A man, a plan, and a big long list of books

A man needs a goal in life.  Even better, a man needs a relatively easily achievable goal. And my goal is to read all the biographies of the U.S. Presidents in the American Presidents Series, published by Times Books.

All the presidents from Washington to Bush the Second are supposed to get biographies (42 in all!) and I’m going to read each one and give a brief review and some interesting stuff I learned from reading the book.

The series lists its editors as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (whose lack of being alive has limited his day-to-day editing) and Sean Wilentz. The authors are an interesting mix from professional historians (such as Douglas Brinkley and William Leuchtenberg) to political figures (such as Gary Hart and George McGovern) and even a Watergate conspirator (John Dean) tossed in to the mix.

I’ve read two books in the series and have started a third. They are all around 150-170 pages. I was trying to figure out what the best order to read them would be and I figured that a random order would be the best.  So stay tuned!

When I was a kid, my mom bought my brothers and me a copy of a book called the Look-It-Up Book of U.S. Presidents. I think I read it all the way through a dozen times or more.  Presumably the titles I’m going to read are a little bit more advanced than Mr. Blassingame’s classic.

9 thoughts on “A man, a plan, and a big long list of books

  1. Sam DC February 24, 2009 / 12:19 am

    So, is there a special alarm system for when a President deploys troops overseas or trips in the well on the way to deliver the State of the Union?

  2. bhsportsguy February 24, 2009 / 8:50 am

    I saw this book at Barnes and Noble over the weekend, I did not buy it.

  3. berkowit28 February 24, 2009 / 5:00 pm

    As this is your lead post on an impressive brand new website, might you be interested in a picky grammatical error?

    I’m interested to see if you eventually branch out when you find a president you want to follow up with biographies outside the series, or if you’ll leave such byways until you’ve read all the books in the series. Actually, I guess it could take quite a while until all the books in the series are written.

    I also note in your sidebar the “43 songs about 43 presidents”, a neat trick since there were only 42. I wonder if they’ll come up with two songs for Grover Cleveland, if they can find two.

    • btimmermann February 24, 2009 / 7:54 pm

      If you see a mistake, feel free to point it out. My copy editor is my cat and he’s command of grammar is weak.

    • btimmermann February 24, 2009 / 9:29 pm

      I got the CDs for “Of Great and Mortal Men.” It has two non-consecutive songs about Grover Cleveland.

  4. Ben February 24, 2009 / 8:41 pm

    Hey Bob,

    Great idea for a site! I know you’ve picked this particular book series, but if you haven’t read David McCullough’s Truman you really should. It’s my favorite non-fiction book of all time and I’d be curious to know what you think of my favorite President’s incredible story.

  5. Linkmeister February 25, 2009 / 1:52 am

    Grins. And when you’re done with this series, you can read the first three books by Robert Caro about LBJ; the fourth one is still in progress.

    Ooh! And the six-volume biography of Lincoln by Sandburg!

  6. Shaun P. February 25, 2009 / 1:55 am

    Bob, its nice to see you blogging again! I too had the “Look It Up Book of US Presidents” as a kid, and loved reading it – especially for the pictures of the large denomination bills that aren’t in use anymore. Can’t wait to follow along here!

  7. berkowit28 February 26, 2009 / 6:42 pm

    I don’t know if you’re still checking back on this post – perhaps so, if you’re moderating. Anyway, sorry I didn’t get back here sooner.

    Last paragraph: “…my mother bought my brother and I a copy of a book…” should be “bought my brother and me…” Direct and indirect objects take “me” – accusative form of the pronoun. Just omit “my brother and…” and use the same pronoun you would in that case. “X and I” is only for nominative case – subject of sentence or clause.

    Sorry to be a grammar pest, but this particular one always jars on me.

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