Good Presidential Biographies
Other Good Books  Great DVDs

    There's a lot junk books on president out there. Many are written to condem or praise a president for partisan reasons. If you want books that have balanced, realistic view of a president, here are a few suggestions.

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His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
A very good, very enjoyable biography of George Washington. Ellis does a good job of describing Washington's greatness without glossing over his faults too much.
John Adams by David McCullough
One of the most interest presidential biographies I've ever read. Also, one of the best written. This biography covers all aspects of John Adams' life, incuding his relationship with his wife who was certainly one of the most interesting and admirable women of her time.
Thomas Jefferson by R. B. Bernstein
Dealing with Thomas Jefferson is tough. He's complicated (to say the least). While he continues to receive credit for the fine language of the Declaration of Independence, the attention of scholars is turning toward some of his nasty political tactics and his failures on slavery.
Bernstein's recent biography is generally regarded as readable and balanced. It's a good general biography.
Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn Brodie
Dealing with Jefferson is difficult. Brodie's controversial biography of Jefferson remains a must-read for anyone who wants to know what the debate is all about.
American Sphinx : The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis
To be honest... This is not my favorite biography and Ellis isn't my favorite author. For me, Ellis spends too much time telling the reader about how many sides there were to Jefferson and not enough trying to clarify what he was about. However, it's a very readable book that a lot of people enjoy reading.
Mornings on Horseback Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
Before David McCullough won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography on Truman, he wrote this lively biography of Teddy Roosevelt.
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
Regarded by some reviewers as one of the greatest biographies of our time, Morris won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1980 for this biography and in 1985 he was appointed Ronald Reagan's authorized biographer. The first of three volumes, this book takes Roosevelt to his rise to the presidency.
Theodore Rex Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
The second volume in Morris's planned three volume chronicle of the life of Teddy Roosevelt. This book take TR through his presidential years of 1901 to 1909.
Truman by David McCullough Truman by David McCullough
Everybody wants to be Truman. Republican and Democratic presidential candidates constantly debate which is really like Truman. McCullough shows the reader why a man who was villified by the Republican party in 1952 is now a hero for the likes of George W. Bush.
Eisenhower-Soldier and President Eisenhower : Soldier and President by Stephen Ambrose
A very thoughtful account of one of our most under-rated presidents. Actualy, this volume brings together the contents of Ambrose's two-volume biography of Eisenhower. Ambrose concludes that Eisenhower was a "great, good man." Ambrose has given lectures and taught entire courses contrasting Eisenhower to Nixon. The constrast of the the two men who were so closely linked illuminates the nature of the presidency in the 20th Century.
President Kennedy - Profile of Power President Kennedy : Profile of Power by Richard Reeves
If Dwight Eisenhower is the most under-rated president of the 20th Century, then JFK is probably the most over-rated. While Reeves doesn't set out to dismantle the Kennedy legacy, he does demonstrate that Kennedy had his share of problems
Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President by Robert Dallek
A solid biograph of Johnson. It might be rivaled by Robert Caro's work--if Caro will get it finished.
President Nixon- Alone in the White House President Nixon: Alone in the White House by Richard Reeves
After shedding some light on Kennedy in President Kennedy : Profile of Power, Reeves turned his attention to Richard Nixon. Nixon, like Kennedy, is portrayed as a complex character. While some dogmatic Republicans seem to want to trash this book. I initially found it on the web site for the Nixon Foundation.
Time and Chance Time and Chance : Gerald Ford's Appointment With History by James M. Cannon
Not a complete biography, but an excellent account of Ford's path to the presidency. A very sympathetic, but balanced account from James M. Cannon who worked for the Republican Party in several capacities. Another case where placing another President next to Nixon makes the extent of Nixon's moral shortcomings more evident.
The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford... The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Greene
A complete treatment of the the Ford Presidency. A little preliminary, but out of the University of Kansas Press's presidency series.
The Unfinished Presidency - Jimmy Carter... The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. by Burton I. Kaufman
One of the first complete and balanced studies of the Carter Presidency.
The Unfinished Presidency - Jimmy Carter... The Unfinished Presidency : Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House by Douglas Brinkley
A great book on Jimmy Carter? Maybe not, but this is one of the first balanced accounts of Jimmy Carter. It is one of the first sources to take a serious look at the role of the faith that was so clearly a central motivation in Carter's life. Carter's faith has been twisted around by Left Coast types that don't understand it, or social conservatives who don't want to acknoweledge it. However, to understand Carter you have to understand his faith.
President Reagan : The Role of a Lifetime President Reagan : The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon
The best book on Reagan published. Cannon spent many years covering Reagan and had good connections to the Reagan White House. While Cannon is often critical of Reagan, the book is well-balanced enough to be sold at the Reagan Library gift shop. We'll have to wait for the historians to do their work before we get a significantly better view of Reagan.
George Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yankeeby Herbert S. Parmet
There haven't been many biographies of George H.W. Bush so far. However, Bush is one of our most under-rated presidents. If I were casting a movie about the presidency I'd pick Reagan over Bush. If I were picking the actual president I'd pick Bush. Overall, a much better man than his political campaigns allowed him to be.

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