Dave's Reviews > Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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's review
Jan 14, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, biography, read-in-2012, library-book
Read from November 18, 2011 to January 14, 2012

An overall fantastic book, made even more so by my quick trip to D.C. in the middle that gave an extra layer to the vibrant tableau Kearns Goodwin presents of Lincoln's endlessly interesting administration.

At one point, I thought, "Perhaps this account verges too closely on the cusp of hero-worship." Then I laughed to myself and decided I didn't care. Lincoln's leadership and (the author's favorite word) magnanimity are inspiring and instructive for all who either aspire to leadership or, at least, its critique.

Kearns Goodwin's premise of telling a multiple biography of Lincoln's cabinet, however, felt a little forced. She relies heavily on their account of and interactions with Lincoln to structure her story, and this largely worked for the first half of the book when all key players were either separately vying for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination or pontificating self-righteously at the beginning of the Lincoln's presidential tenure. Once they were brought together under the umbrella of Lincoln's cabinet, however, the multiple biography premise largely devolves into dual biography of Lincoln's awesomeness and Chase's scoudrelosity. Not to say this wasn't interesting, but don't be fooled into thinking the object of this study is anyone but Lincoln. Once the shots on Ft. Sumter are fired, everyone else become bit players that occasionally meander their way into getting zapped by Lincoln's farsighted greatness.

The spirit of Honest Abe worship is so contagious that by the inevitable end, I caught myself tearing up. In a history book! On this fact alone, Team of Rivals is a gem for all those seeking a highly contextualized study of one of our greatest leaders.

Also, the Lincoln Memorial is so much cooler than the other ones. Just sayin'. Try to read the second inaugural address inscribed there without getting emotional. I dare you.
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