Cover image for The reader's companion to the American presidency
The reader's companion to the American presidency
Brinkley, Alan.
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 566 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 27 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E176.1 .R295 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E176.1 .R295 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E176.1 .R295 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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What makes some presidents triumphant leaders and others disastrous failures? How has the presidency evolved from the institution established by the Founding Fathers? Which president was the first to be elected with no previous political experience? In this wonderfully engaging book, readers will discover the answers to such questions and gain a rich understanding of the personalities, policies, and tragic flaws of our nation's chief executives. With forty-one essays in all, by such eminenthistorians as Eric Foner, Joyce Appleby, James Henretta, Alan Taylor, Jean Baker, Robert Dallek, Drew McCoy, and Karen Orren, THE READER'S COMPANION showcases some of the most provocative interpretive history being written today. Was Madison, for example, an indecisive bungler who led his country to war or a principled politician whose leadership was appropriate to his time? Ranging from the tragedy of Hoover's administration to Johnson's Great Society, from Carter's human rights agenda to thecurrent administration's challenges, these engagingly written pieces shed light on the hubris, and sometimes the brilliance, of our leaders. Fully illustrated with timelines, data boxes, and short essays on presidential families, this book is an indispensable resource for the serious historian and the curious reader alike.

Author Notes

Alan Brinkley is the Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University.
Davis Dyer is a founding director of the Winthrop Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

As a new millennium and, in months, a new presidential administration begin, a retrospective look to see how scholars evaluate the nation's 40-plus presidents seems timely. Columbia University professor Brinkley joins Winthrop Group founding director Dyer in gathering 10-to 20-page essays on each president. Among the authors are Joyce Appleby (Jefferson), James Henretta (Van Buren), Jean Baker (Lincoln), Eric Foner (A. Johnson), Walter LaFeber (McKinley), Michael Kazin (Kennedy), Robert Dallek (LBJ), and Roger Morris (Nixon). Each of the collection's essays includes a portrait of the president, a time line of notable events, a display of economic statistics, a few paragraphs on the First Family, and brief, annotated suggestions for further reading. These are not neutral commentaries; the authors express their considered judgment, as when Paula Fass begins her "First Family" remarks: "Warren G. Harding led a private life as disastrous as his presidency." Readers may disagree with some of the authors' judgments, but they'll certainly learn from the collection. --Mary Carroll

Library Journal Review

Edited by Brinkley (history, Columbia Univ.) and Dyer (TRW: Pioneering Technology and Innovation Since 1900) and written by a collection of eminent historians--including Michael Holt, William McFeely, and David Oshinsky--this book is a solid, concise guide to American presidents. In essays that run between ten and 20 pages, contributors provocatively evaluate the record of each of our 51 executives, from Washington through Clinton. While each entry offers a brief bibliography, a time line, a few demographic and economic tables, and a sidebar entitled "The First Family," the book is less factually oriented and less suited for quick reference than either the two-volume Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the Presidency (1996) or Leonard W. Levy's four-volume Encyclopedia of the American Presidency (LJ 1/94). And while each includes at least one presidential photograph or portrait, The American President (Riverhead, 1999) by Philip W. Kunhardt and family is much better for illustrations. This book, instead, is the best place to find an authoritative, critical overview of each president. A very useful purchase and a bargain for all types of libraries.--Robert F. Nardini, North Chichester, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-A comprehensive reference source. Essays written by professors and historians present an overview of each administration through factual details, anecdotes, and analysis. The amount of criticism in each article varies depending on the writer and the president. The text is academic but readable, and current through Clinton's impeachment trial. There are no subheadings to help find specific information, but the index is detailed. Charts give statistical comparisons among the presidents and their eras, listing data concerning elections, society, and commerce of the time. A detailed time line runs along the bottom of the pages and includes other important political and cultural events. Sidebars also discuss each First Family and the part its members played in the presidency.-Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Previous reader's companions by this publisher cover military history, US history, and women's history. This one provides interpretative essays on all 41 US presidents, along with basic reference information such as chronologies, electoral information, and key statistical data. Additional readings at the end of each essay cite works for further research with brief evaluative comments. Interesting sidebar essays treat such topics as "The First Family," "The Great Communicator" [Reagan], and "The Policies of Presidential Investigation" [Clinton]. Essays vary considerably in length; 16 pages or more are devoted to FDR, Lincoln, Washington, LBJ, and Truman, while "minor" presidents such as Tyler, Taylor, and Fillmore receive eight pages or less. Essays are written by academics from around the country and provide assessments of each president, and of great and small events. The authors specifically address issues relevant to perceptual gaps between the image and the reality of each presidency. This work is accessible to scholars and researchers, as well as general readers. Recommended for academic and public libraries. L. Kong; California State University, San Bernardino

Table of Contents

Contributorsp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
George Washingtonp. 7
John Adamsp. 25
Thomas Jeffersonp. 39
James Madisonp. 55
James Monroep. 67
John Quincy Adamsp. 83
Andrew Jacksonp. 93
Martin Van Burenp. 113
William Henry Harrisonp. 125
John Tylerp. 133
James K. Polkp. 141
Zachary Taylorp. 151
Millard Fillmorep. 159
Franklin Piercep. 167
James Buchananp. 177
Abraham Lincolnp. 187
Andrew Johnsonp. 203
Ulysses S. Grantp. 215
Rutherford B. Hayesp. 229
James A. Garfieldp. 239
Chester Arthurp. 249
Grover Clevelandp. 257
Benjamin Harrisonp. 269
William McKinleyp. 277
Theodore Rooseveltp. 289
William Howard Taftp. 305
Woodrow Wilsonp. 317
Warren G. Hardingp. 335
Calvin Coolidgep. 345
Herbert Hooverp. 355
Franklin D. Rooseveltp. 367
Harry S. Trumanp. 387
Dwight D. Eisenhowerp. 403
John F. Kennedyp. 419
Lyndon B. Johnsonp. 433
Richard Nixonp. 449
Gerald Fordp. 465
Jimmy Carterp. 477
Ronald Reaganp. 489
George Bushp. 507
Bill Clintonp. 519
Illustration Creditsp. 541
Indexp. 543