Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Review: How Lincoln Learned to Read by Daniel Wolff

I really enjoyed How Lincoln Learned to Read.  The book is a history of 12 Americans, or soon-to-be Americans, and the manner in which they gained the knowledge and skills that would become necessary for them to complete the role they would fulfill in their adult lives.  Perhaps what is most fascinating to me is the variety of methods ... from Lincoln's general unschooling, to Franklin's start in Boston Latin, to Elvis' progressive education, to Sojourner Truth's total lack of formal education but clear ability to "read people,"  to JFK's boarding school education. 

Most of the children profiled by Wolff are familiar to us adults; in fact, the only one I'd never heard of before was Rachel Carson (who had as close to a Charlotte Mason Nature Study early education as anyone in the book).  It was fascinating to see what sort of educational background had produced such exceptional adults who had a task to accomplish.  To see the work that was put into, say, Elvis' meteoric, accidental rise to fame and fortune.  All of the people profiled here had intelligence; perception; talent; ability; a fascination; and perhaps, most importantly, drive.

Mr. Wolff, and even the people he profiles in his book, would not (I think) recognize God's providence, yet each story reinforced to me just that.  For example, Henry Ford was a tinkerer as a child, interested in how machinery worked, was intuitive about the machinery ... the employment he gained as a young adult showed him how to (and how not to) run a manufacturing company.  He was the right person, had the right history, to start Ford Motor Company. 

The book makes me ask questions, not necessarily about the people profiled here.  What about my education/history made me the person I am today? What fascination do I have? And, perhaps, more importantly, what fascination do my children have? What talents? Where do we want them to end up? How do we instill a sense of urgency and drive in them? Do we want to?

It took me several weeks to read this, not a difficult read but sometimes not as engrossing as it might have been.


  1. this looks like a great read. I'm adding it to my list!

  2. This sounds like a fascinating book. Thanks for the review!


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