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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  104,578 Ratings  ·  5,772 Reviews
Soon to be a major motion picture, Lincoln, from Steven Spielberg, with a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning writer Tony Kushner, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the President and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.The acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius in a highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairi ...more
Paperback, 916 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2005)
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Hilary Shearing Am now halfway through. What a read! Saw the film 'Lincoln'. Then bought the DVD with others in a sale. Amongst the 'extras' was a fascinating piece…moreAm now halfway through. What a read! Saw the film 'Lincoln'. Then bought the DVD with others in a sale. Amongst the 'extras' was a fascinating piece about 'the making of...' which is when I really became conscious of the book. So glad to have got a copy. Doris Kearns
Goodwin, like all the best historians, combines command of her subject with masterful storytelling. The result is an unforgettable read, and the realisation that Abraham Lincon was even more of an extraordinary human being, than I already thought him to be.(less)
Steven I usually write a review describing my personal experience. I typically avoid binary rating system (only 1 or 5 stars, no in between) If someone looks…moreI usually write a review describing my personal experience. I typically avoid binary rating system (only 1 or 5 stars, no in between) If someone looks at my ratings and reviews of previous books and finds something they agree with, then they can drawn their own conclusion if they like the same books as me.(less)
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Dana Stabenow
Oct 10, 2008 Dana Stabenow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hpl-s-15-in-16
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,
Jul 16, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 26, 2012 Kemper rated it really liked it
(Please forgive me resorting to a tired trick and leading off with a definition from the dictionary, but there is a point to it.)


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
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
Apr 01, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Rod Blagojevich was impeached and hauled off to prison, that made four of the previous seven Illinois governors to have done time. Countless representatives and aldermen have been locked up, too. Then there was my wife’s favorite: a former Secretary of State found after his death to have $800,000 stuffed in shoe boxes. Our reputation for corrupt politicians is, I dare say, unsurpassed. Fortunately, we here in the Land of Lincoln (as we call it on our license plates) have one historical figu ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2008 Sydney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
James Thane
Jan 02, 2013 James Thane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
David Baldacci
Nov 15, 2013 David Baldacci rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that the film “Lincoln” is somewhat based on. President Obama has said that he looks to Lincoln as a model leader. He should. In TEAM OF RIVALS Lincoln brings genius to the adage “friends close, enemies closer.”
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
(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
Karen Canova
May 27, 2012 Karen Canova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Barnabas Piper
Nov 26, 2016 Barnabas Piper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book (or listening on Audible in my case) is a labor of love - it is detailed, intricate and long. But wow, is it incredible. The way DKG weaves together the stories of a ll Lincoln's cabinet members personally and politically and explains their respective roles in American history is astounding. I've never learned so much American history from a single book and enjoyed it along the way.

I have also never respected Abraham Lincoln as much as I do after reading this. He truly was an
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
Jan 12, 2013 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As usual, I seem to be pushing against the river. All the reviews are stellar -- to the 5th degree. My poor offering is a meagre 3.

Goodwin is an exceptional historian. Research should have been her middle name. But -- and it's quite a big one --

The book would have been vastly improved if a good editor had taken charge.

This book reads like ... you asked someone for a recipe on how to bake a cake, and she starts by telling you how to grow wheat; then walks you through milling the grain into flour
Dec 29, 2007 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 21, 2008 MacK rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2008 Mahlon rated it it was amazing  ·  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
If you’ve ever asked yourself, Abraham Lincoln, what is with that guy? This is the book for you.

The answer to that question is both simple and complex. It’s complex because all people are complex, and the political landscape that Lincoln navigated–although lacking 24 hour news cycles, talking heads, and loudmouthed pundits–was nevertheless a treacherous and multi-faceted one. Team of Rivals is in large part Doris Kearns Goodwin’s attempt to illustrate just exactly how it was that he navigated th
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
Feb 10, 2009 Arminius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents
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.
Mar 22, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Mar 29, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 13, 2011 Terri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-books-read
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
Aug 15, 2013 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

"This war is eating my life out. I have a strong impression that I shall not live to see the end." (Abe Lincoln)

My word...what would have happened to the United States of America if Abraham Lincoln hadn't been elected at the right moment in time? Stunning. As an average reader, my knowledge of Lincoln was standard, that is, he was the Great One who saved the Americans from their own absurdity. But this book took me on a whole new journey, showing an embattled President who had to deal not only w
Otis Chandler
I loved this book. Although it was a beast of a book, and could probably have been a lot shorter. I had not read a Lincoln biography before, so was firstly blown away by how he rose up from nothing, self-taught himself a college degree, and then somehow rode the middle line and got himself elected President. Nobody seemed to have expected that, nor expected much from him, and he continued to surprise them all.

I am always curious about the motivations of successful people. In Lincolns case, he ju
Jul 08, 2008 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 03, 2014 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
Abraham Lincoln had always seemed to me, an outsider flattening my nose against the fishbowl of American history, generally a big deal. In his story's oversimplified version, he kept his country together, freed slaves, and was all but deified upon his assassination. The man was, even if everyone else at the time didn't know it, "still too near to his greatness" as they were, "[h]is genius... still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light ...more
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Also credited as "Doris Kearns" on the first editions of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
More about Doris Kearns Goodwin...

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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)”
“An adult friend of Lincoln's: "Life was to him a school.” 23 likes
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