100 books like His Excellency

By Joseph J. Ellis,

Here are 100 books that His Excellency fans have personally recommended if you like His Excellency. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Path to Power

Winston Brady Author Of The Inferno

From my list on contemporary biographies on American leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first biographer, Plutarch, wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Biographies help kindle this flame by presenting a person who displayed such character and attempted such noble deeds that the reader should follow their example. The biographer narrates the events of a life well-lived and draws out examples for the reader of the virtues and vices, strengths and foibles, of the person whose life is on display. In this way, biographies help us to be better people by showing us either a model to follow or an example to avoid. 

Winston's book list on contemporary biographies on American leaders

Winston Brady Why did Winston love this book?

Robert Caro’s book is nothing less than a masterpiece.

I love it for the unique perspective Caro has for his subject, Johnson, which is rare among biographers. Most biographers love their subjects and want their readers to admire their subjects as well. They gloss over their faults or explain them away so the reader is left with the positive impression the biographer has. Not so with Caro. 

Caro admires Lyndon Johnson as a politician but also loathes him; he respects Lyndon’s radical ability to read and manipulate other individuals and Lyndon’s pure, unadulterated pursuit of power and higher office, but he despised Lyndon for his ability to use people, a “morality often bordering on amorality.” In this way, Caro’s biography helps the reader “be as wise as serpents, yet as innocent of doves,” to quote Matthew 10:16. He explains how Johnson committed deeds that were unjust and unethical and condemns…

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 Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Winston Brady Author Of The Inferno

From my list on contemporary biographies on American leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first biographer, Plutarch, wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Biographies help kindle this flame by presenting a person who displayed such character and attempted such noble deeds that the reader should follow their example. The biographer narrates the events of a life well-lived and draws out examples for the reader of the virtues and vices, strengths and foibles, of the person whose life is on display. In this way, biographies help us to be better people by showing us either a model to follow or an example to avoid. 

Winston's book list on contemporary biographies on American leaders

Winston Brady Why did Winston love this book?

Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin ranks among the top of Isaacson’s excellent biographies.

He provides thorough detail and background of Franklin’s life, examining him through the eyes of the quintessential American: an entrepreneur, a writer, a small businessman, a cosmopolitan, and a statesman (albeit lacking the higher offices). 

Isaacson briefly treats Franklin’s religious views and the reasons why Franklin moved away from the Puritan faith of his forebearers and embraced a creed more akin to deism. 

By Walter Isaacson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Benjamin Franklin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During his 84-year life Benjamin Franklin was America's best scientist, inventor, publisher, business strategist, diplomat, and writer. He was also one of its most practical political thinkers. America's first great publicist, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public and polished it for posterity. In this riveting new biography Walter Isaacson provides readers with a full portrait of Franklin's public and private life - his loyal but neglected wife, his bastard son with whom he broke over going to war with England, his endless replacement families and his many amorous, but probably unconsummated, liaisons. But this is not…


Book cover of American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

Winston Brady Author Of The Inferno

From my list on contemporary biographies on American leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first biographer, Plutarch, wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Biographies help kindle this flame by presenting a person who displayed such character and attempted such noble deeds that the reader should follow their example. The biographer narrates the events of a life well-lived and draws out examples for the reader of the virtues and vices, strengths and foibles, of the person whose life is on display. In this way, biographies help us to be better people by showing us either a model to follow or an example to avoid. 

Winston's book list on contemporary biographies on American leaders

Winston Brady Why did Winston love this book?

Growing up in Virginia, I was forced to admire Thomas Jefferson. By “force,” I mean that we took frequent field trips to Monticello, Jefferson’s home, and Williamsburg, where Jefferson attended the College of William & Mary. I was brought to Jefferson’s homes across Virginia and have seen numerous statues of this great and valuable thinker, writer, and political leader.

But naturally, given Jefferson’s role in writing the Declaration of Independence and yet his ownership of slaves up until the day of his death raises important contradictions for any serious student of American history. In grappling with Jefferson, we grapple with the meaning of America and of America’s ideals for younger students today.  

Thomas Jefferson is, indeed, the most enigmatic of the Founding Fathers. He lived in such a way that he fell deeper and deeper into debt over the course of his lifetime; why?

Thomas Jefferson was a man of…

By Joseph J. Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight--and not only during his active political career. After 1809, his longed-for retirement was compromised by a steady stream of guests and tourists who made of his estate at Monticello a virtual hotel, as well as by more than one thousand letters per year, most from strangers, which he insisted on answering personally. In his twilight years Jefferson was already taking on the luster of a national icon, which was polished…


Book cover of The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness

Winston Brady Author Of The Inferno

From my list on contemporary biographies on American leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first biographer, Plutarch, wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Biographies help kindle this flame by presenting a person who displayed such character and attempted such noble deeds that the reader should follow their example. The biographer narrates the events of a life well-lived and draws out examples for the reader of the virtues and vices, strengths and foibles, of the person whose life is on display. In this way, biographies help us to be better people by showing us either a model to follow or an example to avoid. 

Winston's book list on contemporary biographies on American leaders

Winston Brady Why did Winston love this book?

James Monroe is my favorite Founding Father. He may not be the “indispensable man” like Washington or have penned the most influential words in American history, ”We hold these truths to be self–evident,” but Monroe’s contributions to the United States and American history rank among the most important of the Founding Fathers. 

Per the title, Monroe was the “last” of such influential leaders and the last president in the Virginia dynasty of presidents. Unger provides an excellent, thorough walk-through of Monroe’s life and the influences that shaped his character, as well as the sacrifices Monroe made on behalf of the United States.

Per Unger, Monroe could have used his position and his influence for personal enrichment but regularly turned down such opportunities because he felt these were not worthy of an American leader. In the end, Monroe died with significant debts coupled with a legacy as the last Founding Father. 

By Harlow Giles Unger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Founding Father as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this compelling biography, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger reveals the epic story of James Monroe (1758-1831),the last of America's Founding Fathers,who transformed a small, fragile nation beset by enemies into a powerful empire stretching from sea to shining sea." Like David McCullough's John Adams and Jon Meacham's American Lion , The Last Founding Father is both a superb read and stellar scholarship,action-filled history in the grand tradition.


Book cover of Washington: A Life

John Koopman III Author Of George Washington at War - 1776

From my list on a fresh look into the past.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been interested in history and in particular military history for my entire life. Since 2006 I have been a George Washington interpreter. I portray the great man in first person live presentations and in documentary film. I have devoted a great deal of time in study of him. As a result of my studies of Washington, I felt compelled to write a book about him. I wanted to capture aspects of him not covered in most books or in film. Four of the books I reviewed involve George Washington.

John's book list on a fresh look into the past

John Koopman III Why did John love this book?

I find Ron Chernow’s biography to be the most informative and comprehensive. It is quite a tome at over 800 pages, but worth the read. Chernow has fascinating insights into his character. Washington had a temper that he sought to control. Even in that, he made an impression on people. From the introduction of the book, “His contemporaries admired him not because he was a plaster saint or an empty uniform but because they sensed his unseen power.”

We see Washington develop over his life from early childhood. The loss of his father at age eleven brought him closer to his brother Lawrence, fourteen years his senior. Lawrence became a father figure to him.

After service in the French and Indian War, Washington married Martha Custis. There was true love in the marriage. She spent every winter with him throughout the eight years of the Revolution. She came with…

By Ron Chernow,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Washington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The celebrated Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of America. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life, he carries the reader through Washington's troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian Wars, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention and his magnificent performance as America's first president.

Despite the reverence his name inspires Washington remains a waxwork to many readers, worthy but dull, a laconic man of remarkable self-control. But in this groundbreaking work Chernow revises forever the uninspiring…


Book cover of Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, in Myth and Memory

Don Glickstein Author Of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

From my list on political biographies that are well written.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Massachusetts, which produced four presidents and untold presidential candidates including Mitt Romney, Mike Dukakis, John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren, and Gov. William Butler, who ran in 1884. My first career was as a newspaper reporter and editor, and I worked for papers in Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, and Washington state. I’ve dabbled in politics myself, working as a campaign press secretary for the late Washington Gov. Booth Gardner. Newspapers gave me an abiding hatred for adverbs, the passive voice, and bias in word selection. (No, historians shouldn’t use “patriot” in describing the Revolution’s American rebels, because loyalists and Indian nations were just as patriotic in their own minds.)

Don's book list on political biographies that are well written

Don Glickstein Why did Don love this book?

If there’s a common trait of Republican and Democratic politicians, it’s that George Washington is always fair game to hijack. We’re told that Washington was devoutly religious or that he was a deist; that he was a true democrat or a slave-holding aristocrat; that he single-handedly smote the British; that he believed in states’ rights or supported a strong federal government. Washington is anything you want him to be. Lengel, who helped edit the Washington papers, begs to differ. His short book tackles many of the Washington myths with an easy writing style for general readers and endnotes for those who want to double-check his debunking.

By Edward G. Lengel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Lengel’s Washington is the archetypal American soldier—an amateur citizen in arms who struggles to learn an unfamiliar and demanding craft on the job....Outstanding.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Glorious Struggle

Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Papers Project  Edward G. Lengel delivers an entertaining and erudite history of America's Founding Father. In Inventing George Washington, a captivating counterpart to Lengel’s General George Washington: A Military Life, the historian looks at Washington’s life and writings, at the creation of his mythos, and at what his legacy means for our nation and ourselves.


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

Talmage Boston Author Of Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts about Our Presidents

From my list on 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.

Talmage's book list on presidential biographies

Talmage Boston Why did Talmage 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 Washingtons: George and Martha: Partners in Friendship and Love

Cassandra Good Author Of First Family: George Washington's Heirs and the Making of America

From my list on the fascinating families of America’s founders.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I loved reading books about time travel, and now as a historian, I do a sort of time travel for my job. I have always been especially drawn to reading women’s correspondence, particularly when the women involved were pushing against gender roles and finding ways to access political power. I approach doing history as if it’s an ethnography of a group of people with entirely different beliefs, norms, and even emotions from us today; after all, the past is a foreign country. I’m especially intrigued by uncovering how personal relationships worked in the past and how relationships with political figures allowed family and friends to access power.

Cassandra's book list on the fascinating families of America’s founders

Cassandra Good Why did Cassandra love this book?

The story of Martha and George Washington’s marriage is a hard one to tell because almost none of their correspondence survives, but Fraser pieces together a rich story that shows the evolving love story of this famous couple. She makes clear that Martha—both her wealth and her character—was fundamental to making George Washington into the famous general and president he became.

By Flora Fraser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In these pages, acclaimed historian Flora Fraser unfurls the story of George and Martha, brilliantly narrating the lives of an extraordinarily dedicated, accomplished, and historic couple. When they married in colonial Virginia in 1759, he was an awkward but ambitious young officer, she, a graceful, wealthy young widow. They were devoted to one another, and George was as a father to Martha’s children by her first husband. She endowed Washington with the confidence—and resources—that would aid him when elected commander-in-chief of the Continental army. During the war, Martha resolutely supported her husband, ‘the General,’ joining him every winter in headquarters;…


Book cover of George Washington: A Life in Books

John Koopman III Author Of George Washington at War - 1776

From my list on a fresh look into the past.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been interested in history and in particular military history for my entire life. Since 2006 I have been a George Washington interpreter. I portray the great man in first person live presentations and in documentary film. I have devoted a great deal of time in study of him. As a result of my studies of Washington, I felt compelled to write a book about him. I wanted to capture aspects of him not covered in most books or in film. Four of the books I reviewed involve George Washington.

John's book list on a fresh look into the past

John Koopman III Why did John love this book?

In Kevin J. Hayes's book, we learn what Washington's reading habits were. For instance, it is known that he read the classic Gulliver’s Travels. How could that be known you might ask? Hayes got access to the original books in Washington’s library. He found a pattern. Looking through the books page by page he found editorial marks and corrections. Washington was a natural editor. Looking through Gulliver’s Travels Hayes found the tell-tale editorial marks, therefor he knew Washington had read it.

It is known from Washington’s writings that he owned many military textbooks. During the Revolution he asked the man managing Mount Vernon to inventory the books in the library. None of the military books were listed, therefor Washington traveled with them in the campaign.

Not surprisingly there are many books on agriculture. But one of the things I found of interest was that his favorite type of leisure…

By Kevin J. Hayes,

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?

When it comes to the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton are generally considered the great minds of early America. George Washington, instead, is toasted with accolades regarding his solid common sense and strength in battle. Indeed, John Adams once snobbishly dismissed him as "too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station and reputation." Yet Adams, as well as the majority of the men who knew Washington in his life,
were unaware of his singular devotion to self-improvement.

Based on a comprehensive amount of research at the Library of Congress, the collections at Mount Vernon, and rare book…


Book cover of Action Presidents: George Washington!

Steve Metzger Author Of The Bumble Brothers: Crazy for Comics!

From my list on graphic reads for reluctant readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a classroom teacher for 15 years who transitioned to writing children’s books. Starting with picture books, I now write graphic novels. My target audience is 2nd-5th graders and they really get my wacky sense of humor. My passion for silly comedy, from Abbott and Costello to the Marx Brothers, started at an early age and infuses my mission to help reluctant readers become enthusiastic and proficient readers. I feel strongly about this goal because I was once a reluctant reader and I can appreciate what these kids might be going through.

Steve's book list on graphic reads for reluctant readers

Steve Metzger Why did Steve love this book?

Do you remember when learning about American history was mostly dry and boring?

I do…but that’s not the case anymore. This fact-based graphic-novel series of biographies make Washington and other Presidents come alive with wacky, slapstick humor that’s just right for middle-grade kids!

The true events of George Washington’s tumultuous and heroic life – from birth to death – are hilariously presented in jump-off-the-page illustrations and told through irreverent dialogue and silly jokes. All the big battles are here, but there’s no list of endless names and dates.

The father of our country was admirable and flawed, after all he was a slaveholder, but learning about him has never been more interesting.

By Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Action Presidents as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

"A delightful, educational spin on history-and plenty of jokes," said School Library Journal.

"Sheer joy," praised Booklist in a starred review.

Finalist for the 2019 Excellence in Graphic Literature Award in Middle Grade Nonfiction

U.S. history comes to life like never before in this full-color graphic novel! We all know that George Washington was our first President and a hero of the American Revolution. But did you also know that he didn't want to be president, never thought he would fight in a war, and had teeth so bad that he hated to smile?

Wimpy Kid meets the Who Was...…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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