The Bottom Line
- Covers the entirety of Lincoln's life
- Particularly informative about Lincoln's early years
- Well-written narrative which includes compelling details
- May leave reader wanting more details on specific periods
- A solidly written comprehensive biography.
- Written in a highly informative yet lively style.
- Inclusion of details provide color and texture to the narrative.
- The book provides a solid foundation for further readings on Lincoln.
Guide Review - With Malice Toward None by Stephen B. Oates
In the countless books on Abraham Lincoln are titles focusing on Lincoln as husband, father, lawyer, politician, and wartime president. Many other books examine Lincoln's personality and mental state from every conceivable angle.
What sometimes seems to be missing is an excellent general introduction to Lincoln. And when asked about this on a C-SPAN special that kicked off the Lincoln Bicentennial, some experts lauded a book published more than 30 years ago, With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen B. Oates.
The book begins with some lively descriptions of Lincoln's father and grandfather, and ends, nearly 450 pages later, with Lincoln's funeral train taking his body back home to Springfield, Illinois. And while the entire 56-year span of Lincoln's life is covered, Oates manages to weave a lot of evocative detail into the narrative.
For instance, we learn about the ill-fitting clothes the young Lincoln was wearing when first seen in Illinois, and we also learn that he was lying on a couch in the War Department telegraph office when news of the disaster at Bull Run reached him.
In terms of ideas, With Malice Toward None also charts Lincoln's development as self-educated lawyer to shockingly effective politician. And in the realm of the personal, the book describes Lincoln as son, husband, father, and friend.
The book is well-organized, with the pages nearly evenly divided between Lincoln's life before and after entering the White House.
The book reads well, is highly informative, and sorts out the facts from myths that developed over time. And while the book is likely to leave a reader wanting more detail about particular periods, that may be a good thing. Consider With Malice Toward None as a very solid starting place for learning about Lincoln.