About

I’m an investment banker, private pilot and avid fan of American history. I also enjoy Thai food, camping, gardening, Robert Ludlum novels and almost anything made with chocolate.

About 3 decades ago I left Texas to attend Brown University. Four years later I left Rhode Island with a Chemical Engineering degree and a recognition that snow is seriously overrated.

The first of my family to arrive in the “New World” left Wales in 1623 on the Bona Nova and docked at Jamestown, near where I currently live – and not far from the homes of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Tyler, Taylor, Wilson and William Henry Harrison.

About a decade ago I started collecting the best presidential biographies I could find. In late 2012 I began a quest to read them all – starting with George Washington. This site was created to log my journey and, quite possibly, embarrass my kids.

With your suggestions and a steady flow of new releases, my list of “must read” presidential biographies grew to 240 titles (plus a large follow-up list). I finished my first pass through the presidents (Washington through Obama) on Presidents’ Day 2019 – after six fascinating years.

Now I’m reading presidential biographies from my follow-up list as well as great biographies by non-presidents (that journey is being documented as http://www.thebestbiographies.com).

Stephen Floyd
January 2020P1020865

351 thoughts on “About”

  1. Hi Steve,

    I’m curious, have you ever thought about doing a companion series going through the First Ladies? That might be interesting to read about the women who helped shape each president.

    • I have thought of doing that as a corollary to the presidents but just haven’t “gone deep” trying to find great biographies of each of the First Ladies. I am, however, planning to read a 3-volume series on Eleanor Roosevelt toward the end of the year and will be reading Jon Meacham’s forthcoming bio of Dolley and James Madison as soon as it is published.

      For what it’s worth, the other similar question I’m often asked is whether I would consider doing the same thing for UK Prime Ministers. I think that, too, would be fascinating but haven’t done the work to ferret out great bios of the non-Churchill PMs.

      • Your path on Reading the Best Biographies of All Time is excellent. Instead of only focusing on political leaders, you are broadening your scope. We all focus on the political leaders (I am exhibit A), but finance, industry, et al. have a profound impact on society. William Jennings Bryan, Eugene Debs, Frederick Douglass, WEB DuBois, et al. led movements which contributed to radical changes.

      • Yes the 3 volume series on Eleanor Roosevelt I’ve heard is great. Jon Meacham, Dolly and James Madison? I’m in. I bet it will be a great book. On the subject of Churchill, I believe I saw Martin Gilbert’s 8 book series on your list? Look forward to your review on that, whenever that might be.

  2. Gary Allison said:

    Hi Steve

    I’m in the beginning stages of research for a 4 vol. series entitled Presidential Outliers. I would like to send you an outline in order to get your impression of whether this series would be of interest to Presidential history junkies like you and me. I don’t see that there is away to attach anything to this message, so if you are interested please email so I can reply with the outline attached.

    Thanks

    Gary Allison
    Professor Emeritus
    The University of Tulsa College of Law

  3. Hi Steve –

    I thought I would drop you a note to thank you for your site. I am finishing up Harding and now on to Coolidge. I started my journey around 2010 with a beach read of John Adams. Next up for me was Truman since at the time I was fond of David McCullough as an author. I enjoyed both Adams and Truman biographies so much that I decided to try Chernow’s Washington and the rest is history as they say.

    Tod

  4. Sarah Jones said:

    Hi Steve,
    I just found your site. I’m reading biographies in chronological order – a single biography for each. I’ve learned a lot! I just finished Millard Fillmore so have a ways to go.
    Your site is extremely valuable in helping me find the best resources.
    Thank you!
    Sally

  5. Catherine Hendrickson said:

    Hi Steve, thank you for your site. I would appreciate your guidance and that of your web audience on excellent, shorter, objective/balanced biographies that our grandson (age 12 but reads at 12th grade level) would enjoy. Thank you, Catherine

    • Catherine, I’m sure someone else will chime in with one or more excellent suggestions. But in the meantime…let me offer up that my youngest son – who is NOT inclined to read anything longer than about three paragraphs – read Candice Milllard’s “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” for a school assignment two years ago at my request and LOVED it. It is 350 pages or so but is an engrossing and nearly effortless read. In fact, he liked that book so much that the next year he read her book on James Garfield “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” (300 pages?) and enjoyed it as well…even though he had never even heard of Garfield and had no particular desire to figure out who he was 🙂

      Neither are traditional cradle-to-grave biographies but instead focus on particular elements of each of those presidents’ lives – an adventure-filled post-presidential journey through the Brazilian rain forest in TR’s case and the assassination attempt and last weeks of life dealing with incompetent medical care in the case of Garfield. Although these books don’t attempt to cover all aspects of TR’s & Garfield’s lives with equal emphasis, the reader does learn enough about them to provide appropriate context and appreciation.

    • I have learned that “objective “ is in the eyes of the beholder…

      As for shorter one volumes biographies, the American President series are all approximately 150 pages long. Far from the most in depth but mostly ok for a general overview.

      • Although the books in that series are shorter, I personally would not recommend them for your grandson. I think he would find many of them kinda boring and dry. It’s longer, but I bet he would find Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic more interesting. It’s about the seemingly obscure James Garfield – – and the guy who killed him.

      • All of the Candace Millard books are excellent!

      • Jeffrey Nydick said:

        His Excellency: George Washington, by Joseph Ellis; Thomas Jefferson
        by R. B. Bernstein and though not a presidential bio, Benjamin Franklin by Edmund Morris. Not easy reads for a 12 year old, but all I believe fit your description.

    • It has been 8 years since I’ve dealt with a 12-year old, but the American Presidents series may bore him. (Although my kids were fascinated by the numbers on the spines – occasionally asking why some numbers were skipped.) They have the advantage of being concise and available, but not much else. Some are better than others obviously. I would generally steer clear of any of the adult biographies as well. Although he is reading at a high school senior level, the topics can get tricky without background – this applies to adults as well.  Do you live near a large- or medium-sized library district? They probably have a reference librarian who can recommend a series or sequence of books. Finding good stuff on Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, TR, and FDR may be easy. It will be more difficult with the lesser known presidents. Good luck searching and hope he enjoys. 

       

  6. Russ Robinson said:

    I’ve read a few of the American Presidents series and I would think they would be a good primer for most 12 year olds. But if he is already really interested in history, as others say,it may not be much of a challenge. Let me recommend some of the bios of Richard Brookhiser. He’s done short, but decent bios on Washington, the Adams, Madison, and Lincoln.

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