A Presidents Day Reading List
Two of the NewsHour’s regular historian guests gave us a recommended reading list for the holiday.
Richard Norton Smith is a presidential historian and Scholar-in-Residence of History and Public Policy at George Mason University.
Ellen Fitzpatrick is a professor at the University of New Hampshire who specializes in modern American political history. She is the author of six books.
Richard North Smith’s picks:
Smith was hooked on President Woodrow Wilson after reading this book at age 11. “It personalized Wilson in a way nothing else that I ever read had,” Smith said.
- James Thomas Flexner’s Four-Volume George Washington Biography
This four-part series encouraged Smith to write his own book on the first president. Former art historian James Thomas Flexner “has a very visual way of presenting the story,” Smith said.
- Carl Sanburg’s Six-Volume Abraham Lincoln Biography
People still read this six-volume work 70 years after it was published, Smith said.
John Adams by David McCullough “John Adams” by David McCullough.
Smith calls this work by David McCullough a model for writing about history.
- “Calvin Coolidge: The Quiet President” by Donald McCoy.
Donald McCoy’s work on Calvin Coolidge humanized the president and made him much more sympathetic to readers, Smith said.
- “The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader” by Fred Greenstein.
This book was a significant work of revisionist scholarship, Smith said. “It revolutionized how people looked at Eisenhower. One of the most influential revisionist works.”
Ellen Fitzpatrick recommends the following:
“Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny” by Frank Freidel.
“Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald.
“Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life” by Kathleen Dalton.
“President Reagan: The Role Of A Lifetime” by Lou Cannon.
- “Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America” by Thurston Clarke.