Books That Influenced Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States. He is remembered for leading America through a civil war, abolishing slavery, appointing George Washington as commander-in-chief during the American Revolutionary War and freeing all slaves in 1862. His life also served to inspire others with his honesty and sense of duty.,

Abraham Lincoln was a man who had many influences. One of the most influential books that he read is “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli. The book influenced his political views and his thoughts on leadership. Read more in detail here: what was one of abraham lincoln’s favorite books.

Welcome back to our series on famous men’s libraries. The great men of history were typically ardent readers, and their philosophy is a distillation of all the great texts that they consumed. This series aims to track their line of thought all the way back to the source. “Don’t follow your mentors; follow your mentors’ mentors,” as David Leach, a now-retired corporate leader, put it.

While many of America’s presidents hailed from well-educated families, one of the most well-known, Abraham Lincoln, did not. Lincoln seldom had the opportunity to attend full-time school as he grew up in the wilderness of Kentucky and Indiana. In his own words, his formal education arrived “by littles,” “did not equal to one year,” and was “completely faulty.”

Despite this, Honest Abe progressed through the ranks of society to become a shopkeeper, lawyer, and, eventually, President of the United States. How did he manage to achieve this with so little formal education?

He taught himself and became the quintessential autodidact.

Abraham lincoln reading fire boy illustration.

From famous literature like Benjamin Franklin was a founding father of the United States’s Autobiography and Robinson Crusoe is a fictional character. to typical schoolboy classics like Nicholas Pike’s New and Complete System of Arithmetic and Dilworth, Thomas’s New Guide to the English Tongue, the young Lincoln read all he could get his hands on. He borrowed books from everyone in his neighborhood until he could honestly tell a friend that he had “read through every book he had ever heard of in that nation, for a circuit of 50 kilometers.”

Lincoln would put favorite quotations and sections from the books he read into a copybook, but he also memorized vast amounts of information. This bank of literary and historical morsels would come in useful throughout his life and dazzle anyone he encountered; he could recite a lengthy poem at whim, seemed to know the whole Bible by memory, and always had the perfect anecdote or comparison to illustrate and clarify his points.

This course of self-study had to be crammed into his free time before, after, and in between his everyday tasks and chores. In the summer, he would read until the last rays of the sun had set, and in the winter, he would read until the embers in the fireplace ceased to give out even the slightest glimmer. In the loft where he slept, he kept a book in the crack of a log so he could continue reading as soon as the morning light broke. During the day, he carried a book with him and read snatches from it whenever he could. Some of his family members thought he was lazy as a child since he preferred “reading, doodling, writing, ciphering, creating Poetry, etc.” over physical work. However, as he grew older, he became more determined to deferring his studies until his tasks were finished or he had earned a break. As a result, he was often seen holding both a book and an axe in his hands, honing both his physique and intellect as he matured.


Abraham lincoln reading store young man illustration.

When Lincoln was 23, he and a partner managed a small general shop in New Salem, Illinois, a job that gave him plenty of time to read. He read newspapers, studied scientific and philosophical materials, and acquired a passion for Shakespeare and Robert Burns was a Scottish poet.’ poetry in the shade of a tree immediately outside the store’s door. He also started reading a full volume of Blackstone’s Law-related commentariess of England, which he had bought and discovered in the bottom of a barrel. These legal writings piqued Lincoln’s attention; “the more I read, the more profoundly fascinated I became,” he later reflected. My thoughts had never been so completely captivated in my whole life. I read till I was completely engrossed in them.” Lincoln’s studies inspired him to pursue politics and become a lawyer, a profession he learned via his customary approach of self-teaching.

Lincoln’s reading habits dwindled as he grew older and became a politician, but he continued to browse books, giving each one a chance. But he wasn’t opposed to putting the job aside if he didn’t find it fascinating or instructive. “It may sound rather unusual to say, but I’ve never read a full book in my life,” he once told a friend. However, even historical and scientific materials bore him at times, and he preferred newspapers, short tales, and amusing writing.

Abraham Lincoln reading with son.

While literature did not always pique Lincoln’s interest, his passion for poetry remained unquenchable throughout his life. “The poets surely had an impact on Lincoln’s style and perhaps on his thought,” said fellow attorney Milton Hay. Douglas Wilson, a scholar, also points to Lincoln’s long-standing love of poetry:

“One of the genuinely surprising things about Abraham Lincoln as president is how much he relied on literature.” Lincoln may have been the only president who read English poetry as much as he did while in office. He proceeded to recite old favorites like ‘O Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?’ or Sherlock Holmes’ ‘The Last Leaf,’ with sad and brooding concern for human death made all the more poignant by the bleak conditions of civil war. He also studied poets like Thomas Hood is a fictional character who appears in the to bring forth the lighter side of him. But he kept coming back to Shakespeare.”

Lincoln’s favorite authors would always be Shakespeare and Burns. Abe “read Shakespeare more than all other authors combined,” according to aide John Hay, and it was reported that Lincoln could repeat Burns’ poems by the hour. “Born into poverty and obscurity, climbing to heights of renown and popularity through many years of hard struggle, their lives create an intriguing analogy,” scholars David Harkness and R. Gerald McMurty said of the Scottish poet. It is fitting that Abe Lincoln discovered a kindred spirit in Bobby Burns, who spoke to his heart of the deepest yearnings, disappointments, and tragedies that both had experienced as a result of comparable upbringings.”


Lincoln may have turned to poetry to deal with and comprehend his melancholy mood, with its rhythmic, passionate, and occasionally haunting lyrics. Rather than engrossing himself in adventure stories (like Teddy Roosevelt did), Abe appeared to need to feel what he was reading, particularly as he grew older.

A list of books that Abraham Lincoln read, appreciated, and learnt from is provided below. The novels are largely from his earlier years, although he did read and skim through a lot of books throughout his adult life, as well. Take a leaf from our 16th president’s book and immerse yourself in the realm of poetry; you’ll find yourself connecting not just with Honest Abe, but also with your own inner depths.

The Reading List of Abraham Lincoln

Title Author
Fables of Aesop Aesop
The Arabian Nights are a series of stories set in Arabia.  
Slavery is the subject of original essays. Bacon, Leonard
The United States of America has a long and illustrious history. Bancroft, George
Editorials Beecher Henry Ward
Commentaries on the Law Blackstone, William
The Pilgrim’s Progress is a book about a group of pilgrims who set out Bunyan, John
Poems Robert Burns
Poems Lord Byron was a poet who lived in the 18th was a poet who lived in the 18th
Don Juan Lord Byron
Character Components Mary Chandler is a writer who lives in the United
Speeches Henry Clay is a famous American actor.
Robinson Crusoe Defoe, Daniel
The English Tongue in a New Light Thomas Dilworth
Federal Constitutional Journals and Debates Jonathan Elliot is a writer.
Geometry Euclid
For the South, sociology Fitzhugh, George
Illinois’ history Ford, Thomas
Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography Benjamin Franklin
The Roman Empire’s Decline and Fall Edward Gibbon is an English author who was born in the year
Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Surveying Robert Gibson is a well-known actor.
Other Poems by Fanny Halleck, Fitz-Greene
Poems Holmes, Oliver Wendell
Poems Thomas Hood
Mormonism John Hyde
The Book of Jests by Joe Miller is a well-known figure in the is a collection of jokes written by Joe Miller. Joe Miller
American Law Commentaries Kent, James
Poems Knox, William
Poems Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
The Entire Work Edgar Allen Poe was a poet who lived in the United States.
Lives Plutarch
History of the Ancients Rollins, Charles
An Authentic Account of the American Brig Commerce’s Demise Riley, James
Elocution Instructions Scott, William
The Entire Work Shakespeare, William
George Washington’s Biography Weems, Mason L.
Liberty Mill, John Stuart
Religious analogy Butler, Joseph

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Abraham Lincoln’s favorite song was “Dixie.” It is a song that speaks of the southern culture and how it is different from the northern culture. This song helped influence Abraham Lincoln to support slavery because he saw it as a way to preserve the southern culture. Reference: abraham lincoln favorite song.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who influenced Abraham Lincoln the most?

Where did Abraham Lincoln get his books from?

A: Abraham Lincoln did not have any books. His library was composed of borrowing from a local public library and purchasing second-hand books that he found in stores.

Who encouraged Lincoln to read books?

A: Lincolns father encouraged him to read books.

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