With Father’s Day fast approaching, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to give you all a few gift ideas from my favorite reads. After all, if there is anything dad’s love, it’s thick, history books!
1. Edmund Morris – The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
By far the best of the presidential biographies I’ve read, and the book I credit with launching me on my obsessive quest. Morris shows how Roosevelt remade himself from a weak, asthmatic, heartbroken young man into the rugged leader that would go on to occupy the White House. If your dad enjoys reading, I guarantee he will love this book. It’s flawless.
2. Ron Chernow – Washington: A Life
Of all our presidents, Washington is often cast as the least knowable--the marble man. Thanks to Ron Chernow, Washington steps down from the pedestal and becomes a man of flesh and bone. This is a thick, wonderfully researched book and a great place to begin if your dad wants to start reading about each president!
3. David McCullough – John Adams
Perhaps the most engaging writer of popular histories, McCullough is able to take someone as harsh and difficult as Adams and turn him into an admirable man of great complexity. An absolute pleasure to read, even if Adams is not always a pleasure to be around!
4. David Herbert Donald – Lincoln
There are thousands of books to pick from if you want to get your dad a book on Lincoln. Most people will point you to Team of Rivals, the excellent Doris Kearns Goodwin book on Lincoln and his cabinet. But for my money, I’d go with this earlier book for the essential Lincoln bio. We all know how this story ends, but Donald is still able to make your heart break at the conclusion.
5. Candice Millard – Destiny of the Republic
Not all dads will want to tackle a 600-page doorstopper, but worry not; there are presidential books for these dads, too! Millard’s book tells the story of James Garfield’s assassination, but it’s much more. She’s able to pack in the fascinating life of his assassin as well as the gruesome medical treatment that was ultimately responsible for the president’s death. This is a page-turner that any reader will love.
6. Evan Thomas – Being Nixon: A Man Divided
We’ve been hearing a lot these days about parallels between recent events and those of the disgraced Nixon administration. I’ve read a number of books on Nixon, but no one made me feel like I understood this man more than Thomas. This book is perfect for dads who may have lived through the Nixon era and are looking to make sense of a complicated time in our nation’s history.
7. Robert Caro – The Path to Power
The first volume in Caro’s masterful series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, this is a monumental book, and Caro is quite possibly the best writer I’ve come across. I love his work so much that I’m spacing out reading the other books in his series because I don’t want to reach the end.
8. Jon Meacham – Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but Bush is one of the last truly decent men we’ve had in the White House. I don’t agree with the majority of his political views, but this book, fueled by Meacham’s access to Bush’s audio diary, convinced me that he was a good man with the best of intentions. A genuine surprise and a book that is easy to overlook for some of the more attention-grabbing bios out there.
I’ve provided Amazon links for all of these books for ease of purchase, but don’t hesitate to go to a local bookstore to pick up one (or more). And I hope you’ll come back and let me know about your dad’s reaction to these wonderful books.