Presidential Matters

Presidential Matters

 

The Defining Moment:  FDR’s hundred days and the triumph of hope by Jonathan Alter

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in March of 1933 as America touched bottom. Banks were closing everywhere. Millions of people lost everything. The Great Depression had caused a national breakdown. With the craft of a master storyteller, Jonathan Alter brings us closer than ever before to the Roosevelt magic. Facing the gravest crisis since the Civil War, FDR used his cagey political instincts and ebullient temperament in the storied first Hundred Days of his presidency to pull off an astonishing conjuring act that lifted the country and saved both democracy and capitalism.


The General vs. the President:  MacArthur and Truman on the brink of nuclear war by H.W. Brands

At the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China’s entry into the war, Truman replied testily, “The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has.” This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America’s path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way.


The Man who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in war and peace by H.W. Brands

Ulysses Grant emerges in this masterful biography as a genius in battle and a driven president to a divided country, who remained fearlessly on the side of right. He was a beloved commander in the field who made the sacrifices necessary to win the war, even in the face of criticism. He worked valiantly to protect the rights of freed men in the South. He allowed the American Indians to shape their own fate even as the realities of Manifest Destiny meant the end of their way of life. In this sweeping and majestic narrative, bestselling author H.W. Brands now reconsiders Grant’s legacy and provides an intimate portrait of a heroic man who saved the Union on the battlefield and consolidated that victory as a resolute and principled political leader.


First Women: the grace and power of America’s modern First Ladies by Kate Anderson Brower

One of the most underestimated—and challenging—positions in the world, the First Lady of the United States must be many things: an inspiring leader with a forward-thinking agenda of her own; a savvy politician, skilled at navigating the treacherous rapids of Washington; a wife and mother operating under constant scrutiny; and an able CEO responsible for the smooth operation of countless services and special events at the White House.


The Residence:  Inside the private world of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.


 

Adopted Son:  Washington, Lafayette and the friendship that saved the Revolution by David A. Clary

They were unlikely comrades-in-arms. One was a self-taught, middle-aged Virginia planter in charge of a ragtag army of revolutionaries, the other a rich, glory-seeking teenage French aristocrat. But the childless Washington and the orphaned Lafayette forged a bond between them as strong as any between father and son. It was an unbreakable trust that saw them through betrayals, shifting political alliances, and the trials of war.


 

Flawed Giant:  Lyndon Johnson and his times 1961-1973 by Robert Dallek

Flawed Giant–the monumental concluding volume to Robert Dallek’s biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson–provides the most through, engrossing account ever published of Johnson’s years in the national spotlight. Drawing on hours of newly released White House tapes and dozens of interviews with people close to the President, Dallek reveals LBJ as a visionary leader who worked his will on Congress like no chief executive before or since, and also displays the depth of his private anguish as he became increasingly ensnared in Vietnam.


Guest of Honor:  Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and the White House dinner that shocked a nation by Deborah Davis

In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the executive mansion with the First Family. The next morning, news that the president had dined with a black man sent shock waves through the nation. Fueled by inflammatory newspaper articles, political cartoons, and even vulgar songs, the scandal escalated and threatened to topple two of America’s greatest men.

 


Inside Camp David:  the private world of the presidential retreat by Rear Admiral Michael Giorgione

Never before have the gates of Camp David been opened to the public. Intensely private and completely secluded, the president’s personal campground is situated deep in the woods, up miles of unmarked roads that are practically invisible to the untrained eye. Now, for the first time, we are allowed to travel along the mountain route and directly into the fascinating and intimate complex of rustic residential cabins, wildlife trails, and athletic courses that make up the presidential family room.


The Family:  the real story of the Bush dynasty by Kitty Kelley

They have wielded enormous financial power and dominated world politics for more than half a century. They have been appointed to positions of great power and have been elected as governors, congressmen, senators and presidents. They have shaped our past and, with our country at war under the leadership of their number one son, they are, more critically than ever, shaping our future.


 

Ike and McCarthy:  Dwight Eisenhower’s secret campaign against Joseph McCarthy by David A. Nichols

Behind the scenes, Eisenhower loathed McCarthy, the powerful Republican senator notorious for his anti-Communist witch hunt. In spite of a public perception that Eisenhower was unwilling to challenge McCarthy, Ike believed that directly confronting the senator would diminish the presidency. Therefore, the president operated with a “hidden hand,” refusing even to mention the Senator’s name.


 

The Hour of Peril:  the Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower

In February of 1861, just days before he assumed the presidency, Abraham Lincoln faced a “clear and fully-matured” threat of assassination as he traveled by train from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration. Over a period of thirteen days the legendary detective Allan Pinkerton worked feverishly to detect and thwart the plot, assisted by a captivating young widow named Kate Warne, America’s first female private eye.


Being Nixon:  a man divided by Evan Thomas

Evan Thomas delivers a radical, unique portrait of America’s thirty-seventh president, Richard Nixon, a contradictory figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. One of the principal architects of the modern Republican Party and its “silent majority” of disaffected whites and conservative ex-Dixiecrats, Nixon was also deemed a liberal in some quarters for his efforts to desegregate Southern schools, create the Environmental Protection Agency, and end the draft.


Friends Divided:  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy’s champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the overachiever from New England’s rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. But late in life, something remarkable happened: these two men were nudged into reconciliation. What started as a grudging trickle of correspondence became a great flood, and a friendship was rekindled, over the course of hundreds of letters.


Accidental Presidents:  eight men who changed America by Jared Cohen

Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent died in office. In one way or another they vastly changed our history. Only Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in his own right. Only TR, Truman, Coolidge, and LBJ were re-elected.

 

Notable Historic Non-Fiction Titles

Notable Historic Non-Fiction Titles

Longing to learn while you read? Get your history lesson with these notable non-fiction titles.


Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me by Deidre Bair

In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and a recently minted Ph.D. who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could be his biographer despite her never having written a biography before. The next seven years of probing conversations, intercontinental research, singular encounters with Beckett’s friends, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games resulted in Samuel Beckett: A Biography, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Bair to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir.

From Russia with Blood by Heidi Blake

They thought they had found a safe haven in the green hills of England. They were wrong. One by one, the Russian oligarchs, dissidents, and gangsters who fled to Britain after Vladimir Putin came to power dropped dead in strange or suspicious circumstances. One by one, their British lawyers and fixers met similarly grisly ends. Yet, one by one, the British authorities shut down every investigation — and carried on courting the Kremlin.

Give Me Liberty by Richard Brookhiser

Award-winning historian and biographer Richard Brookhiser offers up a truer and more inspiring story of American nationalism as it has evolved over four hundred years. He examines America’s history through thirteen documents that made the United States a new country in a new world: a free country. We are what we are because of them; we stay true to what we are by staying true to them.

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple

In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army. The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional company and became something much more unusual: an international corporation transformed into an aggressive colonial power.

The Shadow of Vesuvius: a Life of Pliny by Daisy Dunn

When Pliny the Elder perished at Stabiae during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, he left behind an enormous compendium of knowledge, his thirty-seven-volume Natural History, and a teenaged nephew who revered him as a father. Grieving his loss, Pliny the Younger inherited the Elder’s notebooks―filled with pearls of wisdom―and his legacy.

Wounded Shepherd by Austin Ivereigh

This deeply contextual biography centers on the tensions generated by the pope’s attempt to turn the Church away from power and tradition and outwards to engage humanity with God’s mercy. Through battles with corrupt bankers and worldly cardinals, in turbulent meetings and on global trips, history’s first Latin-American pope has attempted to reshape the Church to evangelize the contemporary age. At the same time, he has stirred other leaders’ deep-seated fear that the Church is capitulating to modernity―leaders who have challenged his bid to create a more welcoming, attentive institution.

Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers by Brian Kilmeade

In March 1836, the Mexican army led by General Santa Anna massacred more than two hundred Texians who had been trapped in the Alamo. After thirteen days of fighting, American legends Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett died there, along with other Americans who had moved to Texas looking for a fresh start. It was a crushing blow to Texas’s fight for freedom. But the story doesn’t end there. The defeat galvanized the Texian settlers, and under General Sam Houston’s leadership they rallied. Six weeks after the Alamo, Houston and his band of settlers defeated Santa Anna’s army in a shocking victory, winning the independence for which so many had died.

Blowout by Rachel Maddow

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events.

Peace, War and Liberty by Christopher A. Preble

Has the United States been a force for liberty around the world? Should it be? And if so, how? To answer these questions, Christopher A. Preble traces the history of U.S. foreign policy from the American Founding to the present, examining the ideas that have animated it, asking whether America’s policy choices have made the world safer and freer, and considering the impact of those choices on freedom at home.

Betrayal in Berlin by Steve Vogel

Its code name was “Operation Gold,” a wildly audacious CIA plan to construct a clandestine tunnel into East Berlin to tap into critical KGB and Soviet military telecommunication lines. The tunnel, crossing the border between the American and Soviet sectors, would have to be 1,500 feet (the length of the Empire State Building) with state-of-the-art equipment, built and operated literally under the feet of their Cold War adversaries. Success would provide the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service access to a vast treasure of intelligence. Exposure might spark a dangerous confrontation with the Soviets. Yet as the Allies were burrowing into the German soil, a traitor, code-named Agent Diamond by his Soviet handlers, was burrowing into the operation itself. . .