""To the Best of My Ability"": The American Presidents

James M. McPherson, Editor, David Rubel, Editor
James M. McPherson, Editor, David Rubel, Editor DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley) $29.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-7894-5073-9
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Paperback - 488 pages - 978-0-7566-0777-7
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-7894-8156-6
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Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom), this collection is an easy guide to the American presidency. In the first section, an array of distinguished historians pithily assesses, in essay-length narratives, each of the 42 presidents. Gordon Wood calls George Washington ""an extraordinary man who made it possible for ordinary men to rule""; Catherine Clinton explains why history hasn't been kind to Benjamin Harrison; Douglas Brinkley portrays Jimmy Carter as an ethical politician in the wrong place at the wrong time. The book's second section summarizes each presidential campaign and reprints the text of every inaugural address. The splendid illustrations accompanying the text--which range from the iconic (a youthful Bill Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy) to the unusual (Dwight Eisenhower at his easel, painting)--add richness and depth. Sponsored by the Society of American Historians--an invitation-only organization of the best and the brightest of historical writers who promote literary distinction in their field--this estimable book draws on ideas that are shaping American political historiography and popular memory and that will continue to shape them in years to come. (Aug.)
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