1) Please summarize the main ideas of the book.
Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, written by Bill O’Reilly, provides strong insight into one of the most shocking assassinations in American history. While many Americans are familiar with Lincoln’s assassination, not as many are as familiar with the circumstances leading up to this fateful event. One of the biggest circumstances was the Civil War, and during the first book focuses heavily on the Civil War, and the numerous battles that defined this war, such as “the decisive Battle of Five Forks” (O’Reilly & Dugard, 2011). The book also introduces Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, early on, to illustrate the motives, however illogical, that John Wilkes Booth had for wanting to kill Lincoln. Indeed, by the fourth chapter it is clear that Booth had a “deep belief in the institution of slavery” (O’Reilly & Dugard, 2011).

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Ironically, Booth also viewed himself as someone with a destiny, “the only man who can end the North’s oppression” (O’Reilly & Dugard, 2011). This belief sets up an intriguing dichotomy between Lincoln and Booth: while Lincoln wanted to protect everyone’s freedoms, Booth essentially wanted to destroy them, at least freedoms for slaves. In addition to describing both Lincoln and Booth, this book also details the epic battle waged between General Grant, who fought for the Union, and General Lee, who fought for the Confederacy. This battle was significant, as it determined when the Civil War would end.

2) What ideas did you connect with most? Which ideas from the book were most interesting to you?
I connected with several ideas in this book. First, and most importantly, I connected with the deep insight into one influential man and his life. In my experience, many history textbooks have been large tomes that attempt to cover hundreds, or even thousands, of years of history, with only a brief mention of some of history’s most important figures. This book, on the other hand, spent several hundred pages focusing on one person, and the events and people connected to him. Second, I connected with the idea that someone must be brave in order to bring about true change. Lincoln was a brave man, willing to stand firmly by his beliefs even when “his guts churn” and “he knows he’s a candidate for martyrdom” (O’Reilly & Dugard, 2011).

I have always thought that people who are truly inspirational are those willing to lose everything for their own beliefs, and Lincoln definitely represents one of those types of people. Third, I realized how many people in the book demonstrate attitudes identical to some people today. For example, Booth is described as someone for whom “anger has become a way of life” (O’Reilly & Dugard, 2011), and those types of people pervade society today. Anger is the foundation for numerous hate crimes and horrific abuses, and this book illuminates its dangers through the description of John Wilkes Booth.

3) In your opinion, why did the author write this book? What did the author want the reader to understand after reading this book?
In my opinion, the author had several reasons for writing this book. First, O’Reilly clearly admires Lincoln, who he considers to be a strong, courageous leader. The book implies that Lincoln has always possessed a strength that set him apart from others, which O’Reilly makes clear in the first chapter: “In his youth on the western frontier, Lincoln was famous for his amazing feats of strength…Lincoln’s strength, however, is still there, manifested in his passionate belief that the nation must and can be healed” (O’Reilly & Dugard, 2011). I believe that this admiration strongly motivated O’Reilly to research and write this book.

Second, I believe that O’Reilly wanted to write this book for his own personal reasons. O’Reilly is famous, or infamous, for his television personality, and this book presents a new foray to display his talents and interests. Third, I believe that O’Reilly wanted to write this book to educate the reader about one of the most critical events in American history, and how that event continues to hold influence today. Many Americans have heard about the Civil War and about Lincoln, but they do not necessarily understand the connection between the two, and how Lincoln’s leadership led to the freedom of the slaves. This book, written in a very accessible manner, is O’Reilly’s attempt to educate the general public. Overall, countless reasons likely motivated the author, but these are the most significant, in my opinion.

4) Would you recommend this book to someone else? Why or why not?
I would definitely recommend this book to someone else for several reasons. First, this book is not an ordinary history book; instead of citing facts, events, and dates, the book presents a compelling story. In a sense, the book literally brings history to life for the reader, and I can see someone enjoying this book just as much as any thrilling fictional book. Second, this book provides outstanding insight into an American political figure, and while most people are familiar with his name, they are not necessarily familiar with his life. Lincoln’s leadership styles sharply contrast with current leadership styles in the United States, and this book helps illuminate a time when American politicians were more honest and concerned with the country’s needs, not their own wants. Third, this book provides an excellent context for modern life today in the United States. For example, the Confederate flag is considered to be a prejudiced symbol by many, and this book provides excellent insight into why people feel that way by depicting the horrors of slavery. While this book describes history, the history did not occur eons ago; it occurred a couple centuries ago and the ramifications from those events are still felt today. For all of these reasons, I would recommend Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever to anyone.