[Name Redacted]'s Reviews > Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly
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Mar 31, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: action, biographies, history, real-world, politics, war
Read from March 18 to 30, 2012

There appear to be two kinds of people who read this book: those who hate Bill O'Reilly and those who enjoy the book. Every negative review I've read has invariably been prefaced by a profession of hate for the polarizing pundit, followed by vague intimations that the book has flaws and a grudging admission that the book itself actually wasn't bad; every positive review either seems to come from someone who likes O'Reilly or doesn't seem to care one way or the other about him. I am definitely one of the latter. I've seen his show often enough to know that most of the criticisms leveled against him are empty, emotional invective based on what the critics THINK they know about him, and come as a result of his statements being taken out of context, but I am also "politically agnostic" and so have little patience for pundits in general.

All that said, this book is NOT ABOUT BILL O'REILLY. What is more, he's not the only author -- he teamed up with Martin Dugard for this book. No modern parallels are drawn, no modern commentary, and I get the feeling that both authors take history seriously and are genuinly enthusiastic about the history of the Civil War within its historical context.

This is a book about the final weeks leading up to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States of America. It is about the final battles at the end of the US Civil War, the last gasp of Southern secessionism and the various personalities that oversaw this tragic but formative period of American history. It is about the human beings who lived through these events and the impacts they had, for good or ill. Do O'Reilly and Dugard put their personal stamps on the text? Absolutely. These men clearly adore Lincoln, detest Booth, cheer for the North, are pro-abolitionist, pro-black, and pro-Mary Todd Lincoln. But they also do their best to balance all this with honest appraisals of the people and events: Lincoln's fondness for "blackface" comedy, Mary Todd Lincoln's apparent pscyhological instability, the suffering and humanity of the Southern military, the infighting among Northern troops, the hatred many Northerners felt for Lincoln before his death, and the popularity of John Wilkes Booth before the assassination are all included. I particularly admire the authors' evenhanded approach to Lincoln's expansion of the Federal government's power & authority, given that -- as far as I'm aware -- Bill O'Reilly is openly opposed to Federal "overreach" today.

Also worth noting is that this book is written in the form of a thriller and in present-tense. According to the author's note, this is because O'Reilly & Dugard wanted people to understand that history is more than a dry accumulation of names and dates and places, that "history" is the narrative we create from lived moments which seemed as immediate and intense to those living them as do our own lives. As a result there are no footnotes or endnotes (which, by the way, IS AWESOME for those of us who have to endlessly read foot/endnotes professionally), but there is a short catalog at the end noting all the primary and secondary sources they used and recommending certain books for certain topics. The overall intent of the book seems to be to convey the events of the assassination as part of a lived narrative and to encourage readers to do further research into the Civil War, the life of Abraham Lincoln, and the history of the American presidency. It succeeds admirably at both of these, and I think this would be an excellent way of introducing people to the idea of lived history.
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Reading Progress

03/18/2012
2.0%
03/19/2012
11.0% "Most of the reviews of this seem to be hateful rants against Bill O'Reilly. Shame the book isn't about him."
03/24/2012
47.0% 2 comments
03/28/2012
80.0% "So far, this is an incredibly readable history of the Lincoln assassination. O'Reilly & Dugard don't pull any punches; even Lincoln's apparent fondness for "blackface" comedy is included."
03/28/2012
80.0% "Also, worth noting that O'Reilly & Dugard are EXTREMELY sympathetic to Mary Lincoln. Certainly far more sympathetic than any historical account I have previously read."
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