Robert Dallek, author of "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963" and "Flawed Giant: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1960-1973", reviews top five presidential biographies.
1. "The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It" by Richard Hofstadter (Knopf, 1948).
Almost 60 years after it was published, Richard Hofstadter's "The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It" remains a compelling introduction to seven presidents--Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The book has educated several generations of Americans about the men, their administrations, and the nature of 19th- and 20th-century American politics. Hofstadter's sense of the ironic, along with his insights into the country's affinity for consensus, helps make the book an American classic. Four chapter titles are illustrative--Jefferson: "The Aristocrat as Democrat"; TR: "The Conservative as Progressive"; Wilson: "The Conservative as Liberal"; and FDR: "The Patrician as Opportunist."
2. "George Washington: Man and Monument" by Marcus Cunliffe (Little, Brown, 1958).
3. "Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation" by Merrill D. Peterson (Oxford, 1970).
4. "Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald (Simon & Schuster, 1995).
5. "Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox" by James MacGregor Burns (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1956).
Happy President's Day!