January 23, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST

Lincoln biographies: The latest

President Obama’s interest in Lincoln has coincided with the bicentennial celebration of his birth — an? event that brings forth a stack of books taller than a stovepipe hat.

In Lincoln’s Hand
By Harold Holzer and Joshua Wolf Shenk
Description: Facsimiles of original manuscripts of Lincoln’s speeches and letters, adorned with short ?essays by presidents and pundits.
Choice Trivia: Lincoln advised a court-martialed Peeping Tom that voyeurism was ”not of great enormity, and yet greatly to be avoided.”
Bottom Line: Fresh, surprising commentary — see Conan O’Brien on the Seinfeldian wit of Honest Abe’s telegrams — sets off Lincoln’s still-inspiring words.
EW Grade: B+

”They Have Killed Papa Dead”
By Anthony S. Pitch
Description: A meticulously researched narrative of the Lincoln assassination, from the conspiracy ?and murder through the ensuing manhunt ?and trial.
Choice Trivia: A gypsy palm-reader predicted that ?John Wilkes Booth ?would come to a bad end.
Bottom Line: Pitch turns the tragedy into a great American true-crime story, complete with a charming ?sociopath, hard-boiled ?detectives, dank settings, and grisly forensics.
EW Grade: B+

A. Lincoln
By Ronald C. White Jr.
Description: This massive bio highlights Lincoln’s? development as a writer and thinker struggling with the racist dogmas of his day.
Choice Trivia: Union general ?Joseph Hooker’s fondness ?for female camp-followers inspired a popular ?term for practitioners of the oldest profession.
Bottom Line: Lincoln’s intellect ? shines through in this portrait of a man ? groping toward ?”a new Union and a new humanity.”
EW Grade: A-

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