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Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders & How They Changed America 1789-1989
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Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders & How They Changed America 1789-1989

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  643 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
From the acclaimed bestselling author of "The Conquerors"Michael Beschloss has brought us a brilliantly readable and inspiring saga about crucial times in America's history when a courageous President dramatically changed the future of the United States.

With surprising new sources and a dazzling command of history and human character, Beschloss brings to life these flawed,
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,194)
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Richard Magahiz
Mar 29, 2013 Richard Magahiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of history
My review is for the abridged audiobook version read by the author. The author presents engaging profiles of nine American Presidents who persevered despite stiff opposition from either domestic or foreign adversaries (or both). He makes a special effort to show how the later executives were inspired or influenced by the example of earlier ones, giving the book a sense of unity despite the broad range of historical periods covered. I find his accounts to be mostly even-handed on the political sp ...more
Shawn Thrasher
I became so annoyed with this book that I finally had to put it down. The short paragraphs were just too much. Maybe Mr. Beschloss thought he was on television, and needed to write the book as such, with neat little breathless soundbites. Maybe he thinks readers are stupid and have gnat-like attention spans,so our paragraphs need to be short. Maybe he likes one sentence paragraphs. Maybe his editor hates him, or us.

The chapters about George Washington are great. The one little tidbit about Marth
Robert A. Smith
Aug 12, 2013 Robert A. Smith rated it it was amazing
This book surprised me. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the blurbs. But for some reason I feared it would be a shallow, light-weight read. Well I was wrong. Michael Beschloss has written an incredibly entertaining, richly-detailed history of six key presidents who served the nation in its first 200 years(1789-1989). Its the story of the slanders, insults and outright hatred they suffered while sticking to their guns and prevailing (often against popular opinion)while making risky decisions ...more
Steve Lutz
Jan 14, 2013 Steve Lutz rated it it was ok
Not all the stories truly demonstrate courage, and their inclusion seems arbitrary.

The writing style is annoying and a huge detriment to the material. He almost writes as if he's tweeting.

Every sentence seems to be a new paragraph.

And they're not always connected in a logical way.

For better presidential writing, turn to Gibbs and Duffy in The Presidents Club.
Mar 16, 2012 Phillip rated it really liked it
This book accounts the changes made by presidents in peace time and war from Washington to Reagan. It is very thought provoking and makes you see each president a little differently than you may have before.
Dec 02, 2014 E rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Certainly illuminating, with well-chosen areas of discussion. However, all the anecdotes felt a tad shallow.
Doug Tabner
Aug 07, 2014 Doug Tabner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With a title like Presidential Courage you might think the author would put his subjects on a pedestal. On the contrary, he portrays them as being eminently human, and showing bravery by doing the right thing in spite of their prejudices and potential cost to their careers.

JFK never considered African Americans to be his equal, nor did any Kennedy from that generation. He would tell friends that when recounting his heroics on PT-109, "including a Jew and a nigger in the story got more votes." Wh
Aug 27, 2011 Kent rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-us, politics
Beschloss gives readers of Presidential Courage real insights into the emotional and stressful world of national and international politics. I enjoy reading about leaders who faced difficult challenges and learning how they overcame their opposition to achieve significant impact on America and the world. There is much to learn from great leaders.

The book covers historical decisions made by nine American presidents - Washington, Adams, Jackson, Lincoln, T.R. Roosevelt, F.D. Roosevelt, Truman, Ken
E Wilson
Apr 15, 2013 E Wilson rated it it was amazing

I really liked this book. It makes me eager to read more books by Mr. Beschloss.

I'll admit my knowledge of American history is pretty much the sanitized school room version. The earliest presidents and to some extend even the more recent ones seem more like two dimensional characters instead of real people. So it was fascinating to read the details of how these presidents came to decisions that were difficult to make and sometimes contrary to their own previous beliefs.

I always thought our fo
Apr 20, 2009 William rated it liked it
Just finished reading "Presidential Courage" by Michael Beschloss.

Beschloss looks at a series of unpopular presidential decisions that made the U.S. stronger despite their controversy. To the average reader, some examples will be well known, such as emancipation under Lincoln, or obscure, like Jackson's opposition to the Bank of the United States.

This readable book can be a very nice follow-up to your average high school American history course, going deeper into controversial issues that are
Feb 16, 2015 Marty rated it liked it
I heard about this book on NPR (which actually sounds like the title to an NPR program itself), and I ordered it only a day or two later, because I knew it was just the type of book that I would love. And in principle, it was. Michael Beschloss gives a view into the office of the presidency during some pretty intense points of American history, and he does it as if he had been there; no small feat for a history writer. As good as it was, the last half of the book seemed to drag. I'm not sure if ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Adam rated it liked it
The first few chapters Washington through Jackson were good examples of Presidents making unpopular decisions. Washington signing a trade tready with England was a wise move but unpopular with many Americans. Although the war of 1812 broke out somewhat over trade, I'm not sure if America could trade with any European nation at all if remained combatants with England. Jackson's epic struggle against a federalized banking system is told well, though not much I didn't already know it was a good syn ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Jan rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 Carl R. rated it really liked it
Michael Beschloss covers a lot of familiar ground in his own version of JFK’s Profiles in Courage, but Presidential Courage provides new views of the territory. From Washington’s defense of the John Jay treaty with Britain to Reagan’s conflicts with disarmament and SDI, Beschloss gets down into the seamy and distasteful combat, the raw struggles with their own ideas and character flaws that the presidents faced over the issues of their day.

Despite his venerated status, Washington was in danger
Ralph Hermansen
Feb 08, 2013 Ralph Hermansen rated it it was amazing
The book being reviewed is entitled "Presidential Courage" and the author is Michael Beschloss. This is the first book I have read by this author but it will not be my last. He has written several other books about American presidents and because of his skillful writing talent, I want to read several more of them. Many history books are dull and dry and the reader has to work to drudge through them. Of all the history books that I have read, this is one of the easiest and most compelling to read ...more
Ryan Morton
A decent book highlighting a select few American Presidents, their words, and their impact. It would benefit from a more cohesive, running story. I read it as a series of individual perspectives on the chosen Presidents However, if it were crafted into a single story (of Presidential Courage, for example) with each leader adding to the overall story, then I would have enjoyed the book much more. Either way it highlighted major contributions of the Washington, Adams, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Ro ...more
Feb 25, 2010 William rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. Great background info on 9 US Presidents (Washington, J. Adams, Jackson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, JFK, and Reagan), and how they all risked their Presidency by making and sticking to controversial policy decisions. In addition, many fought personal bias or prejudice as well (Lincoln did not believe in equality of the races, Truman was a closet Anti-Semite, and JFK was not a supporter of Equal Rights until at least mid way through his term). Adams & Washington r ...more
Gary Land
Jan 13, 2011 Gary Land rated it really liked it
Beschloss has written a highly readable book that narrates the stories of nine presidents who exhibited courage in making controversial decisions. One might think that the opposition would have come from their rival political party, but in almost every case, beginning with Washington and the Jay Treaty, these presidents faced conflict within their own administrations. And, as with Truman and the issue of whether to recognize the new state of Israel, they sometimes had to struggle with their own ...more
Ian Baaske
Sep 13, 2007 Ian Baaske rated it really liked it
A nice look at the political chances a dozen or so presidents took, deciding that a principled stand on what was best for the country mattered more than their individual futures as politicians. In the cases of Truman and Kennedy, new information (journals and office recordings) bring to light new aspects of their presidencies. Some of the vignettes are stronger than others, but some had more courageous decisions to make than others. (Consider Lincoln who defied most instances of conventional wis ...more
Aug 16, 2011 Samantha rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it, nonfiction
I highly recommend this book to just about anyone. It is an interesting read that not only describles the Presidents' issues, opinions, & courageous stands, but makes the people come alive. You can picture Washington just wanting to go home to Mt Vernon, Lincoln crying that his best will never please everyone, Truman elated in doing what he feels is his part in fulfilling Biblical prophecy, and Kennedy dying before reaching his full potential. This is no dry, boring history book full of date ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-challenge
Each presidential profile is full of fascinating information on the important, hard decisions that they had to make. Bechloss does a fine job showing the flaws and virtues of each man and how somehow through it all good was accomplished. There is some bad language, but it is from direct quotes not from the author himself. Bechloss' writing is superb! It was easy to read and flowed very nicely.
Oct 10, 2010 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read. The most compelling part of the story is which examples of presidential courage that Beschloss chose to present. I expected that he would have included Jackson against the banks and Lincoln emancipating the slaves. The most compelling examples of Presidential courage was first, Truman's courage to recognize Israel as a State against the recommendations and council of his leadership team and the Cabinet. In the end Truman felt like his role was a fulfillment of prophecy. I ...more
Rick Ludwig
Aug 06, 2011 Rick Ludwig rated it really liked it
Michael Beschloss writes history that relates historical individuals as real people facing real challenges. We see in this work how a number of presidents of very different ideologies and personalities deal with the unpopular issues of their presidencies in a human way. From Washington through Reagan, none of these gentleman have a free ride. The criticism are cruel and the stakes are high. Beschloss is less interested in the rightness or wrongness of their efforts, although most have a truly po ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Danna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book for its premise and historical review, but not for its style. I learned things I hadn't known, for example, Truman had to fight his state department when he decided to recognize the newly- formed state of Israel, Kennedy courted the segregationist South in 1956 when campaigning to be Stevenson's running mate, and at least two decisions were made rather ignominiously, and in part, to spite the USSR.
The asterisked asides were not germaine and therefore served only to distract, an
Jun 24, 2008 Samantha rated it liked it
I had high expectations for this book. It let me down a little. It just wasn't that engaging. Some of it is very well known like JFK's battle with civil rights. I was looking for a good analysis on the different presidents and their actions. I didn't find that. I found that Mr. Beschloss just told about the different incident but didn't offer any new insight to it. I was hoping that he would even use them to give perspective on what is happening now but he didn't. I rated this book 3 stars becau ...more
Julie Bell
Aug 29, 2008 Julie Bell rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I always really enjoy history. This was particularly nice because it was not voluminous - it focused on one issue for a handful of presidents. Taking a thorough look at the exhaustive activities of a president can be, well, exhaustive. Although it does not give an entire character review, it does highlight the president at their best. I loved how several of these presidents made decisions that were not popular, but were the correct choices for our country. At least in the moments displayed in th ...more
Doug Allen
Feb 10, 2015 Doug Allen rated it it was amazing
Washington's defense of Jay's treaty. Adams avoiding war with France, which set up Jefferson to take credit for the Louisiana Purchase. Truman's support of Israel. Reagan warning Gorbachev that the U.S. and Russia's next big problem would be Islamic extremists (clearly no one circulated those notes to Putin).
Jun 17, 2013 Phillip rated it really liked it
This was an easy, breezy read. I learned a lot more about Andrew Jackson, and I'm always amused at Washington's reactions when he was actually treated as a politician instead of a mythological war hero. I loved the chapters on Truman and T.R. I thought the FDR and Reagan chapters were a bit weaker -- in a book about "presidential courage" said courage should not be "wanting to be re-elected" as it was in FDR's case. I think the larger point about FDR was his recognition of the threat of Hitler, ...more
Mar 29, 2015 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
'Presidential Courage', by Michael Beschloss, is written as a series of vignettes, in chronological order, about critical events or even crises for different presidents. The author describes the event, its implications, the presidents deliberations and actions, and the results. Its almost written as a series of short stories, a reader could pick and chose sections to read without affecting the understanding of the book. Although somewhat interesting, this book seems more geared to young teens (s ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Over the past two decades, Michael Beschloss has become one of our most popular and prolific historians, recognizable from his many television appearances and bankable in the mold of David McCullough, Stephen Ambrose, Douglas Brinkley, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Previous books include Taking Charge (1997), an examination of LBJ's White House tapes, and The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany (2002). Critics are not as kind to Presidential Courage as to the author

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