Well, I’m glad that Politico and Dead Presidents could team up on Twitter to make your day.
Jonathan Allen and The Hill's White House correspondent Amie Parnes were retweeting my recommendation of their recently-released book, HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, which is a really fascinating insider account of how Hillary moved on from her loss to Barack Obama in 2008, accepted his nomination to be Secretary of State, carved out an important and influential role in the Obama Administration, and how the Clinton political machine has quietly been building the foundation for a potential bid for the Presidency in 2016. It’s really interesting to read some of the behind-the-scenes struggles between Obama’s people and Hillary’s people as they tried to heal divisions left over from the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination campaign and work together with Hillary’s folks at Foggy Bottom and Obama’s White House staff.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is something that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates echoed in his recent book, Duty. Basically, people who don’t know or haven’t previously worked with Hillary Clinton invariably tend to fear her or dread the prospect of working closely with her at first. Then they develop a grudging respect for her as they see how hard she works and how brilliant she is. Then they start to get to know her and are surprised at how nice and funny she is. And, in almost every case, those initially wary people become downright loyal to her and love working for or with her. Almost without fail, that is the process for people who start working with her for the first time — their preconceived notions fly out the window.
HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes is out now and well worth the read. I raced through it and highly recommend it.
Oh man, this one is easy. It’s not even close. I have no idea when or where I got this book, but the strangest/creepiest book that I have is the Handbook of Freemasonry.
I’m probably going to be on some secret Freemasons hit list for posting this, but look at this creepy shit:
Look at the image below on the left — what kind of ritual requires one blindfolded Freemason to kneel in front of another Mason as depicted below? Because I know what it DOES look like might happen in these meetings:
What else do Freemasons do during their rituals? How about this:
I’d like to think that I’m a pretty open-minded guy, but what the fuck goes on during Freesmason rituals? That’s some scary shit!
By the way, if I’m mysteriously found dead from being smashed with a brick, I hope you guys will share this post with the authorities. I’d post more images from the Handbook of Freemasonry, but I want you all to be able to eventually fall asleep without having nightmares of creepy dudes in top hats and frock coats playing “doctor” or whatever in the blue fuck is going on in these images.
The book that comes to mind is Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff’s Black Culture and the New Deal: The Quest for Civil Rights in the Roosevelt Era. It might not be quite as specifically targeted as your looking for, but it is a solid study of the subject and a relatively recent release.
Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power From George Washington to George W. Bush by John Yoo is the worst book that I have actually read and written a full-length review of. And while I didn’t write a full-length review of it They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons To Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK by former Minnesota Governor and professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura (with Dick Russell and David Wayne) was a special type of awful. I only needed a paragraph to share my feelings about Ventura’s book.
Those are the worst of the books that I’ve actually read. I am sent a lot of books by publishers (upwards of 30-40 books every month) and there are some titles that just look like they are obviously dreadful, so they remain buried under piles of much more interesting books that I definitely plan to read. I’m sure there are some books in those piles that are just as shitty as the books by Yoo and Governor Ventura.
Wow, it’s kind of rude that they would just go all out and print my personal feelings for the lovely Huma Abedin in a book. I did not give them permission to share that with the world.
In case you’re wondering, this is from the recently-released book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (Crown), which you should definitely get a copy of. It’s a great read and a fascinating look at Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the relationship between her and the Clinton side of the Democratic Party with Barack Obama and his side of the party, and her evolution from a failed Presidential candidate in 2008 into a virtual lock for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination.
Personally, I feel that they are all worth reading, but not everybody is masochistic enough to put themselves through Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion or William McKinley’s The Tariff in the Days of Henry Clay and Since. And I love John Quincy Adams, but his book of poetry, Dermot MacMorrogh, or the Conquest of Ireland: An Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century, isn’t exactly Leaves of Grass or, better yet, Where the Sidewalk Ends.
In no particular order, here are a handful of books by Presidents that I would recommend for readers the more casual reader of Presidential history than I am (and by “more casual”, I mean “less insane”):
•Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
•My Life by Bill Clinton
•RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon by Richard Nixon
•Decision Points by George W. Bush
•Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
•Profiles In Courage by John F. Kennedy
•At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends by Dwight D. Eisenhower
•Six Crises by Richard Nixon
•Leaders by Richard Nixon
•In The Arena by Richard Nixon
•The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson by Herbert Hoover (Very interesting to read a biography by one President about another President, even if it is a bit dry.)
•Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt
•The Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt
•Personal Experiences of Life on a Cattle Ranch by Theodore Roosevelt
•Through the Brazilian Wilderness by Theodore Roosevelt
•Presidential Problems by Grover Cleveland
•Lives of James Madison and James Monroe by John Quincy Adams
•Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson
•Thoughts on Government by John Adams
•The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volumes I and II by Jefferson Davis
•Mr. Citizen by Harry Truman
I also really like diaries or collections of letters, speeches, and writings such as these (some of which are several volumes long and some which have editors who helped with the publication of the book):
•All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings by George H.W. Bush
•The Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency by James K. Polk
•Diary and Letters of R.B. Hayes by Rutherford B. Hayes
•Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S Truman by Harry Truman
•The Eisenhower Diaries by Dwight D. Eisenhower
•Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln by Abraham Lincoln
•Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution by John Adams and Abigail Adams
•Diary of John Quincy Adams by John Quincy Adams
(The diaries of John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk are particularly candid, especially for their time.)
The best is actually a trilogy — the three volumes written by Edmund Morris: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (focuses on TR from birth until McKinley’s assassination), Theodore Rex (focuses on TR as President), and Colonel Roosevelt (focuses on TR from the day he left the White House until the morning his wife Edith found him dead in January 1919). If you have the time and money to commit to the trilogy, that’s what I would recommend. Not only are the books what I would consider a definitive history of TR, but Morris is responsible for some beautiful writing.
If not (and I don’t blame you — three books that each clock in at north of 700 pages is indeed a commitment) and would rather read something in one volume, I’d suggest either David McCullough’s Mornings on Horseback or TR: The Last Romantic by H.W. Brands. You can’t go wrong with those two authors — as historians or writers — either.
Well, first of all, there are no rejection letters!
It helps if you have a platform to push your book since you want have a publishing company’s marketing apparatus behind you if you go the e-book route with Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble. You’ll have to sell every book yourself, so that’s important to remember.
With that said, it is easy to do. It’s fast. You can set your own price (and change that price if need be), and you’ll get a bigger percentage of the profits with the royalty rate than you’d get from a publisher. You’ll definitely be leaving a lot on the table, but you’ll get your work out there, and if you have a platform or work your ass off at plugging your book, you can make money. You can make money internationally, too. I just mentioned the other day on Facebook that I’ve been selling more books lately in the United Kingdom than I have been in the United States. I’ve also had buyers in India, Spain, the Philippines, France, and Japan, among other countries.
It’s not perfect and it’s not easy to make your book standout among the hundreds of thousands of others on Amazon. But if you find a way, you can definitely sell books and make some money.
I might have said all of this before, but I think Caro’s study of LBJ is probably the most remarkable biographical work — ever. In the history of the written word.
It’s certainly the definitive biography of an American President (and, after four lengthy volumes, it’s still not finished) and probably one of the best studies ever undertaken about the accumulation and exercise of power. Caro has spent nearly as much time researching and writing about Lyndon Johnson’s life as Lyndon Johnson spent actually living (the first volume was released in 1981). I mean, take away the fact that the books are about a President (and my favorite President, at that) and I’d still say that it’s probably the greatest work of biography that I’ve ever read. And I have read a lot of biographies.
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.
This is the oldest book that I have:
It’s a biography of James Garfield’s life that was quickly published and released a few weeks after Garfield died in 1881.
To try to give a complete story of Garfield’s assassination, the book features a lot of the progress reports that doctor’s released while Garfield was fighting for his life and there are a lot of memorial messages and tributes squeezed into the book, too.
One other interesting thing in the book is this chart that can be pulled out, almost like a centerfold. The chart plots the President’s pulse, temperature, and respiration as taken three times a day (morning, noon, and night) for each of the 79 days from when Garfield was shot (July 2nd) to the day he died (September 19th).
The Garfield book, which is over 130 years old, is the oldest that I own. I have a few books from the 1920s and 1930s, but nothing all that special. However, I do have some first edition Presidential biographies and autobiographies that are in much better condition than you’d probably be able to find without having to drop some good money on them. I try to take special care of those books because, in some cases, they are 50 years old to 80 years old and the dust jackets still look like they were just released yesterday.
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.