Releasing in January
Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction by Allen C. Guelzo (Oxford University Press, US, 2009, paperback, 160 pages)
Now we have three prominent attempts to write a truly brief, but erudite, biography of Lincoln. Of these, this seems to me the most likely to be successful. McPherson and McGovern are first-time Lincoln authors, despite McPherson's career as a Civil War scholar. On the other hand, Guelzo has written an excellent full one-volume biography of Lincoln already -- Abraham Lincoln, Redeemer President. Since that book, Guelzo has focused exclusively on Lincoln with an excellent book on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, another on the Lincoln-Douglas debates and a new book on Lincoln's philosophy. If a good short biography of Lincoln is possible, Guelzo seems up to the task.
On February 3
Lincoln's Men: The President and His Private Secretaries by Daniel Mark Epstein (Collins, 2009, hardcover, 272 pages)
Daniel Epstein now offers his third Lincoln book in the last four years -- a sign of the pace this popular author maintains. All of his Lincoln books consider specific relationships of Lincoln -- the first was a parallel biography of someone who Lincoln probably never met, Walt Whitman; the second was a biography of the marriage of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. In this book (not to be confused with a previous Lincoln's Men by William C. Davis about Lincoln's relationship with the Union soldiers) Epstein traces the relationship Lincoln had with his personal secretaries in the White House.
It is difficult to overstate the depth of Lincoln's relationship with his secretaries, particularly John Nicolay and John Hay. They slept in the White House and were virtually always in the executive office; they acted as gatekeepers to Lincoln's office, they handled Lincoln's correspondence, and sometimes they even carried out missions to serve as Lincoln's eyes and ears outside the White House. They wrote on Lincoln's behalf, sometimes in his name, sometimes in anonymous articles for Union newspapers. Years after Lincoln's death, these two men would co-write a 10-volume biography of Lincoln that focused largely on his presidential years.
This book focuses on Nicolay and Hay, although it appears to also have significant material about William Stoddard, an assistant secretary who joined the team midway through the administration. Having glanced at Epstein's previous books, it will likely be a fluid narrative of these relationships. I can only hope that it does this too often overlooked topic justice.