Author in Chief
Based on a decade of research and reporting, Author in Chief tells the story of America’s presidents as authors—and offers a delightful new window into the public and private lives of our highest leaders. Most Americans are familiar with Abraham Lincoln’s famous words in the Gettysburg Address and the Eman­cipation Proclamation. Yet few can name the work that helped him win the presidency: his published collection of speeches entitled Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln labored in secret to get his book ready for the 1860 election, tracking down newspaper transcripts, editing them carefully for fairness, and hunting for a printer who would meet his specifications. Political Debates sold fifty thousand copies—the rough equivalent of half a million books in today’s market—and it reveals something about Lincoln’s presidential ambitions. But it also reveals something about his heart and mind. When voters asked about his beliefs, Lincoln liked to point them to his book. In Craig Fehrman’s groundbreaking work of history, Author in Chief, the story of America’s presidents and their books opens a rich new window into presidential biography. From volumes lost to history—Calvin Coolidge’s Autobiography, which was one of the most widely discussed titles of 1929—to ones we know and love—Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, which was very nearly never published—Fehrman unearths countless insights about the presidents through their literary works. Presidential books have made an enormous impact on American history, catapulting their authors to the national stage and even turning key elections. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, the first presidential book to influence a campaign, and John Adams’s Autobiography, the first score-settling presiden­tial memoir, Author in Chief draws on newly uncovered information—including never-before-published letters from Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan—to cast fresh light on the private drives and self-doubts that fueled our nation’s leaders. We see Teddy Roosevelt as a vulnerable first-time author, struggling to write the book that would become a classic of American history. We see Reagan painstakingly revising Where’s the Rest of Me?, a forgotten memoir in which he sharpened his sunny political image. We see Donald Trump negotiating the deal for The Art of the Deal, the volume that made him synonymous with business savvy. Alongside each of these authors, we also glimpse the everyday Americans who read them. Combining the narrative felicity of a journalist with the rigorous scholarship of a historian, Fehrman delivers a feast for history lovers, book lovers, and everybody curious about a behind-the-scenes look at our presidents.

Author in Chief Details

TitleAuthor in Chief
Author
ReleaseFeb 11th, 2020
PublisherAvid Reader Press / Simon Schuster
ISBN-139781476786391
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Politics, North American Hi..., American History, Writing, Books About Books, Biography

Author in Chief Review

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    January 1, 1970
    A good citizen is a good reader. The reverse is also true, with the most bookish Americans being 31 percent more likely to vote than their peers. In other words, a good reader is also a good citizen.When I saw the premise of this book, I knew that it was in my wheelhouse. I love biographies of presidents and have read several of their autobiographies as well. I usually prefer the biographies because in many cases the autobiographies are politically motivated and conceived as vehicles to either ”’A good citizen is a good reader.’ The reverse is also true, with the most bookish Americans being 31 percent more likely to vote than their peers. In other words, a good reader is also a good citizen.”When I saw the premise of this book, I knew that it was in my wheelhouse. I love biographies of presidents and have read several of their autobiographies as well. I usually prefer the biographies because in many cases the autobiographies are politically motivated and conceived as vehicles to either get the man elected or justify his presidency. Ulysses S. Grant, an unlikely candidate to be a gifted writer, still penned one of the best presidential autobiographies ever written. Maybe the reason his autobiography is so good is because it ends right after the Civil War and doesn’t cover his political years, although I would love to read how he would have discussed the scandal riddled years of his administration. It did seem like Grant might have been the only honest man in his own government. Another compelling aspect to Grant’s odyssey to finish writing his book was the poor health he was experiencing and his determination to finish before the Grim Reaper caught up with him. Craig Fehrman split the presidents into four parts and discussed how involved each president was with the writing of his own autobiography. Ghost writers were employed in most cases. Few were as dedicated to the project as Grant, and none contributed as many words. There was a handwritten note from Lincoln wanting reassurances that what was being written would be as if from his own hand. John F. Kennedy also went to great lengths to maintain the public image of his own talented writing skills, but you might be surprised to discover that the reality is far removed from the skillfully cultivated lie. The subterfuge did not end with who actually wrote what. Donald J. Trump funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars through Super-Pacs to buy copies of his books to ensure they stayed on the bestseller list. This wasn’t a new idea by a presidential candidate, but it was certainly one that fit perfectly with the temperment of a president who feels the need to make himself look larger and more successful than he actually is. Fehrman also introduced us to some of the great book readers of different eras who gobbled up presidential biographies and autobiographies as soon as they hit the bookstores. “‘I keep no money in my pocket very long,’ Michael Floy confessed in his diary. ‘For when I see a book that takes my fancy, have it I must.’” Ex-presidents also had the book collecting bug. James Madison owned four thousand volumes. Thomas Jefferson had eighteen hundred. Even John Adams confessed to his wife Abigail, “I’ve spent an estate in books.” I would venture a guess that many readers of this review will identify very strongly with Mr. Floy and Mr. Adams. One of my favorite moments, I actually laughed out loud, was when Fehrman revealed to me that the oldest remaining writing by Andrew Jackson is a letter he wrote at age 21, challenging a man to a duel. Of course, it is! Jackson, love him or hate him, he was a man who never backed down from anything. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Nathanial Hawthorne wrote Franklin Pierce’s autobiography. ”’The story is true,’ Hawthorne told a friend. ‘Yet it took a romancer to do it.’” The book is filled with great little stories like these that add color to what you already knew about the presidents and the writers who helped them.I took scads of notes because this book will be a reference tool that I will revisit many times in the future to refresh my memory about certain presidential nuggets Fehrman shared and to experience again the pleasure of a writer deftly handling a large amount of information and giving it to us in useful, enjoyable slices. I appreciated the fact that Fehrman gave a nod to fiction and its influence on some of the great men who rose to the highest level of power in the United States.”Grant enjoyed novels; Wilson devoured detective stories. But Obama read more fiction than any previous president, and that reading shaped his mind, his books--even, in the end, his politics.”Highly Recommended!If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting look at Presidential books from the very beginning. Background on the various leaders, and their writing processes, as well as why they were writing. Andrew Jackson wrote the first book that helped him win the presidency, a campaign treatise at a time when candidates didn't campaign for themselves. Since it is women's month, I need to mention that Abigail Adams own book sold better than her husbands. Go Abigail. Clinton actually wrote over a thousand pages by hand, trying to An interesting look at Presidential books from the very beginning. Background on the various leaders, and their writing processes, as well as why they were writing. Andrew Jackson wrote the first book that helped him win the presidency, a campaign treatise at a time when candidates didn't campaign for themselves. Since it is women's month, I need to mention that Abigail Adams own book sold better than her husbands. Go Abigail. Clinton actually wrote over a thousand pages by hand, trying to include everybody he had contact with, despite his editors effort to reign him in. Obama, of course was a reader and writer before he became President. He was extremely loyal to his neighborhood bookstore and his reading of fiction, proved s boon to many authors. There was only a small section on Trump, was kind of amusing but not surprising. Will let you read the book to find out what was said.A very informative look at all our Presidents, the good and bad.Narrated by Fred Sanders who did an excellent job.
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  • Megan (readingretriever)
    January 1, 1970
    Author in Chief Rating: 5/5I'm going to be honest - I did not expect a book about presidents and their books to be so damn fascinating!Author in Chief tells the story of the American presidents as readers and authors. It was fascinating to see how books shaped the presidents as children and how a love for the written word carried over into adulthood and ultimately into their presidency. From Washington to Trump, Author in Chief dives into what motivated each president to write a book and whether Author in Chief Rating: 5/5I'm going to be honest - I did not expect a book about presidents and their books to be so damn fascinating!Author in Chief tells the story of the American presidents as readers and authors. It was fascinating to see how books shaped the presidents as children and how a love for the written word carried over into adulthood and ultimately into their presidency. From Washington to Trump, Author in Chief dives into what motivated each president to write a book and whether or not that motivation transitioned into a best selling book (or a flop!). What surprised me most about Author in Chief was how charming the book was. Each president's personality shines through. Author in Chief includes so many personal anecdotes that bring the presidents to life. Some of these anecdotes had me laughing out loud at the antics of the presidents. Other's broke my heart. A couple of my favorite passages included:- The rivalry (both politically and literary) between Adams and Jefferson.- Ulysses S. Grant rushing to finish Personal Memoirs on his deathbed.- How Eleanor Roosevelt told Truman that her husband had died and he was now president.- JFK winning a Pulitzer price for a book he essentially didn't write.- The use of ghost writers in the publishing industry.As an added bonus, Author in Chief tells how both authorship and the publishing industry slowly grew and then finally flourished in the United States. If you are a fan of history, politics, or just books in general, Author in Chief is the book for you. Thanks to Avid Reader Press for the ARC!
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  • Bonnie
    January 1, 1970
    I generally find reading history books dry or slow reading, but I found this book to be a fascinating read about the presidents and the books they have written. It really opened the window for this reader into the lives of our country's leaders. Excellent book for history lovers and book lovers, too.
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  • Julie Durnell
    January 1, 1970
    I like presidential books, and this was a great read. So many historical nuggets in each of the president's reading and writing choices makes an interesting book and a place to inspire additional reading of a particular president. I noticed a common thread through most all of the president's lives in devoting their reading time to history material. The presidents of the 18th and 19th century made it a priority to accumulate books for their own libraries. Grant and Lincoln's writings were among I like presidential books, and this was a great read. So many historical nuggets in each of the president's reading and writing choices makes an interesting book and a place to inspire additional reading of a particular president. I noticed a common thread through most all of the president's lives in devoting their reading time to history material. The presidents of the 18th and 19th century made it a priority to accumulate books for their own libraries. Grant and Lincoln's writings were among my favorites.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    It was nice to get the flavor and explore the common themes of all the books without having to read them all. I did not realize there were so many. There will be several I WILL be reading thanks to this taste! Well researched this book looks at our presidents, their writings and the impact of those on both future presidents and society.
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  • Andrew MacDonald
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book and found it an insightful primer for understanding not only the literary works of past presidents, but also something about the American psyche. It would be tough to pick a favorite president chapter, since Fehrman was basically my introduction to all of them, ignorant Canadian that I am, but I will say that the book is anything but dry. AUTHOR IN CHIEF has all the things I want in non-fiction: airtight, compelling research combined with beautiful writing and A++++ story I loved this book and found it an insightful primer for understanding not only the literary works of past presidents, but also something about the American psyche. It would be tough to pick a favorite president chapter, since Fehrman was basically my introduction to all of them, ignorant Canadian that I am, but I will say that the book is anything but dry. AUTHOR IN CHIEF has all the things I want in non-fiction: airtight, compelling research combined with beautiful writing and A++++ story mechanics. After reading, I did some rooting around on Google and, lo, I found this excellent interview with the author for the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/bo...From this interview I learned that, like me, Fehrman loves Milch's DEADWOOD, so he must have great taste. Moreover, while the book is a perfect addendum to the election-stuffs happening in America right now, AUTHOR IN CHIEF strikes me as a timeless addition to American political and literary thought.
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  • Jim McGarrah
    January 1, 1970
    A review of Author in Chief by Craig Fehrman (Avid Reader Press, New York, 2019)Scholar in ChiefBy Jim McGarrahIn 1820 the population of America reached less than ten million citizens. During this period, our country was blessed with statesmen unrivaled in the world. Men like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Burr, Hamilton, Monroe, Franklin, and Madison, to name few roamed the streets of the nations capital and motivated the growth of a country unlike the world had ever seen through their actions A review of Author in Chief by Craig Fehrman (Avid Reader Press, New York, 2019)Scholar in ChiefBy Jim McGarrahIn 1820 the population of America reached less than ten million citizens. During this period, our country was blessed with statesmen unrivaled in the world. Men like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Burr, Hamilton, Monroe, Franklin, and Madison, to name few roamed the streets of the nation’s capital and motivated the growth of a country unlike the world had ever seen through their actions and their records of those actions. The United States rose quickly to a unique and preeminent place in world affairs. It seemed to be bent on fulfilling the Puritan myth of “The City on the Hill” that would make us a shining example to the world for centuries to come. 200 years later that example has been severely tarnished. I don’t believe any of us can name even one statesman equal to the men I just named even though our population now exceeds 300 million. Statesmen no longer exist. We have only politicians. Are those words interchangeable? History has taught us they are not. What has been one of the root causes of this degradation of leadership from self-sacrificing to self-serving? When did it begin to occur? These two questions and several other vitally important ones are answered brilliantly in Craig Ferhman’s new book Author in Chief. For Ferhman, it is a tour de force of research and analysis. For us, as ordinary citizens, the book is a necessary look into the history of some of America’s greatest leaders through their own written thoughts, whether written by them or ghosted by someone else. According to Ferhman, the creator of the first real dictionary of American language, Noah Webster, once argued, “Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country…” I would add that for our form of government to work this would include adults as well. Each citizen is responsible for knowing the history of America, for understanding where we’ve been, why we have arrived where we are, and how we can maintain liberty moving forward. Therein lies the seminal value of a book such as Ferhman’s. It is vital in providing us this knowledge accurately in a time of internet manipulation and misinformation, in an era that opinion so easily ignores fact and camouflages personal agenda. Once committed to print, it’s difficult to deny. Ferhman’s meticulous research and analytical skills allow us a window into the thoughts and attitudes of the men who, for better or worse, have shaped this country. The author spent nearly a decade combing over historical data, diaries, narratives, poetry, and notes of our leaders—some obscure and ancient, some highly available and current. This book is very readable. Although not comprehensive—it was never intended to be—the writing does the things necessary to qualify it as both literarily and historically important. Each parsed and summarized section, from Washington through Trump, entertains, educates, and retains accessibility for any audience. For me personally, the reflective quality of Mr. Ferhman’s writing provides certain leitmotifs that have appeared and have become more prominent as history evolved to present tense. First, the reality that money has always played a major role in the dissemination of political information. Second, a major paradigm shift has occurred in the way presidents and powerful politicians write about themselves or allow themselves to be written about. Initially, our founding fathers refused to publicly acknowledge their own literary works of even stories involving their own lives. Public service was felt to be an honorable sacrifice for the good of America and any reference to their own abilities seemed vain. However, the public demand for good stories, fact or fiction, changed that notion during the Jacksonian era. Ferhman writes, “The campaign biography did something more. It created space for a new style of politics, on that prioritized personalities and narratives over policies and ideas. A good campaign biography didn’t merely recount a life—it attempted to spin one.” This concept of narrative spin has grown and driven both the political and literary world to the point in the 21st century that narrative spin often controls election outcome. Whatever your interest is history or literature or both, you would be hard-pressed to find a read better suited to those interests. This book is insightful and meticulously detailed. It creates a springboard from which any interested reader can dive into a world so necessary and so complex. Buy it, read it, and read it again.
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  • John Trotter
    January 1, 1970
    Though I am not typically a reader of history, the book engages the human side of our presidents well. Fehrman looks in depth at how the books presidents wrote as well as books written about our presidents have molded our perception of them.As a book nerd and someone somewhat interested in history, the book kept me engaged. If you want to step away from the typical political rhetoric of most presidential books, you should pick up a copy. Our presidents are real people with real stories.
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  • Maddie
    January 1, 1970
    Some books are 5 stars for everyone. This book is 5 stars for me and other people who enjoy the subject material of presidential autobiographies. The author focuses on ~13 presidents over the years whose autobiographies and other written works were particularly notable, and also discusses the way that reading and book publishing changed over the course of American history. I think Fehrman toed a nice line of mentioning most president's writing and their relationship with books, but not Some books are 5 stars for everyone. This book is 5 stars for me and other people who enjoy the subject material of presidential autobiographies. The author focuses on ~13 presidents over the years whose autobiographies and other written works were particularly notable, and also discusses the way that reading and book publishing changed over the course of American history. I think Fehrman toed a nice line of mentioning most president's writing and their relationship with books, but not over-analyzing those whose books didn't have much to say. Though I think he largely cut where needed, I found his choice to put George W. Bush in the Epilogue strange. I would have preferred a longer book that also talked about Decision Points and Bush's biography of his father in more detail. Maybe the fact that Bush called it the first such book written by a former president about his president father was the best detail of all; everyone is always overlooking the poor Adams family. I enjoyed Fehrman's thoughtful and detail-filled critiques of each author in chief. I was surprised to see that Coolidge's writing got so much attention, and am tempted to read more of his work. Fehrman also made light fun of the fiction work of all the presidents except for Ronald Reagan, who was a surprisingly competent writer before he became president (his legacy book was not so great, but he didn't actually appear to have even read it, so we can't hold it against him). The discussion of JFK's heavy reliance on ghostwriters, then his obsession with winning a Pulitzer for a book he didn't really write was also fascinating. If any of those anecdotes seem interesting to you, you would probably like this book.
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  • Jacob Williams
    January 1, 1970
    "Everyone else connected with Washington has written a book. I am certainly not going to compound the felony." - Bess Truman"Books are good company. Nothing is more human than a book." - Marilynne Robinson ! Thanks to Jeffrey Keeten (jkeeten) for this book! You reviewed it, and it seemed interesting to me, so I checked it out from my local library and read it. People reading this, you should check out his reviews. They are great. ~ And with that aside, the review shall go on. ~Great book. "Everyone else connected with Washington has written a book. I am certainly not going to compound the felony." - Bess Truman"Books are good company. Nothing is more human than a book." - Marilynne Robinson ! Thanks to Jeffrey Keeten (jkeeten) for this book! You reviewed it, and it seemed interesting to me, so I checked it out from my local library and read it. People reading this, you should check out his reviews. They are great. ~ And with that aside, the review shall go on. ~Great book. Astonishingly revealing. For example, I never knew that a bunch of presidents had published memoirs or books (Trump was the Art of The Deal). Most presidents I've seen write books were Reagan, Bush, and Obama. Truman was an exception, along with Jefferson. Craig Fehrman did a great job digging aside details from presidents who have published memoirs.There were some cases of ghostwriting though . . . let's see, Jackson, Nixon, Reagan, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, and the list go on. While sometimes they were original, most of them were just interviews packed together. From this book, I also have a new itch for presidential books. Here's an (incomplete & short) list: Dreams From My Father & The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama An American Life, Ronald Reagan In conclusion, this book must be read. 5 out of 5 from me.
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  • Megargee
    January 1, 1970
    A superb literary history of the American presidency from Washington to Trump through prism of what they read and what they wrote. Fehrman places each president in to the literary context of the time, comparing them with other American authors of the period. The influence of technology from John Adams quill and hand set type through typewriters and linotype to today's word processors and electronic publishing is also considered, as is the role of "ghost writers" from Alexander Hamilton assisting A superb literary history of the American presidency from Washington to Trump through prism of what they read and what they wrote. Fehrman places each president in to the literary context of the time, comparing them with other American authors of the period. The influence of technology from John Adams quill and hand set type through typewriters and linotype to today's word processors and electronic publishing is also considered, as is the role of "ghost writers" from Alexander Hamilton assisting Washington (scandalous at the time) to JFK and other moderns having staffs of writers. Among the best writers, according to Fehrman, were both Adams, Lincoln (speeches), Grant, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, and Reagan. In an epilogue, Fehrman guides readers to where they can locate these presidential writings and suggests which sections of these selections are the most rewarding such as Coolidge's account of the death of his son and T. Roosevelt on African safaris and wildlife.
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  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    Even as early as 1765 there was a demand for reference books in Philadelphia. Ben Franklin and others owned printing presses and sold books from their homes. There were also traveling booksellers, so early America did have access to books. Thomas Jefferson was the first President to write individual work, and its not surprising that he was an important author of the Declaration of Independence at the Continental Congress of 1775. There were plenty of printers ready to make copies of pamphlets Even as early as 1765 there was a demand for reference books in Philadelphia. Ben Franklin and others owned printing presses and sold books from their homes. There were also traveling booksellers, so early America did have access to books. Thomas Jefferson was the first President to write individual work, and it’s not surprising that he was an important author of the Declaration of Independence at the Continental Congress of 1775. There were plenty of printers ready to make copies of pamphlets written by Jefferson.Twelve Presidents and their writings are featured in this book written by Craig Fehrman, a graduate of University of Southern Indiana. Overall, I thought the book was a bit too scholarly.
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    Not just a history of Presidents and the books they wrote, but also a history of publishing alongside that, and how publishing evolved along with the history of the United States. A great read or anyone interested in presidential history, memoirs, and books.
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  • Joe Kessler
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fascinating topic -- or at least one aimed squarely at the center of my particular interests -- and I really commend author Craig Fehrman for compiling the material behind it. As he details in his closing remarks, presidents' books have rarely been seen as important even for their official biographers, so quite a bit of original primary research was necessary just to gather all the facts in question. And in Fehrman's hands, those findings have been assembled into not the rote catalog I This is a fascinating topic -- or at least one aimed squarely at the center of my particular interests -- and I really commend author Craig Fehrman for compiling the material behind it. As he details in his closing remarks, presidents' books have rarely been seen as important even for their official biographers, so quite a bit of original primary research was necessary just to gather all the facts in question. And in Fehrman's hands, those findings have been assembled into not the rote catalog I was half-expecting, but rather an intricate narrative tracing the gradual development of American literacy, literature, publishing, notions of authorship and ghostwriting, and presidency itself.The content could have been organized better, since following a single politician from campaign book through legacy memoir and even posthumous influence often requires then doubling back to an earlier time for the next figure Fehrman considers. I also wish he had approached the subject more exhaustively, making this not merely the first account of its type but also the definitive comprehensive one. By focusing on the texts that either best reflect changing trends or were so influential themselves, we miss out on others that could still be interesting in their own right. And finally, I'm somewhat frustrated by how often the writer acts as a critic, projecting his own subjective take on what is "enlightening or enjoyable to read today" instead of simply documenting the books themselves and how they were received by contemporary audiences. Nevertheless, I have generally found this to be a worthwhile and educational read, full of neat contrasts between the writings that various presidents have created to either pitch their candidacy or leave behind as memoir. I'd recommend it for anyone interested in history, politics, or how those might intersect with popular nonfiction.[Content warning for descriptions of racism and sexual assault.]Find me on Patreon | Goodreads | Blog | Twitter
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  • Jean
    January 1, 1970
    I know that most presidents were prolific readers and some were skilled writers. One of the presidents on top of my list of reader/writers is Theodore Roosevelt. I always felt a kindred spirit with him after reading one of his comments about reading: Reading is living. I have also read it as Reading is life. Probably the most famous president that was a reader/writer was John Adams. He was a prolific letter writer as well as an author of books. Much of what we know about those early days comes I know that most presidents were prolific readers and some were skilled writers. One of the presidents on top of my list of reader/writers is Theodore Roosevelt. I always felt a kindred spirit with him after reading one of his comments about reading: “Reading is living”. I have also read it as “Reading is life”. Probably the most famous president that was a reader/writer was John Adams. He was a prolific letter writer as well as an author of books. Much of what we know about those early days comes from the pens of the Adams family.The book was well written and researched. Many of the presidents that wrote one or more books are well known, but a few Fehrman discussed such as Silent Calvin Coolidge were a surprise. It is amazing just how many presidents were also writers as well as readers. The author also showed the evolution of the biography and autobiographies as well as the campaign book. This book was a learning experience for me. I found this a fun book to read. I enjoy reading about what key people in the past have read. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Fred Sanders does a good job narrating the book. Sanders is a well-known audiobook narrator and is known as “The Master of Pacing”.
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  • Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting look at something that is perhaps often mentioned (perhaps always depending on the book) in the context of our presidents but never a focus: the books and written works that they produce over their careers and how they have shaped future presidents or reflect their authors, etc.Fehrman takes the reader through multiple presidents and the works they write, how they fit into history and the context of the times, what these works have meant for history (or not). You may know of An interesting look at something that is perhaps often mentioned (perhaps always depending on the book) in the context of our presidents but never a focus: the books and written works that they produce over their careers and how they have shaped future presidents or reflect their authors, etc.Fehrman takes the reader through multiple presidents and the works they write, how they fit into history and the context of the times, what these works have meant for history (or not). You may know of 'Dreams of My Father' by Barack Obama but you may not know of Jefferson's 'Notes on the State of Virginia'.Unsurprisingly, Fehrman doesn't cover every single president (not possible!) and he ends with Obama. :) Overall, though, I was bored. The author is a reporter and as often with these things, I find that journalists are not the best book writers. Even with presidents I was interested in or was learning much more about I didn't find the writing particularly easy to get through. But this is certainly a book that would be useful for those interested in books or general presidential historians.Library borrow was best.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    This book is what the title says it is: a survey, running from Washington to Trump, of the writings of our presidents. Cheifly, they fall into two categories: campaign books, written before they took office (one of the best is Lincoln's compendium of the Lincoln-Douglas debates; Obama also gets a high-five)) and what Fehrman calls "legacy books," autobiographies written after they left office (Coolidge, Truman, Carter and George W. Bush get high marks here.) He doesn't talk about every book This book is what the title says it is: a survey, running from Washington to Trump, of the writings of our presidents. Cheifly, they fall into two categories: campaign books, written before they took office (one of the best is Lincoln's compendium of the Lincoln-Douglas debates; Obama also gets a high-five)) and what Fehrman calls "legacy books," autobiographies written after they left office (Coolidge, Truman, Carter and George W. Bush get high marks here.) He doesn't talk about every book every president has written but does provide a decent survey of the notable ones and includes lots of interesting information about how they were produced. Additionally, the book is an interesting study of the publishing industry, particularly as it impacts the political arena, the trends in political literature and how they have changes over time, and the advent and developing respectability of ghost-writing. Altogether an interesting and informative reading experience.
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  • Craig
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance reader copy of this book.As a fan of history, this title sounded interesting but I frankly expected it to be a little academic and dry. However, the author did an excellent job of not only illuminating a subject I had never thought much about before, he made it interesting and insightful, with lots of interesting details about how the personal and political lives of these men have been intertwined in the books they wrote. The only small quibble was that the stories relating I received an advance reader copy of this book.As a fan of history, this title sounded interesting but I frankly expected it to be a little academic and dry. However, the author did an excellent job of not only illuminating a subject I had never thought much about before, he made it interesting and insightful, with lots of interesting details about how the personal and political lives of these men have been intertwined in the books they wrote. The only small quibble was that the stories relating to various regular people seemed a little tacked-on. All-in-all, though I highly recommend this as a book that will interest readers who enjoy politics, books and history - very entertaining and informative. Now I feel like further investigating some of the presidents' writings.
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  • Craig McGraw
    January 1, 1970
    This book is not only about books written by our Presidents, it is also a sort of history of books and reading in America. Many of the men who held the office did not write anything at all. Early political books were simply collections of speeches that they had given. The author does spend time critiquing those nonfiction volumes by Grant, Roosevelt, Truman and Obama. I am surprised that Carter is hardly mentioned since he continues to turn out several. The campaign book is not as new as I This book is not only about books written by our Presidents, it is also a sort of history of books and reading in America. Many of the men who held the office did not write anything at all. Early political books were simply collections of speeches that they had given. The author does spend time critiquing those nonfiction volumes by Grant, Roosevelt, Truman and Obama. I am surprised that Carter is hardly mentioned since he continues to turn out several. The “campaign book” is not as new as I thought as wannabe candidates have long issued them in our history. All in all an interesting read.
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  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    The book gave me a lot of good leads on biographies to follow but the Author/Publisher is far more interested in bashing JFKennedy and praising Reagan than I'd attribute to someone who I expected to be objective. FDR and Clinton are barely mentioned and presidents aren't addressed in order which is jarring. The first 1/3 was enjoyable and informative.
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    I won a copy of this book. I like history, but wasn't sure that this title would hold my interest. I was wrong. The author did an excellent job of bringing the presidents to life through interesting facts and stories about each. It was a great introduction to their works, without having to read all of them! I learned a lot.
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  • Darlene Ferland
    January 1, 1970
    This is an interesting and refreshing book. Anyone interested in the Presidency will find the writingsa different window into these men. . .
  • Lisa K
    January 1, 1970
    I won a copy of Author In Chief from a Goodreads Giveaway. As a lover of both books and history, I really enjoyed this book. I found it fascinating.
  • Carl
    January 1, 1970
    Great book. I received it via Goodreads Giveaways. Interesting to hear about Presidential books and how they came about. Fascinating and well done.
  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    Goodreads lost me at "to ones we know and loveBarack Obamas Dreams from My Father, which was very nearly never published." Keep the politics out of your reviews please, but too late: I'm unsubscribing to goodreads! Goodreads lost me at "to ones we know and love—Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, which was very nearly never published—." Keep the politics out of your reviews please, but too late: I'm unsubscribing to goodreads!
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  • Jenn
    January 1, 1970
    I won a copy of this book.I liked that this book was focused on the books our president's wrote. It saves me time from having to read the dull and boring ones and gets me excited to read the good ones. Easy to read and really interesting.
  • Csimplot Simplot
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent book!!!
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