Books About the Presidents, Part II

By Stephen

The first part of my blog listing books about the presidents of the United States (POTUS) covered the 18th and 19th centuries.  This time, the presidents Theodore Roosevelt through Harry Truman, will be the focus.

Theodore Roosevelt succeeded William McKinley after the latter man  was assassinated.  The first Roosevelt to serve as POTUS has had a  number of books written about him and he wrote a number of books himself ranging from his hunting experiences, wartime exploits in Cuba, and American history.  Edmund Morris has written a series of books about The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979),  Theodore Rex (2001), and Colonel Roosevelt (2010). Morris’ three volume biography of TR takes the first Roosevelt from birth to death.  One author who is critical of TR’s expansionist foreign policy is James Bradley, whose book  The Imperial Cruise:  : a Secret History of Empire and War accuses TR of sowing the seeds of World War II in the Pacific.

Woodrow Wilson, the first democrat elected president since Grover Cleveland in the early 1890’s, was a progressive who reluctantly led  the United States into World War I in Europe.  After the war,  Wilson attended peace conference in Paris which gave birth  to the League of Nations.  While campaigning for the treaty, in 1919, Wilson suffered a severe stroke and was bedridden for the rest of his term.  John Milton Cooper, a recognized Wilson expert has published a full length biography of the progressive Demoncrat.  For Wilson’s role in the peace talks, see Paris 1919 by Margaret Macmillan.

Warren Harding’s presidency was full of scandal, both person and political.  The Shadow of Blooming Grove  narrates Harding’s rise from a local pol to the White House.  The Harding affair : Love and Espionage During the Great War  tries to link Harding’s longtime  mistress to a German spy ring during World War I.  Laton McCartney’s Teapot Dome Scandal describes the  oil scandal that broke after Harding death.

Calvin , nicknamed “Silent Cal,”  was president during a time of national prosperity, or so it seemed.  “The business of America is business,”  said President Coolidge.  Jules Ables, In the Time of Silent Cal, places Coolidge’s presidency in the context of the twenties.

Coolidge decided not run for re-election in 1928 and Herbert Hoover was elected to succeed him.  In An Uncommon Man : the Triumph of Herbert Hoover, Richard Norton Smith traces Hoover’s life from his childhood in rural Iowa to his career as an engineer, then into politics, when he became infamous as the man who was in the White House when the Great Depression began.   That Hoover no more caused the Great Depression than FDR cured it, is a point Smith and David Burner both make; the latter in his book, Herbert Hoover: a Public Life.

So many books have been written about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, it is hard to recommend a few. In The Forgotten Man: a New History of the Great Depression, Amity Shlaes is critical of both Hoover’s and Roosevelt’s handling of the depression   No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the story of FDR’s White House during World World II.    Joseph Persico’s Franklin and Lucy:  President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherfurd, and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life.  As this book shows, Eleanor was not the only woman in his life;  his mother, Lucy Rutherford,  his secretary Missy LeHand, and his cousin Daisy Suckley.  Like Abraham Lincoln, FDR’s Funeral Train took the president to his final resting place at his estate Hyde Park, NY.  Onboard was the widow, the new president, Harry Truman, and a wealth of politicians.

Harry Truman, a product of political machine in Kansas City, Missouri, ascended to presidency on the sudden death of  FDR in April 1945.  It fell to Truman to decide to decide to use the A-bomb against Japan.  The most complete biography of Truman was written by David McCullough.  Gaby Giffords was not the first member of the United States House  of Representatives to be shot in modern times.  Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the House on November 1, 1950, in an oft forgotten  plot that included an attempt on the life of President Truman as described in American Gunfight:  The Plot to Kill Harry Truman-and the Shoot-Out That Stopped It.

The series on books about the presidents will be contiuned next month with of listing of books on Eisenhower through Clinton.

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