**Biographies of the Presidents**

Ratings are on a scale of 0 to 5 stars, with equal weight given to my subjective assessment of: (1) how enjoyable the biography was to read and (2) the biography’s historical value (including its comprehensive coverage and critical analysis of its subject). If I’m missing a great presidential biography that you’ve read, please let me know!

Blue titles indicate Pulitzer Prize WINNERS.  Blue italicized titles indicate Pulitzer Prize finalists.

This list was last updated on March 11, 2015.

George Washington:
Washington: A Life (2010) by Ron Chernow REVIEW (5 stars)
Washington: The Indispensable Man (1974) by James Flexner REVIEW (4 stars)
His Excellency: George Washington (2005) by Joseph Ellis REVIEW (4 stars)
The Ascent of George Washington (2009) by John Ferling REVIEW (3 stars)
Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (1993) by Richard Norton Smith REVIEW (3 stars)
James Flexner’s four-volume series:
George Washington: The Forge of Experience 1732-1775 (1965) REVIEW (3¾ stars)
George Washington in the American Revolution 1775-1783 (1967) REVIEW (4½ stars)
George Washington and the New Nation 1783-1793 (1970) REVIEW (4½ stars)
George Washington: Anguish and Farewell 1793-1799 (1972) REVIEW (4½ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of George Washington ***
Follow-Up:
Washington by Douglas Southall Freeman (Richard Harwell’s 1968 abridgment of Pulitzer Prize-winning 7-volume series)
George Washington: A Biography by Washington Irving (Charles Neider’s 1994 abridgment of 5-volume series)
George Washington: Man and Monument (1958) by Marcus Cunliffe
John Adams:
John Adams: A Life (1992) by John Ferling REVIEW (4¾ stars)
John Adams (2001) by David McCullough REVIEW (4½ stars)
John Adams (1735-1826) (2 volumes) (1962) by Page Smith REVIEW (4½ stars)
First Family: Abigail and John Adams (2010) by Joseph Ellis REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (2004) by John Ferling REVIEW (4 stars)
Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams (1993) by Joseph Ellis REVIEW (3¾ stars)
John Adams: Party of One (2005) by James Grant REVIEW (3¾ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of John Adams ***
Follow-Up:
Autobiography of John Adams via Massachusetts Historical Society
Thomas Jefferson:
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (2012) by Jon Meacham REVIEW (4½ stars)
American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (1996) by Joseph Ellis REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson (2008) by Alan Pell Crawford REVIEW (4 stars)
Thomas Jefferson & The New Nation (1970) by Merrill Peterson REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Dumas Malone’s six-volume series:
Jefferson the Virginian (Vol 1) (1948) REVIEW (3½ stars)
Jefferson and the Rights of Man (Vol 2) (1951) REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty (Vol 3) (1962) REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Jefferson the President: 1st Term (Vol 4) (1970) REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Jefferson the President: 2nd Term (Vol 5) (1974) REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Jefferson and His Time; The Sage of Monticello (Vol 6) (1977) REVIEW (4 stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Thomas Jefferson ***
Follow-Up:
Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
James Madison:
James Madison (2011) by Richard Brookhiser REVIEW (4 stars)
Madison and Jefferson (2010) by Andrew Burstein REVIEW (4 stars)
James Madison: A Biography (1971) by Ralph Ketcham REVIEW (3¾ stars)
James Madison and the Making of America (2012) by Kevin Gutzman REVIEW (3½ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of James Madison ***
Follow-Up:
James Madison (author’s 1970 abridgment of his 6-volume series) by Irving Brant
James Madison: A Life Reconsidered (2014) by Lynne Cheney
James Monroe:
James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (1971) by Harry Ammon REVIEW (3¾ stars)
The Last Founding Father: James Monroe (2009) by Harlow Unger REVIEW (3¾ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of James Monroe ***
John Quincy Adams:
John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life (1997) by Paul Nagel REVIEW (4 stars)
Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade (2008) by Joseph Wheelan REVIEW (4 stars)
John Quincy Adams: A Personal History of an Independent Man (1972) by Marie Hecht REVIEW (3¾ stars)
John Quincy Adams (2012) by Harlow Unger REVIEW (3¾ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of John Quincy Adams ***
Follow-Up:
Memoirs of John Quincy Adams edited by Charles Francis Adams (12 volumes)
Life and Public Services of John Quincy Adams (1849) by William H Seward
John Quincy Adams (1949/1956) by Samuel Flagg Bemis (2 volumes)
John Quincy Adams: American Visionary (2014) by Fred Kaplan
Andrew Jackson:
The Life of Andrew Jackson (1988) by Robert Remini REVIEW (4 stars)
The Life of Andrew Jackson (1938) by Marquis James REVIEW (3¾ stars)
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (2008) by Jon Meacham REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times (2005) by H.W. Brands REVIEW (3½ stars)
The Age of Jackson (1945) by Arthur Schlesinger REVIEW (3¼ stars)
Robert Remini’s three-volume series:
Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire (Vol I) (1977) REVIEW (4½ stars)
Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Freedom (Vol II) (1981) REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Democracy (Vol III) (1984) REVIEW (4 stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Andrew Jackson ***
Follow-Up:
The Presidency of Andrew Jackson (1993) by Donald Cole
Andrew Jackson, Southerner (2013) by Mark Cheathem
Martin Van Buren:
Martin Van Buren and the American Political System (2004) by Donald Cole REVIEW (3½ stars)
Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics (1983) by John Niven REVIEW (2¾ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Martin Van Buren ***
William Henry Harrison:
Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison (2007) by Robert Owens REVIEW (4 stars)
Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time (1939) by Freeman Cleaves REVIEW (3 stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of William Henry Harrison ***
Follow-Up:
The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler (1989) by Norma Lois Peterson
John Tyler:
John Tyler (2008) by Gary May REVIEW (4 stars)
John Tyler: Champion of the Old South (1939) by Oliver Chitwood REVIEW (3¾ stars)
John Tyler: The Accidental President (2006) by Edward Crapol REVIEW (3½ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of John Tyler ***
Follow-Up:
And Tyler Too: A Biography of John & Julia Gardiner Tyler (1963) by Robert Seager
James Polk:
Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America (2008) by Walter Borneman REVIEW (4 stars)
A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk (2009) by Robert Merry REVIEW (3¾ stars)
James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse (1996) by Sam Haynes REVIEW (3½ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of James Polk ***
Follow-Up:
James K. Polk: Jacksonian and Continentalist (2 volumes) (1957/1966) by Charles Sellers
James K. Polk: A Political Biography (1922) by Eugene McCormac
The Presidency of James K. Polk (1987) by Paul Bergeron
The Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency 1845-1849 (1910) (4 volumes) (edited by Milo Quaife)
Zachary Taylor:
Zachary Taylor (2008) by John S. D. Eisenhower REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest (1985) by Jack Bauer REVIEW (3 stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Zachary Taylor ***
Follow-Up:
Zachary Taylor: Soldier of the Republic (Vol 1) and Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House (Vol 2) (1951) by Holman Hamilton
The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (1988) by Elbert Smith
Millard Fillmore:
Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President (1959) by Robert Rayback REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Millard Fillmore (2011) by Paul Finkelman REVIEW (3 stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Millard Fillmore ***
Follow-Up:
Millard Fillmore (2001) by Robert J. Scarry
Franklin Pierce:
Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire’s Favorite Son (2004) by Peter Wallner REVIEW (4 stars)
Franklin Pierce (2010) by Michael Holt REVIEW (4 stars)
Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union (2007) by Peter Wallner REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Franklin Pierce: Young Hickory of the Granite Hills (1931) by Roy Nichols REVIEW (3½ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Franklin Pierce ***
James Buchanan:
President James Buchanan: A Biography (1962) by Philip Klein REVIEW (4 stars)
James Buchanan (2004) by Jean Baker REVIEW (3½ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of James Buchanan ***
Abraham Lincoln:
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005) by Doris Kearns Goodwin REVIEW (4½ stars)
Abraham Lincoln: A Life (2 vols) (2008) by Michael Burlingame REVIEW (4¼ stars)
A. Lincoln: A Biography (2009) by Ronald C. White Jr. REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Lincoln (1995) by David Herbert Donald REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Abraham Lincoln: A Biography (1952) by Benjamin Thomas REVIEW (4¼ stars)
With Malice Toward None (1977) by Stephen Oates REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (1999) by Allen Guelzo REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (2008) by James McPherson REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Abraham Lincoln (1916) by Lord Charnwood REVIEW (3½ stars)
Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (2 Vols) (1926) by Carl Sandburg REVIEW (3½ stars)
Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (4 Vols) (1939) by Carl Sandburg REVIEW (3 stars)
The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010) by Eric Foner REVIEW (not rated)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Abraham Lincoln ***
Follow-Up:
Abraham Lincoln: A History (10 volumes) (1890) by John Hay and John Nicolay
Herndon’s Life of Lincoln (1961) by William Herndon, edited by Paul Angle
Andrew Johnson:
Impeached: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy (2009) by David Stewart REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Andrew Johnson: A Biography (1989) by Hans Trefousse REVIEW (3½ stars)
The Avenger Take His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days that Changed the Nation (2006) by Howard Means REVIEW (3½ stars)
Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1960) by Eric McKitrick REVIEW (3¼ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Andrew Johnson ***
Ulysses S. Grant:
Grant (2001) by Jean Edward Smith REVIEW (4½ stars)
The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses S. Grant In War and Peace (2012) by H.W. Brands REVIEW (4 stars)
Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier & President (1997) by Geoffrey Perret REVIEW (4 stars)
Ulysses S. Grant (2004) by Josiah Bunting REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Grant: A Biography (1981) by William McFeely REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity 1822-1865 (2000) by Brooks Simpson REVIEW (3¾ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Ulysses S. Grant ***
Follow-Up:
Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (1885-86) by U.S. Grant
“Lewis/Catton” series: Captain Sam Grant (1950) (Vol 1) by Lloyd Lewis, Grant Moves South (1960) by Bruce Catton, and Grant Takes Command (1969) by Bruce Catton
Rutherford B. Hayes:
Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President (1995) by Ari Hoogenboom REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Rutherford B. Hayes (2002) by Hans Trefousse REVIEW (3¼ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Rutherford B. Hayes ***
Follow-Up:
Rutherford B. Hayes: And His America (1954) by Harry Barnard
James Garfield:
Garfield: A Biography (1978) by Allan Peskin REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Dark Horse: the Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield (2003) by Kenneth Ackerman REVIEW (4 stars)
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (2011) by Candice Millard REVIEW (4 stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of James Garfield ***
Follow-Up:
The Garfield Orbit (1978) by Margaret Leech
Chester Arthur:
Gentleman Boss: The Life and Times of Chester Alan Arthur (1975) by Thomas Reeves REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Chester Alan Arthur (2004) by Zachary Karabell REVIEW (3¾ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Chester Arthur ***
Grover Cleveland:
Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character (2000) by Alyn Brodsky REVIEW (4 stars)
An Honest President: The Life & Presidencies of Grover Cleveland (2000) by H. Paul Jeffers REVIEW (3¾ stars)
The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland (1988) by Richard E. Welch, Jr. REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage (1932) by Allan Nevins REVIEW (3½ stars)
Bourbon Leader: Grover Cleveland and the Democratic Party (1957) by Horace Samuel Merrill REVIEW (2¾ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Grover Cleveland ***
Benjamin Harrison:
The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison (1987) by Homer Socolofsky REVIEW (3¾ stars)
Benjamin Harrison (2005) by Charles Calhoun REVIEW (3½ stars)
Harry J. Sievers’s three-volume series:
Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier Warrior (Vol 1) (1952) REVIEW (4 stars)
Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier Statesman (Vol 2) (1959) REVIEW (4 stars)
Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier President (Vol 3) (1968) REVIEW (3¼ stars)
***My summary review: The Best Biographies of Benjamin Harrison ***
William McKinley:
William McKinley and His America (1963) by H. Wayne Morgan REVIEW (4 stars)
The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror and Empire (2011) by Scott Miller REVIEW (3¾ stars)
In the Days of McKinley (1959) by Margaret Leech REVIEW (3¼ stars)
The Presidency of William McKinley (1980) by Lewis Gould REVIEW (3¼ stars)
 ***My summary review: The Best Biographies of William McKinley ***
Theodore Roosevelt:
Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography (1931) by Henry Pringle
The Republican Roosevelt (1954) by John Blum
Power and Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt (1961) by William Harbaugh
Mornings on Horseback (1981) by David McCullough
Theodore Roosevelt: A Life (1992) by Nathan Miller
TR: The Last Romantic (1997) by H.W. Brands
Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (2002) by Kathleen Dalton
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey (2005) by Candice Millard
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism (2013) by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition by Jean Yarbrough (2012)
Edmund Morris’s three-volume series:
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Vol I) (1979) REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Theodore Rex (Vol II) (2001) REVIEW (4¼ stars)
Colonel Roosevelt (Vol III) (2010) REVIEW (4¼ stars)
William Taft:
The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis Gould
The Life and Times of William Howard Taft (2 vols) by Henry Pringle
Woodrow Wilson:
Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper
Wilson by A. Scott Berg
Woodrow Wilson: World Statesman by Kendrick Clements
Woodrow Wilson: American Prophet (Vol I) by Arthur Walworth
Woodrow Wilson: World Prophet (Vol II) by Arthur Walworth
Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by August Heckscher
Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt (1983) by John Milton Cooper
Warren Harding:
The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G Harding in His Times by Francis Russell
The Ohio Gang: The World of Warren G. Harding by Charles Mee
The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration by Robert Murray
Calvin Coolidge:
Coolidge: An American Enigma by Robert Sobel
Coolidge by Amity Shlaes
The Life of Calvin Coolidge by Horace Green
The Preparation of Calvin Coolidge by Robert A. Woods
Herbert Hoover:
The Presidency of Herbert Hoover by Martin Fausold
Herbert Hoover: The American President Series by William Leuchtenburg
Franklin D. Roosevelt:
FDR by Jean Edward Smith
Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of FDR by H. W. Brands
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by Doris Kearns Goodwin
FDR: Champion of Freedom by Conrad Black
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Rendezvous with Destiny by Frank Freidel
Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the 100 Days that Created Modern America by Adam Cohen
Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History by Robert Sherwood
The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter
Eleanor & Franklin by Joseph Lash
Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox 1882-1940 by James MacGregor Burns
Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom 1940-1945 by James MacGregor Burns
Harry Truman:
Truman by David McCullough
Harry S. Truman by Robert Dallek
Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman by Alonzo Hamby
Harry S. Truman: A Life by Robert Ferrell
Dwight Eisenhower:
Eisenhower: Soldier and President by Stephen Ambrose
Eisenhower In War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World by Evan Thomas
John F. Kennedy:
An Unfinished Life: JFK 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek
The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History by Ted Sorenson
John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O’Brien
A Thousand Days: JFK in the White House by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
President Kennedy: Profile of Power by Richard Reeves
JFK: Reckless Youth by Nigel Hamilton
Jack: A Life Like No Other by Geoffrey Perret
Lyndon B. Johnson:
Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President by Robert Dallek
Robert Dallek’s two-volume series:
Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1908-1960
Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1961-1973
Robert Caro’s Ongoing Series:
The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume I)
Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume II)
Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume III)
The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume IV)
Richard Nixon:
Richard Nixon: A Life in Full by Conrad Black
President Nixon: Alone in the White House by Richard Reeves
Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of An American Politician by Roger Morris
Stephen Ambrose’s three-volume series:
Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1913-1962 (Vol 1)
Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician 1962-1972 (Vol 2)
Nixon: Ruin & Recovery 1973-1990 (Vol 3)
Gerald Ford:
Time and Chance: Gerald Ford’s Appointment with History by James Cannon
Gerald R. Ford by Douglas Brinkley
Write it When I’m Gone by Thomas DeFrank
James E. Carter:
The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Quest for Global Peace by Douglas Brinkley
Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Post-Presidency by Peter Bourne
Ronald Reagan:
Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader by Dinesh D’Souza
When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan
Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris
The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism by Paul Kengor
Lou Cannon’s two-volume series:
Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power by Lou Cannon
President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon
Steven Hayward’s two-volume series:
The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order: 1964-1980 by Steven Hayward
The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989 by Steven Hayward
George H. W. Bush:
George Bush: Life of a Lone Star Yankee by Herbert Parmet
William J. Clinton:
First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton by David Maraniss
George W. Bush:
[pending]
Barrack Obama:
[pending]

Every book I review has been purchased by me. Bestpresidentialbios.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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