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Celebrating President Abraham Lincoln: A Library Program & Reads

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Celebrating President Abraham Lincoln: A Library Program & Reads

lincoln reads

Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809 was an American lawyer, politician, and statesman who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination on April 15, 1865. Regarded as one of America’s greatest heroes, Lincoln led the United States through the American Civil War, defending the nation as a constitutional union, defeating the insurgent Confederacy, abolishing slavery, expanding the power of the federal government, and modernizing the U.S. economy.

In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves across the Confederacy. Lincoln’s rise from humble beginnings to achieving the highest office in the land is a remarkable story, and his untimely death is equally notable. Lincoln’s distinctively humane personality and incredible impact on the nation have endowed him with an enduring legacy.

In commemoration of the 215th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday this February 12th, the Livingston Library presents a virtual program –Booth, Lincoln, and the Shot that Changed America.

At 7pm, join author & historian Greg Caggiano for a look at Lincoln’s life and political career, and how he became one of the most beloved (and controversial) presidents in American history. The program will also delve into the life and career of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and cover the chain of events and politics that led to Lincoln’s untimely demise at Ford’s Theater. 

This program is being presented virtually over Zoom.  Registration is required and the Zoom link will be emailed the day before the event.

Many thousands of books about Lincoln have been published and works on different aspects of his life and legacy continue to be released.

Here are some nonfiction and fiction titles, available in the Livingston Library collection to help you discover more about the life and legacy of this fascinating leader as well as learn more about his tragic assassination and assassin John Wilkes Booth.

americas original sin
americas original sin

America’s Original Sin : White Supremacy, John Wilkes Booth, and the Lincoln Assassination by John H. Rhodehamel

The author identifies John Wilkes Booth’s primary motivation for killing Abraham Lincoln as a growing commitment to white supremacy as an ideology rather than as a political loyalty to the Confederacy. Through alternate chapters, the author shows how Lincoln’s increasing acceptance of emancipation and racial equality exacerbated Booth’s hatred for Lincoln.

And There Was Light : Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by John Meacham

This illuminating new portrait gives us a very human Lincoln–an imperfect man whose moral antislavery commitment was essential to the story of justice in America. Here is the Lincoln who, as a boy, was steeped in the sermons of emancipation by Baptist preachers; who insisted that slavery was a moral evil; and who sought, as he put it, to do right as God gave him light to see the right. This book tells the story of Lincoln from his birth on the Kentucky frontier in 1809 to his leadership during the Civil War to his tragic assassination at Ford’s Theater on Good Friday 1865: his rise, his self-education through reading, his loves, his bouts of depression, his political failures, his deepening faith, and his persistent conviction that slavery must end.

Booth : A Novel by Karen Joy Fowler

An epic and intimate novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth. In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next sixteen years. Junius Booth–breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor, and master of the house in more ways than one–is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war. As the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.

Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded In a Divided America by Steve Inskeep

A compelling and nuanced exploration of Abraham Lincoln’s political acumen, illuminating a great politician’s strategy in a country divided—and lessons for our own disorderly present.   Inskeep illuminates Lincoln’s life through sixteen encounters, some well-known, some obscure, but all imbued with new significance here. Each interaction was with a person who differed from Lincoln, and in each someone wanted something from the other. While Lincoln didn’t always change his critics’ beliefs—many went to war against him—he did learn how to make his beliefs actionable. He told jokes, relied on sarcasm, and often made fun of himself—but behind the banter was a distinguished storyteller who carefully chose what to say and what to withhold. He knew his limitations and, as history came to prove, he knew how to prioritize. Many of his greatest acts came about through his engagement with people who disagreed with him—meaning that in these meetings, Lincoln became the Lincoln we know.

Fates and Traitors: A Novel of John Wilkes Booth by Jennifer Chiaverini

The world would not look upon his like again. John Wilkes Booth–driven son of an acclaimed British stage actor and a Covent Garden flower girl, whose misguided quest to avenge the vanquished Confederacy led him to commit one of the most notorious acts in the annals of America–has been the subject of scholarship, speculation, and even obsession. Though in his plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln Booth did not act alone–“I am determined to be a villain,” he tragically prophesized on the occasion of his acclaimed 1862 New York City debut in the role of Richard III–he is often portrayed as a shadowy figure, devoid of human connection. Yet four women were integral in the life of this unquiet American: Mary Ann, the mother he revered above all but country; his sister and confidante, Asia; Lucy Lambert Hale, the senator’s daughter who loved him; and the Confederate widow Mary Surratt, to whom he entrusted the secrets of his vengeful wrath.

Fortune’s Fool : The Life of John Wilkes Booth by Terry Alford

Alford provides the first comprehensive look at the life of an enigmatic figure whose life has been overshadowed by his final, infamous act. Tracing Booth’s story from his uncertain childhood in Maryland, characterized by a difficult relationship with his famous actor father, to his successful acting career on stages across the country, Alford offers a nuanced picture of Booth as a public figure, performer, and deeply troubled man. Despite the fame and success that attended Booth’s career–he was billed at one point as “the youngest star in the world”–he found himself consumed by the Confederate cause and the desire to help the South win its independence. Alford reveals the tormented path that led Booth to conclude, as the Confederacy collapsed in April 1865, that the only way to revive the South and punish the North for the war would be to murder Lincoln–whatever the cost to himself or others. The textured and compelling narrative gives new depth to the familiar events at Ford’s Theatre and the aftermath that followed, culminating in Booth’s capture and death at the hands of Union soldiers 150 years ago.

house of lincoln

The House of Lincoln: A Novel by Nancy Horan

A sweeping historical novel, which tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s ascendance from rumpled lawyer to U.S. president to the Great Emancipator through the eyes of a young asylum-seeker who arrives in Lincoln’s home of Springfield from Madeira, Portugal. Showing intelligence beyond society’s expectations, fourteen-year-old Ana Ferreira lands a job in the Lincoln household assisting Mary Lincoln with their boys and with the hostess duties borne by the wife of a rising political star. Ana bears witness to the evolution of Lincoln’s views on equality and the Union and observes in full complexity the psyche and pain of his bold, polarizing wife, Mary. Along with her African American friend Cal, Ana encounters the presence of the underground railroad in town and experiences personally how slavery is tearing apart her adopted country.

In the Houses of Their Dead : The Lincolns, the Booths, and the Spirits by Terry Alford

The story of Abraham Lincoln as it has never been told before: through the strange, even otherworldly, points of contact between his family and that of the man who killed him, John Wilkes Booth. This is the first book of the many thousands written about Lincoln to focus on the president’s fascination with Spiritualism, and to demonstrate how it linked him, uncannily, to the man who would kill him.  Alford’s expansive, richly-textured chronicle follows the two families across the nineteenth century, uncovering new facts and stories about Abraham and Mary while drawing indelible portraits of the Booths-from patriarch Julius, a famous actor in his own right, to brother Edwin, the most talented member of the family and a man who feared peacock feathers, to their confidant Adam Badeau, who would become, strangely, the ghostwriter for President Ulysses S. Grant. At every turn, Alford shows that despite the progress of the age-the glass hypodermic syringe, electromagnetic induction, and much more-death remained ever-present, thus that it was only rational for millions of Americans, from the president on down, to cling to beliefs that seem anything but.

Killing Lincoln : the Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly

O’Reilly recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history–how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America’s Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President Abraham Lincoln’s generous terms for Robert E. Lee’s surrender are devised to fulfill Lincoln’s dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. But one man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not appeased.

The Last Weeks of Abraham Lincoln : From the Second Inauguration to Ford’s Theatre by David Johnson

From March 4 to April 15, 1865–a momentous time for the nation–Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, supervised climatic battles leading up to the end of the Civil War, learned that Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, and finally was killed by assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. Weaving an arresting narrative around the historical facts, historian Johnson brings to life the president’s daily routine, as he guided the country through one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.

Lincoln : the Fire of Genius : How Abraham Lincoln’s Commitment to Science and Technology Helped Modernize America by David J. Kent

Lincoln’s lifelong fascination with science and technology helped institutionalize science, win the Civil War, and propel the nation into the modern age.

Lincoln and the Fight for Peace by John P. Avalon

A groundbreaking, revelatory history of Abraham Lincoln₂s plan to secure a just and lasting peace after the Civil War, a vision that inspired future presidents as well as the world₂s most famous peacemakers, including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a story of war and peace, race and reconciliation.

lincolns god

Lincoln’s God : How Faith Transformed a President and a Nation by Joshua Zeitz

Lincoln’s wartime spiritual journey from heretic son and cold skeptic to America’s first evangelical Christian president, the role his conversion played in the Civil War, and the way it in turn transformed Protestantism.  Abraham Lincoln, unlike most of his political brethren, kept organized Christianity at arm’s length. He never joined a church and only sometimes attended Sunday services with his wife. But as he came to appreciate the growing political and military importance of the Christian churches, and when death touched the Lincoln household in an awful, intimate way, the erstwhile skeptic effectively evolved into the nation’s first evangelical president. The war, he told Americans, was in some fashion divine retribution for the sin of slavery. This is the story of that transformation and the ways in which religion helped millions of Northerners interpret the carnage and political upheaval of the 1850s and 1860s.

Manhunt : The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history–the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry troops on a wild, 12-day chase from the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.  Based on rare archival materials, obscure trial transcripts, and Lincoln’s own blood relics this is a fully documented, fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal.

Never Sleep by Fred Van Lente

The year is 1861, the eve of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. For Kate Warn, the first female private detective in American history, the only assignment tougher than exposing a conspiracy to assassinate the new president is training her new mentee, Hattie McLaughlin, in the art of detection. The two women’s mission to save the president takes them from the granges of rural Maryland to the heart of secessionist high society, and sets them on a collision course that could alter the course of history. When Kate’s cover is blown, Hattie must choose between saving her new friend, and her country.

Our Ancient Faith : Lincoln, Democracy, and the American Experiment by Allen C. Guelzo

An intimate study of Abraham Lincoln’s powerful vision of democracy, which guided him through the Civil War and is still relevant today.  Guelzo, one of America’s foremost experts on Lincoln, captures the president’s firmly held belief that democracy was the greatest political achievement in human history. He shows how Lincoln’s deep commitment to the balance between majority and minority rule enabled him to stand firm against secession while also committing the Union to reconciliation rather than recrimination in the aftermath of war.

Right or Wrong, God Judge Me : The Writings of John Wilkes Booth by John Wilkes Booth

The documents include love letters written during the summer of 1864, when Booth was conspiring against Lincoln, explicit statements of Booth’s political convictions, and his diary.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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