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3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  110 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
This first full-scale biography of our twentieth president in over fifty years reflects not only a renewal of interest in Garfield the man as the centennial of his inauguration nears, but in the Gilded Age of American politics in which he played so influential a role. Moving from the battlefield to Congress before the end of the Civil War, Garfield had a hand in almost eve ...more
Hardcover, 716 pages
Published April 1st 1978 by Kent State University Press (first published March 31st 1978)
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Jan 09, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it

“Garfield: A Biography” by Allan Peskin was published in 1978 and was the first comprehensive biography of James A. Garfield in four decades. Ironically, this biography was followed shortly by the posthumous publication of Margaret Leech’s own study titled “The Garfield Orbit.” Peskin was a long-time professor of American history at Cleveland State University.

Comprehensive in scope and liberally infused with penetrating character insight, Peskin’s biograph
Aaron Million
There is not a large collection of James Garfield biographies to choose from, mainly due to lack of interest in our 20th President. As Peskin writes at the end, Garfield quickly faded into the distant memory of public consciousness - eventually being lumped in and confused with several other late 19th century, facial hair-sporting, lackluster presidents. While this does seem to be a somewhat harsh verdict rendered by history, Garfield did not particularly distinguish himself - positively or nega ...more
Regina Lindsey
Jun 06, 2013 Regina Lindsey rated it really liked it
When you think of great presidential biographies, one on James Garfield doesn't typically come to mind. More often one on Washington, Adams, or Lincoln is likely does. However, Peskin has provided what is one of the more readable biographies I've read in quite some time. Because the subject is not on one of the acknowledged greats, it makes the work even more important.

Peskin portrays Garfield as a man who develops deep feelings for the people around him, is easily influenced by them, but can ea
Some parts of this book were really good. Example: the Republican convention in Chicago in 1880 where Garfield somehow got the nomination, a shameless event filled with drunks and back-room shenanigans. Example: the description of Garfield's assassin, Guiteau--a fascinating, deranged man who actually has a tiny bit of my sympathy because he had a messed-up childhood that made him this perfectly crazy murderer. Also, this author illuminates the relationships and political goings-on fairly well. B ...more
Sep 17, 2015 Robert rated it it was amazing
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Stacey Jones
Sep 19, 2015 Stacey Jones rated it it was amazing
"All I want to do is stay home and read this biography of James Garfield!" said no one ever unless they were reading this one by Allan Peskin, and then there is nothing else to say about this book. It's wonderful!

I'm engaged in a project to read a biography of each president in order, so I have entered what I call the "discount" presidents of the late 19th century, starting with Hayes and extending until I get to TR at the beginning of the twentieth century, so I wasn't sure about picking up a
Dec 30, 2016 Susie rated it liked it
Oh no, I read this book before I read the biography of Rutheford Hays.
Apr 16, 2013 Mark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: croah
American presidents have received a diverse range of biographical attention that in both quality and quantity usually reflects the length of their term in office and the impact of their presidency. In this respect Allan Peskin's biography of James Abram Garfield stands out as virtually unique: a first-class biography of one of the briefest occupants of the presidency, which offers a thorough understanding of the man based on a comprehensive examination of his life and career.

Born in Ohio, Garfie
May 01, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it
James A. Garfield is one of the forgotten Presidents, one of the 'gravely vacant and bewhiskered faces', as Peskin puts, part of the succession of unremarkable Presidents between U.S Grant and Teddy Roosevelt. A major reason for that is the length of his administration - just 200 days from his inauguration to his assassination by Charles Guiteau, and that assassination is largely the only reason his name is know these days, part of the roll-call of assassinated Presidents.

This does Garfield some
Mark Roth
Sep 09, 2010 Mark Roth rated it liked it
The book covers the life of James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States. It covers the full span of Garfield's life in equal detail, from his childhood to his assassination.

The author convincingly identifies several common themes of Garfield's personality throughout his life, such as his fatalistic view of his own destiny that prohibited him from actively seeking high public office. He was also someone that was much more comfortable dealing with issues rather than personal politic
Scott Cox
Jan 17, 2016 Scott Cox rated it really liked it
James Garfield, 20th President of the United States, held office for approximately six months prior to his assassination in 1881. The killer, Charles Julius Guiteau, was a deranged excommunicate of the utopian Oneida Community, who felt God had "selected him as the instrument of the President's removal." Biographer Allan Peskin provides much insight into the life of Garfield, perhaps best summarized in the final pages: "Garfield's life was actually tangled in contradictions: a pacifist turned (C ...more
Dave N
Feb 04, 2016 Dave N rated it really liked it
Another competent and readable biography of a little-known president. Garfield, much like his predecessor, Hayes (and to a certain extent his predecessor, Grant), had a presidency defined by party politics and the shadow of civil service reform. That is didn't last a whole term was a shame, because he certainly seemed like a more interesting politician than some of his contemporaries. Peskin writes a pretty basic biography, with one notable exception: Garfield's childhood takes up much less real ...more
Jerry Landry
Peskin’s Garfield was good, but (of course there’s a but) I did notice some spelling and citation errors which detracted from the experience. Also, I felt at times as if Peskin was on a mission to redeem Garfield who, despite having some good points, was overall not really that admirable of a figure. He cheated on his wife and was rather dismissive of her overall. He was a politician through and through in the modern sense of the term. While occasionally claiming to want to do more for his const ...more
Peter Sprunger
Jul 03, 2011 Peter Sprunger rated it really liked it
This was a well written, thorough but never tedious, biography of James Garfield. Peskin takes the time to explain Garfield's upbringing (poor), schooling, career as a teacher, and finally a General under Rosecrans in the Civil War before diving into his political career. This book is well organized and constant in the the amount of description given from birth to death which is more than can be said about some biographies.

Because his district was very Republican, only once did he need to worry
Jan 07, 2014 Allen rated it really liked it
Peskin has skillfully put the life of a fascinating, but forgotten, President onto the pages of this book. He spares little detail - which at times can make the book dense - but seems to have captured the spirit of Garfield in his writing. A wonderful read for anyone interested in American politics during and shortly after Reconstruction.
Tom Rowe
Oct 12, 2015 Tom Rowe rated it liked it
If you want to read about President Garfield, read Candace Millard's Destiny of the Republic. If you hunger for more Garfield, red this book. Or, read this book up to the last chapter, then switch to Millard's book. Millard's book does a better job documenting the assassination, whereas this book better documents the rest of Garfield's life. Or, read them both and see how they differ.

Mar 10, 2012 Alex rated it liked it
Good synopsis of early days as a teacher, thorough telling of his time in the Civil War, less detailed description of his time in the Congress. Ends abruptly with assassination and could use more discussion on his impact, and how his death affected the country and GOP politics.
Jackie Dotson
Well written. But way way way too long. Would have been better at half the length.
Andy rated it really liked it
Feb 08, 2008
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Aug 23, 2007
Donny Hilgeman
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Ryan Bach rated it it was amazing
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Phil Grant rated it it was ok
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Jon Kapping rated it really liked it
Dec 07, 2014
William P. Mangum
William P. Mangum rated it it was amazing
Dec 26, 2016
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Mark Moeller rated it it was amazing
Apr 21, 2013
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“your present temper may not mark the healthful pulse of our people. When your enthusiasm has passed, when the emotions of this hour have subsided, we shall find below the storm and passion that calm level of public opinion from which the thoughts of a mighty people are to be measured, and by which their final action will be determined. Not here, in this brilliant circle where fifteen thousand men and women are gathered, is the destiny of the republic to be decreed for the next four years. Not here … but by four millions of Republican firesides, where the thoughtful voters, with wives and children about them, with the calm thoughts inspired by love of home and country, with the history of the past, the hopes of the future, and reverence for the great men who have adorned and blessed our nation in days gone by, burning in their hearts—there God prepares the verdict which will determine the wisdom of our work tonight.33” 0 likes
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