The Rise to Greatness by David von Drehle

Most books about Abraham Lincoln center around his whole presidency, or even his whole life. They will include details about the Civil War and Lincoln’s amazing oratory skills. While David von Drehle captures these aspects in Rise To Greatness, he focuses specifically on 1862, a year that was pivotal to both the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves. Rise to Greatness is an extremely in depth account for those action-packed 12 months. This obviously falls under the history genre, but the sub-genres of this book include both specifically military, political and American history.

I found this narrative about Abraham Lincoln extremely well-written, emotionally gripping, and honestly…addicting. I literally could not put this book down. I always had (what I thought) was an ample amount of knowledge on the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency, but this book provided a lot of background details that I was not aware of. I was able to get a breakdown of one of Lincoln’s hardest years— the loss of his son, the destruction of a nation, and all of the horrible feelings that come with those situations. I was able to garner an awareness of who surrounded Lincoln most at those times. I also was able to more fully understand the strife between some Supreme Court justices and Lincoln. This book was also extremely well cited and referenced a lot of other amazing pieces of work that I would love to read in the future.

Overall, I loved Rise to Greatness. I have always harbored love for Abraham Lincoln, but this book gave me an infinite amount of reasons to appreciate him even more. The mere fact that his life was riddled with so much tragedy, and that he had to balance the most precarious situation America has ever been in, is mind-blowing. He’s not perfect— this book even specifically points out he was not. But Lincoln is incredibly admirable, and books like von Drehle’s make me reflect on that. It also sets into reality how far America has come (but alas, not far enough). However, it still gives me hope. And it also gives me hope that amazing leaders like Lincoln may be rare, but they’re not a myth. More amazing leaders like Lincoln will come again and change the world in a positive way.

Rating: 4.5/5


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