For years now, Brookhiser has helped bring the Founders back to life, precisely Lincoln’s purpose as the president...

An author who specializes in biographies of the Founders looks at their influence on our 16th president.

Only two of the men who fought in the Revolution, wrote the Declaration and framed the Constitution remained alive as Lincoln reached his 20s. By the time he departed Springfield in 1861, the president-elect had spent his political maturity pondering the lessons of the Founders, teasing out the principles that informed them as he faced a task he deemed “greater than George Washington’s”—holding together a dangerously fragile union. Famously self-made, Lincoln learned most of what he knew from books. Byron, Shakespeare and the Bible account for the touches of poetry in his prose; to Euclid goes partial credit for the rigorous logic underpinning his arguments. The Founders, however, became Lincoln’s most reliable instructors: Thomas Paine for plainspoken proofs; Washington as a model of virtue and for his love of liberty; the problematic Jefferson for the Declaration’s perfect expression of the American purpose. National Review senior editor Brookhiser (James Madison, 2011, etc.) touches on many other influences that shaped Lincoln’s mind, even throwing a little credit to Thomas Lincoln (something Abraham never did) for his son’s talent for storytelling. If the author’s attempt to link the figure of John Wilkes Booth to the dreaded and destructive “towering genius” prophesized in Lincoln’s 1838 Lyceum Address doesn’t quite work, his discussion of the second inaugural is genuinely moving and instructive. The narrative always smoothly returns, though, to the Founders and Lincoln’s unceasing attempt to divine their intentions and to examine the institutions they built and the opportunity they created for someone like him to thrive.

For years now, Brookhiser has helped bring the Founders back to life, precisely Lincoln’s purpose as the president contemplated for his country a new birth of freedom, “the old freedom” they envisioned in 1776 but couldn’t quite perfect.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-465-03294-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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