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“Team Of Rivals” A Most Powerful Book

January 1, 2013

The first post on my blog for 2013 is about something I love.  Books and reading.


Perhaps no other book from 2012 has captured me the way Team Of Rivals is doing.  As I write I am at the point of the Civil War in mid-1862 (page 449), and War Secretary Stanton has just lost a child to illness.  Most books once started are finished in a short period of time.  But with this grand work by Doris Kearns Goodwin I find myself pacing along as I do not want the joy of reading this gem to end.  That may sound strange, but this book is a most amazing read with so many nuggets of trivia along with the larger theme of how President Lincoln unified his political rivals for the goal of preserving the Union.

I pour a mug of coffee, read a section, mull it over while marveling at the research that went into the book, and the joy of reading a narrative that carries the reader along without effort.

I started Team Of Rivals on Thanksgiving weekend.  For me there is a tradition of starting a new read at that time.  When I was a young kid growing up at home without television I would start a new book as a way to spend time over the holiday break.  Even at the age of 50 that habit has not changed (though now we have television!), and so this past fall I opened Goodwin’s work.  Once started I knew this one was going to be a conversation starter around the dinner table.

Over this holiday period we have had a number of friends about, and most of them are either interested in history, politics, or books.  As such, the leadership qualities of Lincoln, and the historical narrative provided by Goodwin has been discussed.   I was most gratified when a woman in a restaurant who was newly introduced to me felt so moved as to grab a slip of paper and write down the title and author after hearing me give a rush of excitement over the merits of the book.  (I could have been a great history teacher.)

One person over cookies this past month asked me if there is anything new to be known about Lincoln, given the countless reads that already exist.  The fast answer was yes, of course.  In Team Of Rivals the inside political calculations and stroking of egos of those Lincoln needed in order to win the war is revealed, and described in a way that I have never known before.  (And I have read many other Lincoln books over the decades.)  The definition of leadership takes on a whole new glow when reading how Lincoln places the needs of the country over his own feelings.  Instead of stoking political rancor Lincoln tries to smooth over episodes that others would not have allowed.

Many years back I had heard that Goodwin was working on this book, and in the end it would take ten years to complete.  As I hold this volume in my hand and find the pages turning themselves it is clear she not only understood the men she writes about, but cares deeply about Lincoln.   Her entry into the private worlds of these men who would form the war-time cabinet makes for a richer and deeper appreciation for the efforts that we made to preserve the nation.

What leadership means, and how it can be used is a lesson that needs to be refreshed over time.  Team Of Rivals allows us that opportunity as we read of the past, and then use Lincoln as a template over the current crises our nation faces.

If you have not read this book I simply ask that you give it a try.  I suspect once completed it then takes a place on the bookshelves in your home.

  1. briangottesman permalink
    January 22, 2013 5:00 PM

    I love this book


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