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Let’s face it: we all love candy. And most of us appreciate the institution of the presidency. So why not savor both at the same time?

That seems to have been the theory behind my best friend’s endeavor to commemorate my first year writing about the best presidential biographies – he sent me the first three sets of the Presidential Pez collection! (Due to the sugar-seeking tendencies of my kids, these are now under lock and key…)

Together they cover the first fifteen presidents, from Washington through Buchanan. The timing is perfect as I’m just two weeks away from finishing up with Buchanan and moving on to Lincoln…at last!  In anticipation (or is it really celebration?) I’ve added the fourth set – Lincoln through Garfield – to my internet wish list and will be clicking the “place your order” button shortly.

Before I opened the unexpected package, I didn’t even know this collection existed. But Erik is enterprising, extremely observant and endlessly creative. So he undoubtedly scoured the internet late one night until he stumbled upon something fabulously topical, fantastically whimsical and even partially edible!

* * * * *

Since this is Presidents’ Day weekend, I’m going to defer the pleasure I am deriving from from reading yet another biography of our fourth-least-loved president (Franklin Pierce). Instead, I’ll spend this time looking back at five of my favorite single-volume presidential biographies so far:

Washington: A Life” by Ron Chernow
5 stars
(click here for my review)

The best presidential biography of the 60+ I’ve read so far and my only 5-star rating to-date. I absolutely loved this book. As a result, I’m determined to read everything that Chernow has published – biography or not.

* * *

John Adams: A Life” by John Ferling
4¾ stars
(click here for my review)

A fantastic biography about an extremely interesting (if slightly eccentric) president. I haven’t loved everything by Ferling, but this was outstanding. Undoubtedly a must-read.

* * *

John Adams” by David McCullough
4½ stars
(click here for my review)

On everyone’s list of favorite presidential biographies. Its narrative style makes it extraordinarily entertaining, if slightly less scholarly. Now I can’t wait to read McCullough’s bios of Truman and TR.  No, I haven’t watched the highly-regarded HBO miniseries based on this book, but that IS on my to do list!

* * *

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” by Jon Meacham
4½ stars
(click here for my review)

A comprehensive, easy-to-read and wonderfully descriptive book on a multifaceted, enigmatic and interesting president. Not ideal for a serious Jefferson scholar, but for the rest of us it is the perfect balance of entertaining and intellectual.

* * *

The Life of Andrew Jackson” by Robert Remini
4 stars
(click here for my review)

A very interesting biography about an intensely fascinating man. And as good as this book is, the series from which it was abridged is even better. Based on his books on Andrew Jackson, I’m getting everything Remini has published. Really.