1,000 days ago I cracked open the first volume in James Flexner’s series on George Washington and began what I expected would be a three-year odyssey through the best biographies of the U.S. presidents.
Since then you’ve helped me add almost 100 biographies to my original list, extending the timeline by at least two years. (Thanks, by the way!)
There were several motivations for undertaking this journey, but the most fundamental reason was that I found myself spending too much time doing absolutely nothing: sitting on a plane while nineteenth for take-off, waiting in a parking lot for soccer practice to let out, ticking down the hours until my flight would land in Shanghai…or Cleveland.
During the past 1,000 days I’ve read some phenomenal biographies and gotten to know more about the first 28 presidents than I could have ever imagined. And I’ve learned an enormous amount about the presidency and about the durability of the American political system.
So while I finish reading my first biography of Warren Harding, here are a few observations I’ve made while watching you visit this site more than 225,000 times:
Which presidents interest you the most?
More of you find this site by searching for information about Abraham Lincoln than any other president by far. He’s almost twice as popular as runner-up Thomas Jefferson.
In case you’re wondering who occupies last place at this point, it’s Chester Arthur. But congratulations to the 436 of you who found your way to my site by proactively searching for the best biographies of our 21st president!
Which reviews do you read most often?
#1 Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life”
#2 David Herbert Donald’s “Lincoln”
#3 Jon Meacham’s “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power”
#4 Ralph Ketcham’s “James Madison: A Biography”
#5 David McCullough’s “John Adams”
#6 Jean Edward Smith’s “Grant”
#7 Harlow Unger’s “The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness”
No offense to James Monroe (or Harlow Unger) but I’m more than a bit surprised that “The Last Founding Father” is currently the seventh most popular review on this site.
But would you have guessed that only slightly fewer people are reading the review of Robert Rayback’s biography of Millard Fillmore?
What is the most popular page on my site?
It’s not even close. More than 20% of all views are of my list of The Best Presidential Biographies.
What is the most popular third-party link on this site?
During this past year almost 25,000 of you have clicked on third-party links found on this site.
Many of you have visited the websites listed on my Related Links page which lists many of the places you can go to read about other folks who have undertaken adventures similar to mine.
But where have more of you gone than anywhere else?
→ The Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College where you can download the uncondensed version of Michael Burlingame’s “Abraham Lincoln: A Life” – for free! But you do realize it’s over 4,000 pages, right? I only read the 1,600 page version…
Now, back to Warren Harding!