The best 39 Presidents books

Politics and leadership go hand in hand, and few positions hold as much power and responsibility as that of the president. From legendary figures to controversial characters, this book list delves into the lives and legacies of some of the most influential presidents in history.
Discover the triumphs, challenges, and defining moments that shaped these leaders and the countries they governed. Whether you're a history buff or simply curious about the highest office in the land, this collection offers valuable insights into the world of presidents.

The best 39 Presidents books
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1
Presidents Books: The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

The River of Doubt

Candice Millard
Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
4.1 (57 ratings)
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What's The River of Doubt about?

The River of Doubt (2005) is about former US President Theodore Roosevelt's perilous 1913–1914 expedition into the Amazon rainforest alongside Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon. It chronicles the challenges they faced, from disease and dangerous wildlife to potential mutiny, as they navigated an uncharted river. The journey pushed every member to their limits and nearly cost Roosevelt his life.

Who should read The River of Doubt?

  • History buffs interested in Roosevelt's post-presidential adventures
  • Explorers fascinated by the Amazon
  • Anyone looking for tales of human endurance

2
Presidents Books: Destiny of the Republic by

Destiny of the Republic

A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

What's Destiny of the Republic about?

Destiny of the Republic tells the gripping story of the assassination of President James A. Garfield and the extraordinary medical and political drama that followed. Through meticulous research and vivid storytelling, Candice Millard brings to life the characters and events that shaped this pivotal moment in American history. It is a fascinating exploration of power, ambition, and the tragic consequences of one man's destiny colliding with the fate of a nation.

Who should read Destiny of the Republic?

  • History buffs looking to learn about lesser-known American presidents
  • Readers interested in the medical advancements and challenges of the late 19th century
  • Those who enjoy narratives that blend politics, medicine, and biography

3
Presidents Books: Game Change by

Game Change

Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime

What's Game Change about?

Game Change is a gripping account of the 2008 presidential election, written by political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. The book provides an inside look at the key players, strategies, and dramatic moments that shaped the historic campaign. With behind-the-scenes anecdotes and in-depth analysis, Game Change offers a fascinating exploration of how a single election can alter the course of history.

Who should read Game Change?

  • Political junkies who want an inside look at the 2008 US presidential campaign
  • Readers interested in understanding the complexities of American politics and campaign strategies
  • Those who enjoy behind-the-scenes narratives and insider accounts of major events

What's Lincoln about?

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald is a comprehensive biography of the 16th President of the United States. It delves into Lincoln's humble beginnings, his political career, and his leadership during the Civil War. Drawing on extensive research, the book offers deep insights into Lincoln's character, beliefs, and the challenges he faced as he guided the nation through one of its most tumultuous periods.

Who should read Lincoln?

  • History enthusiasts who want to learn about Abraham Lincoln's life and presidency
  • Readers interested in leadership and how individuals can make a lasting impact on society
  • Those who enjoy well-researched and comprehensive biographies

What's Assassination Vacation about?

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell is a witty and insightful exploration of the history of presidential assassinations in the United States. The author takes readers on a journey to various historical sites and delves into the lives of the assassins, providing a unique perspective on these tragic events.

Who should read Assassination Vacation?

  • Anyone with an interest in American history, especially presidential assassinations
  • Readers who enjoy a blend of humor and well-researched facts
  • People who like to explore offbeat and unconventional topics through travel and storytelling

What's The Accidental President about?

The Accidental President by A. J. Baime is a gripping account of the unexpected rise of Harry S. Truman to the presidency of the United States. Filled with political intrigue and personal drama, this book delves into the challenges and decisions Truman faced as he stepped into the role of leader during a critical time in history.

Who should read The Accidental President?

  • History enthusiasts who want to gain a deeper understanding of Harry Truman's presidency
  • Individuals interested in the behind-the-scenes stories of political power and decision-making
  • Readers who enjoy engaging and well-researched biographies

What's All the President's Men about?

All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is a gripping account of their investigation into the Watergate scandal. This book delves into the intricate details of their journalistic work, uncovering the web of corruption and deceit that ultimately led to President Nixon's downfall. It is a compelling and influential piece of investigative journalism that exposes the power of a free press.

Who should read All the President's Men?

  • Readers who are interested in investigative journalism and uncovering political scandals
  • Individuals who want to gain a deep understanding of the Watergate scandal and its implications
  • People who appreciate detailed and well-researched accounts of historical events

What's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt about?

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is a biography that delves into the early life and political career of the 26th President of the United States. Authored by Edmund Morris, it provides a detailed account of Roosevelt's journey from a sickly child to a robust and influential leader. The book offers insights into his progressive policies, unyielding determination, and lasting impact on American history.

Who should read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt?

  • Readers who are fascinated by the life and achievements of Theodore Roosevelt
  • History enthusiasts looking for an in-depth exploration of the Progressive Era
  • Individuals who are inspired by stories of perseverance, leadership, and personal growth

What's Washington about?

Washington by Ron Chernow is a comprehensive biography that delves into the life and legacy of the first President of the United States, George Washington. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Chernow offers a nuanced portrayal of Washington, exploring his leadership during the American Revolution, his role in shaping the new nation, and the complexities of his character.

Who should read Washington?

  • History enthusiasts and those curious about the life of George Washington
  • Readers interested in the founding of the United States and its early leaders
  • People who enjoy in-depth biographies and learning about influential figures

What's The Reagan Diaries about?

The Reagan Diaries offers an intimate glimpse into the thoughts and experiences of President Ronald Reagan. Drawing from his daily journal entries, this book provides valuable insights into the inner workings of the Reagan administration and the major events that shaped his presidency. It is a fascinating and revealing read for anyone interested in American politics and history.

Who should read The Reagan Diaries?

  • History enthusiasts who want an inside look at the Reagan presidency
  • Political buffs curious about the daily life and decision-making process of a US president
  • Readers interested in understanding the mindset and personality of Ronald Reagan

What's John Adams about?

John Adams by David McCullough is a comprehensive biography that delves into the life and legacy of the second President of the United States. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, the book offers a vivid portrait of a pioneering and often misunderstood figure in American history.

Who should read John Adams?

  • History enthusiasts who want detailed insights into the life of a founding father
  • Readers interested in the early politics and government of the United States
  • Those who appreciate well-researched biographies with a compelling narrative

What's Theodore Rex about?

Theodore Rex (2001) is a biography that delves into the eventful presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Written by Edmund Morris, it provides a detailed account of Roosevelt's time in office, his progressive policies, and his larger-than-life personality. From trust-busting to conservation efforts, the book offers a fascinating insight into one of America's most dynamic leaders.

Who should read Theodore Rex?

  • History enthusiasts, especially those interested in the early 20th century
  • Readers who enjoy in-depth biographies of influential figures
  • Individuals curious about the complexities of political power and leadership

What's Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream about?

Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin is a comprehensive biography that delves into the life and presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. Goodwin explores Johnson's complex personality, his political career, and his ambitious domestic agenda, offering a nuanced portrayal of a man who shaped American history during a time of great social and political change.

Who should read Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream?

  • History enthusiasts who want to explore the life and presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Readers interested in the civil rights movement and its impact on American society
  • Individuals who appreciate well-researched and engaging biographies

What's Being Nixon about?

Being Nixon by Evan Thomas is a compelling biography that delves into the complex life and presidency of Richard Nixon. Through extensive research and interviews, Thomas provides a nuanced portrayal of a man who shaped American politics in both positive and negative ways. The book offers a deep exploration of Nixon's personal struggles, political career, and the lasting impact of his presidency.

Who should read Being Nixon?

  • Enthusiastic readers who enjoy in-depth biographies
  • History buffs interested in the complex personality of Richard Nixon
  • Those curious about the inner workings and challenges of political leadership

15
Presidents Books: FDR by

What's FDR about?

FDR by Jean Edward Smith is a comprehensive biography that delves into the life and presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Drawing on extensive research and access to previously unavailable documents, the book offers a detailed account of FDR's political career, his leadership during the Great Depression and World War II, and his lasting impact on American history. It provides a nuanced portrayal of a complex and influential figure.

Who should read FDR?

  • History enthusiasts who want to learn about one of America's most influential presidents
  • Those interested in understanding the complexities of leadership during times of crisis
  • Readers who enjoy well-researched and comprehensive biographies

What's Colonel Roosevelt about?

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris is a biography that delves into the adventurous and influential life of Theodore Roosevelt after his presidency. It explores his travels, political endeavors, and conservation efforts, offering a comprehensive look at a remarkable figure in American history.

Who should read Colonel Roosevelt?

  • History enthusiasts who want to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt
  • Readers interested in American political figures and their impact on society
  • Those who enjoy biographies with in-depth research and engaging storytelling

What's Mornings on Horseback about?

Mornings on Horseback is a biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt written by David McCullough. It delves into the formative years of the future president, exploring his family background, his struggles with illness, and his journey to becoming a passionate advocate for change. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, the book offers a fascinating glimpse into the early life of one of America's most influential leaders.

Who should read Mornings on Horseback?

  • Readers who are curious about the early life and formative years of Theodore Roosevelt
  • History enthusiasts who want to gain a deeper understanding of late 19th-century America
  • Individuals who enjoy well-researched and engaging biographies

What's A Country of Vast Designs about?

A Country of Vast Designs by Robert W. Merry is a captivating biography of President James K. Polk. It delves into Polk's ambitious vision for the United States, his determination to expand its territory, and the significant impact his presidency had on the nation. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Merry offers a fresh perspective on this often overlooked leader.

Who should read A Country of Vast Designs?

  • History enthusiasts, especially those interested in 19th century American politics
  • Readers who enjoy biographies of influential and often overlooked figures
  • People who want a deeper understanding of the expansion and development of the United States

What's His Excellency about?

His Excellency by Joseph J. Ellis is a compelling biography that delves into the life of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Ellis offers a fresh perspective on Washington's leadership, character, and legacy, painting a vivid portrait of this influential figure in American history.

Who should read His Excellency?

  • Readers interested in a comprehensive and engaging biography of George Washington
  • History enthusiasts who want to gain a deeper understanding of America's founding era
  • Individuals who appreciate well-researched and thought-provoking accounts of influential figures

What's Coolidge about?

Coolidge by Amity Shlaes is a biography that delves into the life and presidency of Calvin Coolidge. It offers a fresh perspective on this often overlooked figure in American history, exploring his beliefs in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the power of the individual. Shlaes presents a compelling narrative that sheds light on Coolidge's legacy and its relevance to contemporary political and economic debates.

Who should read Coolidge?

  • Readers who are interested in American history and the Roaring Twenties
  • People who want to learn about the life and presidency of Calvin Coolidge
  • Those who appreciate well-researched biographies and insights into political leadership

What's No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt about?

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by Doris Kearns Goodwin is a compelling account of the extraordinary partnership between Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor during World War II. Through extensive research and interviews, Goodwin delves into the personal and political dynamics that shaped this pivotal period in history. The book offers a unique perspective on the Roosevelts and their impact on the war effort and the world at large.

Who should read No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt?

  • History enthusiasts who want to understand the complexities of the Roosevelt era
  • Readers interested in the dynamics of power and leadership in times of crisis
  • Individuals who appreciate insightful biographies of influential figures

What's The Power Broker about?

The Power Broker (1974) by Robert A. Caro is a monumental biography that delves into the life and influence of urban planner Robert Moses. Through meticulous research and compelling storytelling, Caro reveals how Moses shaped the landscape of New York City and wielded immense power behind the scenes, leaving a lasting impact on the city's infrastructure and politics.

Who should read The Power Broker?

  • Individuals interested in urban planning, politics, and power dynamics
  • Readers who enjoy in-depth and meticulously researched biographies
  • People who want to understand the impact of one person's influence on a city's development

What's John Quincy Adams about?

John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger is a comprehensive biography that delves into the life of the sixth president of the United States. From his early years as the son of founding father John Adams to his presidency and beyond, this book offers a detailed account of Adams's political career, his dedication to abolitionism, and his lasting impact on American history.

Who should read John Quincy Adams?

  • Avid readers interested in American history and political figures
  • Students looking to expand their knowledge of the early United States
  • People who admire individuals who stand up for their principles and fight for justice

What's With Malice Toward None about?

With Malice Toward None by Stephen B. Oates is a comprehensive biography of Abraham Lincoln, delving into his personal and political life. The book provides a detailed account of Lincoln's journey from his humble beginnings to becoming one of the most revered presidents in American history. It offers insights into his leadership during the Civil War and his efforts to unite a divided nation.

Who should read With Malice Toward None?

  • Readers who are interested in the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln
  • History enthusiasts who want to gain a deeper understanding of the American Civil War era
  • Individuals who appreciate well-researched and thoughtful biographies

What's First in His Class about?

First in His Class by David Maraniss is a biography of Bill Clinton that delves into his early years, education, and rise to power. It provides an in-depth look at the influences and experiences that shaped Clinton into the influential political figure he became. Through extensive research and interviews, Maraniss offers a compelling portrayal of a man who aimed to be first in his class in everything he pursued.

Who should read First in His Class?

  • Readers interested in the personal and academic journey of Bill Clinton
  • Individuals curious about the history and dynamics of American politics
  • Those who appreciate in-depth biographies of influential figures

What's Franklin and Winston about?

Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham is a compelling dual biography that delves into the unique friendship and partnership between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during World War II. Through extensive research and captivating storytelling, Meacham offers a deep insight into the personal and political dynamics that shaped the course of history.

Who should read Franklin and Winston?

  • History enthusiasts who want to understand the dynamics of the World War II era
  • People interested in leadership and diplomacy during a time of global crisis
  • Readers who enjoy biographies of influential figures and their relationships

What's Eisenhower in War and Peace about?

Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith is a comprehensive biography that delves into the life and leadership of Dwight D. Eisenhower. From his military career to his presidency, the book offers a detailed analysis of Eisenhower's decisions and their impact on the world. It provides a deep understanding of the man behind the public image and his significant contributions to history.

Who should read Eisenhower in War and Peace?

  • History enthusiasts and those interested in American presidency
  • Readers who want to understand Eisenhower's leadership in World War II and during his presidency
  • Individuals looking for insights into the complexities of war and peace

What's Profiles in Courage about?

Profiles in Courage is a book written by John F. Kennedy that profiles eight United States senators who displayed exceptional bravery and integrity in making difficult decisions for the greater good. Published in 1956, it highlights the importance of political courage and the impact it can have on shaping the course of history.

Who should read Profiles in Courage?

  • Individuals seeking inspiration from acts of political courage
  • History enthusiasts interested in pivotal moments in American politics
  • Readers who enjoy biographies that delve into the complexities of leadership

What's Millard Fillmore about?

Millard Fillmore by Robert J. Rayback provides a comprehensive look at the life and presidency of the 13th President of the United States. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, the book delves into Fillmore's political career, his role in shaping American history, and the complex issues of his time. It offers a nuanced portrayal of a often overlooked figure in American politics.

Who should read Millard Fillmore?

  • Readers interested in American history, particularly the pre-Civil War era
  • Individuals curious about the lesser-known presidents of the United States
  • Those who want to gain a deeper understanding of Millard Fillmore's contributions and controversies

What's The Path to Power about?

The Path to Power by Robert A. Caro is a compelling biography that delves into the early life and rise to power of Lyndon B. Johnson. Through meticulous research and captivating storytelling, Caro explores the political landscape of Texas and the challenges Johnson faced on his journey to becoming one of the most influential figures in American history. It offers valuable insights into the nature of power and the complexities of political ambition.

Who should read The Path to Power?

  • Readers interested in understanding the complex journey to political power
  • Individuals who want to gain insights into the life and leadership of Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Those who appreciate in-depth biographies and historical narratives

What's The Presidents Club about?

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy delves into the exclusive and complex relationships between former U.S. presidents. Through extensive research and interviews, the book uncovers the behind-the-scenes collaborations, rivalries, and friendships that have shaped American history. It offers a unique perspective on the presidency and the power dynamics at play within this elite group.

Who should read The Presidents Club?

  • Readers interested in behind-the-scenes insights into the relationships between US presidents
  • Individuals curious about the dynamics of power and influence in American politics
  • History enthusiasts looking to gain a deeper understanding of the modern presidency

What's Nixonland about?

Nixonland by Rick Perlstein is a comprehensive exploration of the political and social landscape in America during Richard Nixon's rise to power. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, the book delves into the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, revealing the deep divisions and conflicts that shaped an era and left a lasting impact on the country's political climate.

Who should read Nixonland?

  • Readers interested in the history of 1960s America
  • Individuals curious about the rise of Richard Nixon and his impact on the country
  • Those who enjoy in-depth explorations of political and social movements

What's Impeached about?

Impeached by David O. Stewart delves into the dramatic impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson and its far-reaching implications. Stewart offers a gripping account of the political turmoil and power struggles that defined this pivotal moment in American history, shedding new light on a deeply divisive chapter in the nation's past.

Who should read Impeached?

  • History enthusiasts looking for a deep dive into a pivotal moment in American history
  • Political junkies who want to understand the complexities and controversies surrounding presidential impeachments
  • Readers who enjoy thought-provoking narratives that challenge conventional wisdom

What's Decision Points about?

Decision Points is a memoir by George W. Bush in which he reflects on key decisions made during his presidency. Through personal anecdotes and insights, Bush offers a behind-the-scenes look at his thought process and the factors that influenced his choices on issues such as the Iraq War, the financial crisis, and Hurricane Katrina. The book provides a unique perspective on the challenges of leadership and the weight of responsibility in the Oval Office.

Who should read Decision Points?

  • Individuals interested in gaining insight into the decision-making process of a former U.S. President
  • Readers looking to understand the complexities of leadership and the weight of responsibility
  • Those who enjoy autobiographical accounts and political memoirs

What's Master of the Senate about?

Master of the Senate (2002) is a detailed biography of Lyndon B. Johnson by Robert A. Caro. Focusing on Johnson's time in the Senate, the book explores his political mastery and the inner workings of American government. It provides a deep analysis of the power dynamics and legislative processes that shaped Johnson's career and the country itself.

Who should read Master of the Senate?

  • Readers interested in American political history, particularly the mid-20th century
  • Those who want to understand the complexities of power and influence in the US Senate
  • Individuals who appreciate in-depth biographies of influential figures

What's The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant about?

The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant is a fascinating account of one of the most influential figures in American history. In this book, Grant provides a firsthand perspective on the Civil War and offers valuable insights into the political and military strategies of the time. It is a compelling read for anyone interested in the history of the United States.

Who should read The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant?

  • History enthusiasts interested in the American Civil War
  • Readers who enjoy firsthand accounts of historical events
  • Individuals curious about Ulysses S. Grant’s life and perspectives

What's Destiny and Power about?

Destiny and Power by Jon Meacham is a comprehensive biography of George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. Through extensive research and interviews with Bush himself, Meacham provides an insightful look into his life, political career, and the impact he had on shaping American history.

Who should read Destiny and Power?

  • Readers interested in the life and presidency of George H.W. Bush
  • History enthusiasts looking for insights into modern American politics
  • Individuals curious about the personal and professional challenges of a U.S. president

What's An Unfinished Life about?

An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek is a comprehensive biography of John F. Kennedy. Delving into JFK's personal and political life, the book examines his rise to power, his presidency, and the enduring impact he had on the world. Dallek offers a balanced and insightful portrayal of a charismatic leader, while also revealing the challenges and complexities that shaped his time in office. It's a compelling read for anyone interested in American history and the Kennedy era.

Who should read An Unfinished Life?

  • Readers interested in the life and presidency of John F. Kennedy
  • Those who enjoy biographies of influential figures in American history
  • People who want to gain insight into the complexities and challenges of leadership

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What's Grant about?

Grant by Ron Chernow is a comprehensive biography of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States and a key figure in American history. Chernow delves into Grant's early life, his military career during the Civil War, and his presidency, offering a nuanced portrayal of a complex and often misunderstood leader.

Who should read Grant?

  • History enthusiasts and those interested in the Civil War era
  • Readers who enjoy in-depth biographies of historical figures
  • Individuals looking for insights into leadership and perseverance

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 FAQs 

What's the best Presidents book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard The River of Doubt as the ultimate read on Presidents.

What are the Top 10 Presidents books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

Who are the top Presidents book authors?

When it comes to Presidents, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • Candice Millard