The legacy of Abraham Lincoln looms even larger these days. The 16th president has been in the spotlight lately as events in the Civil War hit their 150th anniversary. And it's shining brighter now that Steven Spielberg's blockbuster film, “Lincoln,” is showing in area theaters and getting lots of award-season buzz.
Diana Abbott, manager of the Bookworm in Omaha, says she has seen an increase in sales of books about Lincoln, both new ones and some that have been around for a while.
That's especially true for “Team of Rivals” by Pulitzer-prize winner author Doris Kearns Goodwin, who also has written about other presidents. Spielberg's movie is based on that book.
Abbott said she thinks these biographies of historical people resonate because they present a side of someone readers may not have seen.
“Through terrific writing and research, we find out that people aren't one-dimensional,” she said.
For your Christmas lists, here's a sampling of books about Lincoln, his administration and the war.
“Team of Rivals: 'Lincoln' Film Tie-in Edition”
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Simon & Schuster, 2012
This is the book the movie “Lincoln” is based on, written by a Pulitzer-prize winning biographer of several other presidents and originally published in 2005. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was working with director Steven Spielberg on another project in the late 1990s, and happened to mention she planned to write a Lincoln book. He immediately said he wanted the rights. Here's what a New York Times reviewer said: “Can there be anything new to say about our 16th president? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. ... Doris Kearns Goodwin has written an elegant, incisive study of Lincoln and leading members of his cabinet that will appeal to experts as well as to those whose knowledge of Lincoln is an amalgam of high school history and popular mythology.”
“Lincoln: A President for the Ages”
This book, timed to the release of the movie, asks noted historians to answer the question “What would Lincoln do” in a number of contemporary situations, from gay rights to the war on terror and Facebook. “Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner, a Pulitzer-prize winning playwright, enthusiastically endorsed this book.
“Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man”
Simon & Schuster, 2012
William Henry Seward was President Lincoln's secretary of state and closest adviser, so you learn a lot about the 16th president — and the Civil War — from reading about this integral member of his cabinet. Seward, played by David Strathairn, is a major character in the “Lincoln” film. He's also known for the purchase of Alaska, seen as a folly but in reality the beginning of America's path to becoming a world empire. Said author Doris Kearns Goodwin: “This magnificent biography finally provides what William Henry Seward so justly deserves — a full, terrific and complex portrait of his endlessly fascinating life.”
“Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever”
Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard
Holt, Henry and Co., 2011
This narrative about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by Fox Network commentator Bill O'Reilly has been around since 2011, but it's coming out in paperback for $16.99 in February. It takes readers from the end of the Civil War to the fateful night Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre, through the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth to executions. When it came out, a deputy superintendent at the theater, now a National Park Service site, said it had inaccuracies and that the theater's gift shop wouldn't sell it. Even so, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for multiple weeks. The publisher said four minor mistakes were corrected in subsequent printings.
“Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict”
Harvard University Press, 2013
In this book, available by mail order in time for Christmas, the author examines the seven 1858 Senate debates between Lincoln and incumbent Stephen Douglas, contending that the legitimacy of democratic governance, not just slavery, was on the line.
“Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker”
Dutton, 2013 (pre-orders available)
Author of the bestselling “Elm Creek Quilts” series, Chiaverini returns to historical storytelling, which she has said is one of her favorite genres. In an October interview with The World-Herald, she said research is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. In this novel, Chiaverini tells the story of Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and her “modiste,” the real-life Elizabeth Keckley, who created a quilt out of scraps from Mrs. Lincoln's gowns. Keckley, too, is represented in the “Lincoln” film, played by Gloria Reuben.
“Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America: A Companion Book for Young Readers to the Steven Spielberg Film”
Newmarket for It Books, 2012
The “Lincoln” film is focused on the president's final months in office, an eventful period in which he worked to end the Civil War, reunite America and abolish slavery. Holzer's book for young people helps explain Lincoln's life and his evolving beliefs about slavery. The author, one of the country's leading authorities on Lincoln, was a consultant on the film.
“Abraham Lincoln: Birth of a New Freedom”
By Lewis Helfand, Art by Manikandan
Campfire, 2013 (pre-orders available)
This is a graphic novel in Campfire publishing's Heroes series, telling an inspiring story about the president born into poverty in a log cabin. In 108 illustrated pages, children will learn about Lincoln's courage, his desire to learn despite having little formal education and how that thirst for knowledge paid off: He became a lawyer, a senator, the president and now a legendary historical figure.