Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents of all time. But what did it take to rise from frontier poverty? To lead his country through the Civil War? To alter the course of history forever?
Father-daughter team Tom and Leila Hirschfeld's tongue-in-cheek biography explores ten crucial decisions in one amazing life. With over one hundred pieces of archival and original art, fun facts, sidebars, historical trivia, and more, this book follows Abe's footsteps through the close calls that defined his leadership and shaped America as we know it today.
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOK OF 2018
"Be a best friend and give this book to someone who has not read it." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Abraham, that face of yours! “Awful ugly,” the poet Walt Whitman called it—and he was a fan. Your law partner described your “lantern jaws and large mouth and solid nose,” your “sunken eyes,” your “wrinkled and retreating forehead cut off by a mass of tousled hair”—and he was one of your best friends. Your enemies said you looked like an ape, or worse. Your wife’s family thought she was crazy to be marrying you.
But look where that face of yours has landed. On billions of pennies (first president ever on a US coin). On millions of five-dollar bills. On a gigantic, majestic marble monument in Washington, DC. Even supersized on Mount Rushmore.
Who would have expected it? For as long as voting has existed, appearance has mattered in politics. Successful candidates tend to be relatively good-looking; you were, um, not. Money helps in elections as well; you were born and raised poor. Winners have also generally had fine educations; you spent less than a year in school in your whole life. So how in the world, exactly, did you become president?
And not just president, but one of the all-time greats. Many historians consider you the greatest ever, or at least up there with George Washington. You accomplished incredible things for your country:
*You rescued the planet’s major democracy from life-threatening disaster and banished slavery forever from American soil, striking not one but two world-changing blows for human freedom.
*You helped unite not only our North and South but also our East and West, pushing forward the construction of the transcontinental railroad.
*You spurred our development by giving free land to countless pioneer families who agreed to cultivate it.
*You spread the benefits of higher education across the nation by creating land-grant universities that continue proudly to this day.
*You established our national currency, our Thanksgiving holiday, and our first income tax (okay, that’s not your most popular milestone).
*On top of all that, you were one of our most technology-minded presidents ever—the only one with a registered patent to his name.
How could a gangly, awkward, unschooled backwoods pauper achieve such dazzling feats? You lost your mother at age nine, you had a troubled relationship with your dad, your first professional ambition was blacksmithing, you had zero experience in military combat, and the highest office you held before becoming commander in chief was in the House of Representatives—for a single, unsuccessful term. With the odds stacked so ridiculously high against you, what could possibly have carried you all the way from log cabin to White House?
In one word, Abraham: choices.
Every day, every person in this world makes choices. Kids, teenagers, grown-ups—they all face decisions that may seem small yet can have a huge impact on them and those around them. The choices you made throughout your astonishing life not only shaped who you became; they also revealed who you were all along. Your decisions exhibited an exceptional mix of empathy, craftiness, honesty, humility, dedication, and, above all, vision.
Your toughest calls, in particular, show how a supposedly common man can have qualities that are anything but common. Those calls sure didn’t please everyone: some people swore you must be racist, while other (very different) people hated you as a tyrant. Folks almost never agreed about you and your decisions—but how could they, when the problems you faced were so difficult?
Abraham, you encountered more than your share of crossroads on your amazing journey. The choices you made changed the path of your life—and the course of humanity. We’re going to look at ten such crossroads, from how you dealt with your first real career failure to how you met the major challenges brought by victory in America’s bloodiest war. At each crossroads, we’ll explore where you were coming from, which ways you could have gone, and why you chose the path you did. We’re going to walk in your big footsteps and discover the earthshaking times you lived in, the mind-blowing deeds you accomplished—and the extraordinary person you really were. It’s not just history, Abraham: it’s your story.