FDR’s presidency lasted nearly 4,500 days – and it sometimes seems I spent nearly as much time working my way through 19 of his best biographies.
In contrast, Harry Truman offers a shorter (and less dramatic) presidency and fewer compelling biographies. In fact, for some time the only biography of Truman I owned was the classic by David McCullough.
With your suggestions and a little investigative work I now have four biographies of the 33rd president. But I can’t help feeling my library is still too light on biographies of this steady and well-respected (if unexciting) president.
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I’m beginning with David McCullough’s iconic “Truman” which is easily the best-read of the Truman bios. But it is also one of the 3 or 4 most popular presidential biographies of all time…particularly notable since this book is 992 pages long! Published in 1992, this was the first of McCullough’s three presidential biographies and it earned the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. I’m about halfway through it now and, yes, it is really good.
Working in order of oldest-to-newest, my next biography will be Robert Ferrell’s “Harry S. Truman: A Life.” Published in 1994, this biography is about half the length of McCullough’s and because it was written by an authority on Truman I consider it a must-read. But I’m unfamiliar with Ferrell as an author so I have no idea what to expect…
My third Truman biography is Alonzo Hamby’s “Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman” which was published in 1995. It has the reputation of being well-researched and extremely comprehensive…but less “dynamic” than McCullough’s biography.
I plan to wrap up this president with Robert Dallek’s “Harry S. Truman” which was published in 2008 and is a member of The American Presidents Series. Dallek is the author of full-scale biographies of LBJ and JFK, among others, and I’m curious to see what he can do with Truman in an abbreviated format.
Then, sometime in early-to-mid November, we’ll begin storming Normandy with Dwight D. Eisenhower!