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This review is from: The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush (Paperback)
You know this is going to be something special as soon as you set eyes on the delightfully subtle cover, which depicts the back of a chair over which one can see a tuft of Presidential hair. Theoretically it could be any of the Twentieth Century Presidents (barring the more follically challenged individuals to have held the office). But on closer inspection, a tiny plaque on the back of the chair reveals the identity of said President. It reads 'Jan.20th 1961'.
The cover is just one telling example of Stephen Graubard's deftness that is on show in this seminal work. He charts the office of President from Theodore Roosevelt right through to the incumbent, George W. Bush, devoting a chapter to each. These chapters are often more revealing and provide greater detail than many full biographical accounts that have been published of the most powerful men of the last century.
But this isn't simply a chronological timeline of each administration. Graubard begins and ends the book with chapters examining the office of President, its influences, its controversies, its ambiguities and its virtues. He informs his analysis with an excellent reading of the work of Tocqueville and of the Founding Fathers. Clearly, Graubard believes that the Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Presidencies can not be understood without a grounding in American history as a whole.
But make no mistake. This book does not require the reader to have an all-encompassing knowledge of US history and politics. Far from it. Graubard's writing illuminates every Presidency and will educate all who choose to read it. Anybody, from the swottiest Graduate Student to the layman in US history and politics, will take something from devoting time to reading and digesting this work. If you're going to by one book on the United States, make it this remarkable volume. You won't be let down.