10 Best Books About Presidents Update 05/2022

Books About Presidents

Because of the American revolution, the US presidency was supposed to be something new and different from the old-fashioned monarchy that had been in place before. The US constitution was based on Enlightenment theory, settler colonialism, and 18th-century warfare. It gave the chief executive a mostly enforcement role, with the power to lead armed forces in the event of foreign encroachment or domestic unrest, but not the power to legislate or make judicial decisions. The creators of the new republic wanted the president to be in charge of a group of people who had a lot of rights, not to rule over people who were afraid.

From George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, all of the country’s top leaders have been put to the test by both the responsibilities and limitations of the country’s highest and most lonely office. After a civil war, the presidency has lasted. But the 45 men who have held the job have been shaped and sometimes humbled by the promise and perils of the job as well as the challenges of the job itself.

As a whole, is American democracy strong enough to face the problems of the 21st century and make progress? One could certainly say that it isn’t, based on the way the Covid-19 response has been going, the horrifying insurrection of January 6, 2021, and the slow and erratic efforts to deal with everything from climate change to social inequality. They could have seen that the rise of authoritarianism and political extremism could put the US system of government at risk if the founding fathers had a real fear of kings abusing their power. It’s still possible that they didn’t know that two centuries after they asked a wealthy general from the Virginia countryside to run their new government by the people, their hard lessons about how fragile democracy was would be so fiercely resisted or ignored.

There are a lot of books that I’ve found useful when I think about the history of the US presidency and write my new book, The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama. These 10 have been the most helpful. People who have been in the White House have written a lot of biographies as well as memoirs and reports. They make up some of the best writings by and about a small group of people who have been there.

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (2017)

Never Caught The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (2017)

Dunbar’s important book isn’t about George Washington, Martha Washington, or Ona Judge, the runaway enslaved woman the first couple made so many efforts to recapture. It’s about the power and privilege of a slaveholding elite that was trying to make its way through a new republic that was supposed to be about liberty. Dunbar does a great job of telling the Washingtons’ relentless search for Judge after she fled from the new US capital in Philadelphia, and the story is very well told.

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (2008)

This history of overlapping, intertwined families makes the world around Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, come to life. It also makes clear the hardships and aspirations of the slaves who worked on Jefferson’s Monticello estate. Throughout the book, Gordon-Reed weaves together a complicated and at times contradictory history of the Jeffersons and the Hemingses and their shared journey through US history, even as the two families were entwined in a complicated web of race, gender, and status that made them both unique and complicated.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005)

This book looks at the powerful and ambitious men Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was able to steer toward the rushing river of his own turbulent civil war presidency. What frame does Goodwin use the most to show how Lincoln was a political strategist and a good tactician? That’s not all: The book also shows Lincoln as a beleaguered and empathic head of state whose strength is put to the test by people around him and news from the field.

Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S Grant (1885-1886)

Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S Grant (1885-1886)

Many historians and literary critics think this book is one of the best presidential autobiographies. It was written a generation after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, when Grant was dying of throat cancer in the 1880s. The memoirs give a perspective on the bloodiest and most important war in American history that only a soldier who was part of the war and its aftermath could give.

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris (2001)

Morris’s book is the best biography of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. Morris paints bold, vivid portraits of big historical figures, but he also knows how to add shades of nuance and frailty. When Morris sets up a scene, he has the perspective of a historian and makes it feel real and alive. All novels can do this, but his ability to show mood and meaning is as good as any.

Franklin D Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 by William Leuchtenburg (1963)

Leuchtenburg’s book about Franklin Roosevelt’s first two presidential terms is old, worn, and has been overtaken by newer research and better storytellers. But it still stands the test of time as a scholarly, well-researched, and jargon-free account of arguably the most important presidency of the 20th century. It is the story of how the liberal welfare state came to be, against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the clouds of war. Leuchtenburg does a good job of telling the story and setting the standard for other researchers.

The Making of the President, 1960 by Theodore White (1961)

The Making of the President, 1960 by Theodore White (1961)

White’s book about the 1960 presidential race is the beginning of high-quality, book-length journalism about modern American politics. While writing at the time, White could see the true character of men like John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon who wanted to be president, even though the media environment of his time made it more difficult to do so.

Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years by Haynes Johnson (1991)

Johnson captures the zeitgeist of the 1980s by putting the countervailing forces of American optimism against the greed, corruption, militarism, and debt that threatened to dismantle the myths of American exceptionalism that were so comforting to many people at the time. This person is at the heart of Johnson’s story. He is a self-made man with an acting background who led the country through both domestic and foreign dangers that still have an impact today.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (1995)

This is the best of Obama’s autobiographical writings because it shows where he came from and how he came to have a sense of self. Early and more open thoughts on race are in this book, and it isn’t weighed down by the politics of politics. During this self-study, the author looks at how he tried to reconcile himself with his eclectic lineage and find his place and purpose in the world.

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (2010)

The book that everyone needs to know about the 2008 presidential primaries and general election. Heilemann and Halperin were able to talk to a lot of people from history, including Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin and their staffs. Even if you only glanced at the historical events being described in this book at the time, you’ll recognize many of the characters, plot lines, and twists of fate.

There is a book called The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama by Claude A. Clegg III that comes from Johns Hopkins University Press. To help the Guardian and Observer, buy a copy from the Guardian bookshop and help them out. Delivery fees may be charged.

There is a book called The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama by Claude A. Clegg III that comes from Johns Hopkins University Press. To help the Guardian and Observer, buy a copy from the Guardian bookshop and help them out. Delivery fees may be charged.

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