Tales from the White House: Presidential Biographies

by : 

Kelley Jackson, Public Services

"There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure."

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

With the inauguration freshly on our minds, now is the time that many people are contemplating the future of our nation and reflecting on its past. As I consider the things that have shaped our country, I find myself wondering about all its past leaders. Understanding what it is like to serve as this nation's Commander in Chief is the priveledge (and burden) only a handful of Americans know. While the vast majority of us will never have this experience, we do have the opportunity to explore the Oval Office in another way. 

Presidential biographies offer a unique view on American history through the experiences of our most renowned leaders. From the foundations of the country, through its most prosperous and most trying periods, there is something to be learned from each of them.

 

Book cover: Painting of John Adams with the text David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Truman. John Adams

 

John Adams by David McCullough- This is a must-read for anyone interested in the American Revolution. McCullough’s powerful depiction of the country’s second president earned the title the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

Book cover: Portait of Andrew Jackson with the text- New York Times Bestseller Jon Meacham. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

 

 

American Lion by Jon Meacham- The 2009 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, this book is a portrait of Andrew Jackson’s presidency. Jackson is known as the founder of the Democratic Party, but he was also a contentious president and a man of seemingly endless contradictions.

Book cover: Image of Abraham Lincoln sitting at a table talking with other politicians with the text- Team of Rivals. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

 

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin- The book’s title is a reference to the fact that three of Lincoln’s cabinet members had previously run against him. The story focuses not only on Lincoln’s leadership, but also his ability to build relationships and bridge gaps across different personalities and political parties.

 
Book Cover: Photo of Franklin Delano Roosevelt with the text- FDR Jean Edward Smith 
 
FDR by Jean Edward Smith- Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only president to serve more than two terms. His presidency spanned from 1933-1945 covering such grand periods in America’s history as the Great Depression and WWII. Smith’s impeccably researched depiction of FDR’s life covers both his triumphs and short-comings.
 

Book cover: Photo of Ronald Reagan with the text- When Character was King. Peggy Noonan. Best selling author of What I Saw at the Revolution

 

When Character was King by Peggy Noonan- According to Noonan, the most important thing anyone can bring to the presidency is character. She clearly has a high opinion of Reagan’s character and seeks to substantiate her praise in this book with interviews from family members, friends, colleagues, and even some political adversaries.

 

"If anyone tells you that America's best days are behind her, they're looking the wrong way." 

  • George H.W. Bush

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