cover image Presidential Diversions: From George Washington to George W. Bush

Presidential Diversions: From George Washington to George W. Bush

Paul F. Boller, JR.. Harcourt, $25 (419pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100612-0

Overall, this harmless collection of presidential trivia is perfect for those with a taste for such gossip: the toenail clippings of history. Texas Christian University's Boller lays out his survey of chief executive hobbies in 42 short chapters.Washington rode horses, danced and attended the theater. Jefferson liked to hike, invent contraptions, design buildings and study nature. Truman threw horseshoes and played piano. Sometimes Boller must grasp at straws in order to find something to say, since presidents are often, by nature and necessity, workaholics. Since Andrew Johnson entertained himself only by playing with his grandchildren, Boller must give a long peroration on Johnson's defensiveness about his lowly origins. Lyndon Johnson, too, couldn't understand why people wasted time in leisure, but he drove motor boats at recklessly high speeds and we are told at some length what a good dancer he was. The current Bush, as we all know from media reports, likes to exercise, clear brush on his ranch, fish, hunt and golf. Boller's book will be enjoyed by fans of his previous works (Presidential Anecdotes ; Presidential Wives ) and all others who take their history "light." (June)