I’ve started a post it note wall for the Vermin debate. That’s all I’ll say for now. The cranberry making put it in the background. The floor of Lincoln books remains because I’d like to describe them and what has become my lifetime effort to compensate for not having a photographic memory and my desire since high school to stretch for Faust’s bargain to know everything at the cost of his soul.
The recent news of colleges killing their liberal arts programs and many high schools ending their copious social studies courses seems to be to be the self retarding Republican Party’s attempt to kill anything deemed as “liberal” otherwise known as open-minded, generous, and tolerant. Scrooge pre haunting, the Grinch pre-heart growth and Donald Trump still are the threee stooges of the Republican Party who rule supreme. And their Mrs. Claus?…..why Marjorie Taylor Green of course.
So let me wade in on how I have gone about learning things No that’s too long a story I’m still sifting through.
Let’s start with Lincoln. Here’s that photo again for reference.
These are just most of the main books I’ve read on Lincoln which I’ve made a habit to buy although the Inskeep book was on Audible (I think).
The 13 books angled to the left have not been read although I made a stab with the Pulitizer winner about the Gettysburg speech and the Living Lincoln which is packed with the writings of Lincoln. There are also two piles of books at the top that are series I started just after getting married. One is the series of Civil War books by Bruce Catton that I gave my Grandfather. Its not Lincoln per se but any history of the Civil War is crammed full of Lincoln. I’m sure I’ve read at least the first one and the same for the two book pile which is poet Carl Sandburg’s history of Lincoln. I don’t recommend it. It was too lyrical and vague for me. I read it because it and the author were famous. I haven’t picked it up for over 40 years so today I might have a different opinion. The book tipped to the right I suspect I read but again a long time ago. When I started my reading I treated books as though they were precious and didn’t make notes or underline them. That is true of some of the more recent books I bought and know I read so what the contained must not have been the sort of information I wanted to find again.
The books that make up the two straight lines on the Right are general books about the times surrounding our 16th president that put his times in context. They start with the book on the Slave trade which is part of one of my largest collections of subject texts Black History. Likewise four books down the book on Frederick Douglass Lincoln’s sometimes adversary and sometimes champion….especially after his death revealed Lincoln to have been a sagacious leader that threaded a needle its hard to imagine another politician of any era threading…saving the Union. Maybe a Stalin God forbid but the still Democratic America of that time (unlike today) would have made a Stalin impossible here.
The books in the center are the books I have gotten the most out of for different reasons. Lincoln and his times are so voluminous no author can do him justice in a single book. I made that point recently in one of my Reader columns about visiting Washington DC.
At the top of the list is my first book on Lincoln that I read in junior high at about the same time I was reading Profiles in Courage attributed to JFK but most likely the product of one of his aides. Jim Bishop also wrote the Day Christ Died which was my first book of religious history.
One of the books in the center that is angled because I don’t think I’ve finished it is kept with Lincoln but could also be part of my collection of Cartooning books. This is a book I bought either at the Truman Presidential Library or at the Lincoln Presidential museum in Springfield. I’ve visited the museum two times. Another book bought at one of the two presidential museums is the book on the left Herndon’s Lincoln. I may never read it but it is one of the criticial sources of information about Lincoln before he became president.
Herndon is the young attorney who joined Lincoln’s law practice and watched him play with his sons in the law practice and followed his low points before he became president. He admired Lincoln but not for being the saint his murder appear. He was so appalled by how badly a growing hagiography was becoming that he set out to correct all the bullshit by spending years tracking down the people who knew Lincoln back in obscurity to collect stories of them. Many were dubious tall tales that raconteurs like spinning and Herndon knew some were suspect but he put the whole kitchen sink in his book including stories that horrified one woman who was busy on the sainthood circuit.
Herndon was not admired for sullying Lincoln’s reputation at the time and he detested Mary Todd Lincoln who he trashed and the feeling for the poor widow to him was the same. None the less his stories have been indispensable for later historians eager to understand the real Lincoln. I suspect Herndon’s book was critical to Carl Sandberg and perhaps why I didn’t much care for it.
I am strongly inclined to give a very short summary of the books. Very short. But that’s still almost 25 books. So let me explain a little of my attempt to plug holes in my non photographic memory.
I usually aim to patch up the biggest holes in my understanding of why things are the way they are. The subject include non people science oriented subjects. I’ve read science articles voraciously from an early age. Reading my cousins kids encyclopedia about mammals who laid eggs was a delightful discovery. They are today among the most likely to become extinct as Human’s soil God’s creation of the Earth.
Each continent rests somewhat separately from the next. Eurasia is considered two continents because historians make such a big deal out of its oxident and its orient. Throw in Asia and the whole is the Old World separated from the New World when the world was still full of dinosaurs. Humans crossed its bridge at the North 30 to 50 thousand years ago and Polynesians made a few pokes at South American a thousand years ago. But the human population which came in a couple waves was still innocent of all they’d left behind in the Old World until some stabs at the west coast perhaps as long as 1 or two thousand years ago. They picked up with European fishermen and later discoverers hoping for a direct western route to Asia and its rich trading goods.
So Understanding history is divided in my mind between geography and time frames. Ancient Asian History, Ancient European History, Middle ages and Modern ages separated into the recent centuries from the fifteenth to the 21st. America’s twentieth century was consumed almost as a group best understood decade by decade. Now most of US History is a decade by decade study for me or even a four year presidential cycle.
The Lincoln collection is full of books that fill in blanks that have all proved to important to leave blank. They are representative of the other general subjects I’ve tried to plug up.
When I write my columns today I have close to a photographic memory called Wikipedia. I also have lots of books with lots of yellow marker in them. For instance I recently skimmed one of the books in the historical perspective pile. Its Mr. Speaker on the bottom about the Republican Speaker of the House who made the House start working again after the Civil War when southern congressman took on the task of being like today’s Freedom Caucus that wants a helpless disorganized America where the rich can throw their weight around. (too simple I know but History begs for generalizations)
I just took the books off my floor but not before putting them in more manageable collections to better explain how I’ve attempted to get my head around the importance of Lincoln. He is no less important for understanding the United States than Jesus is for understanding Christianity. Only there is a wealth of precise proof of Lincoln and an immense paucity of everything but speculation about the latter.
So here’s a start. Three books at a slant that I haven’t yet read. I bought the book on Sam Houston years ago probably outside a bookstore as a remainder. A recent look at Amazon’s book list suggest its not a bad summary of several written about him. I’d like to read it because he is of course Texas and then Texas turned on their liberator from Mexico and first President then Governor after annexation by the US. He was against the Civil War. That’s my kind of traitor. I know bits about him. Like others of his era he lived closely with the Indians who were later packed away on the Train of Tears but I really need to fill a hole that he is the center of. The book has been waiting for me for over fifteen years.
The Field of Blood is about the bloody arguments in Congress as Abolitionists provoked Slave holders. I read of review of the book five years ago and was tempted to order it. I acquired this one likely at a discount a year or two ago and its still waiting for me. What it details is the long run up to the Civil War split and it offered the proof of constant conflict by one of the nation’s most prolific diarists who kept daily track for a decade or two of the conflicts in the capital. They were far more common than the severe caning of Senator Sumner. I once read the first quarter of a book about the kinds of Englishmen who settled America called Albion something. It maintained the plantation society sprang from Cavaliers who brought a touchy sense of honor that required dueling to solve.
Missing in this run up to the Civil War was a book I read to Claudia about the slave catchers who overran the north trying to catch escaped slaves…..but I read it and its not in the photograph. One more thing to piss off slave owners the Northerners who refused to help return the property of slave owners. And also a wonderful book about a husband and wife who escaped by an author named Yoon. It was an audio book.
Finally the most recent book in my plug-up-the-holes collection “The Doom of Reconstruction.” For years I’ve called myself a “liberal republican.” The awkward thing was that I knew that near the end of Reconstruction a group of Republicans who called themselves “liberals” opposed the heroic single minded radicals led by House Dictator Thaddeus Stevens to keep the South from crushing the newly freed slaves. Liberals sympathized with the end of Reconstruction and were more worried about corruption in the Grant Administration. I’m sure I read a review of this book fifteen years ago but I only just now ordered it. BTW I have a book about Stevens as he was another hole in need of plugging up.
So I have three more photos of different sub collections Each would/will require significant illumination. They will have to wait.
I did write a Reader column about all the Lincoln books many of which were in this photo I took across the street from Ford’s Theater.