When I had this idea to read a book about every President of the United States, I came up with a few personal ground rules. First, I would read a book by or about each President. Second, I would read them in chronological order, according to the electoral succession of power. Third, when pinning down which book to read, I would limit myself to one-volume works. Many notable presidential biographies are multi-volume epics, such as Edmund Morris three-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Finally, I would search for works of distinction, choosing books that are award-winning and recognized as authoritative.
Keeping those ground rules in mind, I knew that we’ve only had forty-four Presidents. Over the last few years, I’ve been reading fifty or more books per year, and thus imagined that with only forty-four presidential books to read, completing this quest in a year would be achievable. Of course, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the task before me.
Back in November, Barnes & Noble sent me a pre-holiday enticement, a 20% discount coupon for one item in their store, in addition to my B&N member discount. I can’t resist a bargain, so I searched online for an authoritative single volume biography of our first President, George Washington. After some research, I set my sites on Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, a well-regarded bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner.