“Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents” is currently my favorite book. Kenneth C. Davis has a writing style that is easy to read and understand. The presidential biographies are brief but detailed. His book is well organized, and each biography ends with online resources for further study. If you have any interest in American history and/or individual presidents I highly recommend it.
Whether you agree with Mr. Davis’s assessment of each administration or not, it is abundantly clear that none of our presidents, including the “founding fathers” were saints. They were men with agendas and ambitions that weren’t always in the best interests of the citizens they governed. Some had secret personal problems and some had very public problems. They fought with their colleagues, with other states, with other countries, and sometimes with their own conscience. However, each one managed to get elected to the highest office in the land, most stayed in office for at least one term, and some actually helped create a better life for all of us.
In addition to information about the presidents there are wonderful tidbits about the White House itself. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the first presidents used an outhouse or that their home didn’t have heat or hot water. It wasn’t until Polk’s administration that the White House got a ducted heating system. But it’s those details that make all of the stories so fascinating.
Like a lot of our history there are some things about the early presidents that are difficult to understand. Our first twelve had slaves, sometimes openly and other times in secret. Clashes between slave owners and abolitionists across the country were usually violent and yet the leaders of the land weren’t always the best role models.
I won’t spoil your reading pleasure by telling too many secrets, but I will say that even though I thought I knew the basics about most of the presidents, it turns out that I really didn’t know much.