Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: Team of Rivals

Before leaving for E3, I had the chance to finish Doris Kearn Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and quite enjoyed it, despite a couple flaws.

The book is about Lincoln's relationship with his famed cabinet, made up of what had been some of his biggest rivals in the run up to his winning the republican party's nomination as presidential candidate. Much has been written about how he structured his cabinet out of people that would not only counsel him objectively, but take strong contrarian stances to his position on issues. This book explores those relationships, from the run up to the presidency until his assassination, and does so pretty deeply through letters, diaries, and other accounts of the communications between them.

Perhaps those that went to school in America are more well versed on Lincoln and on the history of the civil war than I am, but still I think there's a lot of depth here that offers some great lessons on character and leadership.

Also, again, because I don't know a lot of the history here, I found the accounts of the great battles and turning points of the civil war to be fascinating. I also didn't know that Lincoln's assassination was part of a triple assassination (the other two planned killings, of vice president Johnson and secretary of state Seward, were abandoned and unsuccessful, respectively).

The main complaint I have about the book is that in gushing praise upon Lincoln, it fails to make any criticism of him. Even while talking about his failed calls in selecting some of the leadership of his military leaders, it apologizes on his behalf. The book also gives disproportionate weight to some things in his life versus what must have been the heaviest at the time (e.g. social functions and the like, compared to war campaign decisions).

This critique aside, the book is still a good read and a good crash course and inside peek on a great leader in action.

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