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American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  21,178 ratings  ·  1,047 reviews
Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election ...more
Paperback, 483 pages
Published April 30th 2009 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2008)
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Erik Simon
This is by far one of the biggest piles of crap I've ever read. The writing is bad in numerous ways:

1. Doesn't tell enough. Meachem tells me that Jackson's father died unexpectedly, then he takes a long sentence to tell me that during the funeral, the body actually got lost. So why couldn't he tell me how exactly the guy died? This mistake is common throughout. He keeps not telling me things he ought.

2. Tells me too much. I am not exaggerating when I say he spends just as much time, just as many
...more
Christine
I think this book confused people. They were expecting a McCullough-esque hardcore biography of everything Jackson did EVER. Not so. As Meacham himself states in his Author's note, he was going for a biographical portrait of Jackson's time in the White House. And on that account, this is an excellent book. It gives a great picture of the tumult surrounding Jackson's two terms, the things that made him tick, and the decisions that defined his presidency. No, it didn't really tell us all about And ...more
Gillian
Jan 03, 2009 Gillian is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Um, did you know Andrew Jackson was a huge badass? He was also sort of a jerk. And he invented the Democratic party basically. Plus he was not very cool to the Native Americans.
Joe
A terrible book about a horrible man written by a coward. I know that sounds harsh but there's no other way to describe it. The book claims to be only about his years in the White House. It isn't. Frequently, Meacham cherry picks and subsequently white washes Jackson's past sins in an effort to show him as a complicated hero.

Jackson wasn't complicated. He was maybe one of the simplest presidents America ever had. Here are some simple facts:
1) His greatest military victory was the Battle of New O
...more
Brian
When you try and tackle a subject as complicated as Andrew Jackson, and limit a book to just his presidency, it's just impossible to properly portray the man in the White House. So for those who have never read Marquis James or Robert Remini's multi-volume depiction of Jackson, the first 180 pages of this book read like a season story arch of a prime time soap opera. The "Eaton Affair" was a very central topic of Jackson's first term of presidency, but to understand why it was such a central foc ...more
Cassidy Cassidy
While a terrifically thorough listing of the era's political issues and the personalities clashing over them, the examination left much to be desired. The substance falls victim to a regular temptation among American authors writing American history. Meacham's approach only acknowledges in passing the character flaws of his subject while amplifying the qualities and deeds that would make Jackson a hero to many. For instance, Jackson's unrepentant slave-ownership and his role in devastating gener ...more
Jason
First of all, this book isn't for everyone, though it tells a phenomenal story. It tells the story of the presidency of Andrew Jackson, creator of what the author calls the "modern presidency." For what it turned out to be, the Jackson administration actually gave Americans a taste of what was to come. From the "petticoat affair" to the Nullification Crisis to the Bank War, it seemed the Jacksonian era seemed to have something for everyone. However, I found myself growing very interested in the ...more
Jeremy Perron
John Meachham's book American Lion covers the years when Andrew Jackson was the President of the United States. In some ways it tries to mimic the traditional biography with a few chapters into his background. This sort of reminds me of the last book I read on John Quincy Adams' post-presidency. Include a small mini-biography in the beginning before getting into the substance of your book. In that view the earlier chapters are a waste of space. Meacham could have just explained Jackson's back-st ...more
Ruth
Sep 09, 2010 Ruth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ruth by: Goodreads Bonus Book
Finally, Finally!! I have finished reading this book. It is a magnificent book, beautifully written and researched, but for me a very hard read. The biggest reason was because it was so complete and so detailed I had trouble keeping all the players straight. My grasp of history (and interest in) is pretty tenuous so my attention span suffered from the details. There is much to be learned about this man, Andrew Jackson who was our leader at such a critical time in our history. Much of whom we are ...more
Sara
I was excited to read this book, so it was especially disappointing to discover how poorly written it is. I only got through about 75 pages before giving up. The narration bounces around in time, skips over areas I think are important and goes into too much detail about other things. I know the book is supposed to focus on his presidency but I need to know more about him as a person to appreciate that and this just wasn't doing it for me. Bah.
Brian
STATEMENT: I received a free copy of this book thru the GoodReads site to review.

Well, Mr Meacham has done an excellent job researching Andrew Jackson as well as the culture and history surrounding his time in the White House. I cannot fault him in his research... and his book did impress upon me the amount of knowledge that he has acquired on the subject.

However, I was not a fan of the book. I had to force myself to persevere thru its reading. I found it dull, but more importantly, I felt that
...more
Stuart
Very readable, digestible, due to its concentration on the 8 years Jackson spent in the White House. The book is well written, in a very accessible style, featuring a certain amount of opinion as well as dry facts. Sometimes biographies are too wide and are relegated to being reference books rather than something you would choose to read. This one reads easily and is all the better for it.

As the first president outside the Virginia / Massachusetts axis, he was a different sort of president. In a
...more
Richard
I can't say I remember enough about Andrew Jackson from my schooling (vague recollections of having read "Age of Jackson" in prep school) to know how fair is this portrayal. Jon Meacham clearly admires Jackson and has written a positive accounting of his presidency. I'd put this biography in the category of McCullough's "John Adams," Isaacson's "Benjamin Franklin" and "Einstein," and Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." But as all good books do, Meacham has made me curious to read and know more about Jac ...more
Jim
Since I live in New Orleans I feel a certain vague connection to Jackson. The Chalmette battleground down river, where his forces slaughtered the British, is still an interesting place to visit. There is a reenactment there of the Battle of New Orleans in February.

This book was a Christmas present. It is focused on the man and what drove him perhaps more than the events in his life. Jackson was a pivotal figure in US history in many ways.

Gave me much more appreciation of this complex man and hi
...more
Robert Owen
Okay……soooooo, it won a Pulitzer Prize. While once shouldn't get overwrought about a particular award that a given book may receive, but I’ve been reading lots of history lately and I’ve found that as a rule, books awarded a Pulitzer are awarded them for a reason. When I decided that it was about time that I filled in the gaps in my knowledge of antebellum American history in general and the Jacksonian era, in particular, I was tickled to find the Pulitzer Prize winning “American Lion” there to ...more
Lightreads
I picked this up largely on the strength of a hilarious Daily Show interview with the author. After reading, I think it was more a case of Jon Stewart’s awesomeness overwhelming all other considerations. Tragic.

Look, I could talk about how stilted the construction of this bio-history is, and I could talk about the frankly odd pacing and even odder notes. But my real problem with this book is a lot more subtle. Take a quote like this one: “. . . but Jackson, like many husbands before and since, m
...more
Nancy
Caveat: I'm not a history scholar, and have not read much on Jackson's life (other than what I know from being a Tennessean) Having gotten that out of the way, I must say I truly enjoyed this book. It was fillled with information from Jackson's entire life, but the author did a fantastic job with the narrative. It did not drag as some do when they try so hard to stay true to a historical timeline. The author does a nice job of pulling in primary sources--letters to/from Jackson and his family me ...more
Stephen Escalera
In the history of American politics, most, if not all presidents have been men adept at polarizing the citizens of the nation. Many were men who were either loved or hated, with little ground in between the two extremes. In American Lion, Jon Meacham details the presidential life of one such man - Andrew Jackson. Touching on his pre-presidential life only briefly, Meacham details the 8 years Jackson spent in the White House, relying "in part on previously unavailable documents." Meacham is caref ...more
Matt Shore
American Lion was a book that got progressively stronger. I for one, was not completely enthralled by the Eaton Affair, which happened around midway through the book. I understand that this fiasco was a huge part of Jackson's Presidency, but I felt like other things were more interesting, such as Jackson's dealings with the Second Bank of the United States.
I felt like Meacham did a great job of showing the strengths of Andrew Jackson, almost to a fault. I would have rather heard some of the ne
...more
Ann
I certainly learned about an American president that I was not familiar with. However, I was disappointed in the way the book was written ... it seemed like the author left some important information out and gave way too much information in other areas. I could have done without so much time spent on Marg. Eaton and her scandalous effect on the Jackson amdministration ... and would have liked more discussion on what led to the Indian crisis and why Jackson dealt with it the way he did.
The man
...more
Regina Lindsey
The perception of Andrew Jackson today is that of a brash, fighting frontiersman that treated the Indians harshly yet has been conferred the title "Father of Democracy." These are all accurate depictions. However, Meacham deftly cautions the reader against the same mistakes Jackson's foes made: don't underestimate the complexity and intelligence of the man.

Meacham makes the case that the loss of Jackson's family during the Revolutionary War laid the foundation for a life-long need to substitut
...more
Josh
American Lion is a better than average presidential biography about Andrew Jackson. Having read through several bios recently, I found this one to be more compelling than my last read, A Country of Vast Designs, a seemingly dry policy lecture about the debates of the James K. Polk administration. Jon Meacham describes a believable fatherly figure who took the job of president very personally, vigorously working to protect the country as though it was his own family. The book captures many of the ...more
James
Apr 08, 2012 James rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to James by: gift from Michaela
I wanted to like this book. I have done some reading about the Jackson era and being intrigued by the little I had read, the prospect of 300 plus pages on Jackson left me expectant. This is a very poorly written book. During first sixty pages, the author jumps decades from one paragraph to the next with little to connect them - just an odd collection of anecdotes.

But what is highly annoying is the author's penchant to fantasize about what someone was thinking, presenting it as fact. "Emily was t
...more
Mark
I’m on a mission to read a least one biography on each president, in order, and I just finished American Lion. Of the seven I’ve read to this point, I found this book to be very readable, second probably to David McCullough’s fantastic book on John Adams. The book is true to its full title, and this is important; it does not cover all of Andrew Jackson’s tumultuous, remarkable life. By chapter 5, Jackson is in the White House, and the book is clearly focused on those eight years. The early chapt ...more
Shellys♥ Journal
This is the story primarily of Andrew Jackson's presidency - the things he battled and stood for. Meacham does include a brief history of Old Hickory, enough to link together some of the reasons why Jackson stood for what he did. Jackson faced a number of challenges during his 8 years in office - some of it his own making. His stand for the Union perhaps most memorable, but also the Petticoat Wars, his battle with the Bank of the United States among others.

While I enjoyed learning more about Ja
...more
Nathan
This is the story of Andrew Jackson, starring Jon Meacham. Mr Meacham is broadly a fan of Jackson and bounces blithely from one anecdote to the next, muddling any sort of narrative in the process. It puts me in mind of a good-natured, dim-witted puppy: Meacham is interested in his story and happy to be telling it, but he's so busy trotting out every colorful, cute or adventuresome thing Jackson ever said or did that he completely trips over his own feet when it comes to the most important parts ...more
Carl Brush
It’s been quite a while since I glommed on to a good biography, so American Lion was a welcome start to 2009. The Marco Polo I closed off last year with (Dec. 28 comments) was a bit of a disappointment, but not Jon Meacham’s look at Andrew Jackson.
Most of us, I guess, know Jackson was called “Old Hickory.” that he won the battle of New Orleans during (actually shortly after, but he didn’t know that.) the war of 1812, and that he was a feisty and combative soul. Some of us who read the Irving S
...more
Brian Bess
I read American Lion with constant awareness of the parallels in American political power plays between Jackson’s era and today. The news feed from the current Presidential election echoed in my mind as I read of Jackson’s relentless campaigning and rise to the Presidency and the machinations he employed to keep his power also found similarities with other administrations from the modern era.

Meacham summarizes Jackson’s life pre-election, setting the stage with as much detail as necessary to und
...more
John
A lively and intimate portrayal of our 7th President when the United States consisted of just 24 states. Jackson was instrumental in our expansionist manifest destiny in terms of the removal of numerous American Indian tribes to the frontier, west of the Mississippi and a staunch defender of the embedded institution of Slavery. The zeal with which he advanced these two positions caused no internal conflict for him either as a human being or as President. Instead, he stressed that the abolition o ...more
charlie
It tortures me to review this book.

The author clearly worked his arse off and my guess is if i was a historian i may be impressed with his new information. The overall story of AJ is extremely compelling and important, and Meacham has a very readable writing style... BUT (and you knew that was coming), there is something missing for the casual reader like myself who loved the JOHN ADAMS book.

I struggled to define the problem as I read - maybe it was this inconsistent macro/micro approach... one
...more
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Vive Le Livre Staff Pick--American Lion 1 5 Oct 16, 2012 09:13AM  
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Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek, a Pulitzer Prize winning bestselling author and a commentator on politics, history, and religious faith in America.
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“Always take all the time to reflect that circumstances permit, but when the time for action has come, stop thinking. (Andrew Jackson)” 12 likes
“Jackson was a transformative president in part because he had a transcendent personality; other presidents who followed him were not transformative, and served unremarkably.” 3 likes
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