Friday Reads: Memoirs by Presidents
The publishing news of this week is the announcement of President Barack Obama’s two-volume memoir, the first of which, A PROMISED LAND, will publish on November 17, 2020. It brings to mind other presidential memoirs, including his two before becoming our 44th American President. For a frame of reference, we encourage you to immerse yourself in the words of our former Presidents:
THE AUDACITY OF HOPE: THOUGHTS ON RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN DREAM by Barack Obama
The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama’s call for a different brand of politics—a politics for those weary of bitter partisanship and alienated by the “endless clash of armies” we see in congress and on the campaign trail; a politics rooted in the faith, inclusiveness, and nobility of spirit at the heart of “our improbable experiment in democracy.” At the heart of this book is Barack Obama’s vision of how we can move beyond our divisions to tackle concrete problems. He examines the growing economic insecurity of American families, the racial and religious tensions within the body politic, and the transnational threats—from terrorism to pandemic—that gather beyond our shores. And he grapples with the role that faith plays in a democracy—where it is vital and where it must never intrude. Underlying his stories is a vigorous search for connection: the foundation for a radically hopeful political consensus.
DREAMS FROM MY FATHER: A STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE by Barack Obama
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey—first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.
PERSONAL MEMOIRS by Ulysses S. Grant
Faced with cancer and financial ruin, Ulysses S. Grant wrote his personal memoirs to secure his family’s future—and won himself a unique place in American letters. Acclaimed by writers as diverse as Mark Twain and Gertrude Stein, Grant’s memoirs demonstrate the intelligence, intense determination, and laconic modesty that made him the Union’s foremost commander. Personal Memoirs is devoted almost entirely to his life as a soldier, tracing the trajectory of his extraordinary career from West Point cadet to general-in-chief of all Union armies. With their directness and clarity, his writings on war are without rival in American literature.
MY LIFE by Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton’s My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of the 42nd U.S. president, a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public. It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House—a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life. President Clinton’s book is also one of the most concretely detailed, nuanced account of a presidency ever written—encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements.
DECISION POINTS by George W. Bush
In this candid and gripping memoir, President George W. Bush describes the critical decisions that shaped his presidency and personal life.
Decision Points brings readers inside the Texas governor’s mansion on the night of the 2000 election, aboard Air Force One during the harrowing hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001, into the Situation Room moments before the start of the war in Iraq, and behind the scenes at the White House for many other historic presidential decisions.
A WORLD TRANSFORMED by George H. W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft
In A World Transformed, Mr. Bush and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, provide a fascinating account of a president and an administration faced with unprecedented obstacles and unrivaled opportunities as they forged a foreign policy at the end of the Cold War.
“Reveals not only a wealth of detail about the main lines of foreign policy at the highest level during a most portentous period of our history, but also of the truly admirable characters of the men who made it.” -The Philadelphia Inquirer
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) left a vast literary legacy in the form of journal entries, notes, addresses, and seventy thousand letters. This extraordinary volume represents many of his most important contributions to American political thought. It features his Autobiography, which contains the original and revised versions of the Declaration of Independence; the Anas, or Notes (1791–1809); Biographical Sketches; selections from Notes on the State of Virginia, the Travel Journals, and Essay on Anglo-Saxon; a portion of his public papers, including his first and second inaugural addresses; and more than two hundred letters. Taken together, these writings offer indispensable insight into the mind of the man who was instrumental in formulating and guiding this nation’s principles.
In 1898, as the Spanish-American War was escalating, Theodore Roosevelt assembled an improbable regiment of Ivy Leaguers, cowboys, Native Americans, African-Americans, and Western Territory land speculators. This group of men, which became known as the Rough Riders, trained for four weeks in the Texas desert and then set sail for Cuba. Over the course of the summer, Roosevelt’s Rough Riders fought valiantly, and sometimes recklessly, in the Cuban foothills, incurring casualties at a far greater rate than the Spanish. Roosevelt kept a detailed diary from the time he left Washington until his triumphant return from Cuba later that year. The Rough Riders was published to instant acclaim in 1899. Robust in its style and mesmerizing in its account of battle, it is exhilarating, illuminating, and utterly essential reading for every armchair historian and at-home general.
For more on these titles visit the collection Memoirs by Presidents
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