Cover image for The American president
The American president
Kunhardt, Philip B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 481 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E176.1 .K854 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



"Our goal is to help readers see the presidency afresh, and to think about its incumbents in a new way. By looking at the variety of individuals who have held the high office and by contrasting their situations and their major choices in the presidency, we tell an extremely human story, as well as an unfolding history of a vital American institution."--Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. KunhardtThe first fully illustrated book in thirty years to examine all the presidents, The American President is also an overarching look at our nation's highest office. Working closely with a distinguished group of scholars, and through interviews with our living presidents, the Kunhardts have organized their book thematically rather than chronologically, allowing for a fresh understanding of the presidency: its nature, its history, its evolution. This approach renders fascinating juxtapositions that shed new light on familiar figures: Thomas Jefferson with Ronald Reagan; John Adams with Jimmy Carter; James Madison with Bill Clinton.Beautifully designed, The American President is also a perfect gift book, with approximately 300 color and 500 black-and-white illustrations. These include rare photographs of the presidents and the White House.In the spring of 2000, PBS, with major support from New York Life, will launch a ten-hour television series based on The American President. The series, narrated by veteran Time magazine White House correspondent Hugh Sidey, will feature the voices of General Norman Schwarzkopf, James Carville, John Glenn, William F. Buckley, George Will, and Don Imus, among others.This remarkable book, along with the extraordinary television event, will provide a new understanding of the legacy and impact of our most important American institution.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The Kunhardts are well suited to produce a splendid pictorial overview of the U.S. chief executives. Philip B. was managing editor of the premier photojournalism magazine, Life; son Philip III has produced several pictorial biographies; and son Peter makes TV documentaries. This book's TV-series sibling will premier next spring, at which time the book will be republicized. As it is, initial publicity will be heavy, including an 18-month calendar tie-in and special pitches to teachers and librarians. Question is, how good is it? Pictorially, it meets all expectations of splendor. In the text, the emphasis is upon the presidents' personal characteristics and distinctive acts while in office; their political contexts and, to a lesser extent, their other activities, especially after leaving the Oval Office, are scanted. The presentation is thematic rather than chronological; each chapter groups a few presidents under an epithet more appropriate to them than to the others, such as "Happenstance" for five who became president after their predecessor's death and "The Professional Politician" for four whose partisan attachments helped and hindered them (surprisingly to many, perhaps, Lincoln is one of these). Presidential weaknesses and vices are often downplayed or forgotten, so that such icons as Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and Kennedy come out smelling like roses. On the other hand, the virtues of Tyler that Walter Brian Cisco cites in Taking a Stand [BKL S 1 99], the slanders Democratic hacks circulated about Harding years after his death, and the principles behind the now disdained presidencies of Pierce and Coolidge go unmentioned. A nice feature of each presidential profile is a column of quotations from the subject. In all, a People magazine^-like effort, good of that kind. --Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

This work of end-of-the-century American history offers an interesting perspective on the Presidents that may not be best presented in a general coffee-table book format. The authors, Kunhardt Jr., a former managing editor of LIFE magazine, and his two filmmaker sons, Peter W. Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt III, base their narratives on the scholarly Presidential model of Stephen Skowronek (The Politics Presidents Make, LJ 8/93), who categorizes Presidents by the similar problems they encounter: one category groups Presidents by their heroic reputations, while other categories take into account the President's political circumstances, the expanding power of the office, and the officeholders' individual mindsets. The book is profusely illustrated, and each President receives a two- to three-page discussion and an "In His Words" section. The writing is informative but not as interesting, nor are the photographs as emotionally compelling, as that found in Harold Evans's The American Century (LJ 10/1/98). Yet this work is recommended for larger public libraries because of its fascinating view of Presidential behavior, its tie-in with a PBS series to be aired in 2000, and its being picked as a BOMC main selection.ÄKarl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.