cover image William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison

Gail Collins. Times, $23 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9118-2

Barely a footnote as chief executive because he died after a month in office, Harrison (1773–1841) receives a surprisingly entertaining biography from Collins (When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present), who with the occasional wry aside on political shenanigans that characterizes her New York Times op-ed column, tells everything the average reader might want to know about our ninth president. Despite the legendary 1840 campaign featuring a “log cabin, hard cider” frontiersman with humble origins, Harrison was born on a Virginia plantation, built himself a mansion as governor of the rough Indiana frontier territory, and avoided alcohol. His fame rested on two victories: the 1811 battle of Tippecanoe against the Shawnee Indians, and the 1813 Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812, in which the Indian leader Tecumseh was killed. For decades afterward, he struggled as a farmer and Ohio politician; he lost the 1836 presidential election but won four years later. While he accomplished nothing as president, his earlier achievements are well served in this excellent addition to the American Presidents series. (Jan.)