupted the nation's meaning--and illuminates his remarkable presidential combination: indomitable resolve and supreme magnanimity.

The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln
By Phillip Shaw Paludan
Paludan, a professor at the University of Kansas for over 30 years, offers us Lincoln in whole - a complex, even contradictory personality who found greatness without seeking it and who felt deeply troubled about what he perceived as the nation's intertwined triumph and tragedy. Filled with fresh insights and new interpretations, this book presents a genuinely new and compelling portrait of a president and nation at war.

Civil War

Mr. Lincoln Goes to War book jacket

Mr. Lincoln Goes to War
By William Marvel
Marvel vividly recreates President Lincoln's first year in office, drawing the conclusion that Lincoln actually fanned the flames of war and often acted unconstitutionally in prosecuting the war once it had begun.

One Man Great Enough: Abraham Lincoln's Road to Civil War
By John C. Waugh
The seemingly unstoppable march toward civil war and Americas struggle as a republic are viewed through the breathtaking writings of Lincoln himself that detail his evolving beliefs about the Union, slavery, and civil war.

Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession
By Russell McClintock
McClintock's groundbreaking work illuminates the immediate origins of the Civil War, demonstrating that Northern thought evolved quite significantly as the crisis unfolded. It also provides an intimate understanding of the antebellum political system as well as Lincoln's political acuity.

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution
By James M. McPherson
McPherson, renowned historian and author of Battle Cry of Freedom, offers a series of thoughtful and engaging essays on aspects of Lincoln and the war that have rarely been discussed in depth. The Pulitzer Prize winner displays his keen insight and sterling prose as he examines critical themes in American history.

Race

 Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race book jacket

Big Enough to be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race
By George M. Fredrickson
This book focuses on the most controversial aspect of Lincoln's thought and politics--his attitudes and actions regarding slavery and race. Drawing attention to the limitations of Lincoln's judgment and policies without denying his magnitude, the book provides a comprehensive and even-handed account available of Lincoln's contradictory treatment of black Americans in matters of slavery in the South and basic civil rights in the North.

The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph o0f Antislavery Politics
By James Oakes
In this major history of Civil War America as seen through the lens of its two towering figures, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, Oakes presents a masterful narrative history that brings these two iconic figures to life and sheds new light on the central issues of slavery, race, and equality during the era.

Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery
By Richard Striner
Offering a fresh portrait of Lincoln that helps make sense of his many contradictions, the author describes a fervent idealist and a crafty politician with a remarkable gift for strategy.

Politics

The Great Comeback book jacket

The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination
By Gary Ecelbarger
From the ashes of political defeat and great personal disappointment rose one of the greatest leaders in American history: Abraham Lincoln. Teeming with drama and intrigue, this is the story of how Lincoln took his first steps toward becoming the legendary figure.

Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power
By Richard Carwardine
This extraordinary biography by one of the most highly regarded historians on the subject examines Lincoln both as a rising politician and as president. As a defender of national unity, a leader in war, and the emancipator of slaves, Abraham Lincoln lays ample claim to being the greatest of our presidents. While pursuing office, Lincoln drew strength from public opinion and from the machinery of his party. As a wartime president, he recognized the limits as well as the possibilities of power. In his struggle to end slavery, he found allies in the churches, their humanitarian agencies, and the volunteer Union Army. In illuminating the political talents that went hand in hand with large and serious moral purpose, Carwardine gives us a fresh, important portrait of the incomparable Abraham Lincoln.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
By Doris Kearns Goodwin
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius in this book, as she chronicles the rise of the one-term congressman/prairie lawyer from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency
By Jack C. Waugh
Weaving corroborative detail and rich anecdotal material into a fast-paced narrative, John C. Waugh succeeds in placing this pivotal election in its proper context while evoking its rich human drama. Drawing from an extensive array of sources, including published and unpublished reminiscences, memoirs, autobiographies, letters, newspapers, and periodicals, he clearly evokes the drama and uncertainty of that fateful year with all the immediacy of a political reporter covering a national presidential election today.

Assassination

 The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer book jacket

Manhunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer
By James L. Swanson
From April 14th to the 26th, 1865, the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices transfixed a nation reeling from the horrors of the newly ended civil war. Manhunt takes readers on the intensive search that moves side-by-side with the desperate assassin from the streets of Washington, D. C., through the swamps of Maryland and into the forests of Virginia.

Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution: An Illustrated History
By James L. Swanson and Daniel R. Weinberg
An illustrated companion to Swanson's bestselling Manhunt, this book is fully illustrated with more than 300 historical photos, letters, documents, and artifacts, many published for the first time.

The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln
By Kate Clifford Larson
Historian Larson tells the gripping story of Mary Surratt, a little-known participant in the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln, and the first woman ever to be executed by the federal government.

American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies
By Michael W. Kauffman
Kauffman offers an account of the Lincoln murder conspiracy in American Brutus. Working from an array of archival sources and research, Kauffman sheds light on the background and motives of John Wilkes Booth, the mechanics of his plot to topple the Union government, and the trials and fates of the conspirators.

Writings

 The Speeches And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln book jacket

This Fiery Trial: The Speeches And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln
Edited by William E. Gienapp
In This Fiery Trial, William Gienapp has brought together more than one hundred pieces by Lincoln, ranging from his first published political statement, printed in the Sangamo Journal in 1832, to his final public address, delivered just before his assassination. Here are some of the greatest speeches in American history, including the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. Other pieces include Lincoln's "A House Divided" speech to the Republican State convention in 1858, excerpts from his famed debates with Stephen Douglas, and the text of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln on Lincoln
Selected and edited by Paul M. Zall
Paul M. Zall draws on diverse sources--speeches, memoir, interviews, and more--to create the autobiography that Abraham Lincoln never wrote, in the president's own words.

Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
By Fred Kaplan
In this intriguing biography, literary biographer Fred Kaplan analyzes Abraham Lincoln's writings, from the great civic anthems of his presidency to love letters, legal briefs, and poems, and finds a first-rate literary talent--a master storyteller with an earthy wit, sharp logic, and an ear for poetic phrasing.

The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words
By Ronald C. White, Jr.
In The Eloquent President, historian Ronald White examines Lincoln's astonishing oratory and explores his growth as a leader, a communicator, and a man of deepening spiritual conviction. Examining a different speech, address, or public letter in each chapter, White tracks the evolution of Lincoln's rhetoric from the measured, lawyerly tones of the First Inaugural, to the imaginative daring of the 1862 Annual Message to Congress, to the haunting, immortal poetry of the Gettysburg Address.

Photos & documents

 The Presidential Archives book jacket

Lincoln: The Presidential Archives
Chuck Wills
Accessible text, photography, and removable documents combine to form an interactive museum-in-a-book that provides an educational and entertaining reading experience for the whole family. The biography covers Lincoln's childhood, early political career, the Civil War, and his traumatic assassination.

Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography
By Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt
Featuring more than 700 photographs of Lincoln, his contemporaries, and his world, Lincoln is the first biography to make full use of the Merserve collection, America's most important archive of Lincoln photographs.

Looking For Lincoln: A Bicentennial Album
By Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt, and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr.
In honor of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth comes this sequel to the enormously successful Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography. This work picks up where the previous book left off, and examines how the 16th president's legend came into being.

Lincoln in The Times: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, As Originally Reported in The New York Times
Edited by David Herbert Donald and Harold Holzer
Featuring vintage photographs and illustrations, this unique history of Abraham Lincoln--as originally reported in The New York Times--features additions from two eminent Lincoln historians.

Personal life

 Portrait of a Marriage book jacket

The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage
By Daniel Mark Epstein
Epstein has produced an incisive and balanced portrait of the Lincolns, from their mysterious and troubled courtship in 1840 until his assassination in Ford's Theatre in 1865. In The Lincolns we can feel the full force of the tragedy that was the slow crumbling of their marriage, knowing it intimately from the first act to the last.

The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln
By C.A. Tripp; edited by Lewis Gannett
Drawn from his meticulous and sometimes startling research, world-renowned psychologist and sex researcher C.A. Tripp presents an all-new argument that will forever change the debate over the private life of one of America's most revered presidents.

House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, a Family Divided by War
By Stephen Berry
Historian Stephen Berry charts the fortunes of a family shattered by the Civil War -- Mary Todd Lincoln's family -- and their surprising impact on how Lincoln fought that war.

In popular culture

 Adventures in Abe's America book jacket

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America
By Andrew Ferguson
The question that animates this original, insightful, disarmingly funny book is: how do Americans commemorate Lincoln, and what do our memories of him reveal about our visions of the good life? To discover the answer, Ferguson, an editor at the Weekly Standard and a Lincoln buff, made a long field trip, poking into many of the places where Americans have chosen to remember or to forget Honest Abe.

Assassination Vacation
By Sarah Vowell
From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to Key West, cultural critic and radio commentator Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by assassination, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism.

Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory
By Barry Schwartz
Abraham Lincoln has long dominated the pantheon of American presidents. From his lavish memorial in Washington and immortalization on Mount Rushmore, one might assume he was a national hero rather than a controversial president who came close to losing his 1864 bid for reelection. In this book, Barry Schwartz aims at these contradictions in his study of Lincoln's reputation, from the president's death through the industrial revolution to his apotheosis during the Progressive Era and First World War. Schwartz draws on a wide array of materials--painting and sculpture, popular magazines and school textbooks, newspapers and oratory--to examine the role that Lincoln's memory has played in American life.

Are we missing your favorite book about Lincoln? Let us know in a comment.

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