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Recent Biographies of American Presidents

Content last modified February 2018


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), 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.
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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.
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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.
Download DB64913

William J. Clinton (1946–)

My Life
by Bill Clinton

Autobiography of William Jefferson Clinton, forty-second American president. Commercial audiobook. 2004.
Download DB58101 (Abridged edition, narrated by Bill Clinton)
Download DB58100 (Full text, narrated by Michael Beck)
Download DB58960 (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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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.
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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.
Download DB69003

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.
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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.
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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.
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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/RC61223), 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.
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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.
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by Jean Edward Smith

Author of John Marshall (DB/RC44531) 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Donald Trump (1946–)

See Donald Trump Minibibliography

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.

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.
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His Excellency: George Washington
by Joseph J. Ellis

Author of Founding Brothers (RC51469/BR12931) 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.
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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.
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