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Best Presidential Biographies

I got an email from Todd today, which reads in part as follows:

I read your entry a few months ago regarding the list of top presidential biographies published by the Washington Post. As a true geek, this inspired me and I set the goal to read at least one biography of each president. I promptly picked up one on Nixon, been pretty disappointed (Nixonland... not sure if you read it, but less about Nixon and more about sixties). It got me wondering if you would publish a list of your favorite biographies. I would be interested what your readers would say as well.


This is off the top of my head, but here are ten biographies of Presidents that I really enjoyed:

1. Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America by Walter Borneman

2. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

3. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candace Millard

4. 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon - The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies by David Pietrusza

5. Eisenhower: Soldier and President by Stephen Ambrose

6. The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H. W. Brands

7. The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century by Scott Miller

8. John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger

9. Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester A. Arthur by Thomas C. Reeves

10. The Expatriation of Franklin Pierce by Gary Boulard

I'm also enjoying Coolidge by Amity Schlaes, but I'm only about 2/3 of the way through so far.


Todd asked for recommendations from the rest of you. What would you recommend?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2013 04:07 am (UTC)
Sis you see the New Yorker piece on Coolidge and the Shales book?
I think it was in a late February issue.
Mar. 17th, 2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
I think sarahj2222 sent me a link to that review. From the reviews I read, I was expecting a very right-wing slanted bio, but so far I've not found that to be the case. Like most biographers, she is a huge fan of her subject, but I don't get the sense that she is slanting the facts to support her own views.
Mar. 17th, 2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
It's reviewed in the Washington Post today but I haven't had time to read the review yet.
More later
Mar. 17th, 2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks for letting me know about the Post review. I'll write my own (for Amazon and for this community) as soon as I finish it.
Mar. 17th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
My own 10 of ones you didn't already include....

1. The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War by James David Robenalt

2. Truman - by David McCullough

3. Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo

4. John Adams by David McCullough

5. The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys by Doris Kearns Goodwin

6. Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

7. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon

8. Taking Charge the Johnson White House Tapes 1963-64 by Michael Beschloss

9. Reaching For Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes 1964-65 by Michael Beschloss (Both versions best to listen to the audio version so you can hear the actual White House tapes with commentary in between by Beschloss.)

10. The President's Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs
Mar. 17th, 2013 07:13 pm (UTC)
Excellent list!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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