The best books on the life and presidency of Gerald R. Ford

Who am I?

When I was 16 years old, my father, Burton Kaufman, who is also a historian, took me to the Jimmy Carter Library in Georgia to help him research a book on America's thirty-ninth president. Having had a love of history since the sixth grade, that trip deepened my desire to major in History in college and teach it as a profession. It also made me interested in learning more about the presidency, starting with Carter. Several years ago, I edited a series of essays on both the Ford and Carter presidencies, and realized there was need for an in-depth political biography of our thirty-eighth chief executive. The result was my book on Ford.


I wrote...

Ambition, Pragmatism, and Party: A Political Biography of Gerald R. Ford

By Scott Kaufman,

Book cover of Ambition, Pragmatism, and Party: A Political Biography of Gerald R. Ford

What is my book about?

Oftentimes remembered as little more than a caretaker president whose only significant act was to pardon Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford's life in politics, both in Congress and in the White House, was far more significant. A Republican Party loyalist who hoped to become speaker of the House, Ford was a moderate and pragmatic conservative willing to reach across party lines. Propelled by an unprecedented series of events from Congress into the White House, facing a Republican Party moving to the right and a Democratic Party that controlled Capitol Hill, and confronted by his own shortcomings, Ford’s presidency lasted only 895 days. Yet his career offers a broad perspective of American politics during the last half of the twentieth century. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History

Scott Kaufman Why did I love this book?

I recommend this book with some caution, as Cannon worked for Ford, and sometimes authors who are too close to their subject will oversee their faults. But what makes Cannon’s work a must-read—and why I found it so helpful to my own research on Ford—is that he was one of the first to devote extensive attention to Ford’s pre-presidential years. Furthermore, he relied not only on archival materials but on dozens of interviews he conducted with people who knew and worked for Ford, as well as interviews with the former president himself. 

By James Cannon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


Gerald Ford came to the presidency at the time of one of our nation's greatest constitutional crises, the downfall of President Richard M. Nixon in the aftermath of the Watergate affair. His service as president concluded a distinguished career in the House of Representatives during which he served as leader of the Republican Party in the House. With unrestricted access to Gerald Ford's papers, James M. Cannon tells the story of Ford's rise and Nixon's ruin, providing new insights into this troubling period of our history and Ford's role in guiding the nation through it. Cannon tells the story of…


Book cover of Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-The-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford

Scott Kaufman Why did I love this book?

DeFrank was a correspondent for Newsweek magazine who spoke extensively with Ford, with the understanding that he was not to publish those conversations until after Ford’s passing. Ford openly describes his difficulties with President Richard Nixon and his dislike for Ronald Reagan, whom Ford believed should have done more to help him win the 1976 presidential election. Maybe most fascinating was his criticism of Dick Cheney, who had served as Ford’s chief of staff and who, as President George W. Bush’s vice president, pushed for the invasion of Iraq in 2003—something that Ford felt was a mistake. 

By Thomas M. DeFrank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Write It When I'm Gone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller?and the candid voice of an American president

In 1974, Newsweek correspondent Thomas M. DeFrank was interviewing Gerald Ford when the Vice President blurted out something astonishingly indiscreet. He then extracted a promise not to publish it. ?Write it when I?m dead,? Ford said? and thus began a thirty-two-year relationship.

During the last fifteen years of their conversations, Ford opened up to DeFrank, speaking in a way few presidents ever have. Here the award-winning journalist reveals these private talks, as Ford discusses his experiences with his fellow presidents, the Warren Commission, and his exchanges with Bill…


Book cover of A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford

Scott Kaufman Why did I love this book?

While any reader should be cautious with memoirs, what they tell you—or, conversely, omit—can offer great insight into what the writer believed and did. Researched and co-authored by Trevor Ambrister, A Time to Heal is at some points disjointed. However, its value is in Ford’s telling of his upbringing, his relationship with his wife, Betty, his ambitiousness to rise up the political ranks, the challenges he faced as president, and his failure to win the presidency in 1976. 

By Gerald R. Ford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Brand new copy still shrink wrapped - sealed from Easton Press. Signed copy.


Book cover of The Times of My Life

Scott Kaufman Why did I love this book?

While Gerald Ford’s memoir is useful, I liked Betty’s even more because of her candor. She tells the story of the wife of a congressman, vice president, and president who struggled with loneliness as her husband focused on climbing up the political ranks. His absenteeism contributed to her struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction. Suddenly thrust into the role of First Lady, Betty publicized her fight against breast cancera disease that up to that point had received little public attentionand sought to walk the fine line between acting as White House hostess and drawing attention to issues of women’s rights. 

By Betty Ford, Chris Chase,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Times of My Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This former First Lady candidly describes her life, her unhappy first marriage, her courtship and marriage with Gerald Ford, their independent children, and her battle with cancer


Book cover of Gerald R. Ford: The 38th President, 1974-1977

Scott Kaufman Why did I love this book?

There are a number of studies of Ford’s presidency, but there are two reasons why I picked Brinkley’s. First, his was the first book published following Ford’s passing and, consequently, the first full biography of the thirty-eighth president. Second, Gerald R. Ford is part of a series on the presidents published by The New York Times that are specifically aimed at a general audience. While each of the books is short and, therefore, selective insofar as coverage, they are well-written and informative.

By Douglas G. Brinkley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gerald R. Ford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The "accidental" president whose innate decency and steady hand restored the presidency after its greatest crisis

When Gerald R. Ford entered the White House in August 1974, he inherited a presidency tarnished by the Watergate scandal, the economy was in a recession, the Vietnam War was drawing to a close, and he had taken office without having been elected. Most observers gave him little chance of success, especially after he pardoned Richard Nixon just a month into his presidency, an action that outraged many Americans, but which Ford thought was necessary to move the nation forward.

Many people today think…


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The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

Book cover of The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

Alexander Rose Author Of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.

Alexander's book list on Zeppelin airships

What is my book about?

From the author of Washington’s Spies, the thrilling story of two rival secret agents — one Confederate, the other Union — sent to Britain during the Civil War.

The South’s James Bulloch, charming and devious, was ordered to acquire a clandestine fleet intended to break Lincoln’s blockade, sink Northern merchant vessels, and drown the U.S. Navy’s mightiest ships at sea. Opposing him was Thomas Dudley, an upright Quaker lawyer determined to stop Bulloch in a spy-versus-spy game of move and countermove, gambit and sacrifice, intrigue and betrayal.

Their battleground was the Dickensian port of Liverpool, whose dockyards built more ships each year than the rest of the world combined and whose merchant princes, said one observer, were “addicted to Southern proclivities, foreign slave trade, and domestic bribery.”

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Washington's Spies, the thrilling story of the Confederate spy who came to Britain to turn the tide of the Civil War-and the Union agent resolved to stop him.

"Entertaining and deeply researched...with a rich cast of spies, crooks, bent businessmen and drunken sailors...Rose relates the tale with gusto." -The New York Times

In 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, two secret agents-one a Confederate, the other his Union rival-were dispatched to neutral Britain, each entrusted with a vital mission.

The South's James Bulloch, charming and devious, was to acquire…


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