Stephen A. Wynalda
Skyhorse Publishing, 2010, 590 pp. + 28 pp. Introduction, $29.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
There have been endless amounts of books written about Abraham Lincoln and his presidency both from the angles of the good and the bad, so this book is another additive to the collection. Throughout this book, there are many examples of what Lincoln went through in the political, private and militaristic realm of his career but some of these stories attempt to bring about a conclusion which is not reality. What this book does is write a myriad of human interest stories throughout his tenure as president and president elect without any form of a narrative. There are many types of books which show the drama and humor of human interest stories, but this book fails to bring about a connection between all of them.
Stephen A. Wynalda is a journalist, a freelance writer and an avid Civil War researcher. He is also the author of many works of fiction which has given him a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. While this is the description of the author on the back flap of the book, I found no trace of his fiction works in the database of goodreads and the only book listed in his name is this work on Lincoln.
I’m not sure what I was hoping for in this book but as I looked through the table of contents, I began to realize that the book was just filled with human interest stories from 1860 until 1865. As the text goes on, there are 84 interruptions of stories of people who viewed Lincoln from the outside instead of a story told about Lincoln himself. Abraham Lincoln loved telling stories so I began to realize that maybe this collection of human interest stories would add to the lexicon of Lincoln, but I was wrong. I had heard of these stories before and I had read all of the outside stories as well. It has become more and more clear to be when it comes to the life of Lincoln that there are certain historians who have the gravitas to deal with the figure of a man such as this and there are authors who struggle with the man. Lincoln is no easy figure to deal with and this book is incredible proof of that. This book added nothing to the study of Lincoln and the people who surrounded him. However, if I were to have this book on my coffee table, there would be a decent reasoning for this collection to be around. This book serves as a conversation piece instead of a scholarly writing. So to say that there is no reason to own this book is ridiculous. It does serve a purpose much like books on Civil War photography and artwork which has graced coffee tables all over the country.
So in what regards would I recommend this book? I would recommend it only to the new Civil War student who wishes to know some of the human interest stories of Lincoln and have not read any coherent work on Lincoln yet in their lives. I do not recommend this book to the accomplished Civil War student and scholar since there is no new information here for them to learn. The narrative sometimes feels very stilted and gives off a “too the point” ideal of writing instead of a well sourced book. In conclusion, while this book does not have a purpose in the accomplished Civil War student’s library, it does have some purposes for other Civil War beginners.