Brad Feld

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Books About US Presidents

Dec 31, 2014
Category Books

I was sitting at a Return Path board dinner around a year ago. We were at Frasca having a wonderful dinner when the discussion turned to American history. I sat and mostly listened as Matt Blumberg, Jeff Epstein, and Greg Sands had a vigorous discussion about several US presidents. Within about fifteen minutes, I realized that I knew almost nothing about American history. Sure, I took a class in junior high school (in Texas public schools, you do Texas history in 7th grade, American history in 8th grade, and World History in 9th grade), but I really didn’t remember much.

I got into Lincoln some in 2014 and Amy and I watched the HBO John Adams series while we were in Bora Bora. Each reminded me how little I actually knew about American history, especially the story of American presidents.

During the Return Path dinner, Matt mentioned that he’d been reading at least presidential biography each year. He’d made it through Woodrow Wilson (I couldn’t even tell you the number president Wilson was without the help of the Google.) I asked him to send me the book list, which he did, and then I promptly forgot about. Recently, I asked him to send it again as I’m now starting to march through biographies of Jefferson and Franklin (yes, I know Franklin wasn’t a president but he’s on my biography to read list anyway.)

Matt’s list is below. I’m looking for more great bios – given how I read I expect I’ll do more than one on each president. So if you read something particularly interesting or from a different perspective, toss it in the comments. And, if you have good ones from Harding forward (yes – I used Wikipedia to figure out who was after Wilson), put them in the comments also.

– Imperfect Presidents (Jim Cullen)
– Presidential Ancedotes (Paul Boller)
– A Pocket History of the United States (Allan Nevins)
– Selling the World Ablaze Washington, Adams, Jefferson and the American Revolution (John Ferling)
– Alexander Hamilton (Forest McDonald)
– The First American – The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (H.W Brands)
– Benjamin Franklin – The Autobiography (Benjamin Franklin)
– Patriarch (Richard Norton Smith)
– George Washington (Robert F. Jones)
– John Adams (David McCullough)
– The Portable Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson)
– Amercian Sphinx – The Character of Thomas Jefferson (Joseph Ellis)
– Rot, Riot and Rebellion: Mr. Jefferson’s Struggle to Save the University That Changed America (Rex Bowman)
– Jefferson’s Great Gamble (Charles Cerami)
– Burr: A Novel (Gore Vidal)
– Undaunted Courage (Stephen E Ambrosse)
– James Madison – The American President Series (Gary Willis)
– James Monroe – The Quest for National Idenitity (Harry Ammon)
– John Quincy Adams (Robert Remini)
– John Marshall – Definer of a Nation (Jean Edward Smith)
– The Great Triumvirate (Merrill Peterson)
– The Missouri Compromise and the Afermath (Robert Pierce Forbes)
– American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Jon Meacham)
– Martin Van Buren (Joel H. Sibley)
– Old Tippecanoe William Henry Harrison and his Time (Freeman Cleaves)
– John Tyler (Gary May)
– Polk – The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America (Walter K. Borneman)
– Zachary Taylor – The American Presidents Series (John S. Eisenhower)
– Millard Fillmore: Biography of a Presidnet (Robert J. Rayback)
– Frankin Pierce: A Biography (Roy Nichils)
– James Buchanan (Philip S. Klein)
– Lincoln: A Novel (Gore Vidal)
– Mr Lincoln’s T-Mails (Tom Wheeler)
– Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Dorris Goodwin)
– Lincoln (David Herbert Donald)
– Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (James M. McPherson)
– Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (James Swanson)
– Jefferson Davis, Confederate President (Herman Hattaway)
– Bloody Crimes (James Swanson)
– Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Seth Grahme Smith)
– The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days That Changed the Nation (Howard Means)
– Andrew Johnson: The American President Series (Annette Gordon Reed)
– A Short History of Reconstruction (Eric Foner)
– Assasination! The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents (Brendan Powell Smith)
– Grant (William S. McFeely)
– Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant Volume 1 (Ulysses S. Grant)
– Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant Volume 2 (Ulysses S. Grant)
– When General Grant Expelled the Jews (Jonathan S. Sarna)
– 1876 (Gore Vidal)
– Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President (Ari Hoogenboom)
– Garfield: A Biography (Allan Peskin)
– Chester A. Arthur: A Quarter-Century of Machine Politics (George Frederick Howe)
– An Honest President: The Life and Presidencies of Grover Cleveland (H.P. Jeffers)
– The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison (Homer Socolofsky)
– The Biography of Benjamin Harrison: The American President Series (Charles W. Calhoun)
– Grover Clevland (Henry F. Crapp)
– Continental Liar from the State of Maine (James G. Blaine)
– The Unknown Architects of Civil Rights: Thaddeus Stevens, Ulysses S. Grant, and Charles Sumner (Barry Goldenberg)
– Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money In America (Jack Beatty)
– William McKinley and His America (H. Wayne Morgan)
– The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Edmund Morris)
– Theodore Rex (Edmund Morris)
– Colonel Roosevelt (Edmund Morris)
– The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey (Candice Millard)
– The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (Dorris Kearns Goodwin)
– The William Howard Taft Presidencty (Lewis Gould)
– The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed American (James MacGregor Burns)
– That Man: An Insiders Portrait of Frankin D. Roosevelt (Robert H. Jackson)
– Woodrow Wilson (John A Thompson)