Abraham Lincoln: A Biography
By Benjamin P. Thomas
In 1961, I first read this beautifully written book as a freshman at Princeton University in a Civil War course, and though it’s somewhat dated (having been published in 1952), it is still the best single-volume life of the 16th president. The author had an uncanny knack for portraying Lincoln as a three-dimensional, fully rounded man, not just a marble figure enthroned in a Washington, D.C., temple. Based in Springfield, Benjamin Thomas seems to have absorbed the atmosphere of that capital as it existed in Lincoln’s day and almost to have known the prairie statesman intimately.
Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President
By Allen Guelzo
The author, who currently serves as director of the James Madison Program Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship and Senior Research Scholar in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton, has thrice won the coveted Lincoln Prize and written other highly regarded works on Civil War-era subjects in addition to the 16th president — including his recently published, widely acclaimed biography of Robert E. Lee. This “intellectual biography” portrays Lincoln as a man of ideas and sensitively probes his moral and political thought and actions, especially those related to race and slavery.
The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution
By James Oakes
Winner of the 2021 Lincoln Forum book prize, this volume by James Oakes shows how Lincoln’s understanding of the Constitution as an antislavery document shaped his policies not only regarding slavery but also Black civil rights. Lincoln was “at bottom a racial egalitarian” when it came to natural rights, the author concludes. This book builds on the substantial foundation of his earlier Lincoln Prize-winning works (The Radical and the Republican: Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and The Triumph of Antislavery Politicsand Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865).