Abraham Lincoln

Janet Clapp

February 12 is the birthday of one of our most famous and arguably greatest presidents. Below is a sample of the numerous titles, both fiction and fact, that have been written about the man.

0209-rhv-booksafriendofmrli‘A Friend of Mr. Lincoln’

by Stephen Harrigan

In this novel, we see Lincoln before he ascends to the presidency. Poet Cage Weatherby meets Abraham Lincoln in 1832 during the Black Hawk War, when Lincoln is in his 20s. “He was young — or so Cage would remember him. He did not seem young at the time…He was not as freakishly remarkable in his appearance as it would later become fashionable to recall. Lincoln was exquisitely self-conscious, thought he was ugly, and later reckoned he had no choice but to promote himself as such. But it was his height and strength that marked him in Cage’s mind that day, his height and strength and something else — the fact that he introduced himself to Cage when none of the other men he was with bothered to do so, and the plaintive note of human comradeship in his eyes when Cage returned the handshake.” In 1836 their paths cross again, and these ambitious Illinois men become friends. Cage views Lincoln as a popular Whig who tells long, bawdy stories and falls into deep depressions. Cage witnesses the courtship of Mary Todd and the political maneuverings of Lincoln. “The question crossed Cage’s mind that morning: was there really a future for Abraham Lincoln? He could descend so swiftly and completely into brooding melancholy, he was such a fatalist when it came to God and salvation and the truth of the Bible, he let himself revisit so frequently the theme of self-annihilation, that for all his great promise he seemed like a man who might not live.”

0209-rhv-booksiamabraham‘I am Abraham: a Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War’

by Jermone Charyn

Told from Lincoln’s viewpoint in a frank and folksy tone, sometimes with coarse language, this is the story of Lincoln’s life, beginning with his arrival in New Salem, Illinois in 1831. He does odd jobs before getting into politics. “And since I was a flatboatman who had come pitching out of the Sangamon’s waters, I was looked upon as the pilot who would initiate the Springfield-New Salem run. But the Legislature at Vandalia wouldn’t risk such an enterprise — it was filled with drunken louts who didn’t care a whit about New Salem. And that’s why the luminaries wanted their vagabond, Abe Lincoln, to battle for a seat in the lower house.” He meets Mary Todd: “I ought to have been locked up, an officer of the court who was so damn lascivious. I’d imagine her dancing without a stitch.” The book concludes at the end of the Civil War in 1865. “It was as if my damn life had been a trajectory to this very moment, from my near drowning in the Sangamon to the ravelment of war that entangled all our lives — President and plumber, pilot and vivandière, contraband and Copperhead.”

0209-rhv-bookstheimpeeachme‘The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln’

by Stephen L. Carter

In this alternative history, Carter imagines that Lincoln survived the attempt on his life and is being impeached for abuse of power. “It was late winter of 1867, nearly two years after the end of the war, and reporters were inventing rumors almost faster than their editors could print them. The nation, everyone agreed, was a mess. If only it had been old Abe who was shot dead that night instead of Andy Johnson, his Vice-President. If Johnson were President now — so moaned the editorial writers — the nation would be in considerably better shape.” An intelligent young black woman, Abigail Canner, just started working for Lincoln’s defense counsel when one of the lawyers is murdered. Politics and mysteries surround Lincoln’s trial. “Abigail frowned and puzzled, but could connect the peculiar note with nothing in her experience. Though she was no expert, the numbers looked to her like a code. In this city of conspiracies and fears, of plots and unknown sources, the President’s lawyer had been receiving coded messages from a colored woman; and now they both were dead.”


by David Herbert Donald

In this biography, Pulitzer-winning author Donald describes Abraham Lincoln’s life, starting with his birth and boyhood in Kentucky. “In general, young Lincoln seems to have been an entirely average little boy, who enjoyed playing, hunting, and fishing. Perhaps he was quieter than his playmates and kept his clothes clean longer, but there was not much to distinguish him.” As an adult he “tried nearly every other kind of work the frontier offered: carpenter, riverboat man, store clerk, soldier, merchant, postmaster, blacksmith, surveyor, lawyer, politician. Experience eliminated all but the last two of these possibilities, and by the time he was thirty the direction of his career was firmly established.”

The Rutland Free Library has the titles above and many others about Abraham Lincoln.

Happy reading!

Janet Clapp

Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.

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