American Presidents: Their Lives and Legacies

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Book covers showing Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, John Quincy Adams and John AdamsOn January 20, 2021 Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as 46th president of the United States.

To explore the lives and legacies of former presidents, check out the library’s extensive collection of presidential biographies. Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Librarian, shares a few of her recommendations:

Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times by David S. Reynolds
Rich details about the culture and society in which Lincoln grew up and matured make this much more than the standard “birth to death” biography.

Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America by Jared Cohen
Eight men have become president when their predecessor died, whether through natural death or assassination. Learn how these men (and their presidencies) changed the country and the world.

American Presidents Series by Henry Holt & Company
President biographies can be quite lengthy and daunting.  The American Presidents series, however, is concise, focused and insightful. The most recent entry is #43 for George W. Bush.

Franklin & Washington: The Founding Partnership by Edward J. Larson
Although Benjamin Franklin and George Washington had very different viewpoints and backgrounds, they developed a lifelong friendship, as evidenced in this unique biography.

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel
This fascinating and revealing biography of the sixth president (and first to also be the son of a former president) provides an intriguing look at a man whose public persona was often at odds with his private one.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
The first in Morris’s biography trilogy of Theodore Roosevelt traces Roosevelt’s rise from a chronically ill child to military hero and governor of New York. It is a Pulitzer Prize winner and has been selected by the Modern Library as one of the best 100 nonfiction titles of all time.

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek
There are many books about Kennedy, but this is one of the top general biographies about the 35th president.

The Virginia Dynasty: Four Presidents and the Creation of the American Nation by Lynne Cheney
This 2020 group biography of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe explores key events in their presidencies that shaped the nation.

There are several authors who have written multiple presidential biographies, including Ron Chernow, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough and Candice Millard.

Looking for other reading recommendations?  Stop by the reference desk or get customized book recommendations from library staff using BookMatch, a free online service. Use the BookMatch form to tell us what you like to read and we’ll provide you with recommendations tailored to your reading preferences.


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