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Monday, February 15, 2016

Happy Presidents' Day: A RA for All Reading List


Since I hold a BA in American Studies, this is a topic I greatly enjoy. I even took a class in college called, "The American Presidency" during a Presidential election year which was also the first year I could vote ['96].

But I am not alone in enjoying books on Presidents. As the current Presidential race moves forward, you will have many patrons looking for Presidential reading options. So while we shine a spotlight on past American Presidents today, keep this link saved for the several months, as it will make for a good suggestion list for the foreseeable future.

Here are some of my favorite books about American Presidents.  Most of the links go to reviews or book discussion reports here on RA for All. And each post has plenty of readalike options too. But please note, these are not your typical Presidential biography suggestions; those you can find pretty easily using traditional reference techniques. RA for All is about taking the leisure reading suggestions beyond the most basic steps.

  • Candice Millard is THE BEST. I wish she could write faster.  Here is a link to the book discussion I led on River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey. And here is the link to the book discussion report for Destiny of the Republic which also includes a link to the review I wrote the first time I read this book.  Her new book is coming out in September, but she is moving her focus across the Atlantic as it will be about Winston Churchill.
  • Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell may have a witty tone, but it takes a very serious look at the factors and events that led up to the first three American Presidential Assassinations.
  • James Swanson's Manhunt: the 12-day Chase for Lincoln's Killer was my book club's all time favorite book. They even proclaimed their love for it publicly when they were featured in the Chicago Tribune.
  • Stephen King's 11/22/63 is one of my all time favorite books.  Plus, it is a TV miniseries now, so there is interest.  It is especially great on audio.
  • Erik Larson's Dead Wake from last year had a very interesting side plot about President Wilson. I learned quite a bit more about him than I was anticipating [in a good way].
  • One of my favorite novels about the life of an American President, one that I read pre-blog and still hand out regularly is Sally Hemmings by Barbara Chase-Riboud. It is an older title, and most strikingly, it was written before it was an accepted fact that Thomas Jefferson had children with Hemmings. Chase-Riboud took a lot of flack for writing this book. It is historically accurate AND a moving read. Here is an annotation I wrote back in 2007 promoting this book during Women's History Month:
    • Sally Hemings was Martha Jefferson’s half sister and eventually the mistress of Martha’s husband, Thomas Jefferson.  This novel recreates life in 19th century Virginia and depicts its slavery, miscegenation, denial, and hypocrisy, by recreating the life of Hemings and her children by Jefferson.  Chase-Ribould’s narrative shows Hemings as a complicated woman in a loving relationship, at a tumultuous time in America.

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