Reviews for A. Lincoln
“Ronald C. White’s A. Lincoln is the best biography of Lincoln since David Donald’s Lincoln (1995). In many respects it is better than Donald’s biography, because it has incorporated the scholarship of the past fourteen years and is written in a fluent style that will appeal to a large range of general readers as well as Lincoln aficionados. The special strengths of A. Lincoln that lift it above other biographies include a brilliant analysis of Lincoln’s principal speeches and writings, which were an important weapon in his political leadership and statesmanship, and on which Ron White is the foremost expert, having written two major books on Lincoln’s speeches and writings. Another strength is White’s analysis of Lincoln’s evolving religious convictions, which shaped the core of his effective leadership, his moral integrity. White’s discussion of Lincoln’s changing attitudes and policies with respect to slavery and race is also a key aspect of this biography. Amid all the books on Lincoln that will be published during the coming year, this one will stand out as one of the best.”
–James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom and This Mighty Scourge
“A beautifully written, deeply personal story of Lincoln’s life and service to his country. Ron White’s moving account is particularly strong in its analyses of Lincoln’s rhetoric and the process by which the President reached decisions.”
–Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848.
“Each generation requires—and seems to inspire—its own masterful one-volume Lincoln biography, and scholar Ronald C. White has crowned the bicentennial year with an instant classic for the 21st century. Wise, scholarly, even-handed, and elegant, the book at once informs and inspires, with a rewarding new emphasis on the complex meaning and timeless importance of Lincoln’s great words. Brimming with new anecdotes and informed interpretations, White’s superb study brings vivid new life to an American immortal.”
–Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln: President-Elect, co-chairman, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
“Lincoln is endlessly chronicled because he is, like the nation he saved, endlessly fascinating. Ronald White has written a splendid, sprawling biography of a man we can never know too much about.”
–Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House; Editor, Newsweek.
Huntington Library fellow White (The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words, 2005, etc.) offers a lively, comprehensive life of the 16th president.
Known variously throughout his career as “Honest Abe,” “Old Abe,” “the Rail-Splitter,” “the original gorilla,” “the dictator,” “the Great Emancipator” and “Father Abraham,” Lincoln referred to himself in famously self-deprecating terms and signed his name simply as “A. Lincoln.” That’s all that was simple, though, about this unusually “shut-mouthed” man, who from youth burned for public distinction. White’s highly readable, picturesque presentation follows Lincoln’s life from the pioneer birth and boyhood to the presidential assassination, with especially good passages on Lincoln’s ancestry, his Springfield law practice and his emergence from the political wilderness in 1858. White doesn’t shy away from Lincoln’s shortcomings—his ferocious ambition, his opportunism, his woeful performance as a husband—but this mostly admiring treatment highlights his virtues, not least his ability to draw on the talents of diverse personalities, use the best of their advice and deftly manipulate them to advantage, whether as a militia captain, a state legislator, a party organizer a candidate or a president. White’s triumph, though, is his focus on the forging of Lincoln’s moral character—how the private man used contemplation, reading, experience, the press of events and the teachings of his political heroes to clarify his own political identity. Splendidly, and unsurprisingly given his past scholarship, White pays particular attention to language, referencing the innumerable scraps of paper Lincoln wrote to himself, public and private letters and formal addresses. He graphically depicts Lincoln thinking, first tentatively, and then logically working through the thicket of a problem to a lawyerly understanding and, finally, with his singular combination of “homely and high language,” to an exquisite expression of meaning and purpose.
Likely to be frequently cited during the bicentennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth.
–The November 15, 2008 edition of Kirkus Reviews
How daunting it must be for any biographer to take on Lincoln’s life in this crowded literary marketplace! But this thoroughly researched book belongs on the A-list of major biographies of the tall Illinoisan; it’s a worthy companion for all who admire Lincoln’s prose and his ability to see into, and explain, America’s greatest crisis.
—The Washngton Post by David W. Blight