By Jeff Burns
Kearns Goodwin has become one of the go-to presidential historians. You can see her as a talking head in many
documentaries and on news shows whenever an historical presidential perspective
is called for. If you’re looking for a
thorough – sometimes too thorough – presidential biography, you should consider
first major work, now out of print, was about a subject that was very close to
her. Lyndon Johnson and the American
Dream presents a very intimate portrait of Johnson. Goodwin actually became a close confidante of
LBJ when she went to work as a White House staffer fresh out of college. She followed that up with The Fitzgeralds
and the Kennedys.
of Rivals is familiar to many people since it was the basis of the
Spielberg film Lincoln. While
it’s not strictly a biography of Abraham Lincoln, it’s more of a study- a very
detailed study – of Lincoln the politician.
As homespun and folksy as Lincoln was, he was perhaps the most
politically gifted and astute man ever to be president. His genius
and greatness is reflected in the men that he chose to serve as his
cabinet, men who not only weren’t fans but who also were in many ways his
biggest rivals and critics. From the
book, readers learn a lot about these men and about vigorous debate with the
cabinet and Congress leading to the Emancipation Proclamation.
won the Pulitzer Prize for No Ordinary Time:
Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. Individually, the Roosevelts are sure to rank near the
top of any list of influential and important Americans, but, as a couple, they
have few peers. They may be the greatest
power couple in American history, and people are fascinated not only by their
accomplishments, but by the relationship itself. Goodwin’s book takes the reader deep into
that relationship while painting a vivid picture of World War II America.
The Bully Pulpit, her latest
book, is in its own way the story of another power couple, Theodore Roosevelt
and his protégé, successor, and eventual rival, William Howard Taft. At nearly 1,000 pages, it’s a tome worthy of
these two heavyweights (pun intended), strong biographies of both men and an
insightful and detailed look at the powerful friendship and affection that they
shared, until the election of 1912, when their rivalry became just as powerful.