biographies, Dwight Eisenhower, Evan Axelbank, FDR, Fox News, Google, Harry Truman, Herbert Hoover, JFK, Mashable, presidential biographies, Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt
It’s hard to believe but three years have elapsed since I started this journey. When I began in December 2012 my library consisted of 125 of the best presidential biographies.
With your feedback and a constant stream of newly-released biographies, my collection of presidential biographies has nearly doubled (to 222 titles).
I originally expected to complete this journey by Presidents’ Day 2015. But as my list expanded, that date kept getting pushed back. It now appears I’ll be finished by December 2017.
Alas, a 2½ year project has blossomed into a 5 year project!
2015 Highlights and Observations:
* 42 presidential biographies read (~20,000 pages) covering 8 presidents: from Grover Cleveland to Calvin Coolidge. All I can say is: Thank goodness for Teddy Roosevelt!
* 61 posts (somehow it seemed like…more)
* Visitors from about 150 countries found my site, about two-dozen for the first time (hello Vatican City, Micronesia, Seychelles and Gabon!)
* Traffic to this website exploded this year. Significant credit goes to:
– Google: for its very well-paved information superhighway
– Fox News/Evan Axelbank: for producing a segment on my journey which was broadcast on Presidents’ Day 2015; an enormous amount of enthusiasm for presidential biographies ensued.
– Mashable/Marcus Gilmer: for referencing my site in his provocatively titled “Why I’m Spending a Year Reading About Every U.S. President.” When the article was published I felt a great disturbance in the Force…as if millions of Mashable readers suddenly found my website and cried out in delight!
Top 10 Most Popular Posts/Pages in 2015:
1. ***The Best Presidential Biographies***
2. The Best Biographies of Abraham Lincoln
3. The Best Biographies of Thomas Jefferson
4. Recent / Upcoming Releases
5. The Best Biographies of George Washington
6. The Best Biographies of Ulysses S. Grant
7. The Best Biographies of John Adams
8. The Best Biographies of Theodore Roosevelt
9. The Best Biographies of John Quincy Adams
Guess What’s on My Christmas List?!?
- Chronology of the U.S. Presidency (4 volumes)
- The Reader’s Companion to the American Presidency
- 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America: And Four Who Tried to Save Her
- First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women
- Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race But Changed the Nation
- The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power
Note to my family: this was not intended as a hint and I’ve already ordered these for myself. But I could always use more chocolate.
Coming up in 2016:
Herbert Hoover (January)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (March-June)
Harry Truman (July)
Dwight Eisenhower (August)
John F. Kennedy (Sept-December)
See you next year!
It is an enjoyable blog! Thank you!
Congratulations on a fascinating journey!
Thanks and Merry (almost) Christmas!
It’s been a pleasure following your blog as I’ve embarked on my own journey (one book per president). I just finished Monroe and will be diving into JQA soon!
Good luck, and let me know when you come across a biography you really really like!
Zebulon Carlander said:
Great job! Looking forward to 2016!
/ Zebulon, Sweden
Thanks and (almost) Happy New Year!
The Presidentiad said:
Hi Steve. I already posted this on your two year anniversary blog. But just in case you don’t see it there, I was wondering, as I’m about to start reading and blogging about each president–though I’m only reading one book per president–what kind of organization you did before you started your work. Did you just dive into the first Washington bio you saw? Or was there something more methodical to your approach?
I spent a couple years collecting what I thought were the better 1 or 2 (sometimes 3) biographies on each president based on Amazon or Goodreads ratings, or by word-of-mouth. For several presidents it was hard to find more than one that seemed “acceptably good” and for some it was hard to narrow down the choicesbecause there seemed to be so many great ones. I thought about throwing in the towel and just reading those with the reputation of being the best-of-the-best (starting with Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin). That’s more or less when I decided I needed to back up, collect more biographies per president, read them systematically in order of the presidency, log my journey and find out for myself (and whoever else was interested) which ones were *really* the best. And the rest, as they say, is history-
Been following you from almost the beginning. Great work! Love your reviews. I have always been a history buff. I have been reading your top suggested books on each President and I have supplemented it with the bio of each First Lady or significant other. I am only up to Mary Lincoln currently. Always have been interested in the woman behind the man. Now that I have recently retired and my children have stopped giving me grandchildren maybe now I will have the time to read more. Just want to say Thank you for your inspiration and insights.
Thanks so much for the wonderful comment and I love your idea of reading about the First Ladies! I recently bought a book that reviews each of them at a fairly high level, but it would be far more interesting to read a high quality comprehensive biography of each. Were you able to find something worth reading on each so far, or are there a few who just aren’t well-covered?
Fascinating journey, very useful blog! Despairing about the unbelievable mass of presidential biographies, your blog helped me choose the right ones for me! Thank you and happy New Year!
Thanks so much! It has been an interesting journey so far and it has been fascinating trying to uncover the best for each president – but it’s also amazing how many biographies of certain presidents I didn’t have time to read because there were simply too many to choose from (Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington,…) See you in 2016!
I can’t thank you enough for this blog – I’d been intending to read one biography of each president for a little while and your blog inspired me to actually start, about a month ago. I’m onto Meacham’s biography of Jefferson, having read Chernow’s book on Washington and McCullough’s book on Adams.
You’ve made finding the right biography so much easier – thank you.
Out of interest – have you considered the autobiographies of presidents? Whilst inherently biased, they would certainly be interesting for a comparison to (potentially) more objective third party biographies.
It sounds like you’ve started with three winners! (But I will confess that while Meacham’s bio of Jefferson is popular and I enjoyed, it does have a fair number of ardent detractors).
I absolutely *am* planning to read the autobiographies/memoirs of the presidents, but only after I get through the biographies themselves. I didn’t seriously consider reading them until I was several presidents into the journey and, at that point, decided to wait to read them all at the end (for consistency sake). Some of them are reportedly quit biased (no surprise there!) but they will be fascinating, if nothing else!
Alec Rogers said:
Fascinating project! I’m enjoying your take on all of these books. I really thought I was a presidential bio fan, but not compared with you. I’m especially looking forward to your review of FDR biographies (I’m about 1/2 through JE Smith’s single vol).
Thanks! Although I’ve been interested in learning more about Coolidge and Hoover (neither of whom I knew as more than caricatures) I’m REALLY looking forward to FDR in a few weeks! Please let me know what you think about JES’s bio – I’m a big fan of his and absolutely loved his biography of Grant!
Rebecca Krier said:
Can’t wait for you to get to Truman. When I finished the McCullough bio, I wanted to cry because I was so sad his life was over.
I’ve been consistently told two things by a number of different people following this journey: 1. I’m going to absolutely love McCullough’s bio of Truman (though I’ve not heard much about whether I’m going to enjoy Truman himself) and 2. I’m going to wish Robert Caro (author of series on LBJ) had the time & energy to write a series on every president. So as fascinating as the past 3 years have been I’m glad I have some great stuff to look forward to!
Rebecca Krier said:
I’m on the Caro series now and I wish the same exact thing–especially regarding Truman and his early years.
Evan Axelbank Fox13 (@EvanAxelbank) said:
Caro really is the gold standard. There is no comparison. I picked one up off the shelf the other day and leafed through, and was almost as floored as the first time through.
McCullough, Chernow and Kearns are in my second tier, with Brands just below them
Ed Murphy said:
Congratulations on the 3rd anniversary of this journey and this exceptional resource. I am nearing the end of McCullough’s “Truman” and it is very well written as was Brand’s FDR “Traitor to His Class”. Both are “page turners” and the best I have read so far.
Fantastic to hear! I have a feeling the next 12 months will match my first year in terms of reading great biographies by exceptional authors covering interesting presidents. There was a stretch (Hayes through Cleveland) that wasn’t quite as thrilling as the early presidents, but I seem to be back in the action once I get to FDR…
Michelle P. said:
I am so excited to find your blog! To read a book on each president is on my bucket list. I started , of course, with George and had trouble moving on! I ended up reading 7 books on Washington. I have tried to move along chronologically and have finished Andrew Jackson American Lion. But i have occasionally jumped around, could not patiently wait to read a few on Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR. I also read two books dealing with two presidents who were assassinated – McKinnley and Garfield.
Do you post your book lists? Cant wait to read through your recommendations!
Glad you found your way here and welcome on board! I’m glad to find someone else who couldn’t stop at just one biography of Washington…but it does slow down the pace a lot. I can understand not wanting to get bogged down on, say, Millard Fillmore when you really want to read something on Lincoln. Or FDR. Or the Caro series on LBJ (just to mention something that’s always calling my name even though it’s more than a year away still…) My master list can be found HERE. I’d love to hear what your favorites were, and if you uncover something great that I missed-
Mary Strong-Spaid said:
Thanks for giving me wonderful things to read.
Especially on nights like this, when I cannot sleep!
Not to be disparaging, but I always found that a good (or even bad) Millard Fillmore really could put me to sleep 🙂 On a more serious note, thanks again for being one of the first followers of my site!
Hello! I am currently reading a book on each president and in order. I’m currently on James Buchanan. I am wondering though, did you have a chance to read the two recent biographies on Ulysses S Grant yet – Ronald White Jr and Ron Chernow? If so, what did you think of them? I have already purchased Ronald White’s book and I’m excited to read it. Thanks for your website! It is tremendously helpful when I am researching which biography to purchase next.
Congrats on making it all the way to James Buchanan! Although you’ve got a bit of a mixed bag ahead of you in the next several presidents, Lincoln and Grant (among others) should be great fun! I read both of the Grant bios you referred to. Here were my summary thoughts: Best Bios of Ulysses Grant post.