• reading group guide
  • bestseller
David Herbert Donald's Lincoln is a
stunningly original portrait of Lincoln's life
and presidency. Donald brilliantly
depicts Lincoln's gradual ascent from humble
beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever- expanding
political circles in Illinois, and finally to the
presidency of a country divided by civil war.
Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the
gradual development of Lincoln's character,
chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution
and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible
for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared
for the presidency to become a great moral leader.
In the most troubled of times, here was a man
who led the country out of slavery and preserved
a shattered Union -- in short, one of the greatest
presidents this country has ever seen.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 720 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439126288 | 
  • December 2011
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Lincoln was essentially a passive man. He was not formally educated. He repeatedly failed when running for various political offices. He was not considered a handsome man, and he was inexperienced and unprepared for the presidency. Yet all this considered, he still became one of the greatest presidents the United States has ever known. To what do you attribute this? How might the elements of Lincoln's character and his time have blended together to create a man so successful in casting off slavery and bringing the Union back together?
  2. How, in many ways, was Lincoln the most American of presidents?
  3. Donald brilliantly explores the development of Lincoln's character. Describe this development and its impact on the outcome of slavery and the Civil War. What in Lincoln's character led him to greatness?
  4. How did Lincoln's growing belief in a Higher Power sustain him through the agony of a country divided?
  5. In April of 1864, Lincoln wrote to Albert G. Hodges: "I claim not to have controlled events but confess plainly that events have controlled me." How is this accurate and not quite true at the same time?
  6. Though Donald's Lincoln is primarily about Lincoln's political life, Donald portrays Lincoln as a family man. Discuss Lincoln as a father and husband. What portrait emerges of Mary Todd Lincoln? How did she ultimately contribute to his political career, and in what
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About the Author

David Herbert Donald
Photo Credit:

David Herbert Donald

David Herbert Donald is the author of Lincoln, which won the prestigious Lincoln Prize and was on the New York Times bestseller list for fourteen weeks, and of Lincoln at Home. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, and for Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe. He is the Charles Warren Professor of American History and of American Civilization Emeritus at Harvard University and resides in Lincoln, Massachusetts.




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