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Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents Paperback – Bargain Price, December 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Secret Lives
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931686572
  • ASIN: B000HT21EM
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Cormac O'Brien is a freelance writer living in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

You may learn as I did, that we have had just a few really good presidents.
Paul L. Fletcher
It is a quick read, you'll be through it in a hour or two at the most, but it's worth it!
Meg
I did find some descriptions a bit stilted, as if directed by other than the author.
Sandie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
I had expected that lurking secretly behind a provocative title and cover design was yet another witless compilation of oft-related and tiresome Presidential yarns. You know the kind of drab anecdotal volume that you can't help but read with a dishwatery David McCullough narration in your head. However, I was pleasantly surprised, after reading the first few pages of Mr. O'Brien's book, to have been quickly disabused of this notion. In short: This ain't your Daddy's history of the Presidents.
In Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents, O'Brien doles out the juicy Presidential dope in a witty, concise and hilariously irreverent style that is informative, yet exceptionally entertaining. From G.W. to G.W. Bush - with illuminating factoids and amusing anecdotes - Secret Lives paints a colorful picture of our nation's great (and not-so-great) leaders as being abundantly human and all too fallible. It's enough to make Mount Rushmore blush.
Well written, and beautifully (if not comically) illustrated, this book is a must for even a casual fan of American history. I highly recommend it to all!
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on April 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Nearly as interesting as this charming book was a read through its Amazon reviews. While SECRET LIVES is certainly praised herein, it's also lambasted for being too partisan left, or partisan right, or for not being titillating enough.

Yeesh. It must be hard to read a book when one's knee is jerking involuntarily.

One of the most critical (and currently highlighted) reader reviews takes issue with author O'Brien's research, citing the controversy of Thomas Jefferson siring children with his slave, Sally Hemmings. There is no controversy about this any longer; in 1998, geneticists proved a DNA link between Jefferson's and Hemmings' descendants.

While other male members of the Jefferson family might have accounted for this, an impressively extensive report done by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation found that "it is VERY UNLIKELY that Randolph Jefferson or any Jefferson other than Thomas Jefferson was the father of [Hemmings'] children." (Capitalization mine.)

Sorry to be so specific; in a more general vein, I found this book to be a perfect nighttime read, very funny, and a great refresher course on our presidents. Equal space is given to all, and as that allows obscure leaders like Franklin Pierce the spotlight, I was all for it.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By E. N. Cook on February 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be a very entertaining read about the men who have served our country as President. If you are looking for a serious history book, this is not it. But if you are looking to learn something about the men who have held the highest office in the land, and at the same time be entertained - this is a great book. I found it very interesting that several reviewers thought the author had an "agenda" or was "partisan". The amusing thing about these claims is that half the claims are from reviewers who think the author leaned to the left, and the other half from reviewers who thought he leaned to the right! How can the author be biased in BOTH directions?!? I can only assume that the reviewers who claimed bias in one way or the other are those that are either extremists to the right or left, and have a very biased opinion themselves. For instance, one reviewer writes that he "found this book to be biased toward the right, with nothing bad to say about George W. Bush's Iraq War" and "makes unproven, unsubstantiated claims about Bill Clinton..." Then another reviewer states that the "bias in regard to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush begs for clarification or at least a recognition of the author's preference for left of center politics." I could list example after example. If you are an extreme righty or lefty, maybe you shouldn't read this book if you will get your feelings hurt. Otherwise, for the majority of the electorate that does not have blinders on and realizes that there is good and bad in everyone, including the Presidents, I highly recommend this book.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Danamite on May 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Short, sweet synopsis about each president. As a history teacher, having these little stories are great to teach beyond what's in the textbook and create something of a nugget to takeaway from learning. Little tidbits are always great to file in the back of your head and this book is great for that foundation. I suggested this book to my Washington DC tour guide. Saw her the following year and she totally loved it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Shawna C on July 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
While I wouldn't reccomend any student referencing this book in a formal history paper, this is an excellent book for all those history buffs out there.

I picked this book out on a whim to entertain myself on a long bus ride, and was so enthralled that I had it halfway finished the night before I left! I found it extremely enjoyable to read a political book about all 43 US Presidents without seeming biased for or against any of them. I tend to avoid political books for just that reason; I want to be able to form my own opinions based on non-judgemental facts.

The only opinion Cormac O'Brien forces on the reader is this: all of the men who have held the presidency are simply human.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Chris Gladis on January 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
When we participate in a Presidential election, we're being asked to make a very important choice. We're electing someone to join a very powerful and elite group of men who have shaped the history of the world in the last 200-odd years. It's an important decision, to be sure, and not one to be taken lightly. Will our next President be a political powerhouse, a man who is able to take the reins of the country and lead it into a better and more just future? Will he be inept or corrupt, allowing his cronies and his pals to use the nation for their own personal gain? Or perhaps he'll simply be a cipher, one of those Presidents who is forgotten by everyone except for over-achieving elementary school kids who think that everyone will be impressed that they know who Zachary Taylor was.

We don't know, and we can't know, and that's one of the most interesting lessons of this book. Every President, from Washington to Dubya, was elected by the people in the hopes that he was the right man to lead the country. Every President was praised and damned. Every President was, before the election, sold as the one man who could save the nation from ruin and despair. If not all of those Presidents lived up to their hype, well, therein lies the lesson....

For people who like their history to be amusing and bite-sized, this is the book for you. It's a "gateway book" for Presidential history - you read this and then go on to read more serious treatments of the Presidents, hopefully becoming more appreciative of the vast spectrum of personalities that have guided our nation. And what an interesting group it's been.

There are, of course, the heavy-hitters that everyone knows.
Read more ›
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