With President’s Day coming up it’s a great time to introduce your history buff patrons to new books about our country’s leaders. We wanted to highlight some amazing reads about Washington, Lincoln and FDR for you to share as you celebrate President’s Day at your library.
George Washington: Gentleman Warrior
By Stephen Brumwell
Winner of the prestigious George Washington Book Prize, George Washington is a vivid recounting of the formative years and military career. “I am a warrior” were the uncompromising words that Washington chose to describe himself in May 1779, at the height of the Revolutionary War against Britain. It’s an image very different to the one that he’s been assigned by posterity – the patriotic plantation owner who would become the dignified political leader of his country. The book focuses on a side of Washington that is often overlooked: the feisty young frontier officer and the early career of the tough forty-something commander of the revolutionaries’ ragtag Continental Army.
Award-winning historian Stephen Brumwell shows how, ironically, Washington’s reliance upon English models of “gentlemanly” conduct, and on British military organization, was crucial in establishing his leadership of the fledgling Continental Army, and in forging it into the weapon that secured American independence. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including original archival research, Brumwell brings a fresh new perspective on this extraordinary individual, whose fusion of gentleman and warrior left an indelible imprint on history.
Much has been written about how Lincoln saved the Union, but lesser known-yet equally vital-is the impact Lincoln had on the crucible of world affairs and how he carefully balanced America’s role abroad during those tumultuous years of war and division.
Lincoln in the World delves into six distinct episodes that helped to define the character of a Lincolnian foreign policy: his debate, as a young congressman, with law partner Billy Herndon over the conduct of the Mexican war; his conflict with William Seward over the control of the State Department; his standoff with Britain’s Lord Palmerston during the Trent crisis of 1861; his race with Karl Marx to master the new art of molding public opinion; his deadlock with Napoleon III over the French occupation of Mexico; and John Hay’s post-assassination battle to define Lincoln’s legacy.
What emerges from these fascinating case studies is another side to Lincoln’s cautious pragmatism imbued with his powerful sense of international justice and the limits of American strength. In the bestselling tradition of Team of Rivals and Lincoln at Gettysburg, Lincoln in the World is a tremendously important new portrait of the sometimes inscrutable yet always mesmerizing 16th president.
Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times
By Rae Katherine Eighmey
Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen is a culinary biography unlike any before. The very assertion of the title-that Abraham Lincoln cooked-is fascinating and true. It’s an insight into the everyday life of one of our nation’s favorite and most esteemed presidents and a way to experience flavors and textures of the past. Eighmey solves riddles such as what type of barbecue could be served to thousands at political rallies when paper plates and napkins didn’t exist, and what gingerbread recipe could have been Lincoln’s childhood favorite when few families owned cookie cutters and he could carry the cookies in his pocket. Through Eighmey’s eyes and culinary research and experiments-including sleuthing for Lincoln’s grocery bills in Springfield ledgers and turning a backyard grill into a cast-iron stove-the foods that Lincoln enjoyed, cooked, or served are translated into modern recipes so that authentic meals and foods of 1820-1865 are possible for home cooks. Feel free to pull up a chair to Lincoln’s table.
Roosevelt’s Centurions: FDR and the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II
By Joseph E. Persico
“FDR’s centurions were my heroes and guides. Now Joe Persico has written the best account of those leaders I’ve ever read.”—Colin L. Powell
All American presidents are commanders in chief by law. Few perform as such in practice. In Roosevelt’s Centurions, distinguished historian Joseph E. Persico reveals how, during World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt seized the levers of wartime power like no president since Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Declaring himself “Dr. Win-the-War,” FDR assumed the role of strategist in chief, and, though surrounded by star-studded generals and admirals, he made clear who was running the war. FDR was a hands-on war leader, involving himself in everything from choosing bomber targets to planning naval convoys to the design of landing craft. Persico explores whether his strategic decisions, including his insistence on the Axis powers’ unconditional surrender, helped end or may have prolonged the war.
Taking us inside the Allied war councils, the author reveals how the president brokered strategy with contentious allies, particularly the iron-willed Winston Churchill; rallied morale on the home front; and handpicked a team of proud, sometimes prickly warriors who, he believed, could fight a global war. Persico’s history offers indelible portraits of the outsize figures who roused the “sleeping giant” that defeated the Axis war machine: the dutiful yet independent-minded George C. Marshall, charged with rebuilding an army whose troops trained with broomsticks for rifles, eggs for hand grenades; Dwight Eisenhower, an unassuming Kansan elevated from obscurity to command of the greatest fighting force ever assembled; the vainglorious Douglas MacArthur; and the bizarre battlefield genius George S. Patton. Here too are less widely celebrated military leaders whose contributions were just as critical: the irascible, dictatorial navy chief, Ernest King; the acerbic army advisor in China, “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell; and Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, who zealously preached the gospel of modern air power. The Roosevelt who emerges from these pages is a wartime chess master guiding America’s armed forces to a victory that was anything but foreordained.
What are the qualities we look for in a commander in chief? In an era of renewed conflict, when Americans are again confronting the questions that FDR faced-about the nature and exercise of global power-Roosevelt’s Centurions is a timely and revealing examination of what it takes to be a wartime leader in a freewheeling, complicated, and tumultuous democracy.
Happy President’s Day!!