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For Abraham Lincoln, whether he was composing love letters, speeches, or legal arguments, words mattered. In Lincoln, acclaimed biographer Fred Kaplan explores the life of America's sixteenth president through his use of language as a vehicle both to express complex ideas and feelings and as an instrument of persuasion and empowerment. Like the other great canonical writer For Abraham Lincoln, whether he was composing love letters, speeches, or legal arguments, words mattered. In Lincoln, acclaimed biographer Fred Kaplan explores the life of America's sixteenth president through his use of language as a vehicle both to express complex ideas and feelings and as an instrument of persuasion and empowerment. Like the other great canonical writers of American literature—a status he is gradually attaining—Lincoln had a literary career that is inseparable from his life story. An admirer and avid reader of Burns, Byron, Shakespeare, and the Old Testament, Lincoln was the most literary of our presidents. His views on love, liberty, and human nature were shaped by his reading and knowledge of literature. Since Lincoln, no president has written his own words and addressed his audience with equal and enduring effectiveness. Kaplan focuses on the elements that shaped Lincoln's mental and imaginative world; how his writings molded his identity, relationships, and career; and how they simultaneously generated both the distinctive political figure he became and the public discourse of the nation. This unique account of Lincoln's life and career highlights the shortcomings of the modern presidency, reminding us, through Lincoln's legacy and appreciation for language, that the careful and honest use of words is a necessity for successful democracy. Illuminating and engrossing, Lincoln brilliantly chronicles Abraham Lincoln's genius with language.


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For Abraham Lincoln, whether he was composing love letters, speeches, or legal arguments, words mattered. In Lincoln, acclaimed biographer Fred Kaplan explores the life of America's sixteenth president through his use of language as a vehicle both to express complex ideas and feelings and as an instrument of persuasion and empowerment. Like the other great canonical writer For Abraham Lincoln, whether he was composing love letters, speeches, or legal arguments, words mattered. In Lincoln, acclaimed biographer Fred Kaplan explores the life of America's sixteenth president through his use of language as a vehicle both to express complex ideas and feelings and as an instrument of persuasion and empowerment. Like the other great canonical writers of American literature—a status he is gradually attaining—Lincoln had a literary career that is inseparable from his life story. An admirer and avid reader of Burns, Byron, Shakespeare, and the Old Testament, Lincoln was the most literary of our presidents. His views on love, liberty, and human nature were shaped by his reading and knowledge of literature. Since Lincoln, no president has written his own words and addressed his audience with equal and enduring effectiveness. Kaplan focuses on the elements that shaped Lincoln's mental and imaginative world; how his writings molded his identity, relationships, and career; and how they simultaneously generated both the distinctive political figure he became and the public discourse of the nation. This unique account of Lincoln's life and career highlights the shortcomings of the modern presidency, reminding us, through Lincoln's legacy and appreciation for language, that the careful and honest use of words is a necessity for successful democracy. Illuminating and engrossing, Lincoln brilliantly chronicles Abraham Lincoln's genius with language.

30 review for Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer

  1. 4 out of 5

    ✨Sumi's Books✨

    This book has a lot of information. Almost to the point, I would say, of having way too much information. The author seems to repeat himself several times and the quotes that he cites seem to do the same. The chapters are extremely long as well. There are only 8 chapters in this book. However, all in all, it was a good read, I learned a lot about our 16th president, and I'm glad that I have read it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with interest in the subject.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Wilson

    I'm glad I picked this book up as I'm interested in learning more about Lincoln outside of his extremely well documented presidency. Learning more about his self-education and what writers deeply influenced him, particularly to the point where he would frequently quote them in both formal and informal speech, was incredibly useful. However, I found the book itself to be rather a slog. Mr. Kaplan's writing often seems designed to be inaccessible, taking linguistic perambulations so convoluted as I'm glad I picked this book up as I'm interested in learning more about Lincoln outside of his extremely well documented presidency. Learning more about his self-education and what writers deeply influenced him, particularly to the point where he would frequently quote them in both formal and informal speech, was incredibly useful. However, I found the book itself to be rather a slog. Mr. Kaplan's writing often seems designed to be inaccessible, taking linguistic perambulations so convoluted as to rival those of the historical personage which he is so assiduously attempting to educate his willing readership on. ... if you get my meaning. I was also rather disappointed at how little of Lincoln's writing actually appears in the book. There are no complete transcriptions, but only short excerpts. I had hoped to get a better sense of how Lincoln wrote, especially at different stages of his life. Sadly, I was disappointed on that front. In the end, it's a useful book if you're looking to learn more about Lincoln before the Civil War, but don't expect an engaging read or extensive samples of his writing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    A succinct and persuasive look at our greatest president's literary history. The author narrates the influence great writing and writers had on Abraham Lincoln in his life and times. Even though there were a couple of typos, the text flowed smoothly and the pace was brisk. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about our 16th president's political career as well as anyone interested in the Civil War in general.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Holiday

    An exploration of the effects of being articulate, well-spoken and obsessed with learning is especially relevant after watching Obama use those three traits to take the presidency. It's the author's point that Lincoln's log cabin story has obscured how impressive a writer and speaker he really was. More importantly, we forget that with the exception of Theodore Roosevelt we've never really had a president before with equal deftness in reading, writing and speaking. Normally they are good at one An exploration of the effects of being articulate, well-spoken and obsessed with learning is especially relevant after watching Obama use those three traits to take the presidency. It's the author's point that Lincoln's log cabin story has obscured how impressive a writer and speaker he really was. More importantly, we forget that with the exception of Theodore Roosevelt we've never really had a president before with equal deftness in reading, writing and speaking. Normally they are good at one and abysmal at the others. There's a part in the book where he takes one of Lincoln's speeches and lays it out into a poem. It's just one example but an incredible way to make the book's central point: that Lincoln's understanding of the English language and the power of persuasion were so impressive they we're not even aware that he was using them.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    A hybrid book that never quite decides whether to be a biography laced with lit crit or a literary study in biographical context. Kaplan traces a few major influences -- the Bible, Shakespeare, Burns, Byron, and Emerson -- through Lincoln's life & writing; he finds some interesting echoes but rides his horses too hard. He is best at showing Lincoln's essayist approach to speechwriting and his faith in the power of words to move the nation. A hybrid book that never quite decides whether to be a biography laced with lit crit or a literary study in biographical context. Kaplan traces a few major influences -- the Bible, Shakespeare, Burns, Byron, and Emerson -- through Lincoln's life & writing; he finds some interesting echoes but rides his horses too hard. He is best at showing Lincoln's essayist approach to speechwriting and his faith in the power of words to move the nation.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    This was okay, but Douglas Wilson's "Lincoln's Sword" is a much better biography of Lincoln as a writer. Kaplan has some good insights, but much of the time he sounds like a college sophomore showing off in a mid-term exam: "Like Emerson, [Lincoln:] had the gift of aphoristic vividness in arranging linguistic tropes into effective combinations and shifting viewpoints." Ugh.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    I really like words, and I really like Abraham Lincoln, so I was pretty excited to read this book. It took me a couple of months to get through it though, partly because almost every time I sat down to read it I would start dozing within 15 minutes. I love that one of my favorite presidents is the most well read president, but the writing of this biography wasn't particularly exciting.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lukas Sotola

    A fun discussion of Lincoln's reading and writing life. It's clear that there were parts of this book that Kaplan enjoyed writing (i.e., the parts about Lincoln's reading and writing life, naturally) and parts that he was less interested in (i.e., politics, campaigning, his personal life), and the latter are always a bit more of a chore to get through. However, I don't think that would stop anybody--especially bookish people--from enjoying and learning a lot from this book, both about the main s A fun discussion of Lincoln's reading and writing life. It's clear that there were parts of this book that Kaplan enjoyed writing (i.e., the parts about Lincoln's reading and writing life, naturally) and parts that he was less interested in (i.e., politics, campaigning, his personal life), and the latter are always a bit more of a chore to get through. However, I don't think that would stop anybody--especially bookish people--from enjoying and learning a lot from this book, both about the main subject of the book and other aspects of Lincoln's life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patrice Jones

    This was a rather enjoyable read after I got used to the author's writing style. There is a lot more to learn from this book than about Lincoln's writing life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Goldman

    A fascinating subject but a pretty mediocre book.  The most interesting part is the review of Lincoln's early influences of the great humanist writers that seem to stay with Lincoln throughout his career.  It's also interesting so much of Lincoln's very early success was basically because he could actually read and write.  Yet, there is very little insight into Lincoln's writing that one doesn't get just be reading it.  The author tends to repeat nearly judgements throughout the book without exp A fascinating subject but a pretty mediocre book.  The most interesting part is the review of Lincoln's early influences of the great humanist writers that seem to stay with Lincoln throughout his career.  It's also interesting so much of Lincoln's very early success was basically because he could actually read and write.  Yet, there is very little insight into Lincoln's writing that one doesn't get just be reading it.  The author tends to repeat nearly judgements throughout the book without explaining anything.  Further, there is very little of Lincoln's writing quoted. Often the author quotes little snippets of sentences making it very hard to get a sense of the writing.  Finally, the flow of the book is perplexing. There are large jumps in time without any transition or explanation.   Overall, the book provides some guidance to further reading, but not much. I did notice the comparisons of Lincoln and Obama are even more apt.  Both grew up poor, were literate in cultures not know for it, were accused of being non believers, had little success before becoming president and relied on famous speeches as their claim to fame, over relied on their ability to persuade, and gave too much credit to the south's willingness to be reasonable.  

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Henninger

    While not the most exciting Lincoln biography I read, it was an interesting way to look at Lincoln and how his writings influenced him as a person, lawyer, and politician. At times, the writing was too slow and not of great interest. My biggest complaint, though, is that the chapter on the presidency years was far too short and felt rushed; most of Lincoln's writings of note are from his time as president but they were hardly analyzed. The good portions of this book are that you learn a lot about While not the most exciting Lincoln biography I read, it was an interesting way to look at Lincoln and how his writings influenced him as a person, lawyer, and politician. At times, the writing was too slow and not of great interest. My biggest complaint, though, is that the chapter on the presidency years was far too short and felt rushed; most of Lincoln's writings of note are from his time as president but they were hardly analyzed. The good portions of this book are that you learn a lot about Lincoln that is not commonly discussed, notably his interactions with native american tribes prior to and during his presidency; some very sad stuff. It was also good that writings that are not normally discussed (some of his poetry especially) were brought into the text. Overall, a good Lincoln biography, not great.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Some annoying errors marred it (Jackson did something as president in 1815--not!) early. Later, it got almost throw-across-the-room inaccurate, particularly on the Kansas-Nebraska Act. I realize the guy is an English prof, but he should have his basic facts down, like the differences between territories and states. Those errors will lead some astray, and they will just bother others (like me) to no end. The earlier part of this is better than the later part, and it's hard to believe how relative Some annoying errors marred it (Jackson did something as president in 1815--not!) early. Later, it got almost throw-across-the-room inaccurate, particularly on the Kansas-Nebraska Act. I realize the guy is an English prof, but he should have his basic facts down, like the differences between territories and states. Those errors will lead some astray, and they will just bother others (like me) to no end. The earlier part of this is better than the later part, and it's hard to believe how relatively little he said about Lincoln during his presidency. Maybe he figured that had been covered effectively elsewhere.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Matter of fact account of Lincoln's relationship with words and writers and how the well intentioned idea and the well phrased rhetoric can coexist. Especially recommended for literati people who need an injection of nonfiction once in a while.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This book was more political than personal, not my thing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    This book lives up to its' title: this is an Abraham Lincoln biography, but only where his writing is concerned. Major events in Lincoln's life are viewed through the prism of his written words and also of his literary predilections. In fact, much of the early chapters seem more devoted to what Lincoln read as a child and while he was growing up, than what he wrote. This is not surprising as it is true for most of us through the first two decades of life: what we read as a child can help to shap This book lives up to its' title: this is an Abraham Lincoln biography, but only where his writing is concerned. Major events in Lincoln's life are viewed through the prism of his written words and also of his literary predilections. In fact, much of the early chapters seem more devoted to what Lincoln read as a child and while he was growing up, than what he wrote. This is not surprising as it is true for most of us through the first two decades of life: what we read as a child can help to shape how we think and write about the world that we are a part of. Kaplan also repeatedly refers to Lincoln as an "autodidact", so much so that it starts to get slightly annoying. Kaplan pays a lot of attention to what Lincoln writes during the 1830s and 40s - a critical period in Lincoln's life. These two decades see Lincoln become a politician by being elected to the Illinois State Legislature, and then one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also launches his legal career, based on his own hard work and devotion at learning a craft from scratch. Kaplan notes Lincoln's political thought, and how he had an abhorrence of slavery well before he was elected President, something that he used to try to counter some later charges that he was a Johnny come lately to the anti-slavery cause. Kaplan does not dwell over any one particular speech or group of speeches. The famous 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas are reviewed, but only in a general way. Part of the reason for this is because there are no verbatim transcripts of the speeches. Part of the reason is that these speeches were meant more for scoring points with the public in the heated campaign to become Senator, rather than for posterity. Also, entire books have been written about those debates, so Kaplan sees no reason to trample through already beaten ground. What does seem to be missing is the absence of any of Lincoln's wartime correspondence: the numerous letters that he exchanged with high-profile figures such as Horace Greeley, and the letters that he wrote to everyday people, whether it be letters of condolence for the loss of a soldier or the gentle rejection of a patronage job. There is no mention at all of the actual military battles other than Lincoln speaking at Gettysburg. Again, these aspects of Lincoln and his life are covered in so many other books that Kaplan does not think they need to be rehashed here. However, some more analysis of the major literary works of his presidency would have been nice. Kaplan spends so much time on Lincoln's earlier writings, that once he gets to the well-known ones of his presidency, they seem to be treated with a little less enthusiasm and critique. Again, perhaps this is because they have been gone over so many times before. But more discussion of his two Inaugural Addresses would have been welcome.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lewis Millholland

    My grandboss asked me in our monthly 1:1 why I'd gotten the flu shot and I answered to increase herd immunity. That wasn't the answer he wanted and he asked more pointed questions until his inquiry culminated in: "You know how they make flu shots, right?" To which I answered, "Yes," which was also the right answer. He knew there was an element of annual guesswork in choosing the flu strains to prevent against and he wanted me to know that he knew. But I wasn't mad, because I've been the same way. My grandboss asked me in our monthly 1:1 why I'd gotten the flu shot and I answered to increase herd immunity. That wasn't the answer he wanted and he asked more pointed questions until his inquiry culminated in: "You know how they make flu shots, right?" To which I answered, "Yes," which was also the right answer. He knew there was an element of annual guesswork in choosing the flu strains to prevent against and he wanted me to know that he knew. But I wasn't mad, because I've been the same way. I used to do it even worse. That I would walk up to someone knew at a party and demand "I bet you thought the Civil War was about states' rights" isn't too much of a hyperbole. And it *is* neat to learn a rare piece of knowledge. Kaplan's book did this for me with Lincoln's image of white supremacy and his near-lifelong atheism (or possibly deism). What I've learned though is there's a time and there's a place to bring up this record-correcting knowledge and I'm grateful that if I don't fully understand the appropriate context at least I'm much, much further along the path than I used to be. My favorite non-political story in *Lincoln* is "Abe and the Five-Dollar Prostitute." Lincoln's made a friend in Illinois named Joshua Speed who has near-exclusive privileges to a prostitute in town, privileges that he extends to Lincoln. So Lincoln goes to the woman and the two are buck-naked when Honest Abe remembers to ask her price. "Five dollars," she answers. Abe only had three dollars and he knew it. Rather than going through with the sex and underpaying her he redressed himself and tried to give her the three dollars he did have for her time, but she refused. Cute anecdotes like that are few and far between in this biography that suffers from a rigid conformance to the chronological story. The start and ending are weak, leaving a bit of a dull taste in the mouth, but the middle episodes where Lincoln is inventing himself as a lawyer and a statesman and an orator are rich. Easily the best parts of the book. One interesting tidbit: Lincoln was a bit like my grandboss at first, eager to start fights with people who had less knowledge than he did, relishing the opportunity to correct the record and prove his superior understanding. Of course this faded away and he moved more towards a rhetoric of conciliation, at least somewhat -- he did wage war agains the South, after all.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard Subber

    This is a book I could put down. I did. I give it good marks for subject, elegant delivery of good information, prose style, and the author’s literate assessment of primary sources. Lincoln is the most written-about president, with good reason. Kaplan offers a well-informed, systematic investigation of Lincoln’s reading habits and writing skills. I know a published author who widely and deeply savored the exploration of Lincoln’s love affair with language and meaning. Likewise, I’m a writer and I wa This is a book I could put down. I did. I give it good marks for subject, elegant delivery of good information, prose style, and the author’s literate assessment of primary sources. Lincoln is the most written-about president, with good reason. Kaplan offers a well-informed, systematic investigation of Lincoln’s reading habits and writing skills. I know a published author who widely and deeply savored the exploration of Lincoln’s love affair with language and meaning. Likewise, I’m a writer and I was intrigued by much of what Kaplan offered in the first 100 pages or so. I’m a historian. I am intuitively drawn to the longue durée concept of history and historical analysis, and its emphasis on the complex dynamics of deeply rooted, persistent structure underlying social, economic, and political transformations. I explicitly reject the “great man” theory of history and historical analysis. I am actually disinclined to give credence to a biographer’s undocumented assertions that his subject “might have given credence to” anything in particular, or that his subject “must have believed” something or other, or that his subject “embraced as his own the melancholy of [Gray’s] ‘Elegy,’ [but] did not share, as a young man, its dark stoicism.” Kaplan’s text is filled with statements like these. They aren’t to my taste. After 100 pages or so, I put the book down. Read more of my book reviews and poems here: www.richardsubber.com

  18. 5 out of 5

    alex guns

    Lincoln was the first person to be a published poet before taking the office of the president (there’s an argument JQA was as well but without going in detail here, it’s obviously false). How we see the civil war is due largely to his work in framing and reframing the northern cause through his writing. There may be no way to know a historical figure as protean as Lincoln, but looking at the books he loved, emulated, and transcended is probably the best place to dig. That’s why this is a hard tw Lincoln was the first person to be a published poet before taking the office of the president (there’s an argument JQA was as well but without going in detail here, it’s obviously false). How we see the civil war is due largely to his work in framing and reframing the northern cause through his writing. There may be no way to know a historical figure as protean as Lincoln, but looking at the books he loved, emulated, and transcended is probably the best place to dig. That’s why this is a hard two-star rating. While the book has solid literary analysis of Lincoln’s writings, it is buried under boilerplate biography. A common problem in popular history- the volume, no matter the conceit, has to be something for everyone, resulting in a good 100-page book lost in 350 pages ripped from an Encyclopedia. This is an egregious example of this trend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nick Woodall

    This was an excellent book. It really focused on Lincoln's writings and how he drafted them, especially giving homage to his word choice. Woven throughout the book was history writ large. I read this book at the same time I was reading Team of Rivals. It was very interesting reading both books and seeing how they meshed, and especially what Lincoln thought as we was writing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This is an exceptional book. Having said that, the writing was a bit verbose.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mike Sigler

    If your favorite president is Lincoln, this is a good book to read and adds insights into Lincoln as a writer.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sparrow

    This is a vexing book, a book that disappoints almost with every line. Yet like Lincoln himself, it loses all the battles and wins the war. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer is the first book to propose Lincoln as an intellectual, and its argument is beautiful and convincing. Lincoln was not exactly a politician, despite his talents at manipulating friends and enemies. Basically, he spent the 1850s articulating a single argument, against the spread of slavery. Eventually his argument was so com This is a vexing book, a book that disappoints almost with every line. Yet like Lincoln himself, it loses all the battles and wins the war. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer is the first book to propose Lincoln as an intellectual, and its argument is beautiful and convincing. Lincoln was not exactly a politician, despite his talents at manipulating friends and enemies. Basically, he spent the 1850s articulating a single argument, against the spread of slavery. Eventually his argument was so compelling he won the nomination of the newborn Republican Party. Because four candidates were running for president, Lincoln squeaked in to the White House, winning not a single Southern state. (In most of them, he wasn't on the ballot.) Meanwhile, he was writing -- sometimes actual poetry! Lincoln's poems are lousy, but determined. Says Kaplan: In the same letter to [Andrew] Johnston he fulfilled his promise to send a copy of a poem he admired, "Mortality," the name of whose author neither Johnston nor Lincoln knew because it had been published anonymously... When Johnston intimated that Lincoln might be its author, the latter made clear how much he aspired to write such excellent verses. "I would give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is." (Lincoln was wrong. "Mortality" is doggerel, like a lot of the poetry he loved.) (Andrew Johnston was the editor the Quincy Whig, a newspaper in Quincy, Illinois.) Abraham Lincoln was a contemporary of Karl Marx, and theorized about labor, just as Marx did. In major areas, the two men agreed. But Lincoln was a born entrepreneur, and saw life entrepreneurially. At times, he was even a writing entrepreneur, creating a weird lecture on the history of inventions in April, 1858, with the goal of becoming a celebrated public speaker. The more I read Lincoln's words, the more complex he grows. Incidentally, here is the second stanza of the best Lincoln poem, "The Bear Hunt": When first my father settled here, 'Twas then the frontier line: The panthers scream, filled night with fear And bears preyed on the swine.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John

    Certainly the most intimate portrait of our 16th President, the man, that I have ever read. The book concentrates on Lincoln's formative years prior to assuming the Presidency and delves into his literary and intellectual development as a person and writer. The influences of the Bible, Shakespeare, Burns, Byron, Emerson, Aesop's Fables and others are played out and highlighted. Lincoln wrote all of his own speeches and position papers and his utilization of clear, simple and precise linguistic t Certainly the most intimate portrait of our 16th President, the man, that I have ever read. The book concentrates on Lincoln's formative years prior to assuming the Presidency and delves into his literary and intellectual development as a person and writer. The influences of the Bible, Shakespeare, Burns, Byron, Emerson, Aesop's Fables and others are played out and highlighted. Lincoln wrote all of his own speeches and position papers and his utilization of clear, simple and precise linguistic technique and language, has never been paralleled. Unquestionably the most astute and artistic writer to have ever graced the highest office of the land. William Seward who was to be the new Secretary of State - and this was the only occasion where Lincoln received any assistance on any writing or speech - proposed a paragraph to conclude the draft of the first Inaugural Address as follows: "The mystic chords which proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriot graves pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours will yet again harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation" Lincoln embraced the words but instead sang with: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living hearth and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." You choose!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Kaplan analyzes the growth of our greatest Presidential writer, from his childhood reading and writing up through the final speech Lincoln gave a few days before his assassination. You won't find here a lengthy analysis of the most famous speeches (after all, there are whole books on the Gettysburg Address and maybe even the Second Inaugural), but thoughtful ideas on almost every page. I can't help but be amazed at how this man with so little formal education became so literate and eloquent. His Kaplan analyzes the growth of our greatest Presidential writer, from his childhood reading and writing up through the final speech Lincoln gave a few days before his assassination. You won't find here a lengthy analysis of the most famous speeches (after all, there are whole books on the Gettysburg Address and maybe even the Second Inaugural), but thoughtful ideas on almost every page. I can't help but be amazed at how this man with so little formal education became so literate and eloquent. His reading of literature surely strengthened his humanity and his wisdom, though of course other well-read politicians have been lesser figures. But as a writing teacher, it is encouraging to see literacy and political greatness integrated in one person, and to see rhetoric put to such good use. Not that Lincoln was perfect--like his contemporaries, he was very prejudiced against American Indians, for example, and seemed to have no sympathy to spare for them despite his work against slavery--but he grew, and his instincts were often right, and he was probably the best leader for the occasion. At any rate, if you are as interested in Lincoln as I am, add this to your list of Lincoln books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter Pactor

    This was a particularly good book for someone who would like to be a writer and for someone who would like to know more about Lincoln. When Mr. Kaplan sticks to the development of Lincoln's writing, the content is very good; however, where he digresses into other areas and makes assumptions which I believe he hasn't the evidence for, he seems to err in some of his conclusions. I found myself asking: Where did you get this? or Why do you think so? Upon rereading I couldn't find the answer. Neverthe This was a particularly good book for someone who would like to be a writer and for someone who would like to know more about Lincoln. When Mr. Kaplan sticks to the development of Lincoln's writing, the content is very good; however, where he digresses into other areas and makes assumptions which I believe he hasn't the evidence for, he seems to err in some of his conclusions. I found myself asking: Where did you get this? or Why do you think so? Upon rereading I couldn't find the answer. Nevertheless, I believe Mr. Kaplan has chosen a very important topic for those who admire Lincoln for the man he was and for his writing. In my book, Daniel: The Age of Anxiety, which should be available by the end of February, there is a discussion of Lincoln's writings, and also in my third book which is currently being written, the discussion continues. I believe that if you want to become a good writer, Lincoln should be one of the writers you study. I recommend that you read Mr. Kaplan's book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This is a wonderful volume. Kaplan is a good story teller, having studied so many fine story tellers. He spends a lot of time setting up his character of Lincoln, as to what he read as a child and his growing thirst, tracking down when and what material was or may have been available to Lincoln at a young age and from what source they sprang from. He speculates Lincoln as a free verse poet, before the recognition of it as a style. He looks at Lincoln as the speech writer, but also as a sharer on This is a wonderful volume. Kaplan is a good story teller, having studied so many fine story tellers. He spends a lot of time setting up his character of Lincoln, as to what he read as a child and his growing thirst, tracking down when and what material was or may have been available to Lincoln at a young age and from what source they sprang from. He speculates Lincoln as a free verse poet, before the recognition of it as a style. He looks at Lincoln as the speech writer, but also as a sharer on anecdotes and a romantic. The first few chapters and the last two are the most stellar, not slighting the midsection by any means. Kaplan provides and interesting Annotated Bibliography for any scholar or curious seeker as to where he was looking. Wonderful read, that stretched my vocabulary and my knowledge of literature available and popular to Americans in the 19th century.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Kaplan makes a compelling case for the proposition that President Lincoln's literary side is integral to his greatness. Although the book is subtitled "The Biography of a Writer," it is at least as much the biography of a reader. Among the more interesting processes one observes here is the fusion of Lincoln's fundamentalist upbringing with his innate agnosticism. We also perceive the development of a first-rate political mind unafraid to invoke the poison pen when necessary. And what's more, we Kaplan makes a compelling case for the proposition that President Lincoln's literary side is integral to his greatness. Although the book is subtitled "The Biography of a Writer," it is at least as much the biography of a reader. Among the more interesting processes one observes here is the fusion of Lincoln's fundamentalist upbringing with his innate agnosticism. We also perceive the development of a first-rate political mind unafraid to invoke the poison pen when necessary. And what's more, we are reminded happily of one of the finest things about our sixteenth president -- he is one of the very few holders of that office to have written nearly all of the words attributed to him by history, making worthwhile an exercise such as this book's.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Lincoln is perhaps one of the most-written-about figures in American history, so it's a challenge to find a new angle to approach him from. It's a challenge Kaplan attempts but does not quite meet in a book about Lincoln specifically as a writer, examining his literary influences. Unfortunately, in the absence of definite evidence, much of Kaplan's book takes the form of "Considering X was published when Lincoln was 20, and was very popular, is it not possible it affected his thinking and writin Lincoln is perhaps one of the most-written-about figures in American history, so it's a challenge to find a new angle to approach him from. It's a challenge Kaplan attempts but does not quite meet in a book about Lincoln specifically as a writer, examining his literary influences. Unfortunately, in the absence of definite evidence, much of Kaplan's book takes the form of "Considering X was published when Lincoln was 20, and was very popular, is it not possible it affected his thinking and writing?" It's an interesting take, but there's too much conjecture going on to be a solid work for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Biographies are hit or miss. If its someone you really like you can sit there and soak up the gory details, but if its someone you are just discovering, who really cares what kind of woman his great aunt Trudy was? The cool thing about this biography is that it had a theme. It looked at how Lincoln was a product of what he read. I swear that is the only reason I made it through the whole thing. Otherwise it would have been just one fact after another, an exercise in memorization, and I would not Biographies are hit or miss. If its someone you really like you can sit there and soak up the gory details, but if its someone you are just discovering, who really cares what kind of woman his great aunt Trudy was? The cool thing about this biography is that it had a theme. It looked at how Lincoln was a product of what he read. I swear that is the only reason I made it through the whole thing. Otherwise it would have been just one fact after another, an exercise in memorization, and I would not have retained much. It was well written and well organized. I only got bored once or twice and it shifted gears before I stopped caring. It was a great summary of this man.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Constantin Minov

    A stoical character, an entirely self-taught man with a strong work ethic.Lincoln was obsessed with words, for him each sentence had to be well crafted and each public speech had to be well polished. He was also obsessed with learning because he understood that manual labor wouldn't get him any opportunity to change his poverty status. This book is about what Lincoln did as a word crafter and how his public speaking skills made him became one of best well-spoken president of the US. This book br A stoical character, an entirely self-taught man with a strong work ethic.Lincoln was obsessed with words, for him each sentence had to be well crafted and each public speech had to be well polished. He was also obsessed with learning because he understood that manual labor wouldn't get him any opportunity to change his poverty status. This book is about what Lincoln did as a word crafter and how his public speaking skills made him became one of best well-spoken president of the US. This book brings up also a lot of historical evidence about slavery and politic debates. Worth reading for those who are studying american history.

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