There are a huge number of Presidential biographies on my TBR list, but here are just a few from the very top. I hope to add one or two to your TBR pile as well. Happy Reading! -Showie
Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt By David McCullough
Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as a masterpiece by Newsday, it also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Now with a new introduction by the author, Mornings on Horseback is reprinted as a Simon & Schuster Classic Edition.
Mornings on Horseback is about the world of the young Theodore Roosevelt. It is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and nearly fatal attacks of asthma, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household (and rarefied social world) in which he was raised.
His father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, “Greatheart,” a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. His mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, Teddy Roosevelt’s first love. And while such disparate figures as Abraham Lincoln, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, and Senator Roscoe Conkling play a part, it is this diverse and intensely human assemblage of Roosevelts, all brought to vivid life, which gives the book its remarkable power.
The book spans seventeen years � from 1869 when little “Teedie” is ten, to 1886 when, as a hardened “real life cowboy,” he returns from the West to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and begin anew, a grown man, whole in body and spirit. The story does for Teddy Roosevelt what Sunrise at Campobello did for FDR � reveals the inner man through his battle against dreadful odds.
Like David McCullough’s The Great Bridge, also set in New York, this is at once an enthralling story, with all the elements of a great novel, and a penetrating character study. It is brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship, which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. For the first time, for example, Roosevelt’s asthma is examined closely, drawing on information gleaned from private Roosevelt family papers and in light of present-day knowledge of the disease and its psychosomatic aspects.
At heart it is a book about life intensely lived…about family love and family loyalty…about courtship and childbirth and death, fathers and sons…about winter on the Nile in the grand manner and Harvard College…about gutter politics in washrooms and the tumultuous Republican Convention of 1884…about grizzly bears, grief and courage, and “blessed” mornings on horseback at Oyster Bay or beneath the limitless skies of the Badlands. “Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough,” Roosevelt once wrote. It is the key to his life and to much that is so memorable in this magnificent book.
President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon
Hailed by the New Yorker as “a superlative study of a president and his presidency,” Lou Cannon’s President Reagan remains the definitive account of our most significant presidency in the last fifty years. Ronald Wilson Reagan, the first actor to be elected president, turned in the performance of a lifetime. But that performance concealed the complexities of the man, baffling most who came in contact with him. Who was the man behind the makeup? Only Lou Cannon, who covered Reagan through his political career, can tell us. The keenest Reagan-watcher of them all, he has been the only author to reveal the nature of a man both shrewd and oblivious. Based on hundreds of interviews with the president, the First Lady, and hundreds of the administration’s major figures, President Reagan takes us behind the scenes of the Oval Office. Cannon leads us through all of Reagan’s roles, from the affable cowboy to the self-styled family man; from the politician who denounced big government to the president who created the largest peace-time deficit; from the statesman who reviled the Soviet government to the Great Communicator who helped end the cold war.
Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President By Ari Hoogenboom
Who was the real Rutherford B. Hayes? Was he a great or inconsequential president? How did his early life and career shape his later years? How did his triumphs and failures alter our history? And why should we care? Ari Hoogenboom’s masterful life of Hayes definitively answers those questions and shows why our nineteenth president deserves far greater recognition than he’s received in the past.
The first biography of Hayes in nearly fifty years, Hoogenboom’s book recreates the rapidly changing world of Victorian America as experienced by one of its most reflective and perceptive figures. The Hayes that emerges is a much more progressive and far-sighted leader than previously suggested. He was, Hoogenboom argues, neither a Southern sympathizer nor an exemplar of the “Greedy Gilded Age.” Rather, he was a devout, pragmatic champion of equal rights.
Hayes’s colorful life was rooted in his frontier experiences in Ohio and galvanized on Civil War battlefields, where he survived five wounds and was ultimately promoted to major general. No other president was under fire on the front lines as much as Hayes. Hayes’s image as president (1877-1881), however, has not been quite so shining. He has been blamed for Reconstruction’s failure and damned for an apparent bargain that guaranteed his election in exchange for withdrawing military support of Republican governments in the South. He has also been criticized for championing the gold standard, for breaking the Great Strike of 1877, for inconsistent support of civil-service reform, and for being an ineffectual politician.
Hoogenboom contends that these evaluations are largely false. Previous scholars, he says, have failed to appreciate Hayes’s limited options and have misrepresented his actions in their depictions of an overly cautious, nonvisionary president. In fact, he was strikingly modern in his efforts to enlarge the power of the office, which he used as his own bully pulpit to rouse public support for his goals. Chief among these goals, Hoogenboom shows, was equality for all Americans. Throughout his presidency and long afterwards, Hayes worked steadfastly for reforms that would encourage economic opportunity, distribute wealth more equitably, diminish the conflict between capital and labor, and ultimately enable African-Americans to achieve political equality. Although he fell far short of his ideals, his unwavering commitment deserves our attention and respect.
Grant: A Biography By William S. McFeely
The seminal biography of one of America’s towering, enigmatic figures. From his boyhood in Ohio to the battlefields of the Civil War and his presidency during the crucial years of Reconstruction, this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography traces the entire arc of Grant’s life (1822-1885).
Author Biography: William S. McFeely is the author of Yankee Stepfather, Frederick Douglass, Sapelo’s People, and, most recently, Proximity to Death. He lives in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.
Eisenhower: Soldier and President By Stephen E. Ambrose
Stephen E. Ambrose draws upon extensive sources, an unprecedented degree of scholarship, and numerous interviews with Eisenhower himself to offer the fullest, richest, most objective rendering yet of the soldier who became president. He gives us a masterly account of the European war theater and Eisenhower’s magnificent leadership as Allied Supreme Commander. Ambrose’s recounting of Eisenhower’s presidency, the first of the Cold War, brings to life a man and a country struggling with issues as diverse as civil rights, atomic weapons, communism, and a new global role.
Along the way, Ambrose follows the 34th President’s relations with the people closest to him, most of all Mamie, his son John, and Kay Summersby, as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Harry Truman, Nixon, Dulles, Khrushchev, Joe McCarthy, and indeed, all the American and world leaders of his time. This superb interpretation of Eisenhower’s life confirms Stephen Ambrose’s position as one of our finest historians.
With Malice Toward None: A Biography of Abraham Lincoln By Stephen R. Oates
“Full, fair, and accurate. . . . Certainly the most objective biography of Lincoln ever written.” —Pulitzer Prize-winner David Herbert Donald, New York Times Book Review
From preeminent Civil War historian Stephen B. Oates comes the book the Washington Post hails as “the standard one-volume biography of Lincoln.” Oates’ With Malice Toward None is recognized as the seminal biography of the Sixteenth President, by one of America’s most prominent historians.
COMPILED BY SHOWIE