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Publisher's Summary

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded was the result of a character that had been forged by life experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because hepossessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

This capacity enabled President Lincoln to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to preserve the Union and win the war.

©2006 Doris Kearns Goodwin (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"An elegant, incisive study....Goodwin has brilliantly described how Lincoln forged a team that preserved a nation and freed America from the curse of slavery." (James M. McPherson, The New York Times Book Review)
"Goodwin's narrative abilities...are on full display here, and she does an enthralling job of dramatizing...crucial moments in Lincoln's life....A portrait of Lincoln as a virtuosic politician and managerial genius." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
"Splendid, beautifully written....Goodwin has brilliantly woven scores of contemporary accounts...into a fluid narrative....This is the most richly detailed account of the Civil War presidency to appear in many years." (John Rhodehamel, Los Angeles Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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great overview of an incredible president

narrator was great. book was long, but very detailed. you certainly learn a lot about Lincoln!

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An excellent, if sometimes plodding, political bio

I work in politics, which means that I'm especially fascinated by books that cover political strategy and thinking by our leaders. Needless to say, I was very intrigued by Team of Rivals. For the most part, the book lived up to my expectations.

First, you should know that this book is extraordinarily long. The unabridged version stretches beyond 40 hours. That's fine if you're interested enough in Lincoln to sustain your attention on one book for that length of time, but it could be a problem for folks more accustomed to 10-hour books. I am deeply interested in Lincoln and Kearns is an able enough writer that I made it through without much problem despite the time it took. That said, I was definitely ready to move on by the time the epilogue ended.

Kearns does a good job of breathing life into her narrative in Team of Rivals. She skillfully weaves Lincoln's personal history, characteristics, and quirks into the political backdrop she has created. Rather than getting to know Lincoln before he gets to the Oval Office, we get to know Lincoln through his actions over time. This approach is a good one, and it avoids pitfalls like those found in Edmund Morris's Theodore Roosevelt biography series, where readers are expected to know and understand Teddy fully by the time he gets to the White House. As a result, Lincoln feels like a constantly growing and developing character rather than a static collection of preset attributes working in a difficult position.

Team of Rivals begins with a statement that the book is designed to help readers get to know Lincoln on a more intimate basis by using the lens of his diverse and interesting cabinet members. On this front, I think the book is a spectacular success. Kearns skillfully helps us get to know Lincoln's political family and the interpersonal dynamics that defined it, then uses those dynamics to examine Lincoln's thought process, demeanor, and leadership abilities. I was skeptical that she would be able to pull of such an oblique examination of a titan like Lincoln without simply telling the same story as other biographers from a different perspective, but I was wrong. Kearns is remarkably successful at accomplishing the goal of the book: Letting readers get to know Lincoln on a deeper level by examining his relationships with others.

Interestingly, Kearns' knack for illuminating historical characters isn't limited only to Lincoln. The cabinet members are more than just cardboard cutouts who exist as sounding boards for Lincoln's personality. They are real people with real flaws and strengths, and those attributes are on display throughout the book. From Chase's unceasing and selfish political ambition to Seward's role as a dignified statesman to Edward Bates' love of home and family, you will walk away from Team of Rivals feeling like you really know and understand these men. That feeling is enhanced by the fact that Kearns, as a woman, weaves the women in their lives into the story in a way that adds much depth and value.

Overall, then, Team of Rivals is a success. However, it has a few issues. As I've already mentioned, the book is very long. While this isn't a problem in and of itself, the length is often due to excessive time spent on certain events or situations.

Kearns also sometimes appears to get stuck on a particular point in time, and it can take her a while to reestablish her flow afterward. I also wondered throughout whether this examination falls into the trap of hagiography. Lincoln was undoubtedly a brilliant statesman and leader, but there are certain instances of "political genius" outlined by Kearns that strike me more as good fortune or chance, and she very rarely veers into the realm of offering criticism of Lincoln's opinions or actions. In fact, she sometimes goes out of her way to defend him from those actions, stepping back from the narrative to offer some type of explanation. I found myself longing to see a little more of the flawed, human side of Lincoln by the end of the book. As it stands, readers will largely be looking up to the pedestal rather than standing face to face with Lincoln.

Finally, some of the momentous events of Lincoln's time in office wind up being somewhat muted by the tight focus on the man himself. The Civil War is obviously a large part of the book, and there are certainly discussions about various battles and events. Kearns does try to bring the war into the story. Even so, the significance of many of the war's events feels muted, like the reader is viewing them from a long way away through a fuzzy and impersonal lens. Perhaps this is just a function of Kearns' approach to the story, but I found it disappointing nonetheless.

Even with its shortcomings, Team of Rivals is an excellent examination of one of the most famous Americans in history. It is definitely worth your time if you are interested in political history or Abraham Lincoln.

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Very thorough

Unable to speak to historical accuracy but assuming based on the about of quotes and citations that it is based on true accounts. Lots of small details and events that I was unaware of.
Overall performance was well done but contained more mispronunciation than was expected.

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The Strong Team

This book gives the reader how Lincoln was able to take men that they thought were better leaders than he and use he strong leadership to mold his presidency into the greatest of all time in our American History.

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A must listen!

If ever there was an appropriate book to listen to during these troubling times, this is it. Where have all the honorable republicans gone? Lincoln, Seward, Stanton, Wells, Bates and Chase all worked together in a most troubling times, at times disagreeing and yet always striving for what is best for our nation. How can the party of Lincoln fallen so far? This is an amazing book and timely even today, 12 years after its publication.

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  • Christine
  • MANASSAS, VA, United States
  • 02-14-17

Good book!

While this book is very long, it is a good one. The frequent quotations from primary sources help to flesh out the portrayal in a way that cannot be accomplished without them.

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Entertaining and Informative

Would you listen to Team of Rivals again? Why?

This was an entertaining book that takes a subject we all know and gives the reader a peak into the backgrounds & personalities of the players and their strategies to become president and later, a presidential cabinet. Could not get enough of it.

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enjoyed it

this was a rather great book that I found to be very interesting and worth the money

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Excellent book

Amazing clarity into men that led the United States through tumultuous times. Makes you feel like you are there, feeling what they must have felt.

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A Masterpiece

I finished listening to this today and feel I have lost not only President Lincoln's companionship, but also that of Ms. Goodwin and Ms. Toren, with whom I have travelled now for scores of lunch hours. Thank you all.