Don't Know Much About the American Presidents

Kenneth C. Davis. Hyperion, $27.99 (752p) ISBN 978-1-4013-2408-7
In this presidential election year, bestselling author Davis (Don't Know Much About History) returns with an absorbing take on the American presidency. Like his previous works, this hefty but breezy compendium offers brief assessments of America's chief executives, accompanied here by quotes (often clipped from inauguration speeches), a timeline featuring key moments of their life and term(s) as president, and miscellaneous trivia about each commander-in-chief, concluding with a "final judgment" of their legacy complete with a letter grade. Of course some presidents (e.g., Washington, Lincoln, and FDR) get more in-depth coverage than others. (e.g., William Henry Harrison, Grover Cleveland) and Davis, not one to mince words writes in his assessment of Franklin Pierce: "Good looks, breeding, brains and piety do not a good president make." Davis's bipartisan analysis offers a refreshingly agnostic look at the fumbles, foibles and victories large and small that make up a presidential term. Loaded with dishy trivia (Gerald Ford was a male model, FDR tried to have "In God We Trust" removed from currency) and succinct analysis of pivotal events like Watergate, the election of Lincoln ("the most momentous [election] in American history") and America's involvement in WWI, Davis remains a highly informed, observant student of history eager to share his discoveries and knowledge. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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