There have been numerous great biographies of US presidents over the years, but what about the books written by the commanders-in-chief themselves? Now, the political memorial is an essential part of any presidential campaign (eg President Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream), but presidential autobiographies only became common after the Civil War.
The first president to publish a book in his life was the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan. “Buchanan’s is definitely the worst presidential memoir I’ve ever read,” historian Craig Fehrman, who wrote Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote, told Smithsonian Magazine. “Mostly it’s just James Buchanan trying to blame everyone but James Buchanan for the [civil] war and its aftermath.” Fehrman says the Civil War and Buchanan’s memoirs marked a turning point for presidential memoirs.
Since the 33rd president, Harry S. Truman, nearly every president has written memoirs or an autobiography. After World War II, political scientist George C. Edwards III explains to the Smithsonian that presidents “began to think about history in a more systematic way. I think there was a wider concern for history, and for historical record, that it developed around the same time. “
Now, there are many presidents books – Jimmy Carter alone has written thirty – but we’ve selected the most important ones to read. In reverse chronological order, here are the most read books written by US presidents:
Promise me, dad: a year of hope, hardship and purpose
Trump: The art of the pact
My Father’s Dreams: A History of Race and Heritage
An American Life: Autobiography
A full life: ninety reflections