In the Wall Street Journal‘s “Five Best Books” column, historian Michael Burlingame suggests titles that offer “distinctive personal portraits of Abraham Lincoln.” If the list had been mine, it would have included Abe Lincoln Laughing, a compendium of jokes and anecdotes that Lincoln is known to have told during his life. The index includes entries such as “Bugs, bed, infest settee,” “Hog: drunk squabbles with,” and “Lincoln, Abraham: appearance–says if uglier, shoot.” For me, the book is not just funny, but useful: Abe Lincoln Laughing helped me write my way through an important scene in The First Assassin.
My favorite book on Lincoln–the one I recommend to people who want to read a standard biography–is With Malice Toward None, by Stephen B. Oates. Another excellent choice is Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald. In the last several years, I’ve recorded a few podcasts with authors of good Lincoln books: Allen Guelzo, James McPherson, and Edward Steers Jr.
What’s your favorite book on Lincoln? Sound off in the comments section.