Writing these personal histories of public figures can be complicated. The historian Richard Aldous
examines the work of one influential presidential biographer in Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was a prolific writer, chronicling the presidencies of figures such as Andrew Jackson and John F. Kennedy, but he was also deeply flawed. He omitted significant but unflattering details in his biography of Kennedy, and more broadly his work helped to establish the cult of personality around American presidents. Soomin Jung
150 books show how the Trump era has warped our brains
“That’s the trouble with writing about the Trump White House, and reading about it too: The lunacy is appalling yet unsurprising, wholly unpresidential yet entirely on-brand.”
📚 What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, by Carlos Lozada WIKIMEDIA
The complexity of being Richard Nixon
“We have a cartoon version of Nixon in our heads—the dark, pathological figure, vengeful and scheming. Nixon did have a terrible dark side, and it wrecked his presidency. But he was a far more complex—and tragic—figure than we assume.”
📚 Being Nixon: A Man Divided, by Evan Thomas ASSOCIATED PRESS
Herbert Hoover is the model Republicans need
“Never has the United States elected a more accomplished man to the presidency than Herbert Clark Hoover, whose organizational genius saved millions of lives from famine and destitution. Never has the ensuing presidency been marked by worse disasters.”
📚 Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times, by Kenneth Whyte Smith Collection / GAdo / Getty
“The cruelty and degeneracy the future president was subjected to in his youth forged his iron will.”
📚 Abraham Lincoln: A Life, by Michael Burlingame JULES JULIEN
The problem with high-minded politics
“Despite the tension—or maybe because of it—John and John Quincy [Adams] developed a singular bond, a convergence of temperament and intellect that was vital to both men.”
📚 The Problem of Democracy, by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein Illustration by Lincoln Agnew. photos by Bettman; Photoquest; Hulton Deutsch; Kean Collection; H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock; The Boston Globe; The Denver Post; Getty.
The White House mythmaker
“[Arthur Schlesinger Jr.] has a lot to teach us and deserves fresh attention today. No other writer did so much to shape our idea of the presidency—as an office, as an institution, as an incarnation of popular consciousness.”
📚 Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian, by Richard Aldous
📚 The Age of Jackson, by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
📚 A Thousand Days, by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
About us: This week’s newsletter is, written by Kate Cray. The book she’s reading next is Jack, by Marilynne Robinson.
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