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William Howard Taft: The American Presidents Series: The 27th President, 1909-1913

(The American Presidents #27)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  167 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The only man to serve as president and chief justice, who approached every decision in constitutional terms, defending the Founders' vision against new populist threats to American democracy

William Howard Taft never wanted to be president and yearned instead to serve as chief justice of the United States. But despite his ambivalence about politics, the former federal judge
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by Times Books (first published May 1st 2012)
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Start your review of William Howard Taft: The American Presidents Series: The 27th President, 1909-1913
I watched the interview on CSPAN of Jeffrey Rosen discussing his new book “William Howard Taft: The 27th President 1909-1913”. It is the newest title in The American President Series. Rosen discussed the challenge he faced in staying within the Series’ guidelines of a concise short book.

I have read a number of the biographies of Taft as well as his wife, Helen (Nellie). Taft is one of the forgotten presidents. In all the books about Taft, it was clear Taft did not want to be president but his
Bill Kerwin

The most important thing to remember about William Howard Taft is that he dearly loved the Constitution of the United States of America, but he loved his wife Nellie more. His dream job was always to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but Nellie had her heart set on being FLOTUS, so William Howard became POTUS instead.

His story, however, has a happy ending. After a difficult, somewhat unpopular first term as president, and an unfortunate election in 1912 in which he was not only
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Netgalley #39

Many thanks go to Jeffrey Rosen, Times Books, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

This book is the next installment of the American President Series. There is an introduction to what a president is and what makes a great president.
Then the story of the particular presidency follows.
This books begins with a general overview of Taft before leading to his relationship with his father and college career. From there it's a continuous rise
robin friedman
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Howard Taft In The American Presidents Series

Founded by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, the American Presidents Series aims, in Schlesinger's words "to present the grand panorama of our chief executives in volumes compact enough for the busy reader, lucid enough for the student, authoritative enough for the scholar." The volumes explore the qualities of leadership or its lack of each president.

Jeffrey Rosen's recent series volume on William Howard Taft (1857 -- 1930) fulfills the goals of the
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-thought-out and well-written brief biography of a frequently overlooked president. Rosen has done well in choosing what details and anecdotes should be included to paint an accurate but brief portrait of Taft. After reading this book, I feel like I knew who Taft was not just as a historical figure, but as a human being--and I was surprised at how much I liked him. There is also enough historical context given to help the reader understand the issues with which Taft had to deal, ...more
Frank Theising
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-presidents
Surprisingly insightful. I was initially disappointed that this was the only Taft bio I was able to pick up in my new home. I really wanted something with more depth and analysis. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised with this one. Sandwiched between the giants of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Taft is largely overlooked and often caricatured. Coming into this book I admit I knew very little about him (besides his obesity) other than what I gleaned from bios of TR or Wilson in which ...more
Jim Cullison
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This crisp and concise biography of our 27th president increases the reader's appreciation for an underrated and oddly inspiring figure from a critical period in our history. Quietly principled and bereft of his predecessor's ostentatious theatrics, Taft has never enjoyed the esteem that he so painstakingly and patiently earned in cleaning up after Theodore Roosevelt's anti-constitutional presidency. Author Rosen persuasively portrays Taft as a a steady and unswerving bulwark of ...more
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think this is one of the better in the series. Rosen doesn't shove his personal political view on the reader. Instead he let's Taft speak for himself.
Ben Truong
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
William Howard Taft is the twenty-sixth book in The American Presidents series – a biographical series chronicling the Presidents of the United States. Jeffrey Rosen wrote this particular installment and edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Sean Wilentz.

William Howard Taft was the twenty-seventh President of the United States (1909–1913) and the tenth chief justice of the United States (1921–1930), the only person to have held both offices. Taft was elected president in 1908, the chosen
Bill Sleeman
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Author Jeffrey Rosen is an experienced historian of the Supreme Court and its denizens – both past and present. In William Howard Taft a part of the American Presidents seriesfrom Times Books Rosen has crafted from the available sources (copiously referenced … thank you Professor Rosen) a remarkable short and readable biography of Taft’s career. Most importantly though is the skill with which Rosen explores Taft’s constitutional worldview and how that contributed to his, often underestimated,

Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read many of the biographies in the American Presidents series, I was eager to read the latest edition on William Howard Taft.

While it may have been the last of the originally planned entries it is, in my opinion, one of the best. Newcomers to this series should know that each biography is written to inform. They are each designed to provide enough information to satisfy the curious general reader while offering context for further exploration by the serious student of presidential
Casey Wheeler
I received a free Kindle copy of William Howard Taft by Jeffrey Rosen courtesy of Net Galley and Henry Holt and Company,the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.

I requested this book as I have read a number of biographies on American Presidents, but this is the first devoted to William Howard Taft that I have
This book really only has one major point to make, and it makes it effectively. The author argues that Taft was much more born to be a Supreme Court Chief Justice (which he became during the Harding administration) than a President. Taft believed a President should only do what the Constitution expressly allowed him to do, whereas Theodore Roosevelt believed a President should do anything it didn't expressly forbid. Taft was cautious, Constitution-oriented, and somewhat unimaginative.

But then
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jeffrey Rosen's short biography of William Howard Taft is one of the more enjoyable volumes I've read in The American Presidents series. Taft, the only individual to serve as both President of the United States and Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, is not the dynamic figure of his predecessor and mentor Theodore Roosevelt, but is an interesting study in his own right. This book focuses almost exclusively on Taft in his two most prominent roles (POTUS and Chief Justice of SCOTUS), so if ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started this as a Presidents' Day read.

Our fattest and one of the most boring presidents is also one of my favorites, simply because he didn't want to be president. This history is a refreshing history of an administration that faced no major crises or wars and focused on trade and labor disputes. That's about it. Taft stayed principled about the Constitution and not extending executive power. He is interesting because of how uninteresting he was, especially between the populism of Teddy
Christie Bane
This a boilerplate narrative of President Taft's life and presidency. It's fine; that's all. I know what he did in his life and his presidency; I know what type of president he was; I know that he became chief justice of the Supreme Court after his presidency and that THAT, not the presidency, was his dream career and the one he was best at. But I really don't know much about Taft the person.

I knew this would be a "light" biography as opposed to the in-depth one that I enjoyed, and I almost
Steven Freeman
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A great administrator, a middling President, and then one of the greatest to ever serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He thought in black and white terms framed by the constitution. This judicial thought process made him a great judge and governor of the Philippines. He also served ably as Secretary of War for Roosevelt. His desire was always towards the Supreme Court, but he turned down two appointments to complete his work as Governor General. He was a reluctant President, but ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been chronologically reading biographies of the Presidents, and I have read a handful from the American President Series. I would consider this one the best book in the series that I have read. While a law professor is not a typical choice to write a biography of a President, I appreciated the legal perspective that Rosen brought to Taft’s career as both President and Chief Justice. Rosen presents Taft’s presidency in the context of Taft’s views on the roles of the executive branch under ...more
David Bales
William Howard Taft was not a great president, although he wasn't terrible. His commitment to constitutional law and the role of Congress as law-maker was steadfast, his honesty was admirable and his distaste for the possibility of demagoguery a model by comparison of our present day. He was miscast as president and much more comfortable being a judge. His greatest goal was to be Chief Justice of the United States, appointed by one of his predecessors, Warren Harding, and his tenure from 1921 to ...more
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short book of only 137 pages gave me much more insight into William Howard Taft's presidency than Doris Kearns Goodwin's "The Bully Pulpit." It also provided more information on why TR and Taft's great friendship dissolved. Taft's accomplishments, both as President of the United States (1909-1913) and as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1921-1930), are well summarized in this short but excellent volume. His legacy in both positions of service to his country live on even today.
Brice Fuqua
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taft has been underrated as a president and overrated as a Supreme Court justice. Rosen's brief book presents a balanced portrait of a man whose honesty and devotion to the Constitution were counterbalanced by his stubbornness and political naivety.
The final chapter contrasts Taft's cautious, consensus-building tendencies with the partisan demagoguery of the last few administrations.
Jeffrey Rosen's clear, crisp prose provides an insightful view of William Howard Taft. I used to think of Taft as a president who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Now I think of him as a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who happened to be president earlier in his career.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading about this less-studied President and Chief Justice. In a year marked by political turmoil and “fake news” it was useful to look back 100 years and see how Taft helped shape today’s highly independent courts.
Rob Schmults
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very concise - nice to get a sense of Taft without needing a 700 page bio. Could have gone another 50 pages to get more on role in Philippines, Panama Canal, etc. But well done by the author to clearly convey as much in so little space.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brief, clearly-written sketch of the President and his career drawing on longer works. Its contribution is to make the case for Taft based on his own goals and approach, showing from that perspective what worked and what didn't and why.
Fred Kohn
This book strikes me as an average entry in this series. I had a lot of trouble following the intricacies of the Pinchot-Ballinger controversy, but perhaps that is just me. The section explaining Taft's tenure as Supreme Court judge was my favorite part of the book.
Bob Edwards
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was much better than what I expected The political tensions were clearly explained and related to the current political currents. This exploration of a bottom tier president was top notch.
Pat Carson
Taft viewed Presidential power as something that needed to be balanced by the rule of law. The author makes some telling comparisons of Taft and the current President-Taft comes out the better person.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
A very short book, but this was an interesting time to read about one of the last "anti-imperial" I presidents who also happened to be Supreme Court Chief Justice. We could use a little more restraint in our politics these days.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book about our only President who later became Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Incredibly influential man.
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