A Presidents Day Reading List

BY Quinn Bowman  February 21, 2011 at 3:30 PM EST

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.

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.

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.

Donald McCoy’s work on Calvin Coolidge humanized the president and made him much more sympathetic to readers, Smith said.

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: