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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidents » User review

An Anthology of Exceptional Importance

  • Jun 4, 2001
  • by
Rating:
+5
I join with countless others in praise of this magnificent collection of essays which discuss all but one of the Presidents of the United States. The author of each essay is a distinguished historian who is especially well-qualified to comment on the given subject. James M. McPherson serves as general editor and provides an Introduction which, by itself, is worth the price of the book. He also provides the analysis of Abraham Lincoln. David Rubel assists McPherson in the capacity of editor. Each of us has a special interest in certain Presidents and therefore is inclined to proceed to those essays which discuss them. Fair enough. What I found of special interest and value is the information and analysis provided concerning Presidents in which I had little (if any) prior interest, such as Van Buren, both Harrisons, Polk, Fillmore, and Buchanan. The essays are supplemented by a wealth of illustrations as well as what I view as "historical nuggets." For example, during the administration of John Adams, we learn that on August 28, 1797, "In order to end costly pirate attacks on American merchant shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, the United States signs a treaty with the Barbary Coast state of Tunis. The agreement, ratified by the Senate in January 1800, requires the United States to pay tribute to Tunis." These brief but informative items supplement each essay. The reader is also provided with detailed information about various Presidential campaigns as well as the inaugural addresses of winning candidates, from George Washington (April 30, 789) until Bill Clinton (January 20, 1997). If a higher rating were available, I would give it to this unique volume.

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review by . January 01, 2001
This is a great reference book for those who want to check on the highlights of each President's term, but I found it somewhat lacking in details. I guess I was looking for a history of America from the President's desk, and I didn't get it.However it is entertaining enough, and would be a good addition to any library.
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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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From the beginning, Americans have loved and hated their presidents, and memorialized them both for their achievements and their foibles. In this collection of essays, written by members of the prestigious Society of American Historians, we're gifted with a lively interpretive history of the 41 presidents to date with an emphasis on their dominant themes and achievements as influenced by their personalities and ideologies.

With the focus on presidential style, Joseph J. Ellis examines the ironies in Thomas Jefferson's ideals and actions, as well as his inveterate shyness (imagine a modern-day president who only spoke at his inauguration and presented all legislative proposals in writing). Robert Dallek discusses Lyndon B. Johnson's contradictions as evidenced in his significant domestic achievements and the terrible failure of the Vietnam War. And in the pieces on also-rans like Grant and Coolidge and the disgraced such as Nixon, these historians often use the benefit of hindsight and scholarship to focus on the more redeeming features of each man. The most recent president covered does not get off so lightly, however, as Evan Thomas devotes an inordinate amount of space to Bill Clinton's philandering and slams him with such adjectives as "calculating, shrewd and slovenly."

The book is packed with photographs, illustrations, inaugural addresses, and memorable quotes ("When Theodore attends a wedding, he wants to be the bride, and when he attends a funeral, he wants to be the ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0789450739
ISBN-13: 978-0789450739
Author: James M. McPherson
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley

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