‘Lincoln’s Boys’ captures heady days during time of tragedy

03/02/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:22 AM

“Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image” by Joshua Zeitz (Viking, 400 pages, $29.95)

John Nicolay and John Hay were two young men working in Springfield, Ill., when they became involved with the political life of Abraham Lincoln before his 1860 U.S. presidential campaign. Tireless and smart, the friends, who were still in their 20s, proved themselves indispensable to Lincoln, who brought them along with him to the White House as his personal secretaries – in effect, the president’s gatekeepers.

In his new book “Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image,” author Joshua Zeitz skillfully recounts what were heady days for Nicolay and Hay, even as they were tragic days for the nation. The friends lived in the White House and wielded considerable power as advisers and conduits of Lincoln’s orders. Over the four years of the Lincoln presidency, they had as good a view of the unfolding Civil War battles – both military and political – as Lincoln himself.

And after the assassination, the friends tasked themselves with chronicling Lincoln’s life, leading to the publication of the 10-volume “Lincoln: A History.” The series and the related “Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works” co-edited by the two men remain part of the foundation for how modern Americans view the nation’s 16th president. Or, as Zeitz phrases it, the creation of the “Lincoln Memorial Lincoln.”

Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times

“All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood” by Jennifer Senior (Ecco, 308 pages, $26.99)

“All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood” is a trenchant look into the world of contemporary parents, who spend way more time supervising their children’s lives than their own parents spent supervising theirs yet also are electronically connected to the office seven days a week. Who has time for relaxation, hobbies, friends or talking to your spouse about anything other than logistics?

Senior’s insight is that though there have been many books about parenting, no one has written about the effects of having kids on the parents’ lives. We’ve been told we should be fierce Tiger Moms, pushing our children to excel, or strict like French parents, who produce gourmet eaters by not catering to a child’s taste for chicken nuggets. But what does all this intensive focus on children do to a parent’s mental health? Parenting is a “high-cost/high-reward activity,” Senior says, quoting social scientist William Doherty, and the costs today are higher than ever because of the amount of time and energy parents are expected to put into the role.

Laurie Muchnick, Newsday

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