Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote

Craig Fehrman. Avid Reader, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8639-1
Contemporary critics are wrong to dismiss the significance of presidential memoirs and campaign books, argues this entertaining and illuminating survey of U.S. presidents as authors. Historian Fehrman showcases “important presidents and important books,” including Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and Jimmy Carter’s An Hour Before Daylight, to make the case that such works have “revealed the White House’s deepest secrets” and helped to mold American democracy. He depicts Profiles in Courage author John F. Kennedy as more interested in literary renown than the act of writing, and discusses how Barack Obama’s love of fiction shaped his leadership qualities. More expansively, Fehrman illustrates the evolution of America’s print and popular culture, from the 1700s, when books were expensive and difficult to produce, to the blockbuster era of the 1980s, when Donald Trump accepted Random House’s first offer for The Art of the Deal. Fehrman’s deep research delivers a wealth of intriguing tidbits (Jimmy Carter leased a $12,000 word processor to compose Keeping the Faith; the Committee to Boycott Nixon’s Memoirs sold T-shirts and bumper stickers with the slogan “Don’t Buy Books by Crooks”), which are complemented by a generous selection of illustrations. Bibliophiles and presidential history buffs alike will relish this gratifying deep dive into an underappreciated genre. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/12/2019
Release date: 02/11/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-0137-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-0139-2
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