In this excellent biography, veteran historian White emphasizes that Lincoln was our most likable major president, lacking Washington's aloofness and the deviousness of FDR and Jefferson. Many young men from the frontier overcame the handicaps of poverty and minimal education, but, White says, Lincoln did better than most, becoming floor leader in the Illinois legislature by age 30 and a prosperous lawyer. Contrary to the common view that Lincoln was a dark-horse for the 1860 presidential nomination after a single, undistinguished term in the House of Representatives, White stresses that Lincoln was an experienced politician, popular throughout Illinois, and known to national leaders. Few Republicans thought they had chosen badly. The author makes good use of Lincoln's voluminous private papers and those of his contemporaries to paint a vivid picture of Lincoln's thoughts as he matured and then guided the nation through the four worst years of its existence. White knows his subject cold and writes lucid prose, so readers choosing this as their Lincoln bicentennial reading will not go wrong. Illus., maps, photos.