Every generation of Americans reinvents Abraham Lincoln in its own image. Politicians from conservatives to communists, civil rights activists to segregationists, have claimed him as their own. Presidents — most recently Barack Obama — try to model themselves on him.
Lincoln is important to us not because of how he chose his cabinet or what route his train took to Washington, but because the issues of his time still resonate in ours — relations between the state and federal governments, the definition of American citizenship, the long-term legacy of slavery. My three favorite books on Lincoln are not only works of superb scholarship, but speak directly to the times in which they were written.