The best presidential biographies

Why am I passionate about this?

Over the last eight years, I’ve conducted as many onstage interviews with leading presidential historians as anyone else in the country. To prepare for them, I read presidential biographies thoroughly and constantly. The fact that my work has been strongly endorsed by people in presidential history circles with the stature of Ken Burns, David McCullough, James Baker, Jon Meacham, and Douglas Brinkley should be a strong indication that my opinion about this subject matters.


I wrote...

Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts about Our Presidents

By Talmage Boston,

Book cover of Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts about Our Presidents

What is my book about?

Cross-Examining History contains the edited transcripts of my onstage interviews with leading presidential historians (on the order of David McCullough, Jon Meacham, Douglas Brinkley, David Maraniss, Evan Thomas, and H.W. Brands) and surviving presidential insiders (Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Lynda Johnson Robb, Andy Card, and others).

My questions attempted to get into the most engaging parts of the hearts and minds of our most significant presidents - - as to their entire lives as well as their years as national leaders. The answers of my interview partners expand our awareness of these presidents far beyond the conclusions reached in prior presidential biographies, and position readers to draw deeper conclusions about the performance of our past commanders-in-chief.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A. Lincoln: A Biography

Talmage Boston Why did I love this book?

It’s the best cradle-to-grave biography of Lincoln, quite an accomplishment, given that over 16,000 books have been written on him. The book goes deep on a special interest I have in our 16th president: his long and winding faith journey. White’s passion for his subject serves to energize the reader.

By Ronald C. White Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A. Lincoln as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“If you read one book about Lincoln, make it A. Lincoln.”—USA Today

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • The Philadelphia Inquirer • The Christian Science Monitor • St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE CHRISTOPHER AWARD

Everyone wants to define the man who signed his name “A. Lincoln.” In his lifetime and ever since, friend and foe have taken it upon themselves to characterize Lincoln according to their own label or libel. In this magnificent book, Ronald C. White, Jr., offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as…


Book cover of George Washington: The Political Rise of America's Founding Father

Talmage Boston Why did I love this book?

This book delivers a full appreciation of Washington’s unique and unappreciated political skills which led to his being the unanimous choice for leading the American military during the Revolution, the Constitutional Convention, and two presidential terms. The author makes the Father of our Country come alive as a human being who was always a cut above his colleagues.

By David O. Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked George Washington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating and illuminating account of how George Washington became the dominant force in the creation of the United States of America, from award-winning author David O. Stewart

“An outstanding biography . . . [George Washington] has a narrative drive such a life deserves.”—The Wall Street Journal

Washington's rise constitutes one of the greatest self-reinventions in history. In his mid-twenties, this third son of a modest Virginia planter had ruined his own military career thanks to an outrageous ego. But by his mid-forties, that headstrong, unwise young man had evolved into an unassailable leader chosen as the commander in chief…


Book cover of The Path to Power

Talmage Boston Why did I love this book?

This book is the first of four on LBJ by Caso (and, we're waiting on the fifth and final volume), the series is spectacular, though the Path to Power is my favorite. No one goes deeper in researching his subject than Caro, and he’s quite simply the most dazzling non-fiction writer in the world. LBJ is a fascinating study in how someone will do whatever it takes to acquire and use power, with absolutely no regard for ethical considerations.

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Path to Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest biography of our era ... Essential reading for those who want to comprehend power and politics' The Times

Robert A. Caro's legendary, multi-award-winning biography of US President Lyndon Johnson is a uniquely riveting and revelatory account of power, political genius and the shaping of twentieth-century America.

This first instalment tells of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country, revealing in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy and ambition that set LBJ apart. It charts his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut…


Book cover of Being Nixon: A Man Divided

Talmage Boston Why did I love this book?

Although Nixon has been our most disgraced president, pre-Trump, he (like LBJ) is a marvelously complicated study of a person with major strengths and weaknesses, and a refusal to be defeated by any obstacles or setbacks. Thomas is discerning in his understanding of what made his subject tick—which is quite an achievement.

By Evan Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Being Nixon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The landmark New York Times bestselling biography of Richard M. Nixon, a political savant whose gaping character flaws would drive him from the presidency and forever taint his legacy. 

“A biography of eloquence and breadth . . . No single volume about Nixon’s long and interesting life could be so comprehensive.”—Chicago Tribune

One of Time’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books of the Year

In this revelatory biography, Evan Thomas delivers a radical, unique portrait of America’s thirty-seventh president, Richard Nixon, a contradictory figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. One of the principal architects of the modern Republican Party…


Book cover of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

Talmage Boston Why did I love this book?

No one has ever attacked life with fervor like Theodore Roosevelt, and that caused him to descend into increasing darkness every year after his presidency. Morris spent the better part of his adult life researching and writing about his subject, and he found the core of TR and painted the ultimate work picture of him with a marvelous flair for description.

By Edmund Morris,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE AND THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

“A towering biography . . . a brilliant chronicle.”—Time

This classic biography is the story of seven men—a naturalist, a writer, a lover, a hunter, a ranchman, a soldier, and a politician—who merged at age forty-two to become the youngest President in history.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt begins at the apex of his international prestige. That was on New Year’s Day, 1907, when TR, who had just won the Nobel Peace Prize,…


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I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

Book cover of I Meant to Tell You

Fran Hawthorne Author Of I Meant to Tell You

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Museum guide Foreign language student Runner Community activist Former health-care journalist

Fran's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not a criminal, she stumbles into other secrets that will challenge what she thought she knew about her own family, her friend, Russ—and herself.

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

What is this book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not…


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