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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Published in 2005 by Simon and Schuster
944 pages
"No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read." -David McCullough

When I read a history book I realize that there multiple types of history books out there. Setting aside the ones that are designed to distort history (such as holocaust denier literature) there are still several styles of history book. They range from the small topical books that offer a brief overview to the more popular histories such as those that David McCollough specializes to definitive works - the type of work that others will refer back to for decades to come.

Lincoln's Cabinet - 1861

Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals is just such a definitive work. It checks in at 754 pages of text with more than a hundred pages of 8 font footnotes. It took her 10 years to produce this book and it is a work of which she can be proud. It is exhaustively researched and documented.

However, that is also the problem with the book. It is so large, so thorough that only the heartiest of readers will ever finish it. There are so many details, so many quotes, so much substance to this book that it gets tiring to read, especially the middle 500 pages or so. I started this book in January and I finished it the last week of April. In the meantime I read 12 other books and many magazines. I never stopped reading this one, but so many other books pulled me away from this one along the way.

Unlike the McCollough books (or Stephen Ambrose or James McPherson or Bruce Catton), the level of detail overwhelms the reader. A valuable resource to refer back to but just not the stuff that popular histories are made from.

So, I'm giving this one multiple grades:

Research, thoroughness: A+
Readibility, high level of interest to the average history buff: C+
Final Grade: B+

A suggestion: It would have been instructive to have gone into more detail and tell more about how Lincoln's "Team" collapsed with under President Andrew Johnson. She briefly touches on it, but bit more would have been interesting. Perhaps another volume?

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Reviewed on April 30, 2007.

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