Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  50,667 ratings  ·  4,375 reviews
The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understa...more
Paperback, 944 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2005)
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Dana Stabenow
I heard Goodwin talk about this book on NPR, and she sounded like she'd been an eyewitness to the events. Sold me the book.

On June 17th--I've been a hundred pages from the end for ten days. I don't want Abe to die.

July 17th -- Okay, I finally made myself finish. Abe's dead and I'm a wreck.

In this book Goodwin puts Abraham Lincoln in the context of his peers, many of whom ran against him for the first Republican nomination for president (remember they'd just invented that party) and one of whom,...more
Ellis
I would have given this book more stars if I could have. I think I loved this book so much because Abraham Lincoln was such an absolutely amazing person. We are all taught that Lincoln was one of America's great presidents, and we know that he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but he is so much greater of a man than I ever knew. Lincoln was super smart, wise, and incredibly compassionate and empathetic. While unsure of his own faith, Lincoln, through his own care for others, was so much more...more
Matt
As a history lover, I'm a bit of a snob. While everyone is rushing to purchase the newest warm-milk entry from David McCullough, I make a show of purchasing turgid, poorly edited treatises put out by university presses about some guy who did something long ago that doesn't really matter anymore. Of course, as every snob eventually learns, being snobbish is like slamming a hammer down on your thumb: you only hurt yourself; and everyone thinks you're an idiot.

When it was published, Team of Rivals...more
Kemper
(Please forgive me resorting to a tired trick and leading off with a definition from the dictionary, but there is a point to it.)

pol-i-ti-cian

1: a person experienced in the art or science of government; especially : one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government

2A : a person engaged in party politics as a profession

2B: a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short-sighted reasons


Americans these days seem to think that 2B is the only...more
Sue
Put aside whatever you're reading now--yes, even those compelling vampire/romance books--and pick up this book. It's that good. Even though Goodwin is writing about Lincoln's cabinet, her work is eerily contemporary, given Obama's situation. Everyone but a handful of people thought Lincoln had risen too fast and was too untried to take charge of a desperate crises facing the country. Goodwin uses the main characters' diaries, letters, journals, and speeches to show how that opinion gradually cha...more
Sydney
Jun 01, 2008 Sydney rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sydney by: Book review
Biographies aren't always boring tomes. Doris Kearns Goodwin does a magnificent job of detailing how Abraham Lincoln, a lesser known and ill-positioned candidate captures the Republican party's nomination, goes on to get elected President, and leads America through the tumult of the Civil War.

While most of us know Lincoln as "honest Abe" and the President who emancipated slaves, Kearns-Goodwin offers a portrait of a man who took many of the men who'd he'd beaten out as the republican nominee int...more
James Thane
In 1860, the fledgling Republican Party nominated its second candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Four men competed for the honor: William Seward, a U.S. Senator, former governor of New York and one of the most honored and experienced politicians of his day; Edward Bates, a former congressman from Missouri; Salmon P. Chase, a former U.S. Senator and former governor of Ohio who had played a significant role in founding the party; and Abraham Lincoln, until very recently a little-kno...more
Karen Canova
I've always thought Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president in U.S. history, and now, after reading Team of Rivals, I'm convinced of that. His political genius allowed him to harness the talents and tame the “lesser angels” among his many rivals – the political and social cream of the crop in the 1840s-50s. This very humble, self-deprecating man, who lacked formal education and experienced so much sorrow early in life, was pitted against tough competition his entire life -- part of his greatn...more
Chrissie
ETA: Lincoln's death in 1865 is covered, but not in detail. I will now read "They Have Killed Papa Dead!": The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance

I think the book IS good. But Lincoln was much more of a shrewd politician than an honest, moral individual and a fun loving storyteller. I did come to admire him. With talent he got people of opposing views to work together toward a common goal. This was no small accomplishment. His lack of malice is exceptiona...more
Cindy
(I thought it would make sense to start this while I'm still reading Gone With the Wind.)

This isn't a straight-up biography of Lincoln. And it's certainly not a history of the Civil War. Instead it's a portrait of Lincoln, defined by the diverse men he surrounded himself with on his Cabinet. In particular, Goodwin focuses on the 4 major contenders in the Republican national convention: Lincoln, Seward, Chase and Bates. The better part of the book takes place leading up to Lincoln's 1860 election...more
Carol
Jun 10, 2008 Carol rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Carol by: Patty Johnson
Team of Rivals was a big undertaking for me at over 750 pages. What a treasure of a book. I had the feeling that you get with a good piece of fiction where you hate for the book to end. I felt like I was there, that I knew Lincoln. What a marvelous man, a moral man, a patient man. There were lessons between the covers of this book I would feel comfortable including in a talk in church. I have read other books about Lincoln and other books about the civil war, but to see Lincoln through the eyes...more
Mahlon
Feb 21, 2009 Mahlon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Mahlon by: Lincoln coverage on TV
Shelves: read-2009
Most readers would question the need for another Lincoln Biography at this point. After 200 years and numerous Biographies, is there anything new to learn about the man? In Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin answers that question with a resounding yes. Her focus is mainly on Lincoln as political operator. She explores this theme by looking at Lincoln through the eyes of his three greatest political rivals(and later cabinet members) William Seward, Salmon Chase, and Edward Bates. Goodwin begins...more
Jan-Maat
Although there are two books squeezed between the covers this remains readable.

The first book is an account of the competition for the Republican candidacy and the beginning of the Lincoln administration. Here is a slightly different story about the developing USA, the changing, growing country and the kinds of political careers and ambitions available to men in it. There is a very serious heavyweight argument I felt lurking in the prose that never comes to the forefront and possible never devel...more
MacK
I, like many young people, was often frustrated by history class. No matter what how hard I worked, or how much I studied we always seemed to run out of time to cover the really interesting parts of history, and I always felt short changed.

Few time periods frustrated me as much as the Civil War. We would spend weeks going over Manasses, and Shiloh and Sherman's march and I invariably felt that something was missing. Was it really just General v.s. General? What was Lincoln doing that made him so...more
Bill
Apr 06, 2008 Bill rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: every man-jack of you
I suspect I am now in love with Lincoln.

The book convincingly places him in the context of his peers and rivals for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination, then shows how he cannily and selflessly coaxed masterful performances out of each of these men as cabinet members during the civil war.

Once Goodwin gets to Lincoln's presidency, the book becomes more disciplined, treating major battles and even Booth's assassination conspiracy as peripheral. Rather, she focuses on Lincoln's steadfast...more
Michelle
I've long admired Abraham Lincoln, but this book increased that admiration by leaps and bounds.

It's almost ridiculous how politically adept Lincoln was - especially given his childhood, self taught, etc. It made me (the book) long for another president like Lincoln. He picked the men of his cabinet by their merits and by their spheres of influence. He had people from differing parties and people who flat out hated him. He was unswerving when he made up his mind - and 9 times out of 10 he was co...more
Samantha
Don't get me wrong. This is a good book, but it's not as good as I thought it would be or had heard it would be. I expected more from Doris Kearns Goodwin. It didn't go into the political genius as much as I wanted. It details the four men in Lincoln's cabinet that play a major role. It's more about them and their interactions than it is about Lincoln's political moves. There is a lot of interesting descriptions of the generals, but I got tired of the McClennan drama being detailed. I definitely...more
Steven Peterson
How many political leaders would select some of those who had been competitors for power to serve with them? This book explores just that question--with Abraham Loncoln as the leader who seated some of his top opponents for the Republican nomination for President in 1860 in his Cabinet. This is a multiple biography, demanding a well organized volume to keep the five key characters' lives and actions in focus. The key players who served on Lincoln's Cabinet whom Goodwin examines include Edwin Sta...more
Arminius
Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals refers to Abraham Lincoln’s choice of prior adversaries as his presidential cabinet. The first was the most famous Republican candidate for the 1860 presidential race. This was William Seward, the Governor of New York. Seward was a very bright, good story teller and ardently opposed to slavery. He was, in all likelihood, too liberal to get the Republican nomination. The Republican Party was made up of former Whig party, Know-Nothing party and anti-slavery democrats....more
Terri
This is the first time in a long time that I'm really sad the book came to and end. I feel as if I've lost a friend, and a wise one at that. Doris Goodwin does such a good job of placing you in Lincoln's cabinet meetings, learning his thoughts and words as recorded from them in personal diaries, by the end you feel as if you've known them all personally.

It was also interesting to learn about what the mood was in the country at that time. Lincoln was a master at judging the appropriate time to pr...more
Sarah
May 27, 2009 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
I sort of knew how this book was going to end (spoiler alert!), but I was still sad when Lincoln died. I picked it up because of all of the Obama hype, and I now understand why a president would want to emulate Lincoln. But it's one thing to say, this is the kind of man I want to be, and another, to not learn from his mistakes. Some of Lincoln's cabinet picks (and former rivals) worked out well -- Edwin Stanton and William Seward, for example. But things didn't work out so well with Salmon P. Ch...more
Kelly
An elegantly crafted epic that is as gripping of a read as a novel: history can be eminently entertaining. I heard Goodwin interviewed on Radio West and she describes researching this book for 10 years. She utilizes a richness of primary sources to give the reader the opportunity to know well not just Lincoln but the many who surrounded him.

I dreaded reaching the last pages of this book--there was only one way for it to end. The death of Lincoln, although foreshadowed, comes as abruptly in this...more
Wendy
Dec 29, 2013 Wendy rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Everyone who loves history
This was one of the most extraordinary books I have read in a very long time. The book is 757 pages long. Superbly edited -- not one word is wasted. It is so beautifully written that it reads like a novel. I learned so much about Lincoln, his cabinet and the political world of the time. These are just a few things -- very few -- that was a revelation to me.

1) Women played a major role in their husbands,fathers, brothers political lives. Some even worked as the manager of their male partners cam...more
Suzanne
Doris Kearns Goodwin's style in this well-researched biography isn't as smooth as in her previous books. I wondered if the taint of implied plagerism restricted her prose and influenced her writing. As always, everything is well-cited, but there is a dryness not present in her other books. The style is more McCullough/Ellis like than her usual clear Goodwinesque voice.
Nonetheless, in these times, it is amazing to imagine a President appointing his political rivals to his Cabinet. I learned far...more
Kat
I thoroughly enjoyed Team of Rivals. It took me a little longer than usual to get into the book, and as a result I almost want to go back and read the first half again as I think I would pick up much more a second time through.
Emily
Even though there has been numerous reviews before mine, I feel like my love for this book is incomplete if I can't share how this book has changed me. So, it looks like I can't constrain myself from giving a thorough review of this masterpiece.

From the first page, to the very last page of the epilogue, I find myself more and more enchanted each time I finished a chapter. I am not entirely sure if it's because of the fact that I am reading about one of my favorite Presidents of all time, or tha...more
Sarah
Dec 04, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: History & Political Buffs
I completely geeked out over this book. It's a bit slow-going at first, because it covers four families at once (and sometimes the information about Lincoln's rivals is more detailed, simply because their family members kept more diaries) but after becoming obsessed with all things political this year, I was delighted to lose myself in a past election and administration, and now I can't get enough of the time period.

Lincoln had to sneak into the White House during the night because there were ru...more
David
This is a wonderful biography, not just of Lincoln, but of the entire 'team.' It was full of revelations for me. I had always thought about slavery like Apu from the Simpsons, in the episode where he's applying for citizenship. The man administering the test asks him why the Civil War was fought, and Apu begins a long and complicated answer about the economics of the time and states' rights and such, and the testing guy waves him off and says, "Just say 'slavery.'" I knew that slavery was a big...more
Caroline
I can honestly say this is one of the best historical biographies I've ever read. Abraham Lincoln is such a giant of a man, such an incredible figure, and this book really does him justice. The phrase 'cometh the hour, cometh the man' is such a cliche, but it almost seems to ring true for Lincoln. He arose from practically nowhere to take the Republican nomination, won the Presidency, steered his country through the perils of war, and when that war was over and won, he died. It almost seems as t...more
Meg
Aug 21, 2008 Meg rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: the politically inclined
Probably only a three star for most people--but I love Lincoln so much that it got bumped up. There are innumerable Abe books out there, but I recommend this one to those of you with an interest in politics. It's amazing how Lincoln treated his enemies. Most would destroy them politically. HE PUT THEM IN HIS CABINET!! Gotta love a man with that much respect for intelligence that happens to disagree with his own.

If you haven't read anything about Lincoln before, choose a book NOW. So many people...more
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1476
Also credited as "Doris Kearns" on the first editions of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
More about Doris Kearns Goodwin...
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Wait Till Next Year The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream: The Most Revealing Portrait of a President and Presidential Power Ever Written

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“Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country - bigger than all the Presidents together.

We are still too near to his greatness,' (Leo) Tolstoy (in 1908) concluded, 'but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.' (748)”
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“An adult friend of Lincoln's: "Life was to him a school.” 8 likes
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