Presidential Biographies

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by 5stringJeff, Feb 25, 2005.

  1. 5stringJeff

    5stringJeff Senior Member

    Sep 15, 2003
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    Puyallup, WA
    My long-term reading project is to read one-volume biographies of all the Presidents through Reagan. This is to educate myself about what makes some Presidents great men, and some not so great, as well as to learn about American history and politics. When possible, I am trying to read the "definitive" work on each President. So far, I have read the first four.

    1. George Washington. I read the one-volume abridgement of Flexner's four-volume bio. I enjoyed the book a lot, although I did find that Flexner assumed that you knew a lot about the time period. Overall, a great read by one of the best Washington scholars out there. 4 out of 5 stars.

    2. John Adams. I read the newer biography by McCoulough. It was a great book, both for its history and its storytelling. I always thought John Adams was this "extra" guy thrown in there between two great Presidents, Washington and Jefferson. But John Adams was a true patriot and great man in his own right. This is a book that anyone interested in the Revolutionary time period should read. 5 out of 5 stars.

    3. Thomas Jefferson. Because there is a library's worth of bios on Jefferson, I went out on a limb and picked a newer one by William Randall. While the insight into Jefferson's mind and private life was enlightening, I was disappointed that Randall didn't discuss much about the politics of the day, especially during the formation of the Federalist and Republican parties in the 1790s. Not a bad book overall, but not recommended if you want to understand Jefferson's politics. 3 out of 5.

    4. James Madison. I just finished Ketcham's biography of Madison a couple of days ago. It is very thick and very scholarly. I totally ate it up. If you don't like heavy reading, this isn't for you; however, I enjoyed it immensely. 4 1/2 out of 5.

    More to follow!

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