I wanted to read this book for years. I even bought it an Audible during a sale at one point but I put off reading it due to its length. I was really just looking for the right time to commit to it fully. That happened this summer as my family and I moved back across the country from California to Virginia. My wife and the kids flew as our children are really young. I drove with the dogs and rocked out to a few audiobooks during the seven day trip. I started this behemoth on day two of driving and ALMOST finished it before arriving back on the east coast. Team of Rivals is a 42-hour monster of a book that held my attention for every second. I should add that I listen at 1.5x speed which helps, especially on these huge books.
Team of Rivals begins at the Republican National Convention of 1860. It bounces back to tell some of the histories of each of the major players for the Republican nomination: Abraham Lincoln, Salmon P. Chase, William Seward, and Edward Bates. Lincoln wins the nomination but then picks each one of his fellow competitors to hold a major role within his administration. Chase becomes Secretary of the Treasury. Bates is the Attorney General. Seward is the Secretary of State. While each of the men still harbor ambitions to become president themselves, Lincoln’s leadership skillfully navigates those ambitions and keeps the United States together.
If you are like me, you know the Lincoln is one of our greatest presidents from elementary school. I was a history major and and avid history buff and I did not realize exactly how great he was. I read somewhere that President Obama used this book as inspiration while building his own cabinet and that makes sense. He, from Illinois, chose his chief party rival, Secretary Clinton, a senator (former) from NY like Seward, to be his Secretary of State. While I don’t think he planned it to that level of detail, the coincidence is interesting. President Obama certainly seems to have been inspired by Team of Rival to pick Secretary Clinton. This book is long. There are TONS of characters. But it might be the best work of non-fiction I’ve ever read.