The Fix’s List of Best Presidential Biographies

The Fix‘s Chris Natalie Jennings and Sean Sullivan made a call to readers to submit their favorite presidential biography. Then they compiled a list containing the best one or two biographies on all 43 U.S. presidents. How fun would it be to start with Washington and read one biography on each president through Obama? I think it would be such a more effective way to read presidential biographies instead of picking and choosing here and there (Although you’d have to suffer through 272 pages on Millard Fillmore). And you’d have to slog through some really long books. For instance Ambrose’s book on Eisenhower is a mother-long book. It says only 650 pages, but it’s small writing on packed pages – still a great read. Here’s their list. Anything you would change? How about a biography of Josiah Bartlett or Andrew Shepherd?

* George Washington: Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow; His Excellency: George Washington, by Joseph J. Ellis.

* John Adams: John Adams, by David McCullough; Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, by Joseph J. Ellis.

* Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson and His Time, by Dumas Malone; American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, by Joseph J. Ellis; Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham.

* James Madison: James Madison: A Biography, by Ralph Ketchem.

* James Monroe: The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness, by Harlow Giles Unger.

* John Quincy Adams: John Quincy Adams (The American Presidents Series), by Robert V. Remini.

* Andrew Jackson: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham; The Life of Andrew Jackson, by Robert V. Remini.

* Martin Van Buren: Martin Van Buren (The American Presidents Series), by Ted Widmer; Martin Van Buren : The Romantic Age of American Politics, by John Niven.

* William Henry Harrison: William Henry Harrison (The American Presidents Series) by Gail Collins; Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Times, by Freeman Cleaves.

* John Tyler: John Tyler (The American Presidents Series), by Gary May; John Tyler: Champion of the Old South, by Oliver P. Chitwood.

* James K. Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, by Walter R. Borneman.

* Zachary Taylor: Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest, by K. Jack Bauer.

* Millard Fillmore: The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President, by George Pendle.

* Franklin Pierce: Franklin Pierce (The American Presidents Series), by Michael Holt.

* James Buchanan: President James Buchanan: A Biography, by Philip S. Klein.

* Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald; Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin; With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen B. Oates; Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years, by Carl Sandburg; Abraham Lincoln, by Lord Charnwood.

* Andrew Johnson: Andrew Johnson (The American Presidents Series), by Annette Gordon-Reed.

* Ulysses S. Grant: Grant, by Jean Edward Smith; Grant: A Biography, by William S. McFeeley.

* Rutherford B. Hayes: Rutherford B. Hayes, by Hans Trefousse (The American Presidents Series); Rutherford B. Hayes, and his America, by Harry Barnard.

* James Garfield: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard.

*Chester Arthur: Chester Alan Arthur (The American Presidents Series), by Zachary Karabell; Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur, by Thomas C. Reeves.

* Grover Cleveland (the 22nd and 24th president): Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character, by Alyn Brodsky; Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents Series), by Henry F. Graff.

* Benjamin Harrison: Benjamin Harrison (The American Presidents Series), by Charles W. Calhoun; Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier statesman, by Harry Joseph Sievers.

* William McKinley: Presidency of William McKinley, by Lewis. L. Gould.

* Theodore Roosevelt: Edmund Morris’s Theodore Roosevelt TrilogyMornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt, by David McCullough.

* William Howard Taft: The Life & Times of William Howard Taft, by Harry F. Pringle.

* Woodrow Wilson: Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, by John Milton Cooper Jr.

* Warren G. Harding: The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times, by Francis Russell; Warren G. Harding (The American Presidents Series), by John W. Dean.

* Calvin Coolidge: Coolidge, An American Enigma, by Robert Sobel.

* Herbert Hoover: Herbert Hoover (The American Presidents Series), by William E. Leuchtenburg.

*Franklin Roosevelt: Franklin D. Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, by Conrad Black; No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

*Harry S. Truman: Truman, by David McCullough; Harry S. Truman (The American Presidents Series), by Robert Dallek.

*Dwight D. Eisenhower: Eisenhower: Soldier and President, by Stephen E. Ambrose; Eisenhower in War and Peace, by Jean Edward Smith.

*John F. Kennedy: A Thousand Days, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.; An Unfinished Life, by Robert Dallek.

*Lyndon B. Johnson: Robert Caro‘s multi-volume set; Robert Dallek‘s two-volume set.

*Richard Nixon: The three-volume set by Steven Ambrose; Nixonland, by Richard Perlstein.

*Gerald Ford: Gerald R. Ford (The American Presidents Series) by Douglas Brinkley.

*Jimmy Carter:  Jimmy Carter, by Julian E. Zelizer (The American Presidents Series).

*Ronald Reagan: President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon; My Father at 100, by Ron Reagan, Jr.

*George H.W. Bush: George H.W. Bush (The American Presidents Series), by Timothy Naftali.

*Bill Clinton: First in His Class, by David Maraniss; The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House, by John F. Harris.

*George W. Bush: Decision Points (Bush’s memoir); Peter Baker’s forthcoming Bush book.

*Barack Obama: Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss; The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, by David Remnick.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.


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