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NLS Minibibliographies

Recent Biographies of American Presidents

Content last modified February 2013

Introduction

Biography has become an increasingly popular genre in recent years. Some literary critics believe the appeal of a biography lies in the way it combines the qualities of good fiction—strong plot and characters—with the additional benefit of being educational. Biographies of presidents have even more to offer. Biographers will often mine source material to find obscure information that provides a more complete context for well-known historical incidents. Some presidential biographies provide background information about events in crucial times and give personal insight into the national history.  

The NLS collection includes more than seven hundred presidential biographies. This minibibliography presents a selection of recent titles. Titles are available in braille and/or audiobook formats. Recorded titles are available on cassette, digital cartridge, and/or on the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), https://nlsbard.loc.gov, which allows registered patrons to download digital talking books and audio magazines. Some digital titles may be available only for download. Braille titles are also available on BARD.

Readers who are interested in more presidential biographies should contact a reader advisor at their local cooperating library to find out what is available.

John Adams   (1735–1826)

John Adams

by David G. McCullough

Award-winning author chronicles the life and times of America's second president, New Englander John Adams. Examines his pivotal role as revolutionary, diplomat, and politician as well as his friendship—and rivalry—with Thomas Jefferson. Primary sources detail his relationship with his wife Abigail, four children, and notable contemporaries. Bestseller. 2001.

RC 52275

BR 13426, volume 1

BR 13426, volume 2

BR 13426, volume 3

BR 13426, volume 4

BR 13426, volume 5

BR 13426, volume 6

BR 13426, volume 7

John Quincy Adams   (1767–1848)

John Quincy Adams

by Robert Vincent Remini

Personal and political portrait of John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States and son of the second president. Describes his long diplomatic career, his difficulties and accomplishments as commander-in-chief, his return to the House of Representatives after the presidency, and his defense of the participants in the 1839 Amistad slave revolt. 2002.

BR 14399, volume 1

BR 14399, volume 2

George W. Bush   (1946–)

George W. Bush

By Veda Boyd Jones

Biography of the forty-third president of the United States, George W. Bush. Details Bush's family life, including the influence of his father. Discusses his business career and entry into politics. Highlights the controversial 2000 presidential election and the war on terror. For junior and senior high readers. 2007.

DB 64913

RC 64913

William J. Clinton   (1946–)

My Life

by Bill Clinton

Autobiography of William Jefferson Clinton, forty-second American president. Commercial audiobook. 2004.

DB 58101 (Abridged edition, narrated by Bill Clinton)

RC 58101 (Abridged edition, narrated by Bill Clinton)

DB 58100 (in process. Full text, narrated by Michael Beck)

RC 58100 (Full text, narrated by Michael Beck)

DB 58960 (Full text, Spanish language)

RC 58960 (Full text, Spanish language)

Bill Clinton: An American Journey

by Nigel Hamilton

A chronicle of the life of Bill Clinton from family background and childhood to his terms as president. Hamilton examines the highlights of Clinton's political career as well as the character flaws that undermined his successes. 2003.

DB 57118

RC 57118

Dwight D. Eisenhower   (1890–1969)

Ike: An American Hero

by Michael Korda

Chronicles Dwight D. Eisenhower's rise from Kansas farm boy to supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II. Details Ike's personal life, military career, and two terms as U.S. president during the Cold War. Some strong language. 2007.

DB 65439

RC 65439

Gerald R. Ford   (1913–2006)

Gerald R. Ford

by Douglas Brinkley

Personal and political snapshot of Gerald Ford, who became commander in chief in 1974 after the Watergate scandal forced Richard Nixon to resign. Chronicles Ford's ascent in Michigan's Republican Party and national politics that led to his three-year presidential term. Discusses his achievements and Midwestern character. 2007.

BR 17886, volume 1

BR 17886, volume 2

Ulysses S. Grant   (1822–1885)

Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822–1865

by Brooks D. Simpson

Account of the Union general, nicknamed the "American Sphinx," culminating in the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. Probes the nature of Grant's character while detailing his personal and professional lives, including his financial and business failures, his military career, and his successes on the battlefield. 2000.

RC 51090

Andrew Jackson   (1767–1845)

Andrew Jackson, His Life and Times

by H.W. Brands

Biographical study of Andrew Jackson covers his South Carolina upbringing, years as a lawyer and Tennessee congressman, his military exploits, and his contributions as president. Portrays his respect for states' rights while being devoted to preserving the Union. Commercial audiobook. Violence and some strong language. 2005.

DB 60681

RC 60681

The Passions of Andrew Jackson

by Andrew Burstein

An intimate portrait of the man who served as America's seventh president from 1829–1837. Burstein examines Jackson's formative years on the rugged Carolina frontier, his rise from poverty to become a general, and his role in the Aaron Burr conspiracy. He emphasizes the close political friendships that influenced Jackson's life. 2003.

DB 57910

RC 57910

Andrew Jackson

by Sean Wilentz

Princeton historian analyzes the life of the seventh American president, Andrew Jackson, in the context of his times. Portrays Jackson as a military hero who endorsed the concept of the people as a sovereign power. Highlights Jackson's 1828 election at the dawn of the Age of the Democratic Revolution. 2005.

BR 17386, volume 1

BR 17386, volume 2

Thomas Jefferson   (1743–1826)

Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

by Christopher Hitchens

Journalist's concise biography of Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. president. Posits that Jefferson "designed America" by incorporating the concept of human rights into the Declaration of Independence. Describes the public and private life of the man of contradictions, who was both a freedom advocate and a slaveholder. 2005.

DB 61778

RC 61778

Lyndon B. Johnson   (1908–1973)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power

by Robert A. Caro

Author immersed himself for seven years in Johnson's life to recreate the early life of Lyndon Johnson. Provides anecdotes of his childhood, college years, and early political career to reveal Johnson's forceful personality. Bestseller. 1982.

RC 18676

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent

by Robert A. Caro

Focuses on Johnson’s brief military service, his acquisition of wealth through his Austin radio station (KTBC), and the 1948 election, won by only eighty-seven votes, which sent Johnson to the U.S. Senate and changed history. Bestseller. 1990.

DB 30837

RC 30837

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate

by Robert A. Caro

Explains how Johnson, elected to the Senate in 1948, mastered the legislative system and maneuvered himself into a spot on the ticket with JFK in 1960. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2002.

DB 54174

RC 54174

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power

by Robert A. Caro

Covers the years 1958–1964. Depicts Johnson's failed 1960 presidential campaign, frustrations as vice president, ascent to power after JFK's assassination, and push for groundbreaking civil rights and social legislation. Bestseller. Commercial audiobook. 2012.

DB 74635

John F. Kennedy   (1917–1963)

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963

by Robert Dallek

Portrait of the former president emphasizes the virtues and faults that made him "seem both exceptional and ordinary." Source materials shed light on JFK's lifelong health problems, family influences on his character, and his philandering as well as his navy service record, congressional terms, and presidential policies. Bestseller. 2003.

DB 56246 (in process)

RC 56246

Abraham Lincoln   (1809–1865)

Abraham Lincoln

by Thomas Keneally

Concise biography of the Civil War president. Discusses Lincoln's backwoods upbringing, storytelling gift, and entry into politics. Focuses on his presidency during a pivotal time in U.S. history. 2003.

BR 14625, volume 1

BR 14625, volume 2

A. Lincoln: A Biography

by Ronald C. White

Chronological narrative of President Abraham Lincoln's life describes the influence of his stepmother Sarah, his political rise in Illinois, and his election campaigns. White, a fellow at the Huntington Library, uses primary sources to offer insight into Lincoln's moral and intellectual thinking. Bestseller. 2009.

DB 69003

RC 69003

James Madison   (1751–1836)

James Madison

by Garry Wills

Views James Madison in his role as the first executive to lead a war (in 1812) and the circumstances that influenced his time in office. Traces his later life of public service. 2002.

BR 14305, volume 1

BR 14305, volume 2

James Monroe   (1758–1831)

James Monroe

by Gary Hart

Details the life of America's fifth president James Monroe, who is primarily known for the doctrine that bears his name. Traces Monroe's career as a soldier, diplomat, and politician who created a standing military and a national bank. Highlights the signing of the Missouri Compromise that regulated slavery. 2005.

BR 17311, volume 1

BR 17311, volume 2

Barack Obama   (1961–)

Barack Obama: The Politics of Hope

By William Michael Davis

Biography of Illinois senator Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother. Discusses Obama's upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia. Recounts his education, community work, and political career through the start of his presidential campaign in 2007. For junior and senior high readers. 2008.

BR 17822, volume 1

Ronald Reagan   (1911–2004)

The Reagan Diaries

by Ronald Reagan and Douglas Brinkley

Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of The Boys of Pointe du Hoc (DB/RC 61223), edits journals kept by fortieth president Ronald Reagan during his two terms in office, from 1981–1989. Daily chronicles include Reagan's thoughts on his family, political issues, religion, and "his empathy for citizens with physical disabilities." Bestseller. 2007.

DB 64804

RC 64804

Franklin D. Roosevelt   (1882–1945)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

by Roy Jenkins and Richard E. Neustadt

British historian traces the life of the thirty-second U.S. president—the only chief executive to serve more than two terms. Highlights Roosevelt's family history, his controversial concept of the New Deal for combating the Great Depression, and the 1941 entry of the country into World War II. 2003.

BR 18300, volume 1

BR 18300, volume 2

FDR

by Jean Edward Smith

Author of John Marshall (DB/RC 44531) draws on archives to pen a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States. Chronicles his political career as governor of New York and four terms as commander in chief. Explores his complex personal life involving his family and mistresses. Commercial audiobook. 2007.

DB 63751

RC 63751

BR 17365, volume 1

BR 17365, volume 2

BR 17365, volume 3

BR 17365, volume 4

BR 17365, volume 5

BR 17365, volume 6

BR 17365, volume 7

BR 17365, volume 8

BR 17365, volume 9

BR 17365, volume 10

BR 17365, volume 11

Theodore Roosevelt   (1858–1919)

Theodore Roosevelt

by Louis Auchincloss

Brief biography of President Theodore Roosevelt looks at his family life and career, highlights his major accomplishments and innovations, and attempts to separate myths from realities. 2001.

BR 14088, volume 1

Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life

by Kathleen Dalton

Chronicles Teddy Roosevelt's personal life and political legacy. Emphasizes his struggle to overcome childhood illnesses, his adventurous spirit, and his dedication to family and depicts him as a rugged but complex man of contradictions. Discusses how his conservative political views evolved to embrace progressive social reforms. 2002.

DB 55994 (in process)

RC 55994

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

by Edmund Morris

A detailed look at the man who was a leader in the New York State Assembly at the age of 23, second-in-command of the Rough Riders, and president of the United States. Traces events from his birth in 1858 until his inauguration in 1901. 1979.

DB 14168

RC 14168

Theodore Rex

by Edmund Morris

Concentrates on Theodore Roosevelt's two terms of office as president following the assassination of William McKinley in 1901. Discusses his major achievements, including a Nobel Peace Prize, the Panama Canal Treaty, and enduring antitrust and conservation legislation. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2001.

DB 53306

RC 53306

Colonel Roosevelt

by Edmund Morris

Details Republican Theodore Roosevelt's last decade of life after his presidential term ended in 1909. Describes his year of worldwide travel, feuds with successors William Taft and Woodrow Wilson, and declining health. Bestseller. 2010.

DB 72124

Martin Van Buren   (1782–1862)

Martin Van Buren

by Edward L. Widmer

Traces the career of the eighth U.S. president, Martin Van Buren, a New Yorker raised in a Dutch-speaking household. Recounts his stints as Andrew Jackson's secretary of state and vice president. Describes the economic crisis and slavery debates that limited the Democrat to one term in office. 2005.

RC 62699

DB 62699 (in process)

George Washington   (1732–1799)

Washington: A Life

by Ron Chernow

Comprehensive biography of America's first president. Uses previously unavailable letters and papers to delve into Washington's personality and private life, including his beliefs about slavery. Chronicles the wars and political conflicts that shaped the new country. Some violence. Pulitzer Prize. Bestseller. 2010.

DB 72132

His Excellency: George Washington

by Joseph J. Ellis

Author of Founding Brothers (RC 51469/BR 12931) delves into the life and times of America's first president. Uses personal papers and historical accounts to portray the man who was a French and Indian War soldier, plantation owner, businessman, and savvy politician who forged a new nation. Bestseller. 2004.

DB 59070

RC 59070

BR 15564, volume 1

BR 15564, volume 2

BR 15564, volume 3

BR 15564, volume 4

Woodrow Wilson   (1856–1924)

Woodrow Wilson

by Louis Auchincloss

A brief biography probing the character of the twenty-eighth president of the United States. Discusses Wilson's southern upbringing, Protestant background, and academic career. Examines his role in leading the United States during World War I and his disappointment in the country's failure to endorse the League of Nations. 2000.

BR 12899, volume 1


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Posted on 2013-06-28