Our presidents deliver countless speeches and send off daily missives, but how many have written books and do these books say about their authors and the nation reading them?
Historian Craig Fuhrman, who has written for the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal, explored what the 45 presidents have published, whether the oboks were written before, during, or after their presidency. Author in Chief: The untold Story of Our Presidents and The Books They Wrote (Avid Reader Press) is a noble effort to capture the literary insights and political process of our nation’s most important leaders.
Of course, like any good book, the story continues to be written.
A few books immediately come to mind before I started reading this 432-page tome. I read John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage as a kid. It’s a book that earned him the Pulitzer Prize. I also read Donald trump’s The Art of the Deal decades ago. And millions of Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. Perhaps reading books about presidents is a more common thing. I most enjoyed a book that featured the inaugural speeches of every president.
What is interesting to contrast is books that are written by candidates before they become president with their polished memories post-presidency. How different were their visions as naïve candidates use their hardened views after serving?
“This book tells the story of how, when, and why America’s presidents have been so consistently drawn to reading them,” says Fehrman.
Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson is credited with writing the first campaign book. His Notes on the State of Virginia was released when “America’s literary culture was anemic, when new books were expensive and rare.”
Indeed, the book landscape centuries ago was vastly different than today. Many towns lacked bookstores or a place to buy books. Much of the country was not literate. Slaves didn’t read and women were not formally taught. School requirements back then took second place to the schedule of farming and working. Newspapers were limited in their coverage of books. There was no TV, radio, or Internet.
Perhaps one of the more political biographies in America’s early history was by a non-president, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. His autobiography is still read today.
Jefferson was a big supporter of the literary arts. When the Library of Congress lost most of its early collection to a fire, he sold thousands of his books to the library and helped build it up past pre-fire levels.
So which books by our presidents are recommended reading from Fehrman? His appendix highlights these:
· Barack Obama: Dreams From My Father
· Ronald Reagan: Where’s The Rest of Me?
· Jimmy carter: An Hour Before Daylight
· Harry S. Truman: Memories
· Calvin Coolidge: Book of My Boyhood
· Woodrow Wilson: Congressional Government
· Theodore Roosevelt: Autobiography
· Ulysses Grant: Personal Memories (Some of It)
· Abraham Lincoln’s Speeches (All of Them)
· John Adams: Autobiography
· Thomas Jefferson: Notes on the State of Virginia
One can only imagine what Trump will write in his memoir. Who will he castigate and unmercifully tear apart? How will he praise himself even when certain speeches of his presidency were abject failures?
If being president is a rare club to be a part of, being a president and author is perhaps rarer.
Do some books by would-be presidents raise good ideas and lend insights as to how they will govern? Absolutely. Do post-office memories try to even scores or cast presidencies into softer light? For sure. But these books do provide hope, vision, and history, and for that, they are worth looking at.
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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.
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