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And There Was Light: Book summary and reviews of And There Was Light by Jon Meacham

And There Was Light

Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle

by Jon Meacham

And There Was Light by Jon Meacham X
And There Was Light by Jon Meacham
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  • Published Oct 2022
    720 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and #1 New York Times bestselling author Jon Meacham chronicles the life of Abraham Lincoln, charting how - and why - he confronted secession, threats to democracy, and the tragedy of slavery to expand the possibilities of America.

A president who governed a divided country has much to teach us in a twenty-first-century moment of polarization and political crisis. Hated and hailed, excoriated and revered, Abraham Lincoln was at the pinnacle of American power when implacable secessionists gave no quarter in a clash of visions bound up with money, race, identity, and faith. In him we can see the possibilities of the presidency as well as its limitations.

At once familiar and elusive, Lincoln tends to be seen as the greatest of American presidents—a remote icon—or as a politician driven more by calculation than by conviction. This illuminating new portrait gives us a very human Lincoln—an imperfect man whose moral antislavery commitment, essential to the story of justice in America, began as he grew up in an antislavery Baptist community; who insisted that slavery was a moral evil; and who sought, as he put it, to do right as God gave him to see the right.

This book tells the story of Lincoln from his birth on the Kentucky frontier in 1809 to his leadership during the Civil War to his tragic assassination in 1865: his rise, his self-education, his loves, his bouts of depression, his political failures, his deepening faith, and his persistent conviction that slavery must end. In a nation shaped by the courage of the enslaved of the era and by the brave witness of Black Americans, Lincoln's story illustrates the ways and means of politics in a democracy, the roots and durability of racism, and the capacity of conscience to shape events.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Pulitzer winner Meacham more than justifies yet another Lincoln biography in this nuanced and captivating look at the president's 'struggle to do right as he defined it within the political universe he and his country inhabited'...Richly detailed and gracefully written, this is an essential reminder that 'progress can be made by fallible and fallen presidents and peoples." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"While there are countless books on Lincoln, one of the most studied and written-about figures in history, Meacham's latest will undoubtedly become one of the most widely read and consulted. An essential, eminently readable volume for anyone interested in Lincoln and his era." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"In his captivating new book, Jon Meacham has given us the Lincoln for our time. And There Was Light brilliantly interweaves the best of gripping narrative history with a deeper search for the complex interplay among morality, politics, and power in a life, in a democracy, and in an America ripped apart over slavery. Here Meacham takes us to the heart of the president who shaped events at 'the existential hour.' In doing so, he fortifies us to meet our own." - Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"Biography at its best, the great historian Barbara Tuchman wrote, paints an intimate portrait of an individual which simultaneously provides a sweeping view of history. With this deep, compelling work, Jon Meacham has achieved this gold standard. Written with wisdom and grace, his story of Lincoln's complex moral journey to Emancipation mirrors America's long quest to live up to its founding ideals." - Doris Kearns Goodwin

"With his singular gift for compelling narrative and groundbreaking analysis, Jon Meacham illuminates not only Lincoln and his times but, just as much, the troubled society that we live in today." - Michael Beschloss

This information about And There Was Light was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Jon Meacham Author Biography

Photo: Damien Donck

Jon Meacham holds the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in the American Presidency at Vanderbilt University, where he is also a distinguished visiting professor and co-chairs the Vanderbilt Project on Unity & Democracy. A biographer and contributing editor at Time, he lectures widely in the United States on history, politics, and religious faith, and is the Canon Historian of Washington National Cathedral. In 2020, Meacham was a visiting lecturer at American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee, where he taught a course on the life and legacy of John Lewis.

He is the author of numerous New York Times bestsellers, including His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope; The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels; The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last ...

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