My Review of Lincoln

lincoln_1Think about it.

There’s probably not a person over sixteen alive today living in America that hasn’t seen a Steven Spielberg movie.

Unless they’re Amish.

Or blind.

Still. I always say, “We can all use a little more Spielberg in our lives.”

Alright, alright, so he messed up with the snore-fest War Horse (I still don’t know what it was about!). And maybe The Lost World didn’t come close to living up to its predecessor – but no one’s perfect, right?

I mean, I’m not a perfect husband; I’ve snapped at my wife a time or two.

Pixar made Cars 2

Congress voted in favor of Obamacare. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Anyway, all that to say, that Lincoln, though not meant to be watched for entertainment value, is far from being a mistake.

I think Spielberg actually did a masterful job, not at creating a blockbuster or a compelling story-on-film, but a rich, well-informed, educational, and (mostly) accurate documentary of the efforts to pass the 13th amendment.

Be sure, this film is not about the Civil War, nor did I feel like it was really about our sixteenth president. The film focused mainly on the collective efforts of the Republicans to persuade the House of Representatives to pass Lincoln’s proposed amendment, not necessarily for the purposes of freeing the slaves (though that was a sparkling side-effect), but to end the war on the terms of unification of the nation.

Abraham Lincoln was undoubtably one of the greats. I loved how Spielberg highlighted his political genius, and the great efforts and strains he endured to have his pure resolve brought to fruition.

Sarabeth and I were both tense leading up to the assassination, (btw, spoilers ahead) but we were relieved that it was not shown. It honestly would have been too traumatic for any patriot to see – even replicated – on screen. I think it was very honorable that Spielberg spared the audience such images, as I’m sure he knew it could draw criticism from the rougher audiences.

Passing over the assassination was akin to Oliver Stone purposefully choosing not to show the planes crashing into the towers in his film World Trade Center, diverting attention from the praise-seeking sadists. 

I will say, if you want to learn more about the historical assassination, and how Booth suffered miserably in his last days, you really need to pick up the book Manhunt by Swanson. (It’ll also give you an idea of what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went through last week in Massachusetts.) Even then, in written form, Lincoln’s untimely death brought me to near tears.

“Should we buy it?” is a question often asked in our house after we watch a rental.

My answer: “It’s nothing I would look forward to watching again in a hurry. But I think it’s worth having on hand to show our kids when they’re studying about him in school.”

Keep the cameras rolling, Mr. Spielberg.

Lincoln’s Birthday and the Chase for His Killer

ManhuntIn honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and in the interest of my home state, California’s largest manhunt currently taking place, I could think of no other book to recommend than this today.

For the average reader, a good book comes across their lap every so often and a great book lands there every other blue moon. For a more-than-average reader like myself, the likelihood of a great book opening itself up is much higher.

MANHUNT: THE TWELVE DAY CHASE FOR LINCOLN’S KILLER by James L. Swanson is one such book that I would like to share with you all. You may be asking why I’m recommending a book about a piece of history everyone already knows about front and back. Well for starters, it doesn’t take many pages to learn that you didn’t know the whole story. And secondly, if you’re one of those people, like myself, who wishes you could hop in a time machine and witness climatic moments in history, this book is your portal.

I read the assassination account to Sarabeth and we were both near tears, which is saying how vivid the retelling actually is. I felt like I could reach out and touch the back of President Lincoln’s head as Booth snuck into the vestibule to pull the infamous trigger firing off the shot the nation still hears today.

Furthermore, Manhunt turns into a rapid cat-and-mouse chase as Union soldiers ride through the thickets and country roads, passing Booth by merely yards not once but twice. Booth, with a broken leg, must employ his greatest acting talents to convince people that no, he is indeed not the assassin-at-large, but just a desperate Confederate soldier trying to hold his army together and continue the fight, so will you please take me in for the night?

It makes me wonder if Christopher Jordan Dorner is going through anything similar as I write this.

I would compare this book to CATCH ME IF YOU CAN by Frank W. Abagnale. They’re separated by a hundred years, the crimes committed in each tale are vastly different, but if you’ve seen the brilliant movie version of Catch Me, you know the kind of butterfly-feeling I’m talking about when the hunted is being ruthlessly pursued by the hunter, demanding justice to fall on his prey, yet you’re torn because something sinister inside of you is rooting for the bad guy, not so he can get away, but so that the story can continue.

It was a sad parting when I read the final pages of MANHUNT, but I am thankful that its sequel is sitting on my shelf, about the chase for Jefferson Davis. History buffs and thrill seekers alike would be doing themselves a gross misdeed by overlooking this work of art.

The book contains graphic imagery of stabbings and surgical procedures on victims of bloody crimes. Those with squeamish stomaches might want to be ready to skip a few pages.

What are your favorite history books that put you right in the action?

This Summer’s Reading List

Summer’s approaching and that means… book fever! Yes, it’s time to dust off those books you’ve been meaning to read for so long, pull out those books you received for Christmas last year, open them up and start reading. I always say that no one is too busy to read. If you’re saying that, then stop *reading* this blog (or tweet), and stick your nose in a book. (And not a book that’s most likely going to be made into the next steamy movie – that doesn’t count… that’s just watching a silly movie in slow motion.)

So as you’ve probably figured out by now, every Tuesday is Book Rec day here on Adopting James. I’m just tingling with excitement over the next several books I’m going to read  this summer. Here’s a sneak peak at my bookshelf I’ll be making my way through in the next few months, so if you have any of these books, you can read along, or maybe this post will inspire you to get out there and treat yourself to some useful purchases. Be looking for my reviews in the next few months. And remember, I’m open to suggestions, so email them to me or comment. Happy reading!

This will be my first official baseball book, as I’ve just recently developed a love for the sport. I’m more interested in the history of baseball than taking it up as something I currently follow. Anytime you mix history in with something, my attention is taken captive. And heck, reading about the world’s longest ball game could be a good way to begin my baseball reading endeavor. Anyone have any other baseball book suggestions?



I am indebted to this man, like many of you, in so many ways. No so much because of the products he’s invented (Sarabeth and I still only have a MacBook, but would like others), but because of certain investments he’s made. Many people don’t know this, but it was Steve Jobs who gave Pixar Animation Studios their start by funding them back in the late ’80’s. In so many ways, it’s because of Steve Jobs that we have movies like Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and others, thus ultimately saving the Disney Studios. And, I’ve been told that it was Jobs himself who suggested Woody be a good guy rather than antagonistic when Lassetter, Stanton and their team were creating the first Toy Story . Why is that such a big deal, you ask? Let’s just say I’ve got a small collection of Woody figurines on my desk, including a real pull-string Woody doll on my bookshelf… with my name (Andy) written on the bottom of his right boot.


This is one of my favorite books, written by one of my favorite classic authors. If you haven’t read it, or Around the World in 80 Days, you finally need to do so. Plus, I hear Disney is making a movie about Captain Nemo, so… gots to be prepared for that.




I’ve heard nothing but outstanding things about author Erik Larson, and especially this book of American history. It’s set in Chicago, 1893, and centers around an architect, who was behind the idea of the 1893 World’s Fair, and a serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. This sounds like it has all the makings of a classic. Why didn’t they teach us this sort of stuff in school?



This book came highly recommended by Dr. Albert Mohler, and quite frankly, after reading a couple of his recommendations, I just keep going back to his list for more. And, after seeing The Conspirator last year, I’m very excited to get the story inside the story. I mean, other than hunting down Nazis or terrorist, what else could be more exciting than searching and capturing John Wilkes Booth? Plus, this will be great preparation for Spielberg’s Lincoln coming out this summer – And no, he does not go around hacking zombies to death with an axe.

Additional books: The Universe Next Door, Sire; The History of Israel, Kaiser; To Try Men’s Souls, Gingrich; America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. 2, Bennett; God’s Passion for His Glory – Piper

Image credits: Bottom of the 33rd, Steve Jobs, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Devil in the White City, Manhunt