The Books of Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial National Park

There is no question that Abraham Lincoln was a very intelligent man.  He was highly knowledgeable in legal and political matters, wrote many poems, wrote the Gettysburg Address, and he was also the only president to have a patent.

Contradictory to his previous achievements and accomplishments, the 16th president never truly had a formal education, but, from a young age, he was engrossed with the thought of learning and especially reading, which, he learned from his mother.

Many of Abraham Lincoln’s views on different matters were shaped by the books he read growing up.

Here are just a few of the books that Abraham Lincoln read:

The Bible

Abraham Lincoln was quite familiar with the Bible, as his mother would often have the family sit around the fire taking turns reading.  Faith was an important factor in Lincoln’s life.  He developed a strong faith from his mother and carried it with him throughout his life.  He was quoted once, “In regard to this Great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man.  All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book.  But for it we could not know right from wrong.  All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

Aesop’s Fables

Lincoln read Aesop’s Fables at a young age.  He loved the stories so much that he was often heard retelling them to his playmates to pass time.  One of Abraham’s friends said, “He kept the Bible and Aesop’s always within reach, and read them over and over again.”  Abraham Lincoln loved to tell tales, but he always made sure his tales had an important lesson to them, which may be why he loved Aesop’s Fables so much.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Once when Abe’s father, Thomas Lincoln, was at a neighbor’s house, he noticed a book by John Bunyan called The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Knowing his son’s love for reading, he seized a copy and gave it to Lincoln.  The book was very popular at the time as it was said that in every household you would find the Bible and a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress.  The “author’s apology” in the book was possibly the first long poem Abraham Lincoln came across, heightening his already blooming interest in poetry.

Life of George Washington

Perhaps one of the most influential books Abraham Lincoln ever read was Mason Weem’s The Life of George Washington.  Lincoln’s ideas on politics and patriotism were greatly affected by George Washington.  He said about the book later in life, “I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that these men struggled for.”

Guest post by Intern Stephanie Coley from Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

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