In Giants: The Parallel Lives Of Frederick Douglass And Abraham Lincoln (Twelve, $30), John Stauffer, Chair of the American Civilization Department at Harvard, writes that Lincoln and Douglass “led strikingly parallel lives.” They read from the same core of books: Shakespeare and English poetry. They were both “dazzling orators” (back before such activity became suspect). Stauffer shows that the difference between being born in bondage to another man and being born the son of a very poor white man is greater than Lincoln thought when he was young. But there were similarities: both men were denied a formal education, both had to do hard manual labor for a living. While Douglass never knew who his father was, Lincoln did not love or respect his father. Stauffer writes about the development of these men’s ideas and their rise to political heights, but he resists the temptation to tell all. The book is remarkably compact with 300 pages of text and, Lincoln lovers take note, almost 100 pages of footnotes.
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