The American Presidents
During my college years at the University of Minnesota-Morris, I took a number of political science courses that intrigued me. One that particularly stood out was “The American Presidency”, where we studied the history of the Executive Office (often known as the “Leader of the Free World”). We looked at the personality traits of Presidents, as well as an examination of their “life and times” at the head of our government.
I didn’t go into that political sphere in terms of occupation, but as a general fan of reading about history (United States history in particular). I wanted to find a book series that would combine my love of history with my somewhat-scholarly background in Presidential studies.
A couple of years ago, I found “The American Presidents” series and have never looked back! From George Washington all the way up to George W. Bush (and I’m sure Obama’s title is being planned!), this series has been my bio of choice for each U.S. President.
The main draw of this series is that the bios fall perfectly in that grey area between being too long (all of these titles are under 200 pages) and yet still containing relevant information about the subject’s life/times (these are definitely not “simple” biographies, just very succinct in what they cover).
Another aspect of this series that I have grown to love: even the lesser-known Presidents (Buchanan, Fillmore, Hayes, Pierce, etc.) get bios…and good ones! In fact, some of my favorite installments from this series came out of those exact volumes. We all know the key points of the most popular Presidents, but the “little guys” (at least through the lens of history) who led our nation deserve their time in the sun as well. This series is very adept at making those figures accessible and interesting.
Besides just personal use, however, I think that this set could be a valuable resource for high school or college libraries due to its brevity yet mature subject matter. While many other Presidential series cater to the grade-school crowd, and individual biographies have more adult appeal, these gems slip right into the needs of the young or amateur historian who just wants a snapshot of each President and his time in office.
Most of these titles are available as ebooks through MackinVIA as well.
Millard Fillmore by Paul Finkelman. 9780805087154. 2011. Gr. 11-Adult
Richard M. Nixon by Elizabeth Drew. 9780805069631. 2007. Gr. 11-Adult
George W. Bush by James Mann. 9780805093971. 02/03/2015. Gr. 11-Adult.
George Washington by James MacGregor Burns. 9780805069365. 2004. Gr. 11-Adult
Ulysses S. Grant by Josiah Bunting III. 9780805069495. 2004. Gr. 11-Adult
Abraham Lincoln by George McGovern. 9780805083453. 2009. Gr. 11-Adult
John F. Kennedy by Alan Brinkley. 9780805083491. 2012. Gr. 11-Adult
One quick warning: Not every President is currently represented by this series quite yet, including incumbent Obama, GW Bush (2015), Reagan (2016), and Taft (TBD).