Jacki: Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Post-presidency

Wiping the sweat from my brow, guys. Finished this one on the very last day of February. Eek. February, why are you so short?!

Ok, so… I have a lot of feelings on this one. Bulleted list, perhaps?

  • As I get closer and closer to “present” in the challenge, I am having a hard time finding a good non-biased biography. It’s hard because there’s so much less perspective and less of a chance for us to see how decisions have panned out over time. This is the first biography that I’ve read of a president that was still living and it really did feel incomplete to get to the end and there be no real finale. In fact, this was written in 1997 so it’s a little bit dated. Since then Jimmy Carter has done some huge things, including winning the Nobel Peace Prize. This was new and different for me.
  • Also new and different: Carter was a whole different kind of politician. This was the first time that I felt like a president got into the presidency not because he loved politics but because he loved people. He started out on a school board because he wanted to help end segregation in southern Georgia. Eek. He just was obsessed with human rights and it kept bolstering him to higher positions until finally, well, he was president. I kind of love that about him, that he just wanted to do good.
  • The election that Carter won? It was just set up for him. After Johnson and Nixon and Ford and all these politician’s politicians, American was just fed up with the scandal and lies and politics. Jimmy Carter was just this humble, refreshing face. America just needed a grassroots effort, an honest guy. Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia and just about one of the only people in America that fit the bill and just slid right in there. Nothing like good timing.
  • I felt this way with Taft (who was a judge, became president, then went on to be a Supreme Court judge) too- but I just love that Jimmy Carter’s career success isn’t being president. The big stuff in his life came later, but he just absolutely used his presidency as this platform, this stepping stone toward what he really wanted to do which was a million different humanitarian efforts. There is just something fun about the idea of being POTUS not being the highlight of a career.
  • This biography was really great. Peter Bourne admits right from the get go that he worked with Carter and loves him and while he tried to write a balanced biography, warned from the beginning that he would usually side with Carter. I thought he wrote a solid bio. He was really involved with both of Carter’s campaigns for president and because of that, I think that he focused way too much on that part and not as much on the presidency. Seriously, there were about 80 pages on his first campaign. Yawn. But other than that? Great stuff. Highly recommended.

 

 

Jennie: Chester Alan Arthur

Chester Alan Arthur (The American Presidents #21) by Zachary Karabell

I, like I suspect most of us, had no real idea who Arthur was. He’s in that bland section of bland presidents. I loved the biography I read for Garfield, so I half expected this book to be a let down. And, it was, but only sorta. This biography was short, which helped a lot, but it still covered a lot of ground and conveyed the man…and the president.

I found it interesting that Arthur never wanted to be president. He wasn’t one of those “I’ve Dreamed Of It FOREVER” kind of men…it just sort of fell into his lap. And when Garfield was shot he basically freaked out. Like, hid in his room having a toddler style meltdown. But, once he came to grips with what lay before him, he grew into those shoes. Maybe not in a way that made him truly embrace his position, but he didn’t take it lightly and didn’t become a pawn.

This was well-written and flowed nicely, covering both his personal life and his presidential life well. I recommend it for anyone doing the presidential challenge or anyone just looking to take a closer look at a not-so-well-known president.

Lauren H: Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, by R.B. Bernstein 

I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of Thomas Jefferson. I have to admit that I was drawn to it initially because it was on the shorter side and the last presidential biography I read took me ages to get through, but once I started reading I found this book to be very well written with a lot of great information. This biography had a balance of personal and professional information on Jefferson and the pacing made it a relatively quick read.

I found it very interesting to see some of Thomas Jefferson’s point of view on the lower points of his friendship with John Adams after reading the other side of the story; and another side as well, as Abigail played a role in the dynamic of this relationship. I was also surprised to learn that Jefferson’s wife asked him not to remarry on her deathbed, which I think sheds a different light on the rumors of his alleged relationship with Sally Hemings.

Jefferson accomplished so much during his life in the formative years of the United States and Bernstein does an excellent job of outlining his successes and his weaknesses.

Overall, I thought this was a great biography and would be enjoyed by those who aren’t typically drawn to nonfiction.

Original Review