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Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt Hardcover – October 22, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (October 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002139
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this brisk biography, Donald, former editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press, ascribes Teddy Roosevelt's popularity to his combination of charisma and substance; he was an electrical, magnetic speaker, according to one contemporary newspaper account, and he hit themes that resonated with ordinary folks, such as honesty in government and opportunity for all. In the White House, Roosevelt established a model of positive, active governance and insisted that the president was more powerful than any business tycoon. Donald pays particular attention to Roosevelt's pioneering conservancy efforts, and she suggests that one of his most important acts was to appoint Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. to the Supreme Court. Donald also touches on the personal: his grief when his first wife died, and his passionate love for his second wife, with whom he set a new standard for presidential domestic life, entertaining with a gusto unmatched until the Kennedys. The book is refreshingly slim, but sometimes—as in the brief discussion of Roosevelt's appointments of African-Americans to government jobs—one wishes for more. Indeed, there's not much here that readers won't find in other studies of Roosevelt, but Donald's swift prose makes this a satisfying read. Photos. History Book Club main selection.(Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Aida Donald's elegant and affectionate portrait of Theodore Roosevelt is less a biography--although it provides a perceptive account of the events of his life--than a masterful essay on idealism and power, and on the complicated relationship between the two. There are many studies of Theodore Roosevelt, but everyone interested in the man should read this beautifully written and deeply intelligent book." -- Alan Brinkley

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Customer Reviews

I found the book to be rather drab and dry, in my personal opinion.
Lincoln Avant
This so-called "scholarly and academic" work by a writer with impressive credentials on paper has no footnotes, endnotes or a detailed bibliography.
J. E. Obrien
A most respectful, learned and concise biography of Theodore Roosevelt has been unleashed by historian Dr. Aida Donald.
William J. Higgins,III

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Curry on January 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I always enjoy a read about TR and the original works OF TR, since he's a genuine hero. Lion in the White House is a good, solid, basic biography which adds very little to the scholarship of the extensive biographies of the past decade. The unique thing I really got from it is a reasonable interpretation of TR's intervention in the 1902 Anthracite Strike, reasonable being defined as I agree with it and it's a noble conclusion. (I have a strong Progressive bent. I'm allowed to. It's America - the America that TR believed in and worked for.) Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, and the (hopefully) to-be-written volume about the post-presidential years remain the gold standard of TR bio's, and H.W. Brands' TR: The Last Romantic runs a close second. Lion in the White House is a great place to start study of TR. The Library of America has published a volume called Theodore Roosevelt: Letters and Speeches, which gives thinking people some original source matter to read for themselves. One recommended and fun (if quirky) TR tome is My Last Chance to be a Boy, by Joseph Ornig, which is a detailed account of the 1913 - 14 Brazilian expedition.
The Democrats and Republicans of 1900 wouldn't recognize the parties of today. TR's policies and passions were not shaped around tired but limited modern menus of the stereotypical "right" and "left." For example, he was for open immigration, which would displease many today. He also strongly believed that immigrants needed to speak English and become Americans, rather than something hyphenated, which would displease the rest of modern politicos.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By iHappy on January 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
The book reads like a seventh-grade text from the 1950s, complete with broad praise at the end of paragraphs, patronizingly simple prose, and summary treatment of complex happenings. I suppose its intended audience is the very mass public that TR tried to embody through his progressive policies, but he had a higher opinion of them than the author seems to have had when she wrote this book.

Donald adds nothing to the Roosevelt literature. Her book breaks no new research ground, gives us no new insight into the man's character or activities, and does not reinterpret any existing theories. Since none of those seem to have been intended by the author, I can't figure out the purpose of the book, except perhaps to give 12-year-olds something to read.

It is also not well written even for a younger audience. It has what seem like second references to things that haven't yet been introduced or explained, and makes generalizations about the man's character based on a single example. And for almost every example, there's a generalization.

Finally, the title is misleading since he doesn't enter the White House until almost half way into the book. In short, if you just want to know the bare minimum about TR, you're almost better off reading an encyclopedia.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By William J. Higgins,III on December 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A most respectful, learned and concise biography of Theodore Roosevelt has been unleashed by historian Dr. Aida Donald. She covers it all in a forthright and approachable manner, the result of which is a fast paced and very readable book.

T. R.'s political life was a whirlwind of activeness to straighten what had been crooked. He was a man for the common good and fairness of the American laborer and the world at large. Fighting corruptness, injustices and contaminates in the political and private arena, whether domestic or internationally, Roosevelt was adhering to Lincoln's principles of progressivism and ideologies.

Two minor points:
Regarding the Spanish-American War in 1898, where it is stated that "The multimillionaire officer John Jacob Astor gave Roosevelt's regiment the munificent gift of a fully equipped battery- worth about a hundred thousand dollars...(page 90)". This was not the senior fur trade and real estate magnate himself as he died in 1848. It was possibly his descendant John Jacob Astor, IV.
Secondly, the River of Doubt, which T. R. descended and later was called the Rio Roosevelt, is south of the Amazon not north (page 256).
Great biography. Highly recommend.
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24 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Obrien on January 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Please think twice before you waste your money on this biography.
It is an often irritation and annoying reading experience that is only comparable to an insipid, opinionated high school history textbook. This so-called "scholarly and academic" work by a writer with impressive credentials on paper has no footnotes, endnotes or a detailed bibliography. As a result the many questionable and provocative statements of historical fact and controversial interpretations of T.R's motivation by the author cannot be easily checked without recourse to other historical works.
I shuddered to think of the consequences if a graduate student had presented this weak effort as a thesis! Stick to Edmund Morris or H.W. Brands if you are looking for a real biography of T.R.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Green VINE VOICE on March 4, 2010
Format: Audio CD
From the title, I mistakenly assumed this was a book focused mainly on Roosevelt's time in the Presidency. Instead it's a much more full biography, detailing out in the rosiest terms his public and personal life. And unfortunately, that's the main weakness of the book.

Aida Donald presents Theodore Roosevelt as the most honest politician (yes, I know that's an oxymoron) since Abraham Lincoln, and repeatedly refers to him as bearing the "mantle of Lincoln." He rooted out crime everywhere, from his days as police commissioner in New York to busting up railroad cartels while president. He was a brave leader in battle, a friend to people of all colors, and a most loving husband and father. He built a stronger nation, preserved wilderness, and feared nothing (not even the beasts of the African plains, where he personally shot and killed nearly 300 animals: giraffes and zebras in addition to lions and rhinos). In fact, the man could do no wrong... which, of course, sounds like so much campaign flag-waving. Even when Donald admits to some controversy it's usually glossed over without recognizing any fault - the political maneuvering for the Panama Canal, his dismissal of an entire black battalion without a trial, etc.

I only know enough about Theodore Roosevelt to know that he wasn't *that* perfect. I imagine that he was a fine president and accomplished much that was admirable, but also that the reality isn't always so stellar. Still, even the events that we'd look upon today with a scornful eye must have been more palatable during his time, and that's the other story this book is missing: not only do we not get anything negative but nothing is put into the context of the time.
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