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T.R.: The Last Romantic

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,674 ratings  ·  87 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author, an acclaimed biography of President Teddy Roosevelt
Lauded as "a rip-roaring life" (Wall Street Journal), TR is a magisterial biography of Theodore Roosevelt by bestselling author H.W. Brands. In his time, there was no more popular national figure than Roosevelt. It was not just the energy he brought to every political office he h
Paperback, 928 pages
Published September 11th 1998 by Basic Books (first published 1997)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  1,674 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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December 2009

I think I may be a glutton for punishment--bookwise, that is, and at least where nonfiction is concerned. I seem to be developing a habit of picking up interesting-looking books that later turn out to be bad, unreadable, or merely uninteresting. It happened with Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World by Patrick Buchanan: despite the obvious subtitle, despite the author (that Pat Buchanan), despite the warning bells that
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it

“T.R.: The Last Romantic” is H.W. Brands’s 1997 biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Brands is a professor at the University of Texas, a prolific author and a two-time Pulitzer finalist. He has written nearly thirty books on a wide range of historical topics including biographies of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Aaron Burr and FDR. His most recent biography “Reagan: A Life” will be released in May.

Brands’s biography is lengthy (with just over 800 pages) bu
Bill Simpson
Jul 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Great book!! H.W. Brands really has a way of putting together a biography without it bogging one down in facts. I gained an increased understanding about Theodore Roosevelt I hadn't remembered after all the history classes I sat through in school. This was NOT a book that sang nothing but praises and left out the bad stuff. I felt that Mr. Brands was extremely honest and objective in his writing, allowing the reader to see the faults as well as the successes of this president. The next book from ...more
Chad Trim
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A sprawling and thought-provoking portrait of a President I thought I knew a lot about, but really didn't. If I'm being perfectly honest, regardless of whether or not this was Brands' intent - my perception of TR was pretty tarnished by this book. He had a massive chip on his shoulder, an inferiority complex rivaling Tr*mps and possessed one of my least favorite politician qualities of all time; being extremely hawkish. To be fair, most past Presidents were all of the above. Regardless, the book ...more
Brent Ecenbarger
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, presidents
You can blame Grover Cleveland for me reviewing The Last Romantic by H.W. Brands. Originally I was going to read the trilogy of biographies by Edmond Morris on Mr. Roosevelt, but even after getting recharged by William McKinley, the Cleveland biography hangover was too much to gear myself up for all of that. I’d previously read Brand’s biography on Andrew Jackson, and see he’s also done books on FDR, Benjamin Franklin and Ronald Reagan. I was excited to get into the larger than life figure of Te ...more
Jul 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
Wow, it's pretty clear that Brands hates Roosevelt ... anything good that Roosevelt did is clearly an accident, and not because of anything Roosevelt believed in, or any skill that Roosevelt had. It definitely reads like a post-Watergate revisionist work, where no politician can have any good in him or her, that everything is done because of an ulterior motive, and that all politicians are hugely flawed, and one must emphasize their flaws and dismiss their strengths. That's Brands' interpretatio ...more
Nana Dona
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh Teddy... From the start I was endeared to Teddy Roosevelt. His enthusiasm and positive outlook on life! I planned trips ... long ones... just so I could settle in with no distractions. He got a little crazy after his presidency realizing he could do such a better job, and wishing he was still in the "saddle." I teared when he got shot and gave his speech... bloody and all. Although I have never been a history buff... between my Reeder and my son... I am becoming one. A great read. Great writi ...more
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brands weaves history into a complete story.
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: u-s-presidents
One of my personal bucket list items that I accomplished was to read at least one biography of every U.S. President. When I tell people this, the question I’m often asked is “Which one was your favorite?” That’s a good question, but a difficult one. I’m still not sure I can answer it, but I’ve often proclaimed that my favorite subject matter was definitely Theodore Roosevelt. This is the conclusion I came to after reading the Edmund Morris trilogy of the 26th president. However, after now having ...more
Tom Rowe
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Is it possible to write a bad book on Theodore Roosevelt? I think it would be very hard to do. However, I must say that I am glad this is not my first exposure to TR. (I started with the Edmund Morris 3 volume set.) Brands' TR is less Herculean than others. Brands offers a lot of analysis and cuts through TR's attempts to write his own history. Lost is the wow factor that I found in Morris' book. Also lost is a lot of the detail as this is a one volume work vs. three. It almost felt like a summa ...more
Bill Simpson
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was actually the regular paperback edition of this book, but I couldn't find it from the selection provided.

I thought this was a great book! H.W. Brands gives an extremely fair representation of one of our nations most colorful men and presidents. Before reading I knew only vague things about TR, recalled from the deep dark corners of my mind. I enjoyed the factual aspects of the book, but also the personal parts that gave me an opportunity to see why TR became the person he became. It was
Stephen Veliz
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've been surprised by a few reviews that I've read here, stating that Brands paints TR in a negative light. To be sure, the author is critical of Roosevelt at time - for example, Roosevelt's private criticism of Wilson.

However, I believe that Brands weaves a balanced narrative of one of our nation's most extraordinary figures. If you're looking for someone that positions Roosevelt on a pedestal, this book is probably not for you. If you want an unvarnished story of one of America's most pivotal
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is an enjoyable and informative portrait of a great American President. Much of what is right and wrong about the American Presidency and the role of federal government today can be traced to TR. He was a proud imperialist and crusader for the middle class, the poor, and the environment. Even where I believe him to be wrong, I admire Roosevelt's commitment and his moral and physical courage. ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This tome is not for the timid - it is a beast, but worth every minute of it. The author provides a comprehensive view of TR's life. I think that Teddy was awesome, and this book gives him his justice. ...more
Vincent Saint-Simon
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Dear Sirs and Madams,

If you are considering a biography not written by Mr. Brands, you are in the act of doing yourself a grave disservice.


Craig Earnshaw
Oct 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love Brands writing style, includes in the broad sweep of this fascinating man's life enough detail to make us feel that we knew him. I would love to sit down for a long dinner with Teddy. ...more
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just really love Teddy and this made me love him more.
Andrew Canfield
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Few authors are able to bring as much of a flourish to historical writing as University of Texas professor H.W. Brands. This was the third Brands title I have read (including The Age of Gold and Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times), and his knack for bringing history to life while composing excellently structured story lines is worthy of commendation.

The Last Romantic is a wonderful look at the life of Theodore Roosevelt. It would be difficult for anyone to write a boring book on the twenty-sixt
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was intrigued by the subtitle of this book, considering the most widely-known reputation of the subject. However, the description was borne out in Roosevelt's own words, along with the author's deep research and synthesis of Roosevelt's lifetime acts and achievements. Roosevelt thought himself larger than life in many cases, and he felt his motives and actions came from a highly moral (and arguably self-righteous) place, and he cast himself as the one person who could and should champion the w ...more
Summer Meyers
Brands has a weird relationship with Roosevelt. Through out the book, Brands made snide remarks about Roosevelt's character and personality. It was distracting and a bit disappointing. Roosevelt had his faults, and I don't necessarily need someone who fawns over him, but a general feeling of esteem for your subject isn't too much to ask.

I was annoyed that he glossed over some important moments of Roosevelt's history (His involvement with the cigar business during his state legislature, riding d
Chaston Kome
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and thoughtful biography. Since McCullough, other biographers seem to have reacted by trying to avoid hagiography and be more subjective in their review and retelling of their subjects. Brands takes some of this to another level that makes it a special kind of biography. His discussion if the role parents play in helping their children come to terms with the people around them following the death of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr, is a touching and thoughtful piece that makes this a unique rea ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting president. Got us into Cuba, Panama, Philippines etc. The whole team-American world-police foreign policy seems to originate from TR. TR was the president of unintended consequences. His Republican view on restricting corporations was great, but pretty sure 3rd term would've lead to more unintended consequences(eg thank god we never got referendums)

Absolutely terrible author. 0 effort was put into setting context of various events. Eg The Populist Movement causes a lot of TR's reacti
Virginia Henry
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is my 3rd or 4th “read” about TR and I think I finally understand what made him tick. An avid reader, he was motivated by childhood impressions gleaned from books about heroism and warfare. A romantic “script” played in his life, which steered his decisions and even his emotions. His writing (books and articles) were crafted with a writing style which had an underlying pattern of good vs evil. Also, his father’s love and attention, and the security he felt growing up, provided him an emotio ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Brands accurately portrays his subject--both his good characteristics and his bad. Roosevelt's renowned energy is well portrayed, his tendency toward hating others when they're not doing what he expects is also portrayed. I'm thinking especially of Taft and Wilson.

Obviously all of the detail of Roosevelt's life can't be portrayed in this book but there are plenty of excellent books that tell about certain aspects of his life. This inclusive biography w
Bob Davis
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Despite the 800 + pages, it was enjoyable.

The author did well in telling the Roosevelt historical facts in context of their times. The result was a narrative that brought out the human being and his times. Without reading another bio it’s hard to tell how the author may have consciously or unconsciously slated the narrative, but it seems to be a relatively unbiased work.

Roosevelt and Trump had more than a few similarities. Both was confident that their gut feelings were right. Roosevelt, howeve
Wendy Cerna
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I love to read presidential biographies. Haven't read them all...yet...but quite a few. This one is good but not great. The author has obviously done extensive research. All the facts are present. Theodore Roosevelt's life is clearly outlined and many interesting anecdotes are added from those who knew him and from his own personal writings. I really enjoyed those excerpts. And I am in awe of all the work that had to go into making this book as readable and accessible as it is. But the reason I ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Meh. The Edmund Morris trilogy was significantly better. SIGNIFICANTLY. I just don’t know how a 800 page book managed to be so superficial! I’ve read a few Roosevelt biographies before so I didn’t expect to be surprised by much, but I’d have liked to learn SOMETHING. Not to be. Major policy initiatives get a paragraph but Brands’ theory on Roosevelt’s psychology (based on woefully little, I’ll add) manages to choke up whole chapters. I had to make myself finish the last- god help me- 300 pages o ...more
Doug Tabner
May 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Brands is among my favorite authors, his books on Franklin and Jackson are the definitive biographies of them. But when it comes to Teddy Roosevelt, Edmund Morris' trilogy is as good as it gets. If you want to stick to a single volume then T.R. is the book for you. But if you're going to get in deep enough to read a 900 page book, I'd highly recommend going the extra miles and reading the Morris trilogy. ...more
Nolan Williams
This was a good book, but it didn’t make me think much of who he was as a person. Maybe for what he accomplished as president, but not as an individual. He obviously thought more of himself than other people. The interesting part are all the similarities with today. Germany’s interfering with our election, the problem with immigrants to the US (Japanese and Germans) and a President who would give Trump a run for his money. Not what I expected.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
HW Bands biography of Theodore Roosevelt is very informative and complete. While sometimes critical of TR (sometimes many excessively), Bands shows both sides of Rosevelt. It praises TR's enthusiasm for truth and justice but also takes measured shots at his overwhelming character and sense of right and wrong. ...more
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Henry William Brands was born in Portland, Oregon, where he lived until he went to California for college. He attended Stanford University and studied history and mathematics. After graduating he became a traveling salesman, with a territory that spanned the West from the Pacific to Colorado. His wanderlust diminished after several trips across the Great Basin, and he turned to sales of a differen ...more

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