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The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  18,879 ratings  ·  2,394 reviews
A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day.
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Hardcover, 281 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Harper
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Lark I noticed that she spoke very positively of the Repulicans and less favorably of the Democrats. I also thought that there were some extremely private …moreI noticed that she spoke very positively of the Repulicans and less favorably of the Democrats. I also thought that there were some extremely private moments of the Carters, after losing the election, that she revealed in a disrespectful way. She also described the Bushes in glowing, almost gushing terms and the Clintons in, clearly, a more negative light. My take was that this was not at all an objectve look at the residents of the White but felt to me as if the author had an agenda. I had no idea she was a Fox News person but now it seems clear.(less)
Carol Cambra Smith Possible Discussion Questions for The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower

As you read The Residence, what di…more
Possible Discussion Questions for The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower

As you read The Residence, what did you find most surprising about the staff serving the First Family?
Was there a particular story or event that sticks out in your mind?
Did you enjoy the author’s approach to telling the story of many different staff members across many different administrations?
What is your view of the dedication to service and privacy of the First Family exhibited and expected of the White House staff?
Would you be willing to serve as a White House staff member? Which administration would you most like to serve? Which would you least like to serve?
What did you learn about the White House itself that you never knew before?
What are your thoughts on the sacrifices made by the staff of the White House?
Were you aware of the history regarding slavery and the construction and staffing of the early White House? What are your reactions to that history?
Which chapter did you find most fascinating/interesting (“Controlled Chaos,” “Discretion,” “Devotion,” “Extraordinary Demands,” “Dark Days,” “Sacrifice,” “Race and the Residence,” “Backstairs Gossip and Mischief,” “Growing Up in the White House” or “Heartbreak and Hope”)?
Would you recommend “The Residence” to a friend? Why or why not?(less)

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Alex
May 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Eh. Quick, easy read. Brower did a great job at showing first families as real, genuine people. Also at making one dislike the Clintons...all of them. Having said that the author also manages to annoy beyond belief by constantly (and I mean every-other-paragraph-constantly) reminding the reader of the humble nobility and unassailable righteousness of the WH residence staff. For someone peddling a book whose very selling premise is the "inside scoop" she can't help be keep reminding the reader ho ...more
Blake
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was an interesting read, but the author hopped all over the place when telling stories so it was hard to follow. A couple of times, I felt I had already read the same "story." Having said that, I enjoyed the stories and learning which first couples were enjoyed by the White House staff and who they didn't particularly care for. This book has peaked my interesting in reading some of the biography books written by past maids, butlers, and ushers! ...more
Elyse  Walters
My inspiration for this book was no other - than..... our wonderful Michelle Obama ...
who might have just written the most popular - well respected - and enjoyed memoir of the year - possibly BEST BOOK of the year!!!

This was good -
I did the Audiobook/ ebook sync combination ( I’m becoming a fan of this combination)....
It’s a different experience to read a book than to listen: both have special aspects for different reasons.

I’m sitting by the pool - listening to ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
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Paige
I recently read JB West's memoir of life as the chief usher in the White House for Presidents FDR - Nixon (briefly). I eagerly picked up The Residence hoping for a continuation of that.

In many ways, that is what I got. This is a sort of collective memoir of the domestic staff of the White House for Presidents JFK - Obama.

The thing is, though... This book was sort of a mess. I really enjoyed all the accounts of White House life. It was very unique to weave so many stories together. But the organi
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Hana
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was on my library's featured new books shelf so I picked it up on a whim. Rather to my surprise I polished it off in an evening and really enjoyed it. It's all about life in the White House as seen through the eyes of the incredibly dedicated, hard-working staff who make the beds, dust the thousands of museum pieces, pack the immaculately laundered shirts, lay out the suits, fix and serve the meals (from state dinners to chili at 2 AM) and cater to the whims of Presidents, First Ladies and ...more
Lois
This review seems to upset the Karen's lol!!!!!

This is an interesting if partisan and biased look at the White House staff that served presidents Kennedy to Obama.
The Clintons are hit the hardest in this, though the author makes an effort to show all Democratic presidents as difficult or reserved.
Most praised are The Bushes, both sets.
The author is now a vapid talking empty-head on Fox.
This book is reflective of that alternative facts nonsense.
Example: there was no formal staff assigned to the
...more
Donald Powell
A very entertaining and emotional book about the White House staff. A very general review of the history and plenty of interviews of those who the author could interview from more recent years. This book is a great memorialization of the importance, sacrifice and diligence of the people who actually do the work of the United States of America. Very well written.
Ellen
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are so many fascinating and wonderful stories in this book. I have been worrying my brain over which ones to tell.This book is about the people who lived and worked in the White House from the Kennedy's to the Obama's. It's not a gossipy tell all about the first families although there are some very riveting tales about certain Presidents and First Ladies. It's mostly about the members of the staff and their utter devotion to their work. A devotion that left many in the staff divorced. The ...more
Mahlon
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
At first this book appears to be nothing more than what you could get on an hour long PBS special, but after a slow start it does begin to reveal several interesting tidbits about both the first families and what working in the White House is really like. I gathered that there is usually a strict code of silence between the White House staff and the outside world, which often persists until long after they retire. They talk to almost no one, but many of them spoke to this author, that alone make ...more
Joseph Sciuto
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kate Andersen Brower weaves an almost seamless, intimate narrative that takes the reader through a tour of First Families living in the White House over the last 80 years, as told through the eyes of the domestic staff (Butlers, Maids, Doormen, Painters, Chefs, electricians, florists etc., that work at the White House).

The domestic staff, unlike the President and his political aides and family, do not leave their jobs at the White House when a new President moves in... Much of the domestic staff
...more
Justin
Dec 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
So what I’ve gathered from reading this book: The Kennedy’s loved to party and kept the staff awake long into the night but they were always grateful.
Johnson was a philandering bully with a weird obsession with his shower but Lady Bird would go behind him and apologize to the staff
Nixon is rarely mentioned but he was pretty demanding but also kind hearted during the Watergate Scandal.
Reagan and Nancy were complete assholes and even made a maid go on hiatus because Nancy was so mean to her.
Geo
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Darlene
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am an avid consumer of politics and information about our 44 presidents. When I discovered this book written by Kate Andersen Brower, I knew it would be a fascinating read. Ms. Brower gathered material for this book by combing the archives and by interviewing scores of White House staff members. The anecdotes revealed through these interviews were funny and poignant and even sad; and I realized that the stories Ms. Brower obtained were no small feat as it became clear that the most cherished a ...more
C.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very, very interesting and informative. Enjoyed the insight into how the Presidents and first families treated, and interacted with the White House staff, and how staff felt about them, and why they felt the way they did.

It is amazing what all is required from staff, and the hours they put in. They are not paid even close to what they deserve to be paid.

I was also surprised to learn that the First Family pays for all their groceries out of their own money, except fo
...more
Amy
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very appropriate to finish this book on the eve of a significant transition of new leadership. Shall I put the words "new leadership" in quotations? Perhaps. I cried at the beginning of this book for how much the first families and staff respected the White House, and cried at the end of this book for what might be lost these next four years. So much detail. So much respect for the House, the leadership, the office and the first families. A fascinating perspective, as told by the many employees ...more
Martin io parlo italiono
The author states 3 unstated/stated rules for the White House staff.
1. Be discreet
2. Never be seen
3. Never talk to the press about what goes on in the White House.
The author repeats these rules over and over again.

Yet, we do learn about the idiosyncrasies of various first families. Nancy Reagan drove the staff crazy with her perfectionist ways. Some had to quit because the pressure she put on the staff. She would berate the staff for placing things out of order on her dresser. Lyndon Johnson req
...more
Eileen
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Entertaining indeed, this was an intriguing peek at goings on in the White House over several recent administrations. As the author successfully interviewed numerous staff members, she was
able to provide a surprisingly human perspective on many towering familiar public figures. Although the workers behind the scenes are fiercely discrete (and must be by nature), bits were divulged, sometimes years later, which are very telling. Particularly fascinating to me was what was related with regard to
...more
Jamie Collins
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
2.5 stars, a mildly interesting book about the staff who manage the White House. There are almost 100 full-time employees, plus lots more part-time staff: cooks, florists, butlers, maids, plumbers, secretaries, etc.

The author jumps around between presidencies, offering stories about the relationship between the First Families and the residence staff, from the Kennedys through the Obamas. The current and former employees were reluctant to share negative impressions (not wanting to imperil their j
...more
Patricia Romero
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a Book Club Selection for April at my local library. I put off reading it until the last minute mainly because I thought it would be dry. It was not.

The first thing I'd say is that it is a very readable book. Very easy to read and I love that Ms. Brower didn't offer her own opinions or try to speak for the men and women she interviewed.

Even after having been to the White House and been on the tour, I had no idea what goes into running such a huge house, and I also had no idea exactly h
...more
Mona
Aug 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
I shouldn't.

This book is essentialy editing free. It feels like compilation of random author's notes squzzed into the book. There is no clear plot, no chronological or thematic organization of any kind eventhough book has chapters. Lots of repetitions and page fillers. It feels like author tries to put patriotic twist on everything, even the pair of socks. 

This supposed to be compliation of interviews with retired White House supportive staff members, however if one would  gather their actual qu
...more
Aj Sterkel
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A nonfiction book that combines archival research and interviews with retired White House staff to show readers what goes on behind the scenes at the White House. How does the staff keep that mansion running smoothly? Who are those ushers and maids who scramble out of the way when journalists with cameras enter the room? It’s a fascinating look at recent American history with bits of gossip and a few scandals thrown in. If you love Downton Abbey, this is a must-read.

My only complaint is that it
...more
Corey
I wish I could've given this book more than 5 stars if it was possible, this book deserves 10 stars, or more!! My Mom read this book last year, checking it out from the library, she thought it sounded good, and she couldn't stop raving about it, she kept telling me I had to read it, so I asked for it for my birthday, and I finally got to reading it myself!

It's a wonderful behind-the-scenes tour of our Nation's Capitol and the residents that occupy it, and the way it's described, it almost makes
...more
Kim Miller-Davis
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I rarely buy books when they are first released (mainly because, with my book addiction, I would be broke!), but as soon as I read about this one in the Washington Post, I knew I had to read it immediately. I am fascinated by stories about the inner workings of all aspects of the government, and this one seemed like it would provide a fresh perspective. Moreover, it promised to deliver inside stories about how the White House functions on a daily basis. As someone who grew up in the Northern Vir ...more
Joseph
This book is basically a homage to the working people who staff the White House: the plumbers, butlers, electrians, housekeepers, the guy who keeps track of the dishes, and many more. They were and are almost all totally dedicated to the people they serve and anyone who is a guest in the White House. They do not become wealthy serving in the White House, many work part time and have other full time jobs. The value of the book is its focus on these people and what it takes to keep the White House ...more
Angie
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-2016
I’m not an American, but I couldn’t wait to read this book. I mean, who wouldn’t be curious about what happens inside the White House. Honestly, I never gave a second thought to the going ons of this residence, but when the opportunity presented itself to get a glimpse into the private lives of the first families who have lived there, I just couldn’t resist.

I had no expectations of this book, because I didn’t know what to expect. I was intrigued from the start and every time I put it down, I cou
...more
Carrie
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I won this book from Goodreads First Reads.

A look inside the most famous residence of the U.S. from the staff. There are stories covering everything from the Kennedys to the Obamas. Anything from the major events in history to the personalities of the staff and first families.


I found a lot of the stories quite fascinating and often funny. It does bounce around quite a bit and would have perhaps been easier to understand had it been broken up by presidents or followed a timeline of some sort tho
...more
Erika
What a fun, fun, FUN book!

I love everything relating to politics and presidents and DC and this was like listening to two people gossip, snippets here and there about different things they'd heard about different people and events in the White House. I know it wasn't put together that well, it jumped around a ton, flitted back and forth between presidents and time frames and it was hard to keep track. Still really fun though, and a five star for me just because it's what I love.
...more
Jan
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An enjoyable book about the White House residence staff. There are many fascinating anecdotes, but don't expect a Kitty Kelley like expose. Although some of the stories shared were not all favorable, we do get a fairly balanced view of the famous temporary occupants of the White House. Despite their quirks and gaffes, Presidents and their families were human. Wouldn't want to have worked for Nancy Reagan, though. Yeesh! ...more
Karla Hanna
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would overall rate this book 4.5 stars. I got this as an audiobook and loved hearing the story. I do wish that it wasn't all over the place. But I imagine this was done in a way that the many men and women told their story in that particular chapters category. ...more
Lydia
Enjoyable read. I googled the presidents and first ladies a lot during reading.
Maureen Grigsby
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a lovely look behind the scenes of the men and women who have worked inside the White House for decades. It takes an enormous staff to make it run smoothly, but with each change of administration, the staff has to get to know each family and accommodate their needs. This was a feel good book for me. At the time of publication, the Obamas were still the residents, and I kept thinking how different it would be I. The current administration, and of course, a new family will be moving in sh ...more
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Kate Andersen Brower is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller THE RESIDENCE and the New York Times bestseller FIRST WOMEN, as well as FIRST IN LINE, TEAM OF FIVE, and the children’s book EXPLORING THE WHITE HOUSE. She is a CNN contributor and she has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair and Time. She spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg ...more

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“But most accounts agree that the residence workers’ devotion to President George H. W. Bush was more than customary—it was genuine, almost profound. The Bushes were generally easy to please, and the residence workers found themselves quickly at ease with them.” 2 likes
“The Elms was the Johnsons’ Washington, D.C., mansion and it was equipped with a shower like nothing the staff had ever seen: water charging out of multiple nozzles in every direction with needlelike intensity and a hugely powerful force. One nozzle was pointed directly at the president’s penis, which he nicknamed “Jumbo.” Another shot right up his rear.” 2 likes
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