by Ronald C. White Jr.
(Random House, $35)
Of the roughly 60 new books appearing to commemorate Abe Lincoln’s bicentennial year, said David Waldstreicher in The Boston Globe, this 800-pager “takes the most traditional approach.” Ronald White’s Abe is “the Lincoln who never erred, only grew.” The author’s portrait is most distinctive when illuminating how Lincoln bent his orations to address his opponents. It’s most winning when illustrating how Lincoln’s “essential honesty” so often shone through.
The Lincoln Anthology
edited by Harold Holzer
(Library of America, $40)
“You can silently underscore the ‘The’” in the title of this authoritative anthology, said Jon Meacham in the Los Angeles Times. The writers reflecting upon Lincoln in this “terrific sampler” range from Walt Whitman and Karl Marx to E.L. Doctorow and Barack Obama. Organized chronologically, the collection “surprises and engages” with every page. It gives us not only Lincoln but a history of the nation’s ever-shifting values.
Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
by Fred Kaplan
Historian Fred Kaplan wisely chose to focus exclusively on Lincoln’s life as a reader and writer, said Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. Others have plowed this field before, but no one else has “found so much meaning in it.” Because Lincoln consciously approached written and spoken communication as vehicles for civilization’s advance, Kaplan’s late-2008 book is “certain” to become a work considered “essential to our understanding of the 16th president.”
Tried by War
by James M. McPherson
This is another focused study that’s “destined to become a classic,” said Jay Winik in The Boston Globe. Written by a historian who is himself “a national treasure,” it zooms in on the mystery of how a risk-averse small-time lawyer “found the inner strength and guile” to seize and define his office’s commander-in-chief role. McPherson “employs a light hand” when detailing Lincoln’s extra-constitutional reaches, but his book “brims with fascinating details and great insight.”