In an 1876 eulogy, Frederick Douglass famouslyâ€"and foolishlyâ€"asserted that â€œno man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln.â€ Thirteen decades and hundreds of books later, that statement appears no closer to the truth than when Douglass uttered it. Although Lincoln may be the most studied figure in American history, there is no end to new interpretations of the man. Shenkâ€™s and Goodwinâ€™s engaging new books are impressive demonstrations of that truth. Looking closely at Lincolnâ€™s entire life, essayist Shenk examines every scrap of evidence that Lincoln suffered from chronic depression so severe that he twice came close to suicide. He argues that Lincoln not only never conquered his depression but used it to channel his energy into his political work. Shenkâ€™s thesis may not convince everyoneâ€"including Goodwin, who takes a different viewâ€"but both arguments and his evidence are compelling. His is a fascinating story and one enhanced by Richard M. Davidsonâ€™s forceful reading. Highly recommended.
Nearly three times longer than Shenkâ€™s book, Goodwinâ€™s study covers much of the same ground but concentrates more on Lincolnâ€™s presidency. She argues that Lincolnâ€™s success in winning the election and in building an exceptionally effective administration lay in his extraordinary ability to empathize with his rivals. Much more than a biography of Lincoln, historian Goodwinâ€™s book also closely examines the lives of Lincolnâ€™s chief opponents for the Republican nominationâ€"Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, and William H. Sewardâ€"all of whom appeared better qualified to be President than he. After Lincoln persuaded the three menâ€"as well as other strong figuresâ€"to join his cabinet, it was expected that his former rivals would dominate him. Instead, the exact opposite occurred. Suzanne Torenâ€™s narration of the unabridged version is fine, but the bookâ€™s sheer length may demand a greater commitment than many listeners are willing to make. As such, the abridged edition, read by Richard Thomas, may be a better choice for most libraries.â€"R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA[Page 120]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
While Goodwin's introduction is a helpful summary and explanation for why another book about Lincoln, her reading abilities are limited: Her tone is flat and dry, and her articulation is overly precise. But the introduction isn't long and we soon arrive at Richard Thomas's lovely and lively reading of an excellent book. The abridgment (from 944 pages) makes it easy to follow the narrative and the underlying theme. Pauses are often used to imply ellipses, and one is never lost. But the audio version might have been longer, for there is often a wish to know a little more about some event or personality or relationship. Goodwin's writing is always sharp and clear, and she uses quotes to great effect. The book's originality lies in the focus on relationships among the men Lincoln chose for his cabinet and highest offices: three were his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, and each considered himself the only worthy candidate. One is left with a concrete picture of Lincoln's political genius--derived from a character without malice or jealousy--which shaped the history of our nation. One is also left with the painful sense of how our history might have differed had Lincoln lived to guide the Reconstruction. Simultaneous release with the Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 26). (Nov.)[Page 58]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This production of Goodwin's acclaimed biography enters the marketplace as a tie-in for Steven Spielberg's latest Hollywood epic, Lincoln. While Goodwin's book serves as the basis for the film, listeners of the adaptation may be puzzled that the narrative in this abridged edition does not include President Abraham Lincoln's efforts to gain passage of the 13th Amendment--efforts that provides the centerpiece for a great deal of the movie's storyline. However, the abridgment flows quite smoothly in its own right. Narrator Richard Thomas evokes an earnestness and dignity in keeping with the spirit of the material. He effectively conveys the personal bonds between Lincoln and his unlikely circle of advisors. In the case of Secretary of State William Seward, the emotional depths of the character's devotion become especially clear via Thomas's performance. And the narrator--whose tone remains sentimental without descending into maudlin territory--nicely tackles the sections devoted to Lincoln's family life, most notably the attachment he maintained with youngest son Tad. A Simon & Schuster paperback. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC