By Doris Kearns Goodwin
I read this book back in January, but I thought I would wait to post a review until Lincoln's birthday (which is today!).
Team of Rivals centers around the four men seeking the Republican nomination of 1860: William Henry Seward, the presumed front runner; Salmon Chase; Edward Bates; and Abraham Lincoln, an unkown with little chance. The story continues, addressing all four men (though with a definate emphasis on Lincoln) and their roles in Lincoln's cabinet until Lincoln's assasination.
I loved this book. I found it completely fascinating and very readable. I know a lot of facts about Lincoln like: he ran for and lost a senate seat twice, he participated in what became known as the Lincoln-Douglass Debates, he was the president during the Civil War, he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, and he was assasinated. All facts people know from middle or high school history. However, I didn't really have the context of any of these events, and this book was able to give context to all of them and many more.
For example, while he did lose two senate races, it was back in the day when the legislature decided who would be the senator's from their respective state, NOT the people directly. As a result, I don't think losing the Senate races were actually as big of a defeat as I was always led to believe during school. There is reason to believe (based on the information in Rivals) that Lincoln could have won a Senate seat by popular election.
Also, did you realize that Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the confederacy on February 9, 1861, while Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1961? Somehow, I had always thought Lincoln had been president for a while (a year at least) before all the problems with the south errupted. He was thrown right into the thick of things.
Lincoln seemed to be an honest, genuine man that did what he thought was best for the country. I have more respect for him now than I did before reading the book.
The book also had a lot of interesting facts about the other three men. However, since I didn't actually know anything about any of the men, the information about them was not quite as enlightening for me as the information about Lincoln was. I did kind of feel that the author had something against Chase, however, Chase did a bunch of pretty horrible things that I don't think can really be excused away, so I am not sure that I would have handeled my representation of him any different.
I highly recommend this book to history/politics buffs. It's long - over 700 pages - but easy to follow and very intersting.