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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed by to many details and dry narrative but notable read
With word that later in 2004 several new Lincoln biographies are to be published I again turned to my unread copy of Donald's LINCOLN. It had been highly recommended to me when I mentioned that I had never read a biography of Lincoln. I was told this was one of the best Lincoln Biographies.Overall, David Donald's book is just full of details and is interestingly told from...
Published on April 21 2004

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3.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln
While expecting an excellent and detailed read about the life of Abraham Lincoln, parts of the book were disappointing. The author spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the daily political struggles Lincoln had with his Cabinet as President. The minutiae of daily positive and negative support for Lincoln seems to drag on page after page. The cabinet members...
Published 15 months ago by Ode Guy


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed by to many details and dry narrative but notable read, April 21 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
With word that later in 2004 several new Lincoln biographies are to be published I again turned to my unread copy of Donald's LINCOLN. It had been highly recommended to me when I mentioned that I had never read a biography of Lincoln. I was told this was one of the best Lincoln Biographies.Overall, David Donald's book is just full of details and is interestingly told from Lincoln's perspective. (What did Lincoln know and what did he do? A real time biography.) I greatly admire Donald's accomplishment and learned a great deal but was disappointed that this is just not an "entertaining" narrative. The writing is dry, without a visual sense or an emotional core. You never feel you're experiencing Lincoln, feeling what he must have felt as he comes across in the narrative as stoically reactive to events while holding on to only one true principle, saving the union. I especially like the first part of the book covering Lincoln's early years up to the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. But once the Great War takes hold Lincoln is depicted as a man given to compromise and taking the middle ground unable to do anything more than ride the whirlwind of events. (Actually Lincoln said himself that this is the case and it comes so apparent in this narrative.) Lincoln appears here as an uncertain politician and seldom the statesman. This may be true and a bit unsettling to those of us who might want to "worship" the Lincoln as statesman who belongs to the ages. My reading left me with little insight into Lincoln's thinking, and more important without an insight into what he is feeling that I felt distanced from subject. The feeling I came away with was that Lincoln was not really comfortable in his own skin and I was uncomfortable and unsure that this could be true. I recommend Donald's book for its detail, overall insight, but warn that it is a tough read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln, April 16 2013
This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
While expecting an excellent and detailed read about the life of Abraham Lincoln, parts of the book were disappointing. The author spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the daily political struggles Lincoln had with his Cabinet as President. The minutiae of daily positive and negative support for Lincoln seems to drag on page after page. The cabinet members loathe him, then like him followed by hatred and then reverence. While I am sure that his support waned considerably from time to time, the author nearly ignored other aspects of Lincoln's life, such as his relationships with Grant and Sherman. I still enjoyed the book but do not consider this the best biography of Lincoln.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at Lincoln, the man, Feb. 1 2003
By 
J. Grattan (Lawrenceville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
"Lincoln" is a remarkable look at Abraham Lincoln as he advanced from extremely poor, rural roots, in what was then the western United States, into both the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Congress for one term, through a career as a self-taught lawyer, and finally to the presidency. The author has extensively researched Lincoln's movements, first-hand accounts of his utterances, his formal speeches and writings, as well as official records kept in the discharge of his various duties and offices.
It is a fascinating look at the evolution of the character and personality of a man of meager origins and virtually no formal education. Lincoln was driven to make something of himself; this is best seen in his insatiable desire to educate himself. Beyond self-development, Lincoln had an inherent ability to relate to others. He combined humility with a great ability to tell stories. This ease among his fellow citizens led to his being elected to the Illinois legislature at a fairly young age and to a reasonably successful career as a lawyer.
Lincoln was a Whig and devotee of Henry Clay and his American system of internal improvements. But it would be completely wrong to regard Lincoln as mostly an opportunistic politician. He was principled, if anything. Manipulating a political view to get elected would have never occurred to Lincoln. Furthermore, Lincoln was a man of his word. When elected to Congress in 1846, he returned home after one term as he promised, though undoubtedly he could have been re-elected. However, the author shows that Lincoln became very astute politically with a substantial network of political friends both at the state and national levels.
Early in Lincoln's career, slavery was seldom an issue. But by the mid-1850s, slavery came to dominate the political and social life of the country. Lincoln, though clearly antislavery, was not an abolitionist. In his debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858 and on his way to being elected president in 1860, Lincoln articulated, often eloquently, a moderate position on slavery that resonated with a large segment of Northern voters. The extension of slavery to new territories became the foremost issue of the day as compared to eradication.
Lincoln was probably not technically qualified to be president; he had never held an administrative post of any importance. Nor did hundreds of high-level administrative assistants perform most of his duties, as is the case in the modern era. In addition, Lincoln faced perhaps the greatest challenge that any president in our history ever has. The secession of the South exacerbated political divides in the country. Not only did Lincoln have to deal with radical and moderate Republicans and War and Peace Democrats, but also his own cabinet, populated with some of his political rivals, exhibited the same sort of splits. Militarily, the U.S. was totally unprepared to put down a rebellion, as Lincoln called it, of the size that the Confederacy represented. He was often driven to the edge of his patience in dealing with a series of incompetent generals that cost the Northern armies defeat after defeat in the early years of the War.
The author captures the immense pressures on Lincoln during his presidency. His ungainliness was fodder for the various political factions that publicly labeled Lincoln as an "imbecile" or a "baboon." Though the presidency took a tremendous toll on Lincoln, he retained his generally good humor, even seeing countless numbers of nameless citizens straight from the streets in his office. He functioned at a high level of awareness, navigating the political minefields of the day, in making difficult decisions. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was just such a decision. It was a typically moderate Lincoln response to the antislavery and unionist extremists. When Lincoln was shot at the beginning of his second term, he had prevailed and brought the country through a terrible experience through the sheer strength and flexibility of his intellect and personality. One doubts whether there existed another individual in the country at that time, who could have dealt with all of the issues that Lincoln did with the same degree of success.
Though the author is favorably deposed towards Lincoln, he does not push Lincoln on the reader - he does not have to. He does a great job of letting the reader closely watch Lincoln in action for about forty years. It is an incredible story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Account of A Complex and Interesting Man, June 30 2004
By 
Michael Taylor "Michael Taylor" (Indian Trail NC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
Overall, I found Donald's account of Honest Abe to be a good one and I humbly offer what I thought were the good and bad points of this book:
Good:
1. The first couple of chapters describing Lincoln's early life were quite interesting and informative, from the strong relationship with his stepmother to the strained relationship with his father. Reading about his other early struggles and failures further impressed me with Lincoln's persistence and incredible tenacity.
2. Deep level of detail concerning certain points of his life, notably his early law practice, political career, and relationships with cabinet members. If you like this kind of information, then this book is right down your alley!
3. Interesting descriptions of his relationship with certain generals, notably George McClellan (aka "Young Napoleon"). I developed a greater appreciation of the military pressures Lincoln endured during the Civil War.
Bad:
1. The book's length - the text was right at 600 pages and at times proved to be a dry read. While interesting anecdotes were incorporated, the text often seemed to drag on with dry policy decisions. Granted, I am more interested in military affairs as opposed to politics. However, I still believe the book spent too much on the politics and not nearly enough on the military.
2. Personalization of Lincoln - as mentioned in other reviwes, I concur that the reader still misses the essence of Lincoln (What did he experience and how did he really feel about a policy issue or military action? How about more of his relationship with his wife and children?). While the reader is often told things like the incredible number of hours Lincoln put in while in the White House, the essence of Lincoln is left out.
Overall, I do believe the book is a worthwhile read - just be ready to spend plenty of time due to the large content!
Since this is the first comprehensive biography of Lincoln I have read, I cannot honestly compare it to other Lincoln biographers. However, I can say that I have read other biographies (Lee, Grant, etc.) of other famous Americans and I feel like I have gotten to know the person better instead of just knowing ABOUT the person.
Despite this, I still recommend the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Long and Often Hard to Keep up But Worth It!, June 8 2004
This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
I don't have much time to read as would like to so I read this book when I had time. It is well-crafted book. It offers the best biography of one of my favorite heroes. This book will give a clear view of Lincoln and his political life. Not much is written on his domestic life. For that you need to read the other book by David Herber Donald on Lincoln.
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4.0 out of 5 stars LINCOLN, June 3 2004
This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
This is a very good place to start with Abraham Lincoln. However, I wouldn''t make it your only resource.
There are a lot of other great novels such as "We Are Lincoln Men" and a lot more others.
However, this one book covers a lot about Lincoln.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Just average, April 18 2004
By 
Sean Claycamp (overland park, ks) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
I read this book as part of my ongoing hobby to read a biography of every President and to be honest this is the worst one I have read to date.
I thought it got bogged down too much in the details of cabinet positions and the daily grind. I wished it would have gone into greater detail on the Civil War and Lincoln's relationships with members of the Union Army, like U.S. Grant for instance. It touched on the subject, but in reading Grant's biography they had an interesting relationship. They both admired each other greatly. I didn't get that from this book.
At times, Lincoln seemed to be a bumbling President that stumbled into good fortune. I hope that was not the case and don't believe that it was, but Donald's writing style suggests that he was lucky and made a habit of listening to bad advice.
My biggest beef was the lack of information surrounding the Gettysburg address. At the very least I expected it to be included in the book, but it just wasn't. There was also a brief mention of his other great speeches, but not enough detail on them.
Just an average book and to be honest I think if you looked hard you could find a better biography of Lincoln.
I will commend the writer for his research. It's thorough, but it's VERY DRY. Usually I read a book in a week, this took me a month.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the Best 1-Volume Lincoln Biography, March 21 2004
By 
Kenneth P. Cash (Independence, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
I have been studying Abraham Lincoln for nearly 40 years. Many Lincoln scholars consider LINCOLN by David Herbert Donald to be one of the three BEST one-volume biographies of Lincoln written to date. The other two books are WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE by Stephen B. Oates and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: A BIOGRAPHY by Benjamin P. Thomas. LINCOLN by Donald is probably the BEST of the three.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the Best 1-Volume Biography of Lincoln, March 21 2004
By 
Kenneth P. Cash (Independence, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
I have been studying Abraham Lincoln for nearly 40 years. Many Lincoln scholars consider LINCOLN by David Herbert Donald to be one of the three BEST one-volume biographies of Lincoln written to date. LINCOLN by Donald is probably the BEST of the three.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Feb. 20 2004
By 
Ian Fowler (Denver, CO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lincoln (Paperback)
I'm not typically a biography fan. I'm a history buff, but I tend to prefer reading about events in history, and getting relevant information about the players in those events within the context of that event.
But, I saw a copy of Donald's book a couple of years agao in a bookstore at a discount, and snagged it. Naturally, the course of events required me to shift it down on my reading pile. Recently, I resolved to read it once and for all.
I'm pleased that I did. First, what I know of Lincoln came in broad strokes-what he did mostly, little of what he did. I'm also not a Civil War buff (just more interested in WW II). So my knowledge of both has been greatly enhanced. (Admittedly, Donald wasn't quite interested in parsing out the War, so I will have to pursue that information elsewhere.)
Donald's examination is as even a work as one could ask for. While he admires Lincoln, he's willing to acknowledge that the Lincoln was human, and takes him to task when appropriate.
What I enjoyed most about this book is that I recognized certain traits in my personality that are similar to Lincoln. I don't flatter myself that I'm somehow a "great" man, but rather, I use this to illustrate how down-to-earth Lincoln really was, and how beautifully Donald illustrates that quality.
I don't know that this is the be-all-end-all of Lincoln bios. But, as a single volume piece, it's terrific, and more than worth the time of both historians and casual readers alike.
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Lincoln
Lincoln by David Herbert Donald (Paperback - Nov. 5 1996)
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