My Quest On Presidential Biographies

Have you heard of the popular idea of reading a quality biography on every President of the United States? There are blogs where bloggers trace their journey through the Presidents, there are groups on Goodreads dedicated to this pursuit, and there are far more people starting this quest than you might imagine. I don’t know exactly what percentage of them finish, but many begin. Presidential biographies do quite well on non-fiction bestseller lists as well.

Why might this be so popular? Well, it makes a good bucket list item–I mean, we have 45 Presidents so far. Still, there has to be more to it than that. More profitably, it is an exciting and thorough way to grasp the history of our country. Even if you love to read, and even if you love history, have you ever read anything more boring than a textbook? Stringing together key facts will never match the living tales of history’s greatest shapers. In addition, disgust with modern history might make going into the past a cathartic experience.

It takes some commitment. A biography of Warren Harding, for example, will never match one of George Washington, but you will have to read one of him to finish this feat. Plus, if you pick the wrong biography, even the more interesting Presidents may be difficult to get through.

I have decided to join the other Presidential biography readers to the lofty heights of achieving this goal. My only difference is that I am going to be a rebel to the typical rules of accomplishing it. I will not force myself to read them in order, but as the spirit moves me. I also might read two or three of one President before I read one of another. The point is pleasant reading, learning, and growth. In other words, I am more excited about the journey than the summit.

If you know me, or read this blog, you know I read all kinds of Christian literature. That is not going to change. I also read other non-fiction, as well as only very occasional fiction, and I don’t plan to change that either. But I am going to fit this in even if it takes a lifetime, assuming I have a lifetime to give it.

If you are even remotely thinking about reading Presidential biographies, you must check out this blog: My Journey Through The Best Presidential Bios by Stephen Floyd. The amazing thing about this blogger is that not only is he doing them in order, but he is reading several on each President. Then he gives a detailed review of each title followed by a summary post on the biographies of each President. He apparently loves the rest of us to compile such an incredible amount of material for us. I will read him before I decide on each President. He even tells us if a volume is expensive or hard to find–talk about doing all the work!

As he has done, I am going to list each volume in my library. (I might read them all as I have more than I might care to read about some presidents).  When I finish and do a review, I will link it to the list. Click on the highlighted ones to go to my individual reviews. I might even do a summary post on particular Presidents to share my thoughts about the man unless laziness overtakes me. If any of my blog readers or Facebook friends and acquaintances, are either on the quest or starting it, please let me know in the comment section or a private message. My readers are overwhelmingly Christians (with varying levels of loving to read), but I would love to know if any others are on this journey.



Washington by Ron Chernow

G. Washington: The Forge of Experience by James Thomas Flexner

G. Washington in the American Revolution by James Thomas Flexner

G. Washington: Anguish and Farewell by James Thomas Flexner

His Excellency G. Washington by Joseph Ellis

Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser

G. Washington by Willard Sterne Randall

“Mr. President” (Washington) by Harlow Giles Unger

J. Adams by David McCullough

J. Adams and the American Revolution by Catherine Dinker Bowen

America’s First Dynasty: The Adames by Richard Brookhiser

T. Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

Thomas Jefferson by Willard Sterne Randall

J. Madison by Richard Brookhiser

Madison’s Gift by David Stewart

The Last Founding Father (Monroe) by Harlow Giles Unger

J. Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger

The Life of A. Jackson by Marquis James

American Lion (Jackson) by Jon Meacham

Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer

William Henry Harrison by Gail Collins

John Tyler  by Gary May

Polk by Walter Borneman

Zachary Taylor by John S. D. Eisenhower

Millard Fillmore by Robert Rayback

Franklin Pierce by Michael F. Holt

James Buchanan by Jean H. Baker

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

Team of Rivals (Lincoln) by Doris Kearns Goodwin

A. Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years by Carl Sanburg

Great Captain (Lincoln) by Honore Morrow

Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography

Impeached (A. Johnson) by David Stewart

Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant

Grant by Chernow

The Man Who Saved the Union (Grant) by H. W. Brands

Ulysses Grant: Soldier and President by Geoffrey Perret

Captain Sam Grant by Lloyd Lewis

Grant Moves South by Bruce Catton

Grant Takes Command by Bruce Catton

Rutherford B. Hayes by Hans Trefousse

Destiny of the Republic (Garfield) by Candice Millard

The Unexpected President by Scott Greenberger

The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland by Richard Welch Jr.

Benjamin Harrison by Charles W. Calhoun

President McKinley by Robert Merry

The Triumph of William McKinley by Karl Rove

Mornings On Horseback (T.R.) by Davis McCullough

River of Doubt by Candice Millard

TR: The Last Romantic by H. W. Brands

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

The Presidency of T. Roosevelt by Lewis Gould

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Wilson by A. Scott Berg

Warren G. Harding by John W. Dean

The Life of Warren G. Harding by Willis Fletcher Johnson

Coolidge by Amity Shales

Herbert Hoover in the White House by Rappleye

H. Hoover: A Biography by Eugene Lyons

FDR by Jean Edward Smith

Traitor To His Class (FDR) by H. W. Brands

No Ordinary Time (FDR) by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Truman by David McCullough

Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

Eisenhower by Stephen Ambrose

My Three Years With Eisenhower by Capt. Harry Butcher

President Kennedy by Richard Reeves

Path To Power (LBJ) by Robert Caro

Means of Ascent (LBJ) by Robert Caro

Master of the Senate (LBJ) by Robert Caro

The Passage of Power (LBJ) by Robert Caro

Richard Nixon by Fawn Brodie

In The Arena by Richard Nixon

G. Ford by David Brinkley

An American Life by Ronald Reagan

The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon

Speaking My Mind by Ronald Reagan

When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan

R. Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader by D’Souza

The Reagan I Knew by William Buckley

Reagan’s War by Peter Schweizer

Reagan: Inside Out by Bob Slosser

Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan by Shirley

Hand of Providence by Mary Beth Moore

Destiny and Power (Bush) by Jon Meacham

41: A Portrait Of My Father by George W. Bush

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Bush by Jean Edward Smith

 [Updated 4-27-2020]

These volumes may seem a hodgepodge set and they are. I have picked them up over the years (I clearly have wanted to be on this journey for a long time and have already read some) as I came across them in good deals. I have several more volumes than I need to secure. Would love to hear any recommendations! God bless!











27 thoughts on “My Quest On Presidential Biographies

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, and good luck on your quest!

    I’ve had a far more rewarding experience reading the best biographies of the presidents than I could have ever expected. Seeing the world through their eyes really does bring history to life in an entertaining and almost effortless way.

    Also, conventional wisdom seems to suggest the US currently faces unique and insurmountable political and social challenges, but what I’ve witnessed thus far (from Washington to Teddy Roosevelt) suggests this isn’t really the case. We’ve been “here” many times before, and yet our country holds as much promise as ever.

    Good luck again on your journey and Happy 4th of July!

    • Thanks! Your blog is the most amazing thing I have come across on the subject of presidential biographies. Your reviews really help us decide which volumes we should read.
      It is going to be so interesting to see you go on to the end. You may cross a few by the end that are far more disturbing than those you have covered through TR. I look forward to read them all as you go through them!
      God bless!

  2. Pingback: Washington by Chernow (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  3. Pingback: Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  4. Pingback: John Adams by David McCullough (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  5. Pingback: Thomas Jefferson by Jon Meacham (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  6. Pingback: America’s First Dynasty: The Adamses by Brookhiser (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  7. Pingback: Coolidge by Amity Shales (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  8. Pingback: James Madison by Richard Brookhiser (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  9. Pingback: The Last Founding Father (James Monroe) (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  10. Pingback: John Quincy Adams by Unger (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  11. Pingback: Last Act: The Final Years And Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan by Shirley | The Reagan Review

  12. I’ve been attempting to read a bio of each president as well–started in 2012. I like your approach, as it’s the same as mine: don’t be over ambitious, and don’t read in chronological order. Keep the journey fun! I’ve been jumping around reading what strikes me as interesting, at the pace I want, and that has enabled me to keep up the project. I know that if I made myself go in chronological order, I would lose motivation in the 19th century. Good luck–I’ll keep checking in here!

  13. Pingback: Andrew Jackson by Jon Meacham (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  14. Pingback: Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer (Presidential Bio Series) | The Reagan Review

  15. Pingback: Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  16. Pingback: John Tyler by Gary May (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  17. Pingback: Polk by Walter Borneman (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  18. Pingback: Franklin Pierce by Michael Holt (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  19. Pingback: Millard Fillmore by Robert Rayback (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  20. Pingback: Zachary Taylor by Eisenhower (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  21. Pingback: Team of Rivals by Kearns (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  22. Pingback: Impeached by David Stewart (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

  23. Pingback: Rutherford B. Hayes by Trefousse (Presidential Bio. Series) | The Reagan Review

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