Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush

Rate this book
In many ways George W. Bush did not seem built for the presidency or the paces necessary to win it. He was a laid-back good-time guy with little appetite and limited talent for formal oratory, someone who often projected affability more easily than authority. He was a homebody who seemed to prefer surroundings and situations that were utterly familiar to those that were risky and unpredictable. His interests could be narrow and his efforts to expand them only fitful.

But he got there, and after September 11, 2001, confronted a challenge more daunting than many of his predecessors had faced. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush was left with the responsibility to lead Americans through a time of unusual anxiety and uncertainty, to inspire and reassure them. Could he do it?

In Ambling Into History, Frank Bruni, who covered Bush's presidential campaign and first eight months in the White House for the New York Times, mines the countless hours during which he observed and interacted with Bush to explore that question, and to present sides of Bush that readers have never encountered. He looks to small moments for big truths, going behind the scenes and offering fresh insights into Bush's oft-chronicled weaknesses, sometimes overlooked strengths, and his journey-alternately earnest and reluctant-from an innate levity to a newfound gravity.

Bruni also takes readers on his own trip through the strange maze of presidential politics, wryly chronicling life in the insular "bubble" of political reporting and its frequently dispiriting effect on the coverage that politicians get. It is a candid, eloquent, and illuminating adventure that shows why Newsweek called Bruni "probably the most influential" reporter on the Bush beat.

278 pages, Hardcover

First published March 5, 2002

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Frank Bruni

10 books178 followers
Frank Bruni was named restaurant critic for The New York Times in April 2004.

Before that, Mr. Bruni had been the Rome bureau chief from July 2002 until March 2004, a post he took after working as a reporter in the Washington D.C. bureau from December 1998 until May 2002. While in Washington, he was among the journalists assigned to Capitol Hill and Congress until August 1999, when he was assigned full-time to cover the presidential campaign of Gov. George W. Bush. He then covered the White House for the first eight months of the Bush administration, and subsequently spent seven months as the Washington-based staff writer for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Mr. Bruni is the author of The New York Times bestseller about George W. Bush called Ambling into History (HarperCollins: hardcover, 2002; paperback, 2003). He is also the co-author of A Gospel of Shame: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
19 (12%)
4 stars
50 (32%)
3 stars
63 (41%)
2 stars
17 (11%)
1 star
4 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
2 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2010
it kind of reminded me of legally blonde... the male version
Profile Image for Colleen.
19 reviews
May 22, 2010
This was difficult for me to read. But, I appreciate some of what it said. It was an admission by a journalist who wanted to say that he and so many others in his profession gave breaks to a man that they grew to like personally.

The serious impact of these media breaks are something that I find difficult to forgive. Despite the grueling schedule of the journalist on the road with a presidential candidate, the bottom line is that it is their job to be objective.

September 19, 2018
One of the strangest political books I've ever read.

The title is just plain wrong, it's basically a book about how it was like to cover a Presidential campaign, but still sorta focusing on the candidate.

The takeaway is that Bush was kinda goofy and trying to be liked. The awkward guy that makes too many jokes.

There is zero politics here, just a prolonged impression of Bush as a person, and the madness of day in day out campaigning.

If I'd read this a decade an a half ago, I'd have been angry about it. Nowadays, I've lost any heat about the Bush era and am just appreciating any unbiased writing I can get as a pure historian. Out of the probably twenty or so books I've read from this (publication) timeframe, this is about as unbiased as it gets.

It's entertaining and insightful about the man, and his campaign. But that is it. If you want some history, or some policy insight. There are hundreds of other option.

Profile Image for Renee.
204 reviews11 followers
August 16, 2017
Although I enjoyed Frank Bruni's up-close journalistic dive into the successful presidential campaign of George W. Bush, I was surprised at the lack of space given to the Florida recount and protracted election results. Having lived abroad during that period of time, I was hoping that this book would describe what it was like during those historical days of waiting to know who was President. Sadly, at least for historical record, Bruni spent much more time poking fun at Bush's well-known malapropisms than providing his readers with an inside look at an unprecedented election.
430 reviews4 followers
February 21, 2018
A colorful and insightful look at Presidential candidate George W. Bush...and his first days in office. Written by New York Times reporter Frank Bruni, the book is often entertaining and always though provoking.
Profile Image for Joseph.
222 reviews43 followers
February 15, 2022
I decided to read this book on a whim. I am (or perhaps was) sorta lukewarm on Frank Bruni as a New York Times op-ed columnist, but I saw this book referred to in another piece and thought, hmmmm, I should give it a try. I was fully prepared not to like it. Basically, Bruni was part of the press corps assigned to the first Bush campaign in 2000. In this capacity he followed Bush on the campaign trail even to the extent of being allowed to fly with then Governor Bush as he travelled across the country.

My first observation was that Bruni writes in a very down to earth, readable style and his descriptions of the bag drags, junk food, smoke filled bars, and more left me with the impression that he is honest, humble, and a guy I’d buy a round or two for. Secondly, when Bruni early on in the story characterized things thusly: “Campaigns often have aspects of cult: the leader is all powerful, all-knowing and everyone publicly defers to his or her wisdom” well, I thought yeah, Frank Bruni gets it.”

Bruni also offers interesting tidbits that for me helped flesh out the image in my mind of George Bush. For example, Bush was basically ignorant of pop culture and came from a somewhat sheltered background. He did not know who Leonardo DiCaprio was and had not seen “Titanic.” Nor was he familiar with Michael Moore or Stone Philips, in fact, he thought “Sex in the City” was perhaps an erotic novel and had to be told it was an HBO tv offering. As expected, Frank Bruni does record several gaffes and Bush’s propensity toward malapropisms.

However, in fairness, Bruni also notes that Bush has some serious interpersonal skills. He was almost hypersensitive to peoples’ needs, moods, and concerns. In Bruni’s words: “Bush sensed little disturbances in the atmosphere around him and calibrated his actions accordingly. Politicians are seducers — at least the good ones are — and Bush was practiced in the art of seduction.” That, I think was one of the finer insights that Bruni provided. Over time I have met a few politicians; specifically, Orrin Hatch, Danny Inouye, Carl Levin, John Chafee — each had the capacity to seduce. Perhaps surprisingly, none more so than Orrin Hatch. But, enough digression.

Another observation Bruni makes near the end of the book was, in my view, especially apt, it had to do with spin. Now we had had two great “spin machines” before George Bush’s; namely, those associated with Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Bruni discusses the Bush spin machine noting: “Of course there was aggressive spin at work. But the thing about spin was that it had to be tethered at least somewhat to the truth or somewhere down the line, it might be revealed as utterly mendacious and backfire.” We may well be seeing untethered spin in today’s White House.

To close, I think this book is well worth reading. It is not totally unbiased, yet it is remarkably free of bias. And, I think Bruni saw things in Bush that others missed. I come away with a fuller appreciation for both Bush and Bruni.
262 reviews
September 7, 2009
I picked this up not so much because of an interest in G. W. Bush, but moreso because I've recently discovered Frank Bruni. He's an excellent writer, and in this book, recounts his time on the 2000 presidential campaign trail with then-candidate Bush. His insights and observations concerning Bush, Laura, and the extended family give one food for thought. His 'insider look' at how journalists behave during campaigns, particularly how they create controversy out of thin air just by being a horde of journalists swarmiing about a candidate is also thought-provoking.
Profile Image for Jerry Landry.
415 reviews11 followers
November 1, 2011
For me, the title was a bit misleading. While there is a good deal of discussion of Bush during the campaign and the first year of his presidency, this book operates in conjunction with another focal point, namely personal revelations about life on the campaign trail for the press corps. That being said, it was an interesting look into Bruni's experiences covering Bush and his impressions of our 43rd president. If you're looking for a less scholarly, personal account of Bush's rise to the presidency and his early days, then I recommend Bruni's book.
July 5, 2007
This is a great book whether you are or aren't a Bush fan. It is somewhat of a psycho-analysis of Bush from the perspective of a news reporter travelling with him on the campaign bus. There are plenty of Bushisms to laugh at, sincere moments, and many moments where Bush surprises everyone. Its somewhat of a side-note to the Bush we see on television....
Profile Image for Shawna.
322 reviews2 followers
February 15, 2010
An interesting book. Informative with regard to the presidential campaign process and specifically Bush's campaign. Bush is not the most knowledgeable man, but he appears to be aware of his limitations. He comes across as a sincere Christian, concerned with doing what is right.
Profile Image for Brian Stillman.
Author 2 books6 followers
December 11, 2007
One of the most even handed accounts of Bush I've read. Think I read this one during the lead up to the '04 elections.
210 reviews
June 9, 2012
I really enjoyed this intimate and honest look into the life and personality of our former governor and president.
33 reviews
April 4, 2010
This was a fantastic read. I loved it. It should rival Game Change!
5 reviews
November 10, 2014
I was not a fan of George W. Bush and his presidency. This book did not change my mind but it did bring former President Bush into focus as a human being. Well worth reading.
Profile Image for Maris.
41 reviews1 follower
December 1, 2014
The book is pretty good - a look at George Bush thru the eyes of a reporter assigned to his press corps. Did not complete it, but Bruni does not paint Bush in a very flattering light. Duh!
Profile Image for Beverly.
1,687 reviews22 followers
May 28, 2015
This was ok. It revealed Bush's weaknesses as a campaigner and his strengths as a person. I didn't finish it because I got tired of Bruni's narrative about being on the campaign press detail.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.