The best Jimmy Carter books 📚

Browse the best books on Jimmy Carter as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

By Jonathan Alter

Why this book?

Over 40 years after he left office, when he was replaced by Ronald Reagan, Carter remains an underrated and undervalued president. Alter doesn’t skimp on Carter’s shortcomings, from his sometimes rigid thinking to a nastiness that could be unleashed; the Iran-hostage debacle is also detailed in full. But using interviews with Carter and many of his associates and family members, he also makes the case, without being heavy-handed, that Carter was ahead of the curve on the ecology, voting rights, and other issues that remain frustratingly unfulfilled. 

From the list:

The best books on why the maligned Seventies were pretty awesome

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Book cover of An Hour Before Daylight: Memories Of A Rural Boyhood

An Hour Before Daylight: Memories Of A Rural Boyhood

By Jimmy Carter

Why this book?

Carter has written a huge number of books, including a historical novel and a volume of poetry, but this one is definitely his best. Like Coolidge's, it’s simple, detail-driven, and always personal, capturing Carter's Georgia childhood and connecting it to bigger issues like the Great Depression and the Jim Crow South. There's a handful of shorter, more intimate books by ex-presidents—not only Carter’s but also Harry Truman’s Mr. Citizen and Dwight Eisenhower’s At Ease—and these books always read better and reveal more than their authors’ official presidential memoirs. I wish more ex-presidents would follow Coolidge in writing that punchy…

From the list:

The best books written by American presidents

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Book cover of Always a Reckoning and Other Poems

Always a Reckoning and Other Poems

By Jimmy Carter

Why this book?

During one of my interviews, Carter told me that he had trouble expressing his emotions outside of his poetry. While Carter is not an outstanding poet, he succeeds here in offering glimpses of his inner life and fraught race relations in the American South. And he explores his relationship with his father, wife, son and others.

From the list:

The best books about the life, character, and presidency of Jimmy Carter

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Book cover of The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

By Hunter S. Thompson

Why this book?

After Carter left office, it was hard to remember what made him so exciting when he first became a national figure in 1976. In his patented “gonzo” style, Thompson’s flattering and entertaining articles on Carter in this collection shed light on what made Carter compelling and cool. Thompson's stature among young journalists was so great at the time that his coverage of Carter helped make him president.

From the list:

The best books about the life, character, and presidency of Jimmy Carter

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Book cover of Thirteen Days in September: The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace

Thirteen Days in September: The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace

By Lawrence Wright

Why this book?

The Camp David Accords brought enduring peace between Israel and Egypt after 25 years of war. Wright’s taut narrative—later adapted as a play—conveys just how close the summit came to falling apart. Along with normalizing relations with China, obtaining ratification of the Panama Canal Treaties, and advancing a path-breaking human rights policy, Carter’s triumph at Camp David suggests he was a better foreign policy president than many critics acknowledged at the time.

From the list:

The best books about the life, character, and presidency of Jimmy Carter

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Book cover of All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter With Iran

All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter With Iran

By Gary Sick

Why this book?

Sick, Carter’s White House adviser on Iran, offers a cogent, deeply insightful account of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the seizure of American hostages in Tehran, and the Carter Administration’s inadequate response to the unfolding crisis. In a later book, The October Surprise, Sick falls just short of proving that the Reagan campaign conspired with the Iranian government to delay the release of the hostages until after the 1980 election. But he is convincing in his claim that the truth in this sordid affair has never fully come to light.

From the list:

The best books about the life, character, and presidency of Jimmy Carter

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