With Malice toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen B. Oates

Abraham_Lincoln_O-116_by_Gardner,_1865-cropFor many this was the definitive biography of Lincoln until Doris Kearns Goodwin’s magisterial Team of Rivals.

It is still a fine introduction to the life and times of America’s greatest president, though the comparative lack of attention on the Lincoln’s cabinet relationships leads to a much less rich discussion of his presidency than Kearns Goodwin so brilliantly achieved. In particular the warmth of the friendship with Seward is not fully explored and there is no discussion of the attempt on Seward’s life that parallelled the killing of Lincoln.

But there is still much to recommend this. It has a more detailed focus than Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln’s youth and career before his achievement of a national profile with his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that led him to the presidency. And it is written in an engaging and laconic style that echoes Lincoln’s own voice.

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