Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
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Posts tagged "Book suggestions"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Have you read any of Henry Adams' books? Any recommendations?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Oh yeah, “The Education of Henry Adams” is a must-read. It’s one of the better autobiographies written by an historical figure that you’ll ever come across. Once you get past the fact that Adams wrote the book from a third-person perspective as if he was a Victorian-era version of The Rock, you’ll appreciate his intellect and insight. Adams had a front-row seat for decades of major historical events and deep connections everyone who was someone in post-Civil War America. As the son of Lincoln’s minister to Great Britain, grandson of the 6th President, and great-grandson of the 2nd President, every door was open to Henry Adams and he took advantage of those opportunities to either build relationships or find reasons to judge people (and, just as often, build relationships so that he COULD judge people).

He also had one of the sharpest tongues of his era (or anyone else’s, for that matter. He wielded his pen — and opinions — like a sword, and even when he tried to be diplomatic Adams was delightfully pompous and seemed to be effortlessly caustic.

However, while “The Education of Henry Adams” is a treat, I’d recommend staying away from ” The History of the United States, 1801-1817”. That’s Adams’s history of the Presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and it is nine volumes (yes, “9” volumes) long but feels like 30 volumes.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What is the best biography on FDR? I'd like one with less emphasis on his presidency and more on his rise to the presidency.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The last three books about FDR that I received from publishers and had a chance to read are actually exactly what you’re asking about — they focus on the early parts of FDR’s life.

First and foremost, you’ll probably want to read Young Mr. Roosevelt: FDR’s Introduction to War, Politics, and Life (Da Capo Press, 2013) by Stanley Weintraub, who somehow produces quality books quicker than I can answer questions.  It’s the perfect book for what you seem to be interested in.  

(The two most recent books that Mr. Weintraub released before Young Mr. Roosevelt are also about FDR — 2011’s Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World At War, December 1941 and 2012’s Final Victory: FDR’s Extraordinary World War II Presidential Campaign.)

The other two suggestions that I have for you which take a look at Franklin D. Roosevelt prior to his Presidency are:

Roosevelt’s Navy: The Education of a Warrior President, 1882-1920 by James Tertius de Kay (Pegasus Books, 2012) — A focus on FDR’s early life, particularly his eight years as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during President Wilson’s Administration and World War I — the exact same job that Franklin’s cousin, Theodore, held under President McKinley.  Both Roosevelts used the position to catapult themselves into the national spotlight.

The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency by James Tobin (Simon & Schuster, 2013) — Probably the best account of the illness that paralyzed FDR in the 1920’s and nearly ended his political aspirations if not for his remarkable resiliency which led to his stunning comeback and eventual elections as Governor of New York and then President of the United States.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Have you been reading anything good lately
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I’ve been doing a lot of reading while not updating Dead Presidents:

•”Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI” by Kenneth Weisbrode

•”Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China” by Jung Chang

•”The NFL, Year One: The 1970 Season and the Dawn of Modern Football” by Brad Schultz

•”Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home” by James Carville and Mary Matalin

•”Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal” by Keel Hunt

•”Undisputed Truth” by Mike Tyson

•”The Ministry of Guidance Invites You Not To Stay: An American Family in Iran” by Hooman Majd

•”Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and Its Consequences” by James Buchan

•”Johnny Cash: The Life” by Robert Hilburn

Another area of interest that I spent a lot of time reading about in 2013 has been the Middle East.  Actually, I think the “Middle East” is probably too narrow of a definition, but I’ve found myself captivated by numerous books focusing on the turbulent history of the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as influential Arab leaders from Saladin to Saddam, from the Hashemite rulers of Jordan to Ibn Saud and his successors, and many others.

Here are some books on these subjects that really appealed to me this year:

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson — Not only a look at the always-fascinating T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), but a history of how the Middle East, as we know it today, was formed within the last 100 years.  Without a doubt, one of the best books that I’ve read this year.

Ibn Saud: The Desert Warrior Who Created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Michael Darlow and Barbara Bray — A definitive biography of the man who was not only Saudi Arabia’s first King, but the father of every Saudi King who succeeded him, including the current 90-year-old King Abdullah.

A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 by James Barr — The title is pretty self-explanatory.  Another damn good book covering a LOT of history.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited the Modern World by James Carroll — Not simply a history of Jerusalem, but a look at Jerusalem’s meaning historically, culturally, racially, and spiritually.  A physical, theological, and literary history of the city of Jerusalem and the idea (or Biblical ideal) of Jerusalem.

Saladin by Anne-Marie Eddé (translated by Jane Marie Todd) — An in-depth biography of the twelfth-century ruler and military leader who remains a hero across the Arab and Islam world due to the respect he earned from supporters and enemies alike, particularly after capturing Jerusalem for the Muslims from European crusaders.

The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia — It may seem impossible for an author to write a biography about a body of water, but Abulafia’s did exactly that with this intricately detailed look at the life of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Dark Defile: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842 by Diana Preston — Traveling further back in history to learn about a precursor to other disastrous foreign invasions of Afghanistan.

The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World by Jay Bahadur — Bahadur takes us to Somalia to not only learn how pirates operate off the Horn of Africa, but why.  A riveting lesson about what created the modern-day pirates and the reason why the pirates and the shipping companies who are often the victims both see piracy as something closer to a business than we might think.  

The Return of a King: Shah Shuja and the First Battle for Afghanistan by William Dalrymple — Another history of the ill-fated 1839 British invasion of Afghanistan.

Aden Insurgency: The Savage War in Yemen, 1962-1967 by Jonathan Walker — Often considered Britain’s last colonial conflict, the vicious insurgency by Arab nationalists in Yemen all but toppled the last British foothold in a Middle East that they once dominated from Cairo to Baghdad.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you have other historical interests besides the US and the Presidents?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, absolutely.  

I’ve mentioned my interest in Papal history, which basically started within the past ten years or so.  I especially expanded upon that interest (and my knowledge of Papal history) over the past year thanks to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the Conclave, and the election of the wonderful Pope Francis.  With so many exciting historic events taking place in 2013, I focused on studying Papal history and individual Popes for a couple of months earlier this year, adding about 40-50 books on the subject to my library and working my way through them this spring.

There are many other types of history that I have an interest in besides Presidential or U.S. history.  It’s almost like I go through phases where I spend time on a new subject, if that makes sense.  My interest in Presidential history and American history is always at the forefront, and I tend to complement it with whatever might be on my radar at the time.

Some of the history that I spent quite a bit of time studying in 2013 that didn’t have a focus on Presidents/U.S. history include:

Simón Bolívar — I read several books on the great Liberator this year and particularly recommend Marie Arana’s excellent biography, Bolívar: American Liberator.

Cuba/Fidel Castro/Ché Guevara — I’ve long been fascinated by the Cuban Revolution and can never learn enough about Castro.  I read everything about Fidel that I can get my hands on.

Winston Churchill — In my opinion, Churchill is one of the greatest human beings who has ever lived.  This year, I worked my way through William Manchester’s extraordinary, definitive, three-volume biography, The Last Lion (the third volume of the set was finished by Paul Reid following Manchester’s death).  I found Manchester’s Churchill trilogy to be on equal footing with Edmund Morris’s trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt and Robert Caro’s incredible study of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Some random books that I couldn’t put down this year include:
Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century by Christian Caryl
The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov
The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century by Paul Collins
The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance by Jonathan Jones
The Old Testament: A Literary History by Konrad Schmid
The New Testament: A Literary History by Gerd Theissen
Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy
Why Spencer Perceval Had To Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister by Andro Linklater
The Borgias: The Hidden History by G. J. Meyer
The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete From the Nazis by Wes Davis
The Falklands War by Martin Middlebrook
1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War by Charles Emmerson
The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen by Stephen R. Bown 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
have you read anything lately you would recommend
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently and I keep saying that I’ll list a bunch of my recommendations and then promptly forget about it, so I might as well do it now.  

I’d really recommend Peter Baker’s Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House (Doubleday/Oct. 22nd), which comes out next Tuesday.  I was a big fan of Baker’s insider account of President Clinton’s impeachment, The Breach: Inside the Impeachment Trial of William Jefferson Clinton, and Days of Fire is another fantastic, insider account.  The Bush/Cheney relationship is incredibly fascinating.

There have also been some really good books released recently about JFK as we approach next month’s 50th anniversary of his assassination. I’ve received a bunch of JFK books over the past few months.  These were the ones that really stood out:

JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency by John T. Shaw (Palgrave Macmillan/Oct. 15th)
Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House by Robert Dallek (Harper/Oct. 9th)
JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President by Thurston Clarke (The Penguin Press/July 16th)
If Kennedy Had Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History by Jeff Greenfield (Putnam/Oct. 22nd)
The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis by David G. Coleman (W.W. Norton/Oct. 21st)
The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy by Larry J. Sabato (Bloomsbury/Oct. 15th)
We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963 by Allen Childs, MD (Skyhorse/Nov. 6th)

A few more books that I’ve read and really enjoyed over the past two months or so:

Wilson by A. Scott Berg (Putnam/Sept. 10th)
Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown by Chuck McFadden (University of California Press/May 6th)
The Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei) by Pope Francis (Ignatius Press/Aug. 31st) 
Birth School Metallica Death: The Biography, Volume 1 by Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood (Da Capo Press/Nov. 15th)
Young Mr. Roosevelt: FDR’s Introduction to War, Politics, and Life by Stanley Weintraub (Da Capo Press/Oct. 15th) 
Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912 by Gerard Helferich (Lyons Press/Oct. 8th)
1808: The Flight of the Emperor: How a Weak Prince, a Mad Queen, and the British Navy Tricked Napoleon and Changed the New World by Laurentino Gomes (Lyons Press/Sept. 3rd)
The Dark Side of the Enlightenment: Wizards, Alchemists, and Spiritual Seekers in the Age of Reason by John V. Fleming (W.W. Norton/July 22nd)
Lincoln’s Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, D.C. by Kenneth J. Winkle (W.W. Norton/Aug. 19th)
The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War by Stephen Puleo (Westholme/Sept. 19th)
To Raise Up a Nation: John Brown, Frederick Douglass, and the Making of a Free Country by William S. King (Westholme/Oct. 18th)
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown/Oct. 1st)
Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation by John Ferling (Bloomsbury/Oct. 10th)
Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal by Keel Hunt (Vanderbilt University Press/Aug. 2nd)
Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus/Nov. 14, 2013)
The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency by James Tobin (Simon & Schuster/Nov. 12, 2013)
Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked by Chris Matthews (Simon & Schuster/Oct. 1st)
We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut (Da Capo Press/Oct. 15th)
Pope Francis: Our Brother, Our Friend: Personal Recollections About the Man Who Became Pope edited by Alejandro Bermúdez (Ignatius Press/Sept. 16th)
Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés edited by Robert M. S. McDonald (University of Virginia Press/Sept. 24th)
A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of An Eccentric In An Age of Change by John Glassie (Riverhead Trade/Nov. 5, 2013)
Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy by Eri Hotta (Knopf/Oct. 29, 2013)

Like I said, I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently. 

In the summer of 1883, President Chester A. Arthur left the White House for a six-week-long vacation to the 11-year-old Yellowstone National Park.  It was the longest trip an incumbent President had ever taken, both in the distance traveled and the time spent on the road.  In many ways, it was one of the unlikeliest journeys an American President had ever embarked upon, partly because Chester Alan Arthur was one of the most unlikely Presidents in American history.  Thrust into office in September 1881 following the assassination of James Garfield, Arthur was a politician manufactured by the corrupt big-city political machines of the Gilded Age.  Many Americans were not only stunned by Garfield’s death but worried by the very idea of Arthur as President.  The country was even more shocked — but with pride — when President Arthur ended up fighting for civil service reform and cleaning up the very political system that had created him.

When President Arthur headed to Yellowstone with a traveling party that included Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln and was led by General Philip Sheridan, he had been in office for nearly two years and was considering whether to seek the Republican nomination in 1884.  Despite being relatively popular throughout the country, Arthur had enough enemies within his party to understand that simply winning the GOP nomination was probably an impossibility.  And, although he vehemently denied rumors suggesting that he was in ill health, President Arthur was in fact dying from Bright’s disease.  Had he been re-elected in 1884, Arthur never would have survived a second term — he died in November 1886.

Discounting those rumors about his ailing health — and a welcome chance to escape a miserable summer in Washington, D.C. — were just two of many reasons that Chester Arthur embarked upon his 1883 journey to Yellowstone.  Arthur is one of our least-known Presidents.  Famously quoted as saying “I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody’s damned business,” Arthur had almost all of his papers — including official and private correspondence — destroyed prior to his death.  So, a glimpse into his life is rare, especially a look at one of the vacations that Arthur treasured so much.

Frank H. Goodyear III and the University of Oklahoma Press gives us that rare opportunity with A President In Yellowstone: The F. Jay Haynes Photographic Album of Chester Arthur’s 1883 Expedition, a beautiful volume of photographs from President Arthur’s journey to Yellowstone captured by a young photographer, F. Jay Haynes, who accompanied the Presidential party during the trip in the West.  A President In Yellowstone is Volume II of the University of Oklahoma Press’s Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West.

I found this book to be incredibly fascinating and, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, it is absolutely gorgeous.  In the 40-page introduction, Frank H. Goodyear III recounts President Arthur’s journey from the perception of a modern historian with all of the advantages that come with hindsight, a collection of sources, and his expert knowledge of not only the photography and art of the American West, but also of Yellowstone National Park itself, which Mr. Goodyear obviously has a deep affinity for.

Even more remarkable, however, is what comes after Mr. Goodyear’s introduction in A President In Yellowstone.

After the expedition, it seems that Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln — the only surviving son of Abraham Lincoln — decided to commemorate the trip by putting together a leather-bound album of 104 of F. Jay Haynes’s photographs from the journey, along with the dispatches describing the President’s activities which were sent to the Associated Press by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sheridan, a member of the Presidential party (and brother of General Philip Sheridan).  Only six of the albums were made and President Arthur’s leather-bound album, titled "Journey Through the Yellowstone National Park and Northwestern Wyoming, 1883.", is one of the few personal artifacts of Arthur’s that survives today.

Fortunately for us, the University of Oklahoma Press’s A President In Yellowstone: The F. Jay Haynes Photographic Album of Chester Arthur’s 1883 Expeditionfeatures a reprint within the book of President Arthur’s personal copy of the commemorative album commissioned by Robert Todd Lincoln.  Flipping through the pages of this fantastic book, we are also able to flip through President Arthur’s photo album, see the sights as he saw them on his journey, count the number of fish he caught on one of his busy days in the river, and feel a part of a vacation from the distant past of one of our most private of public figures.

A President In Yellowstone really is a remarkable book, and it features an even more remarkable book within the book!  I don’t use the adjectives “beautiful” and “gorgeous” lightly.  This is one of those volumes that you want to have sitting on your coffee table so that you can brag about it.  The 130-year-old photographs of Yellowstone National Park — one of our true natural treasures — are breathtaking pieces of art on their own, and the book that contains that art is a worthy frame.  Book-lovers, art-lovers, National Park aficionados, history buffs, Chester Arthur fans, and pretty much everyone else will find something to appreciate in this book.

A President In Yellowstone: The F. Jay Haynes Photographic Album of Chester Arthur’s 1883 Expedition by Frank H. Goodyear III (Volume II of the Charles M. Russell Center Series On Art and Photography of the American West) is AVAILABLE NOW from the University of Oklahoma Press.

(
(President Arthur in the center, and his party, during his 1883 expedition to Yellowstone. Sitting directly to the President’s right is General Philip Sheridan. Sitting directly to the President’s left is Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln.)

There are three in particular that I really like:

On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century (BOOKKINDLE), which is a quickie English translation of 2010’s Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra (BOOKKINDLE), a book-length dialogue between then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  Just from this book alone, it’s clear that this is a Pope with deep political ideals, as well as theological.

Pope Francis: The Pope from the End of the Earth (BOOKKINDLE) by Thomas J. Craughwell, who writes often about Catholic history but also is the author of the great little book Stealing Lincoln’s Body (BOOK), which was made into a History Channel documentary.  Craughwell’s book is beautifully-illustrated, so it’s a nice little release from Saint Benedict Press.

Francis: Pope of a New World (BOOKKINDLE)is an English translation of an Italian release by Vatican insider Andrea Tornielli.  Tornielli’s book gives a bit more of the history behind Papal resignation, some insider info on the conclave which resulted in Francis’s election, and a biography of Pope Francis’s early life.  Of course, since Pope Francis was elected on March 13th, all of the books about him are quickie releases, but Tornielli’s is more in-depth than any of the other books I’ve read.

I also like Pope Francis: In His Own Words (BOOKKINDLE) because it’s a simple collection of quotes from Francis both before and after his election as Pope.  It’s less than 100 pages, so it’s a quick read, but the quotes, edited by Julie Schwietert Collazo and Lisa Rogak, give some insight into the new Pope’s beliefs on a wide-range of topics.

While I am here, I want to share with you two really great books that I think you would enjoy as I did.  I hope to find some time to grind out the full-length reviews that these titles deserve, but here are two quick recommendations.

Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence (BOOKKINDLE)
By Joseph J. Ellis (Available on June 4, 2013)
There are a handful of American authors in the 21st Century who can take some of the most familiar events and figures in our nation’s history and make them feel new and exciting and present.  Joseph J. Ellis is one of them.  He has already written classic, award-winning books such as Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (BOOKKINDLE), American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (BOOKKINDLE), His Excellency: George Washington (BOOKKINDLE), and First Family: Abigail and John Adams (BOOKKINDLE), among others.  In Revolutionary Summer, Ellis tells the story of the dramatic summer of 1776 and it should be on your reading list for the summer of 2013.  

A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War (BOOKKINDLE)
By Thomas Fleming (Available on May 15, 2013)
Historian Thomas Fleming is so prolific that there isn’t a page in A Disease in the Public Mind listing all of his books — he’s written more than fifty of them.  Like Ellis, many of Fleming’s books focus on the American Revolution era, including his best and best-known work, Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America (BOOKKINDLE), which remains high on the list of my all-time favorites.  A Disease in the Public Mind investigates not the cause, but the causes of the Civil War, in both the North and South, with Fleming’s gift for writing serious history at the pace of a novel.

I raced through both of these titles and highly recommend picking them up when they are released.  And while there is never a shortage of good books out there to read, right now seems to be a particularly fortunate time for our history buffs as we’ve had some fantastic new releases in 2013 so far and some great titles on the horizon for the remainder of the years.

I’m very excited today thanks to a load of books that arrived in the mail, and what I’m really stoked about is that one of the books is an Advance Uncorrected Proof of the first major biography in about 80 years about John Hay, who is an incredibly fascinating figure from history.

John Hay got his start in politics as one of Abraham Lincoln’s two young private secretaries (alongside John G. Nicolay).  Few people knew Lincoln better and nobody worked closer with Lincoln than Hay and Nicolay.  After Lincoln’s death, Hay and Nicolay collaborated on a massive 10-volume biography of the Great Emancipator.  Over the next few decades, Hay was a conspicuous figure in Washington society and in politics.  He was best friends with Henry Adams, and I can only imagine how awesome and gossipy their conversations were.  President McKinley appointed him as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom before bringing Hay home and making him Secretary of State.  Hay was Secretary of State throughout McKinley’s term and, after McKinley was assassinated, under Theodore Roosevelt who he became very close with and continued serving until he died in office in 1905.

Besides his full professional life, his impressive writing career, and his famous friends, Hay also had a pretty damn interesting personal life, as well.  I’ve been looking forward to this new book, All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt, by John Taliaferro (BOOKKINDLE), for several months now.

I’m pretty hyped to start reading the book, so that’s what I’m going to do RIGHT NOW.  As for you guys, you know that I wouldn’t steer you in the wrong direction, so I think you should check out this new biography of John Hay (the first major book on Hay in EIGHTY YEARS!) from Mr. Taliaferro, All the Great Prizes, when it is released on May 14th!

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What are some good introductory books for understanding Churchill? I see some of his own writings but I don't know where to start.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I would suggest that you can begin and end with The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, the recently-completed three-volume biography of Winston Churchill, which is about as definitive as it gets.  The first two volumes are by William Manchester and the third volume, released last year, was completed by Paul Reid from Manchester’s notes and research and at Manchester’s request following his death in 2004.  It can be quite an investment in time because it is incredibly detailed and exhaustive, but it’s absolutely worth it.

The Manchester/Reid trilogy was released in a boxed set last year as The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, 1874-1965 (BOOKKINDLE) and that’s probably the best overall deal.  But you can also get the three volumes individually if you want to work through them that way:

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 by William Manchester (BOOKKINDLE) — Volume I, originally released in 1983.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester (BOOKKINDLE) — Volume II, originally released in 1988.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William Manchester and Paul Reid (BOOKKINDLE) — Volume III, originally released in 2012.

There are so many other great books about Churchill that you have a wealth of other choices if you don’t want to commit to the lengthy Manchester trilogy.  Sir Martin Gilbert is considered Churchill’s “official biographer” and has written or edited something like 20 books about Churchill, so I don’t even know where to begin with him, but I really like a book that Gilbert released last year called Churchill: The Power of Words: His Remarkable Life Recounted Through His Writings and Speeches (BOOKKINDLE).  In this book, Gilbert selected bits and pieces of Churchill’s best and most famous words and uses them chronologically to help tell (along with Gilbert’s introductions) Churchill’s life story.  Like Lincoln, it’s damn near impossible to go wrong with a book of Churchill’s writings and speeches.

And, if you’re looking for something just focusing on Churchill’s early life, there’s a new book out by Michael Shelden that tells that story really well — Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill(BOOKKINDLE).

Winston Churchill is one of those historic figures that I could probably devote an entire blog to simply posting book recommendations about, so I’ll leave you with these ones for now.  I’m confident that you’ll be happy with any of them.

I ended up with a bit of spare money in a book scholarship and was very excited to pick up a copy of "The Man Who Saved the Union". I've been itching to read it ever since your review! So this is a thank you for always keeping me updated with potential new reading material. It is much appreciated.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Awesome, I’m glad to hear that!  I’m fortunate enough to get a ton of great books to review for AND Magazine, so I love being able to share my thoughts and make recommendations for my fellow history fans. 

Everyone is welcome to connect with me on Goodreads, as well.  Since I don’t always have the time to write a full-scale review on all of the books that I read, I’m going to try to remember to at least use Goodreads to post a short review (or a star rating at the very least!).  I’m training myself to go to Goodreads daily so that I am consistent about it, but you’ll have to be patient with me because, as anyone who follows me on Facebook and (especially) Twitter knows, I tend to go through phases.

You made a solid choice with The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace (BOOKKINDLE).  I think it was one of the best books of the year, and that’s no surprise since H.W. Brands always delivers.  I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it’s the best book written about Grant other than the one that General Grant wrote about himself.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi Mr. Bergen-I am starting to collect books on the civil war era. How many books on the era do you have and is there a point where they get redundnant and you can't get much more from out of them? Thank YOU!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Wow, I don’t really know how many books I have that focus on the Civil War or that era.  If I were forced to make a guess, I’d say that I probably have about 90 or 100 books on the Civil War.  Most of them focus on specific aspects of the Civil War or the crises that led to the war or the important individuals and events.  Few of the books try to tell the complete history of the war and that’s good because it really can’t be done in one volume.  So, if you were to dig through my Civil War library, you’d find a lot of biographies of people like William Tecumseh Sherman and Jefferson Davis, as well as books like William J. Cooper’s recent released We Have the War Upon Is: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 (BOOKKINDLE) which takes a detailed look at the country from Lincoln’s election to the firing on Fort Sumter as President Buchanan’s lame duck administration does nothing while states begin to secede from the Union.

I don’t think they get redundant at all.  Sure, you’ll cover some common ground, but each writer tells the stories in a different way, spotlight different people or events, and bring the history to us in their own voice.  I actually prefer to read several books on the same subject because it really drives home the history, breaks through any potential biases or inconsistencies of individual authors, and helps complete the story.

I never think of common history that I read from different authors as redundancies.  It’s more like a validation of the information.  I truly believe that you can always get more out of a story, whether it’s through research that reveals new information, or the perspective of the writer, or just the way that something is written.  Just as an example, if an editor asked me to write a different story every day for a week but that I had to detail Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in the story as the centerpiece each day, I could easily do it by shifting the narrative or approaching the details a little differently or with a totally different voice.  That’s how I look at multiple books about a common subject.