Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Books"

This is the workspace of a crazy man, and I am exhausted. Can somebody just please give me a book deal? Because the work is done. And I can’t stop writing.

I’ll probably need an editor, too, because nobody publishes or reads books that are over 6,000 pages long.

Asker kaiyves Asks:
I was wondering if you'd heard of/seen the new graphic novel biography of Andre the Giant? I'm not a wrestling fan, but I saw it on my library's "New" shelf and read it, and I enjoyed it.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I have definitely heard of Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend (BOOK | KINDLE), but haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the book, though — whether they are wrestling fans or not — so I think I’ll have to pick a copy of it up.

David Pietrusza has written three of my favorite books focusing on specific Presidential campaigns, 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents> (BOOK | KINDLE), 1948: Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year That Transformed America, and 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies, all of which I give my highest recommendation. So, I definitely suggest checking out this recent article by Mr. Pietrusza for the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation — The Coolidges and the Hardings: Northeast Meets Midwest — an interesting piece on the relationship between a President and the Vice President who would eventually succeed him.

I just want to say that I picked up Shooting Victoria at the library based on your review and I'm finding it to be the most interesting book! I'm only on chapter 4, but I've learned a lot already. Thanks for recommending it.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Cool, I’m happy to hear that you checked it out! That book, Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy (BOOK | KINDLE), is really interesting, especially for people like me who spend most of their time reading about American history rather than British history (or the history of other foreign leaders). It also made me understand Queen Victoria in a very different light, especially after reading somewhat similar books like Helen Rappaport’s A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy (BOOK | KINDLE) and Jane Ridley’s The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince (BOOK | KINDLE) — both of which are also excellent.

I would also recommend checking out another book on a similar subject and from pretty much the same era — Why Spencer Perceval Had To Die, (BOOK | KINDLE) Andro Linklater’s book about the only assassination of a British Prime Minister, which took place in the lobby of Parliament in 1812.

You should definitely get this book when it is released on August 5th. I was barely able to tear myself away from it to make this post.

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (BOOK | KINDLE) by Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, and published by Simon & Schuster (@simonbooks) on August 5th.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm kind of intrigued that you read Owen's No Easy Day. Any particular thoughts?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’ve probably read at least six or seven different books about how Osama bin Laden was killed and some of them have been really good, some have been really bad, and some have seemed to be nothing more than the exact same details we learned from news reports put into the form of a book.

No Easy Day:The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden (BOOK | KINDLE) is notable because the author Mark Owen (aka Mark Bissonnette) was involved in the mission that killed bin Laden. That is certainly a unique viewpoint, but to be honest, that’s the only reason I found No Easy Day to be interesting. I can’t say that I’d recommend purchasing the book, but since Wal-Mart always seems to have 6,000 copies, next time you’re in one of their stores, you should drop by the magazine aisle and read the 3 or 4 pages that really focus on the Abbottabad raid.

There are two books that I would recommend for those who might be interested in the reading about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as well as putting the mission in context with either the hunt for bin Laden or bin Laden’s role in becoming leader of al-Qaeda and Public Enemy #1.

First and foremost, I would suggest Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad (BOOK | KINDLE) by Peter Bergen, who is no relation to me, but who is the journalist who actually scored a face-to-face interview with Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. It’s extremely interesting and frightening to read Bergen (again, no relation) give his account of that interview and how bin Laden seemed soft-spoken and polite and even had a kindly nature, but when bin Laden’s words were translated he was declaring war on the United States and warning Americans that his organization would make no distinction between civilian and military targets in their jihad against U.S. interests.

The other book that I would suggest is The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden (BOOK | KINDLE) by Mark Bowden. The Finish is less expansive than Manhunt, but the description of the raid in Abbottabad by the Navy SEALs is intense. Bowden is simply always terrific. I haven’t read a Mark Bowden book that I haven’t been mesmerized by. Black Hawk Down is his most famous work, of course, but I think Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War With Militant Islam is even better. And you’ll thank me if you also pick up Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw (on Pablo Escobar) and Road Work: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts, a collection of some of the best of his narrative non-fiction which features an incredible piece on Saddam Hussein.

Asker fly-casually Asks:
So, James MacGregor Burns died. As a fellow presidential historian, do you have any thoughts on his work?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

He did?! Oh man, that’s a shame, I’m sorry to hear that. I think that Mr. Burns was probably in his 90s, so at least he had a long life, and us history-lovers are fortunate for that because of his prolific output of top-notch work, particularly on leadership and the Presidents/Presidency.

Here are three of my favorite books by James MacGregor Burns:

Leadership (BOOK | KINDLE)
Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America (BOOK | KINDLE)
Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World (BOOK | KINDLE)

Thank you for the feedback, and I’m happy to hear that you’re digging the posts so far!

@uncommonbreakdance: I definitely should have done that because I think you’re right about the data being easier to read if each of the subjects were bolded. Unfortunately, I’ve finishing writing up each of the entries and am just too damn lazy to go back and fix that part of the formatting. I’ll remember to do as you suggested in 2016, the next time I rank all of the Presidents.

@gracehasbobsdeadwifesheart: First of all, you deserve a gold star and a half-dozen smiley face stickers for the name of your account. I actually considered including a list of recommended books on each President with each entry, but getting everything together just for what you’ve seen so far was a lot more time-consuming than I thought I would be, so I scrapped the book recommendation idea. However, my “Essential Books” pages were updated just a few weeks ago, so that’s a great place to find suggested books on each President. The “Essential Books” lists are on the right side of my Tumblr’s front page. I’ve tried to break those lists up a little and spread them over a few pages so that they are easier to scan through, but here are quick links to the pages featuring my book suggestions on individual Presidents and the Presidency itself:

Essential Books, Part I: General books about the Presidents or Presidency; Books that I use most frequently for my work; Books about Presidents from George Washington to Franklin Pierce (Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, W.H. Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce.
Essential Books, Part II: Books about Presidents from James Buchanan to Woodrow Wilson (Buchanan, Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, A. Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, B. Harrison, McKinley, T. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson.)
Essential Books, Part III: Books about Presidents from Warren G. Harding to Barack Obama (Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, F. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, L. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush, Obama.)
Essential Books, Part IV: A collection of some of my favorite books not related to Presidents or the Presidency; Books about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers; Civil War and Slavery; World War I and World War II; Civil Rights Movement; General U.S. History; General World History; Books on the Popes and Papal History; Miscellaneous Literature (John Steinbeck and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for example); and books featuring the short stories, poetry, and plays by my favorite author of fiction and America’s greatest living playwright, Sam Shepard.

Thanks again for the feedback, and I hope to hear more thoughts and suggestions about my 2014 Presidential Rankings as the countdown continues.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
what's the most recent book you read or what you're reading now...
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Over the past few days, I finished reading these books (all of which are worth checking out):

The Most Dangerous Man In America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur by Mark Perry (BOOK | KINDLE)
Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper (BOOK | KINDLE)
Soccer In Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano and translated by Mark Fried (BOOK | KINDLE)
Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell (BOOK | KINDLE)

As I mentioned, all four of those books are worth your time, but O’Connell’s biography of General Sherman is especially good.

Currently, I’m reading Louis S. Warren’s Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (BOOK | KINDLE) and Act of War: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo by Jack Cheevers (BOOK | KINDLE).

I got some soccer books in the mail today courtesy of the good people over at Nation Books, so I’m looking forward to reading about soccer in addition to watching it every day. Can’t we just start the World Cup all over again in August?

Books pictured:
Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper (BOOK | KINDLE)

Soccer In Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano and translated by Mark Fried (BOOK | KINDLE)

Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil Through Soccer by David Goldblatt (BOOK | KINDLE)

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson (BOOK | KINDLE)

In your opinion, which are the best books about Bush 41?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

It’s not completely about Bush 41 (and it’s 1200 pages long), but What It Takes: The Way To the White House (BOOK | KINDLE), Richard Ben Cramer’s exhaustive, incredible book about the 1988 Presidential campaign, is a must-read. It’s the best book ever written about a Presidential campaign and that’s really saying something.

Of course, if you don’t want to commit to What It Takes (and it is definitely a commitment), it was abridged last year into a wonderful little book focusing solely on George Herbert Walker Bush. It’s a great insight into what made Bush into the public servant he has been for the last 70 years. That abridged version of Cramer’s book is called Being Poppy: A Portrait of George Herbert Walker Bush (BOOK | KINDLE).

Unfortunately, President Bush never had much interest in writing an autobiography after he left office. However, he did release a lengthy collection of his letters and writings called All the Best, George Bush: My Life In Letters and Other Writings (BOOK | KINDLE). The letters, in a way, are far more autobiographical than a traditional autobiography would have been. Many of them are quite candid and personal, and Bush adds insight to letters throughout the book.

Oh, and The Commanders by Bob Woodward (BOOK | KINDLE) is an interesting look at Bush as Commander-in-Chief, first with the invasion of Panama, and then with the Persian Gulf War. Again, it’s not a complete autobiography, but a great book about Bush as President.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Have you ever read Destiny of the Republic? Because Garfield is my favorite, always, even if he makes me cry.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I have, and Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard (BOOK | KINDLE) is excellent. The definitive book on the Garfield assassination.

If you’re a Garfield fan, I’d also recommend Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield by Kenneth D. Ackerman (BOOK | KINDLE) which touches on the Garfield assassination, of course, but also focuses on the stunning nomination of Garfield at the 1880 Republican National Convention, where he ended up as the GOP nominee despite the fact that James G. Blaine, John Sherman, and Ulysses S. Grant (aiming for an unprecedented third term just four years after leaving the White House) badly wanted to be President.  Ackerman’s book also looks at Garfield’s brief Presidency, the battles within the Republican Party, and even a bit of Arthur’s Presidency following the succession.