What Would Abe Read?

AbeReadsHis neighbors used to say that Abraham Lincoln loved to read, and would walk for miles to borrow a book. For having so little formal education, our 16th president was eloquent in both his writing and speeches, no doubt partly due to being such a fervent reader. We know Abraham Lincoln was a lover of great literature. But which books entertained him? What did he read for “fun?”

Abe’s own words show how much value he placed on reading: “A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones.”

So without further ado, lets take a look into Abe’s library.  How many of these books have you read? (I was thrilled to see Jane Austen listed, since in my opinion, no library is complete without her.) This list is only a small sampling of popular works the president is believed to have enjoyed, extracted from Robert Bray’s What Abraham Lincoln Read. Lincoln also loved poetry, plays, humorous sketches, history, biographies, and philosophical works.

pride-and-prejudice-1946Aesop’s Fables

The Arabian Nights

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Artemus Ward, His Book  by Charles F. Brown

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

The Lascover1t of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (another of my favorites)

Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” Abe Lincoln

Can’t get enough of literary-loving Lincoln? Check out this list of the 25 best books about his life. Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Looking for more ways to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday? Check out this MUF post, Living Lincoln’s Words, by Katherine Schlick Noe.

  1. As you say that The Pickwick Papers is one of your favorites, you might be interested in taking a look at my novel Death and Mr Pickwick, which was published last year by Random House. (In the USA the publisher is Farrar, Straus & Giroux.) The novel tells the story behind the creation of The Pickwick Papers – and, in my view, The Pickwick Papers has the most fascinating backstory of any work of fiction. You can find out more at: http://www.deathandmrpickwick.com Two of the works on Abe’s list, incidentally, The Arabian Nights and Don Quixote, were big influences on The Pickwick Papers, but you probably knew that already. All the best Stephen Jarvis

  2. This was so interesting to read. It’s always fun to look into lives of those who’ve come before us, especially such prominent figures like Lincoln. I’ve read a few of these books, including Aesop’s Fables and Robinson Crusoe (my personal favorite). Thanks!