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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln was the second book I've read by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  The first book was Bully Pulpit, Goodwin's take on Roosevelt, Taft, and the press.  I really enjoyed her approach, which focused on multiple people and, as a result, provided both breadth and depth to her subjects that might have been lost by focusing on a single person.  Team of Rivals takes the same approach and I found it just as enjoyable.

I will say that I've never been as big a fan of Lincoln as most people.  I felt that he stepped on rights in an unnecessary manner and that the abolition of slavery that he gets credit for was largely symbolic and opportunistic rather than humanitarian.  While Goodwin doesn't hold back on criticizing Lincoln for his failures, the book certainly did make me see him in a more positive light overall.

In what I'm coming to see as typical of Goodwin's writing style, Team of Rivals is not a dry listing of dates and facts, but a study of personalities and their conflicts.  This approach works especially well in her analysis of the Lincoln administration.  Lincoln took command of a nation already coming apart at the seams.  He proceeded to surprise everyone with his cabinet choices, with the most important posts going to people who had been his most ardent critics.  My understanding of the decisions Lincoln made was greatly enhanced because she provided such a holistic view of her cabinet and the many conflicts going on throughout Lincoln's administration.  I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic and up for reading a fairly long book. The main text is about 750 pages, but it's about 950 altogether, so I'd also recommend the Kindle version.

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