Presidential Biographies discussion

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message 1: by Elyse (new)

Elyse (sjpeachy) | 13 comments I am trying to decide which US Grant biography to read. It's a toss up between two authors named Ronald - Ronald C. White, Jr. or Ron Chernow. I like both of these authors very much. Do you have a preference? I don't have time to read both. I started with Washington in 1993 and in 25 years I'm only up to Andrew Johnson. I'm in my early 60's so I need to quicken the pace so I can finish this project before I pass on or get senile. Thanks for your help.


message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike | 5 comments I would read Chernow. He’s a more engaging writer and thus a more enjoyable experience.


message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 32 comments I really enjoyed Michael Korda’s. It had a lot in it even thiugh it was very short. I haven’t read Chernow’s yet for the reasons Mike stayed (above).


message 4: by James (new)

James Keenley (jkeenley) | 23 comments Elyse, I've read Grant biographies by Ron Chernow, Ronald White, Jean Edward Smith, Michael Korda, and Josiah Bunting, and, given the parameters of your reading program, I think Ronald White's "American Ulysses" would be the best one for you to read.


message 5: by Steve (new)

Steve | 8 comments From a comment by Amanda W. posted to my website in the last couple days dealing with exactly this issue:

"I have recently read both White and Chernow’s biographies on Grant and was in love with both. I found that over all, Chernow was better. He gave a more rounded, complete view with out sacrificing detail. I appreciated his take on USG’s post civil war life and his willingness to come head to head with Grant’s drinking rather than defending, dismissing or ignoring it.

However, I was a little disappointed with his take on Grant’s youth. I felt that White gave color, creativity and life to Grant as a human; he dwelt on what Grant read as a youth and even included photos of paintings and sketches made by “Sam” at West Point. Having read other Grant biographies, this was a whole new side to him that I had never discovered.

I have always admired Grant for his marriage; he loved her dearly and deserves the adjective uxiorous given him by Shelby Foote. As quoted from Ken Burn’s “Civil War,” he might have been considered a “failure at everything except marriage and war.” Both, I say are incredible feats. Chernow’s treatment of Julia is sporadic; he approaches her from a modern interpretation, but it is also just. White is more gracious and merciful of her faults and saw her a human being who was loved by Ulysses despite her “rose colored glasses.”

In short, I enjoyed both works for what they gave and do not see them as competing. I would highly recommend both."


message 6: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (murainman) | 8 comments Elyse wrote: "I am trying to decide which US Grant biography to read..." I have only read White's, but Chernow's awaits at a later time. Based on the above comments, I would go with White's. He may have dismissed Grant's drinking, but I dare say that it is dismissible or at least forgivable. The only thing I did not like was that he spent little time on Grant's post-presidency world tour. I can't speak to Chernow's treatment of that.


message 7: by Elyse (new)

Elyse (sjpeachy) | 13 comments Thank you all for your thoughtful suggestions. Once I finish my copy of Hans L. Trefousse's "Andrew Johnson", I'll make my decision on Grant. I am so glad I found this group. Reading your posts will help me choose my future biographies.


message 8: by Raymond (new)

Raymond | 5 comments Elyse wrote: "Thank you all for your thoughtful suggestions. Once I finish my copy of Hans L. Trefousse's "Andrew Johnson", I'll make my decision on Grant. I am so glad I found this group. Reading your posts wil..."

Hi Elyse. I've only read White's bio of Grant. You can find my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 9: by Elyse (new)

Elyse (sjpeachy) | 13 comments Very nice review, Raymond. So far Chernow and White are running neck and neck. It's nice having two such good authors to choose from for Grant. As you probably know already, this isn't always the case with presidential bios. Some of them up to Lincoln have been painful to read. I'm still recovering from Martin Van Buren. I had to purchase 3 Van Buren books before I found one I could plow through.


message 10: by Raymond (new)

Raymond | 5 comments Elyse wrote: "Very nice review, Raymond. So far Chernow and White are running neck and neck. It's nice having two such good authors to choose from for Grant. As you probably know already, this isn't always the c..."

Thank you.

Oh gosh. I'm sorry that it has been a struggle. I don't know if you mentioned this already but what has been your favorite bio so far?

Have you seen this blog before? https://bestpresidentialbios.com/
I like that he reads a stack of bios of each president and then picks the best one by type: stand alone books or series.


message 11: by Elyse (new)

Elyse (sjpeachy) | 13 comments Hi Raymond - Yes, I've looked at Steve's website https://bestpresidentialbios.com/. He wrote me a very helpful comment earlier in this post. I am going to use his website A LOT now that I'm aware of it. His website is a masterpiece of research on this subject.


message 12: by Raymond (new)

Raymond | 5 comments Elyse wrote: "Hi Raymond - Yes, I've looked at Steve's website https://bestpresidentialbios.com/. He wrote me a very helpful comment earlier in this post. I am going to use his website A LOT now that I'm aware o..."

Oh wow. Had no idea that he was on this thread.


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