Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
It’s not often that I so enjoy book that I was assigned for class (in this case, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II) that I finish the class and seek out other books by the author. But I did this time.
In Team of Rivals, Kearns Goodwin deftly juggles multiple biographies of Abraham Lincoln and the three men he incorporated into his cabinet after beating them for the Republican Presidential nomination. Lincoln’s ability to convince them to join his administration, and change them from rivals to allies after assembling them into a team showcases his political brilliance. Political history is usually one of my least favorite areas of history (military history being the absolute least), but if all political histories were as engrossing as this one I’d have to stop generally avoiding the subgenre.
When I originally selected this book to feature it during my 31 Days series, I randomly selected it to run on October 16. Only afterwards did I discover that this fantastic biography has been adapted into a movie, Lincoln, and it’s premiering today. While I don’t believe for a second that the book will be as good as the movie (how can it; the book is over 900 pages so the movie has to leave out tremendous amounts of interesting material), I’m quite intrigued by the idea of it as a movie, and may have to check it out eventually.
The acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius in a highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.
On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.
Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency. Lincoln succeeded because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.
It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.
This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln’s mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation’s history.
If you want still more Kearns Goodwin, she’s also written Wait Till Next Year – A Memoir, which my mother has raved over and encouraged me to read. I haven’t yet because she gave me a copy of the book and the tyranny of the library has always kept me from getting to it. And of course there’s No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, the book that got me interested in Kearns Goodwin in the first place.
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads, go to the series page.
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