Which types of books were preferred by Abraham Lincoln for reading?

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By Felicity Long

Abraham Lincoln’s love for reading

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is known for his towering presence in history, not only for his leadership during one of the most trying times in American history but also for his love for reading. Lincoln was an avid reader with a thirst for knowledge that he quenched through books throughout his life. In this article, we will explore the types of books that Lincoln preferred to read and how they shaped his worldview.

Lincoln’s early years and his thirst for knowledge

Lincoln grew up in a modest home in Kentucky and Indiana, with very limited access to formal education. However, he had a natural curiosity and a desire to learn, which led him to read voraciously in his free time. Lincoln’s favorite pastime as a child was to spend long hours reading books by the light of a fireplace. He read everything he could get his hands on, from the Bible to newspapers to novels, and this habit continued throughout his life.

His favorite book: Aesop’s Fables

One of the first books that Lincoln ever owned was a copy of Aesop’s Fables, a collection of short stories that taught moral lessons through the use of animal characters. Lincoln read and re-read this book throughout his childhood and credited it with teaching him important life lessons that he carried with him throughout his life. He once said, "All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother and the lessons she taught me and to my early reading of Aesop’s Fables."

Other books he read as a child

Besides Aesop’s Fables, Lincoln read a wide range of books as a child, including Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim’s Progress, and the works of William Shakespeare. He also read history books and biographies and developed a keen interest in the lives of great people who had overcome obstacles to achieve success.

The influence of his stepmother on his reading habits

Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston, was also a significant influence on his reading habits. She encouraged him to read and provided him with books that she thought would be of interest to him. Through her efforts, Lincoln was able to expand his reading beyond the limited selection that was available to him in his local community.

Lincoln’s reading during his law career

Lincoln’s love for reading continued throughout his professional career as a lawyer. He read extensively on legal matters and consulted the works of leading legal scholars of his time. He also read newspapers and magazines to keep abreast of current events and political developments.

How books shaped his worldview

Books played a significant role in shaping Lincoln’s worldview. He believed that books had the power to educate, inspire, and transform people’s lives. He once said, "My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read." His reading gave him a broad perspective on life and helped him to develop empathy and understanding for people from different backgrounds.

Lincoln’s use of books during his presidency

During his presidency, Lincoln continued to rely on books to help him understand the complex issues facing the country. He read books on military strategy, history, and philosophy, among other subjects. He also used books as a way to escape the pressures of his job and found solace in reading poetry and novels.

His admiration for Shakespeare’s works

Lincoln was particularly fond of the works of William Shakespeare, which he considered to be the pinnacle of English literature. He was known to have memorized many of Shakespeare’s plays and could recite them from memory. Lincoln also drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s characters, whom he saw as examples of leadership and courage.

Lincoln’s love for poetry

Lincoln had a deep appreciation for poetry and was known to have written his own poems. He was especially fond of the works of Robert Burns and Edgar Allan Poe. He believed that poetry had the power to convey complex emotions and ideas in a way that prose could not.

The books Lincoln kept on his desk

During his presidency, Lincoln kept a number of books on his desk, including the Bible, Shakespeare’s works, and a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. These books were a constant reminder of the values and principles that he held dear and guided him in his decision-making.

Conclusion: The legacy of Lincoln’s reading habits

Abraham Lincoln’s love for reading was a defining characteristic of his life. His early exposure to books instilled in him a desire for knowledge that he carried with him throughout his life. The books he read shaped his worldview and helped him to become one of the most consequential leaders in American history. His example continues to inspire people today to read and to seek knowledge as a means of personal growth and development.

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Felicity Long

Felicity Long, a seasoned travel journalist with 15+ years of experience, specializes in exploring Europe, family travel, and skiing, as evident in her book "Great Escapes: New England" (The Countryman Press). She edits the Europe eNewsletter and contributes significantly to TravelAsker's destinations sections. Felicity has received esteemed awards, including the Cacique and Yo Leonardo Awards, in recognition of her outstanding international travel writing accomplishments.

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