Thursday, January 26, 2017

Top 10 Best Presidential Biographies

As we lean into a new presidency, it's good to look back on the old. Seeing how past leaders dealt with the pressing matters of their day can help us as a nation put into perspective the challenges of today. No better place can be found to start this journey into history than the biography section of the library.

Note: The following list was compiled using a wide range of lists from book reviewers and average consumer reviews from sites like Goodreads and Amazon and does not reflect the views of any one library staff member. Summaries are from the library catalog. The list is in no particular order.

John Adams by David McCullough

In this biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot - "the colossus of independence," as Thomas Jefferson called him - who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kerns Goodwin

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

With so many Washington biographies, what makes this one distinctive, aside from its being written by a National Book Award-winning biographer? Chernow aims to sweep aside our dusty image of the first President and reveal the dashing warrior and depths of passion we didn't know were there.

Truman by David McCullough

In this riveting biography, David McCullough captures Harry S. Truman and the turbulent, historically significant times during which he served.

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

The sequel to The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by the same author. Describes Theodore Roosevelt's presidency as he faced the challenges of a new century in which the United States would become a world power, and discusses his accomplishments and failures, the enemies he made, and his family life.

The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Medicine, Madness, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

Drawing from the newly cataloged Washington papers at the University of Virginia, Joseph Ellis paints a full portrait of George Washington's life and career - from his military years through his two terms as president. Ellis illuminates the difficulties the first executive confronted as he worked to keep the emerging country united in the face of adversarial factions.

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II

by Doris Kearns Goodwin
A monumental work, a brilliantly conceived chronicle of one of the most vibrant and revolutionary periods in the history of the United States. With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin masterfully weaves together a striking number of story lines--Eleanor and Franklin's marriage and remarkable partnership, Eleanor's life as First Lady, and FDR's White House and its impact on America as well as on a world at war. Goodwin effectively melds these details and stories into an unforgettable and intimate portrait of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and of the time during which a new, modern America was born.

The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro

Pulitizer Prize biographer Robert A. Caro follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career, describing Johnson's volatile relationship with John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy during the fight they waged for the 1960 Democratic nomination for president, through Johnson's unhappy vice presidency, his assumption to the presidency after Kennedy's assassination, his victories over the budget and civil rights, and the eroding trap of Vietnam.

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (audio)

Meacham delivers the definitive human portrait of Andrew Jackson, a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency--and America itself.
To request a print edition of American Lion, please request the item from inter-library loan.

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