Top 10 Abraham Lincoln Bestsellers: July 2009

Due to the growing number of Abraham Lincoln books being released, I will now be doing a monthly Top 10 Abraham Lincoln Books series in addition to the Top 10 Civil War Books series.  Readers who are looking for Abraham Lincoln books can’t go wrong selecting titles from this list.

As in each entry in the series, I’ve taken the liberty of removing non-Abraham Lincoln related books from the list.  In cases where a book is about Lincoln AND others, such as Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, it was left on the Civil War list.  The books below are in the Abraham Lincoln Top 10 as of July 7, 2009.  The “previous month” numbers are from the last Top 10 Abraham Lincoln bestsellers list which appeared in April 2009.

Note: Some of these books are the Kindle edition. Kindle is Amazon’s handheld device for reading books electronically.  Amazon has recently come out with Kindle 2, a sleeker version which also allows you to upload many public domain books for minimal or no cost!

1. (5) Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Summary: Swanson’s book recounts the race to find and arrest John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Surprisingly (to me), the book is the bestselling Lincoln title this month.

2. (1) A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White Jr.

Summary: The reviews have been mostly positive for this one-volume history of Lincoln.  It appears to be both reader friendly and affordable, making it a good candidate for a Top 10 bestsellers list.

3. (3) Abraham Lincoln by James M. McPherson

Summary: This can’t really be called a book at only 96 pages.  It is basically a short summary of Lincoln’s life and McPherson’s attempt to make a quick buck.  I strongly recommend avoiding this one if you want to learn anything new.

4. (4) Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James McPherson

Summary: This is another McPherson summary.  Many other Civil War bloggers have already commented on the lack of any new insights or groundbreaking material in this book.

5. (3) Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips

Summary: This book is aimed at businessman and applying Lincoln’s leadership to today’s business world.

6. (6) Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

Summary: This book is quite often cited as the best one volume biography of Lincoln ever written.

7. (7) The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln by Bill Adler

Summary: Lincoln quotes are divided into categories and presented to readers.  I wonder how many of these are true Lincoln quotes and how many are apocryphal.

8. (-) Abraham Lincoln: His Life and Times: An Illustrated History by The Editors of Time Magazine

Summary: This book, released on May 5, 2009, is making its debut this month in the Abraham Lincoln Top 10.  I don’t know too much about this particular book, so if anyone has it I’d appreciate your comments about what you thought of it.

9. (-) Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame

Summary: You know a book must be good if a price of $90 still does not prevent it from making this list.  Burlingame’s massive two volume biography of Lincoln has been well-received and seems to be well worth the $90 price point.  In an amazing piece of news for researchers, Knox College offers the author’s unedited manuscript of the biography for FREE at their web site!

10. (-) The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas DiLorenzo

Summary: I am shocked any of DiLorenzo’s “books” (I’m being kind by not calling it trash) made it into this list.  If anyone has an agenda, it’s DiLorenzo.  Enough said.  His attempt to reverse Lincoln worship goes too far in the opposite direction, much like some circles of the Civil War blogosphere go too far in an insistence on the importance of race, gender, and the “bottom up” study of history at the expense of everything else.

Dropped Out This Month:

-. (8) In Lincoln’s Hand: His Original Manuscripts edited by Harold Holzer and Joshua Wolf Shenk

Summary: This book, edited by two prominent Lincoln scholars, both who have written books on Lincoln as well, offers Lincoln documents along with commentary from distinguished Americans.

-. (9) Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon by Philip B. Kunhardt III and Peter W. Kunhardt Jr.

Summary: This book, a sequel to Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, looks at how the Lincoln legend grew between Lincoln’s death in 1865 and the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922.

-. (10) 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Bracelan Flood

Summary: Flood looks at the important final year of Lincoln’s life, a time when the Civil War hung in the balance.

Brett’s Final Thoughts:

In April, I was surprised Abraham Lincoln: A Life was not in the top 10, assuming the cost might be prohibitive to make a bestseller list.  I was pleasantly proven wrong this month.  The continuing popular success of some of McPherson’s “summary” books somewhat discourages me.  To be fair, many of the people buying these books have read nothing else on Lincoln, so summaries are a useful tool in these cases.  I was extremely disappointed that something written by DiLorenzo made a Lincoln bestseller list.  By all means read the book for a viewpoint not at all typical of Lincoln studies, but read with a critical eye if you do click that link.  In any event, the back of this list is about debuts, the unknown, the good, and the ugly.

Previous Books in the Top 10 Prior to Last Month’s Top 10:

There are no books in this second edition of the list.  Look for this area to contain more information in the next Abraham Lincoln Top 10.

Look over past Top 10 Civil War Books lists to see how various books have done over time!

Check out Brett’s list of the Top 10 Civil War Blogs!

Read many Civil War Book Reviews here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog!

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6 responses to “Top 10 Abraham Lincoln Bestsellers: July 2009”

  1. Jim Schmidt Avatar

    Brett – As always, thanks for the Lincoln update. For my part, I think Michael Kauffman’s “American Brutus” is far superior to Swanson’s “Manhunt” as far as an assassination study. The companion History Channel special, “The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth,” was also good.

    Jim Schmidt

  2. P. Swan Avatar
    P. Swan

    If one watches the Amazon ranking from hour to hour, day to day, or week to week there seems to be a lot of fluidity in these rankings. How do you decide when to take the “snapshot?”
    P. Swan

    1. admin Avatar


      Honestly it’s random. I just like seeing what types of books are in the Top 10 from month to month. It at least gives an idea of which books have long term staying power and which are flashes in the pan, so to speak.


  3. admin Avatar


    You’re welcome. I’ve heard the same regarding Manhunt from several friends who enjhoy reading Lincoln books.


  4. The Abraham Lincoln Observer Avatar

    Wow, all the surprises right at the end this month. I’m delighted to be proven wrong about Burlingame.

    Why be kind to DiLorenzo? Not me. “Real Lincoln” IS trash, and he’s a hack. I hope that ranking turns out to be a flash in the pan.

  5. captainrlm Avatar

    White’s biography was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read. It was very easy to read and enjoyable.

    I was disappointed in Tried by Fire, as it didn’t really tell me much about Lincoln’s role as Commander-in-Chief. White’s book hit on that topic much more, I thought.

    McPherson’s smaller book on Lincoln disappointed me too. I bought it with a gift card online , so it really didn’t cost me anything, but I guess I didn’t look at the description enough to realize it was so small.

    The Looking for Lincoln book that dropped out has a very neat section at the end with all the known photos of Lincoln shown, with the date (or approximate date) & location they were taken. I really like that section as a reference, and as something I had not seen in any book before.

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