100 books like Lincoln's Greatest Speech

By Ronald C. White Jr.,

Here are 100 books that Lincoln's Greatest Speech fans have personally recommended if you like Lincoln's Greatest Speech. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Richard J.M. Blackett Author Of Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle

From my list on abolitionist biographies about African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was not trained in African American history, but first developed a passion for it during my first teaching job in Pittsburgh, where a number of my colleagues were interested in locating the origins of Black Nationalism and began researching the life of a local black physician, Martin R. Delany. That led me to a wider exploration of nineteenth-century African American history.

Richard's book list on abolitionist biographies about African American history

Richard J.M. Blackett Why did Richard love this book?

A giant of the nineteenth century and the leader of the struggle to end slavery needs a giant book and Blight’s is the most penetrating and comprehensive biography we have of the person many consider the voice and soul of the abolitionist movement and the struggle to win the right guaranteed in the Constitution.

By David W. Blight,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Frederick Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History**

"Extraordinary...a great American biography" (The New Yorker) of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with…


Book cover of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

Richard J. Carwardine Author Of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power

From my list on what made Abraham Lincoln a great president.

Why am I passionate about this?

How could a historian of the US not find Lincoln an endlessly fascinating figure? As a young(ish) university teacher, I jumped at the invitation to write a study of the 16th president, but didn’t expect it to win the coveted Lincoln Prize. When it did, in 2004, the community of American Lincoln scholars made me, a Welsh professor from Oxford University, doubly welcome. In several books I’ve examined Lincoln’s political skill, strategic ambition, and moral purposes. But he was more than a gifted pragmatist. His greater goal was to leave his nation stronger and a little closer to realizing the principles of equality laid out in the Declaration of Independence of 1776.

Richard's book list on what made Abraham Lincoln a great president

Richard J. Carwardine Why did Richard love this book?

Eric Foner, the dean of US historians, has written many superb books. None surpasses The Fiery Trial. It’s been a pleasure to share projects and platforms with him. We both recognize how sincerely Lincoln believed slavery was a terrible wrong, but protecting it was a constitutional duty. The Civil War changed all that. His commitment to emancipation never wavered once he had made it a weapon of war. His racial prejudices, common among white people, melted in wartime. As black troops fought for the Union, he came to recognize their claims of citizenship. Foner’s definitive study puts Lincoln at the heart of the interplay of race, slavery, and politics, and is a compelling riposte to those who denigrate his role in black freedom.

By Eric Foner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Fiery Trial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln's lifelong engagement with the nation's critical issue: American slavery. A master historian, Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into perfect balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navigating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln's greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth.


Book cover of Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words

Richard J. Carwardine Author Of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power

From my list on what made Abraham Lincoln a great president.

Why am I passionate about this?

How could a historian of the US not find Lincoln an endlessly fascinating figure? As a young(ish) university teacher, I jumped at the invitation to write a study of the 16th president, but didn’t expect it to win the coveted Lincoln Prize. When it did, in 2004, the community of American Lincoln scholars made me, a Welsh professor from Oxford University, doubly welcome. In several books I’ve examined Lincoln’s political skill, strategic ambition, and moral purposes. But he was more than a gifted pragmatist. His greater goal was to leave his nation stronger and a little closer to realizing the principles of equality laid out in the Declaration of Independence of 1776.

Richard's book list on what made Abraham Lincoln a great president

Richard J. Carwardine Why did Richard love this book?

Lincoln was a great communicator, whose greatest speeches deliver emotional power through unfussy language. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the best-selling page-turner Uncle Tom’s Cabin, knew a thing or two about language. She said Lincoln’s compelling words had “the relish and smack of the soil.” Douglas Wilson’s study is an exercise in historical detection. Sleuth-like he uses the successive manuscript drafts of Lincoln’s speeches and public letters to show his care in choosing his words, and how alert he was to sense, sound, imagery, context, and clarity. Lincoln’s Sword is a masterpiece, a showcase of the literary and political sensibilities that made Wilson an acclaimed winner of the Lincoln Prize.

By Douglas Wilson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lincoln's Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Widely considered in his own time as a genial but provincial lightweight who was out of place in the presidency, Abraham Lincoln astonished his allies and confounded his adversaries by producing a series of speeches and public letters so provocative that they helped revolutionize public opinion on such critical issues as civil liberties, the use of black soldiers, and the emancipation of slaves. This is a brilliant and unprecedented examination of how Lincoln used the power of words to not only build his political career but to keep the country united during the Civil War.


Book cover of Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America

Richard J. Carwardine Author Of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power

From my list on what made Abraham Lincoln a great president.

Why am I passionate about this?

How could a historian of the US not find Lincoln an endlessly fascinating figure? As a young(ish) university teacher, I jumped at the invitation to write a study of the 16th president, but didn’t expect it to win the coveted Lincoln Prize. When it did, in 2004, the community of American Lincoln scholars made me, a Welsh professor from Oxford University, doubly welcome. In several books I’ve examined Lincoln’s political skill, strategic ambition, and moral purposes. But he was more than a gifted pragmatist. His greater goal was to leave his nation stronger and a little closer to realizing the principles of equality laid out in the Declaration of Independence of 1776.

Richard's book list on what made Abraham Lincoln a great president

Richard J. Carwardine Why did Richard love this book?

I first encountered Lincoln as an Oxford undergraduate, spellbound by his public jousting with the “Little Giant,” Stephen Douglas, his Democratic opponent in the US Senate race of 1858. The campaign crisscrossed the plains of Illinois and brought the Republican Lincoln to national attention. Guelzo, a Lincoln Prize-winner, writes stylishly, capturing the feel of the prairies, and above all gets to the heart of the issues that divided the candidates: race and slavery. An unapologetic white supremacist, Douglas was neutral on slavery; Lincoln argued against it and its westward spread. He declared slavery wrong and at odds with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Douglas was elected but Lincoln’s raised profile would help elect him to the presidency two years later.

By Allen C. Guelzo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln and Douglas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the two-time winner of the prestigious Lincoln Prize, a stirring and surprising account of the debates that made Lincoln a national figure and defined the slavery issue that would bring the country to war.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history.

What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted for the United…


Book cover of Abraham Lincoln: A Life

Garry Wills Author Of Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

From my list on Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his words.

Why am I passionate about this?

In high school (the best time for doing this) I read the first two volumes of Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln. A year or so later I made my first trip on an airplane (Saint Louis to Detroit) and an easily recognizable Sandburg was one of the few passengers on our small commercial prop-plane. I was too shy to approach him, but I did sidle up the aisle to see what he was reading or writing (nothing that I could make out). He had boarded the plane alone, but there was a small party meeting him when we landed. I suppose it was Sandburg’s poetic approach to Lincoln that made me alert to the President’s astonishing feel for the English language.

Garry's book list on Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his words

Garry Wills Why did Garry love this book?

All right, children, it is time to eat our vegetables. This massive work of two volumes, each about a thousand pages, is biography as encyclopedia.  And the original text has been trimmed down to this published version. The original text, in all its length and density, can be read online at the  Lincoln Studies Center of Knox College. If the book seems too daunting, just look up in the informative index something you think you know about Lincoln – his Cooper Union address, say, or the Gettysburg Address, or the Second Inaugural --- turn to the relevant pages and see how much more there is to know about your subject. Or, for some racy material, look up “Mary Todd Lincoln, adultery.” Lincoln biographers have always been tough on his wife, but not as harsh as Burlingame is. Once you start looking up something you thought you knew, you will be…

By Michael Burlingame,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abraham Lincoln as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first multi-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln to be published in decades, Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame offers a fresh look at the life of one of America's greatest presidents. Incorporating the field notes of earlier biographers, along with decades of research in multiple manuscript archives and long-neglected newspapers, this remarkable work will both alter and reinforce our current understanding of America's sixteenth president. Volume 1 covers Lincoln's early childhood, his experiences as a farm boy in Indiana and Illinois, his legal training, and the political ambition that led to a term in Congress in the 1840s. In volume 2,…


Book cover of Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image

David Prior Author Of Between Freedom and Progress: The Lost World of Reconstruction Politics

From my list on how the Civil War changed history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of the Civil War, I love thinking about how the war shaped what came after it. The Civil War, and the abolition of slavery that was wrapped up with it, is perhaps the most important turning point in the history of the United States. It had so many afterlives and made such a deep impact on everything from the daily lives of the formerly enslaved in the southern states to popular culture to the shape of the country’s economy. As a historian of the period, I’ve written and edited multiple books and scholarly articles on the period. Still, I remain fascinated by how much more there is to learn and study!  

David's book list on how the Civil War changed history

David Prior Why did David love this book?

I loved how this book offered an intellectual history of the Lincoln administration in action and memory, and with a personal touch.

Focusing on the lives and works of Lincoln’s two personal secretaries, who—as Zeitz points outwere perhaps more akin to a modern president’s Chief of Staff, Zeitz takes you from the prewar years, through the war itself, and then deep into the changing landscape of post-war America.

I enjoyed how it provided a front-row seat to see the rough-and-tumble world of American politics, the process of getting things done during Lincoln’s presidency, and the refashioning of Lincoln’s image in the public mind.

Nicolay and Hay together assembled a monumental history of Lincoln and his presidency, one that still shapes scholarly understandings of him to this day. 

By Joshua Zeitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln's Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A timely and intimate look into Abraham Lincoln’s White House through the lives of his two closest aides and confidants Lincoln’s official secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay enjoyed more access, witnessed more history, and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s immediate family. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the Lincoln legacy. They read poetry and attendeded the theater with the president, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and plotted electoral strategy. They were present at every seminal event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address—and they wrote…


Book cover of Lincoln As I Knew Him: Gossip, Tributes, and Revelations from His Best Friends and Worst Enemies

Sam Rawlins Author Of Young Lincoln of New Salem

From my list on fascinating information about Abraham Lincoln.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the age of ten, I became enthralled with Abraham Lincoln. The story of his life captured my imagination. I had to know more about him. Through the decades I searched out little-known stories, eyewitness accounts, and letters thought lost. Becoming fascinated how he went from an almost illiterate young man to becoming the person we know from history; I went to the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield Illinois and to where he lived in New Salem to do additional research. After that, I started writing a three-year labor of love: my own Lincoln book, primarily focusing on one key period of his life. 

Sam's book list on fascinating information about Abraham Lincoln

Sam Rawlins Why did Sam love this book?

An amazing collection of remembrances from both those who loved and hated him. I managed to read all of these first-hand recollections in one evening, feeling like I got to know the essence of Lincoln. Several who met him said, “No man living has a kinder heart.” From those who knew him best, you get the feeling that Lincoln was a sensitive, sincere man who never really knew one as a stranger. Harold Holzer, the author, did a brilliant job compiling and editing this book.

By Harold Holzer (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln As I Knew Him as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forget what you think you know about Abraham Lincoln. Yes, he was a brilliant orator, a shrewd politician, and a determined leader who guided us through the bloodiest war in American history. But he also was a terrible dresser, rarely bothered to comb his hair, annoyed his colleagues by constantly reading out loud, loved raunchy stories, and let his kids run all over him.

Author and Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer sifted through nineteenth-century letters, diary entries, books, and speeches written by people who knew Lincoln and offers up the real skinny on the man who was arguably America's greatest president.…


Book cover of Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times

Michael Burlingame Author Of The Black Man's President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Equality

From my list on Lincoln as an anti-racist.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a college freshman, I was profoundly affected by a mesmerizing, Pulitzer-Prize-winning professor and Lincoln scholar, David Herbert Donald, who became an important mentor. I was drawn to Lincoln as source of personal inspiration, someone who triumphed over adversity, one who despite a childhood of emotional malnutrition and grinding poverty, despite a lack of formal education, despite a series of career failures, despite a woe-filled marriage, despite a tendency to depression, despite a painful midlife crisis, despite the early death of his mother and his siblings as well as of his sweetheart and two of his four children, became a model of psychological maturity, moral clarity, and unimpeachable integrity.

Michael's book list on Lincoln as an anti-racist

Michael Burlingame Why did Michael love this book?

As I read through this “cultural biography,” I was delighted to find that among the many subjects he covers, the distinguished author devoted much attention to the racial climate of antebellum America, for, as he put it, Lincoln’s “attitudes toward race must be measured against those of the surrounding culture. Only then can we responsibly come to a conclusion about this crucial topic.”

That responsible conclusion: Lincoln was “leftist abolitionist who loathed racism” and a “radical anti-racist.” A literary scholar, Reynolds notes that Lincoln “cunningly surrounded” seemingly racist pronouncements “with phrases that pointed in a radically abolitionist direction.”

Moreover, Reynolds rightly insisted that only by examining Lincoln’s “personal interchange with black people” can “we see the complete falsity of the charges of innate racism that some have levelled at him.”

By David S. Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now an Apple TV+ documentary, Lincoln's Dilemma, airing February 18, 2022.

One of the Wall Street Journal's Ten Best Books of the Year | A Washington Post Notable Book | A Christian Science Monitor and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020

Winner of the Gilder Lehrman Abraham Lincoln Prize and the Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Award

"A marvelous cultural biography that captures Lincoln in all his historical fullness. . . . using popular culture in this way, to fill out the context surrounding Lincoln, is what makes Mr. Reynolds's biography so different and so compelling . . . Where did…


Book cover of Lincoln

Charles B. Strozier Author Of Lincoln's Quest for Union

From my list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst.

Why am I passionate about this?

I got my first job as a professor of history in 1972 in Springfield, Illinois, at a new university there. What can you do in Springfield except work on Lincoln? The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Lincoln draws you in. His lively mind and always well-written letters, along with his brilliant and memorable speeches, are endlessly fascinating. He also had genuine integrity as a human being and as a leader in our greatest crisis as a country. It is hard not to be inspired by Abraham Lincoln.

Charles' book list on Abraham Lincoln from a historian and psychoanalyst

Charles B. Strozier Why did Charles love this book?

Donald’s one-volume biography of Lincoln remains the standard in the field. I knew David Donald and found him always generous. From his perch at Harvard, Donald dominated the Lincoln field for many decades. His biography of Lincoln stands head and shoulders above a host of more recent studies. In fact, it surprises me people keep writing biographies of Lincoln that go over the same ground repeatedly. Donald brings Lincoln alive with the authority that comes from a lifetime of reflection and writing on the Civil War and our greatest president.

By David Herbert Donald,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lincoln as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham 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,…


Book cover of Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln

Garry Wills Author Of Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

From my list on Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his words.

Why am I passionate about this?

In high school (the best time for doing this) I read the first two volumes of Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln. A year or so later I made my first trip on an airplane (Saint Louis to Detroit) and an easily recognizable Sandburg was one of the few passengers on our small commercial prop-plane. I was too shy to approach him, but I did sidle up the aisle to see what he was reading or writing (nothing that I could make out). He had boarded the plane alone, but there was a small party meeting him when we landed. I suppose it was Sandburg’s poetic approach to Lincoln that made me alert to the President’s astonishing feel for the English language.

Garry's book list on Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his words

Garry Wills Why did Garry love this book?

People known for witty sayings or informative stories – think Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker, or Yogi Berra and Samuel Goldwyn – tend to have any such items foisted on them. Lincoln, who was a genuine purveyor of funny and biting remarks is a victim of this form of theft in reverse. Any pointed or funny words get more dignity or heft if attributed to him. It is amazing how many such pseudo quotes are collected and sifted by the Fehrenbachers. There is a whole false American history that could be woven together from these fakes.

By Virginia Fehrenbacher (editor), Don E. Fehrenbacher (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first comprehensive collection of remarks attributed to Abraham Lincoln by his contemporaries. Much of what is known or believed about the man comes from such utterances, which have been an important part of Lincoln biography. About his mother, for instance, he never wrote anything beyond supplying a few routine facts, but he can be quoted as stating orally that she was the illegitimate daughter of a Virginia aristocrat. Similarly, there is no mention of Ann Rutledge in any of his writings, but he can be quoted as saying when he was president-elect, "I did honestly and truly…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Abraham Lincoln, the Bible, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Abraham Lincoln, the Bible, and presidential biography.

Abraham Lincoln Explore 99 books about Abraham Lincoln
The Bible Explore 336 books about the Bible
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography