The American President
has the looks of a coffee-table book, the smarts of an academic tome, and the readability of a novel, full of interesting and little-known facts about the first 41 chief executives of the United States. (Bill Clinton is the 42nd president, but Grover Cleveland was elected president twice, before and after Benjamin Harrison, making him the 22nd and
24th president.) The Kunhardt family are producers of both historical books and documentaries, and their television background is evident in the visual emphasis within The American President
--which, as it happens, is also being turned into a television documentary. Another thing that sets the book apart from countless others on the presidents is its unique organization. The presidents are not presented in chronological order, but grouped instead according to characteristics that personified them and their presidencies. For example, Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson are brought together in a chapter on professional politicians, John Adams and Jimmy Carter share space for their "Independent Cast of Mind," and Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon are noted for "Expanding Power." For anyone interested in the presidency, politics, or history The American President
is a wonderful library addition. --Linda Killian
From Library Journal
This work of end-of-the-century American history offers an interesting perspective on the Presidents that may not be best presented in a general coffee-table book format. The authors, Kunhardt Jr., a former managing editor of LIFE magazine, and his two filmmaker sons, Peter W. Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt III, base their narratives on the scholarly Presidential model of Stephen Skowronek (The Politics Presidents Make, LJ 8/93), who categorizes Presidents by the similar problems they encounter: one category groups Presidents by their heroic reputations, while other categories take into account the President's political circumstances, the expanding power of the office, and the officeholders' individual mindsets. The book is profusely illustrated, and each President receives a two- to three-page discussion and an "In His Words" section. The writing is informative but not as interesting, nor are the photographs as emotionally compelling, as that found in Harold Evans's The American Century (LJ 10/1/98). Yet this work is recommended for larger public libraries because of its fascinating view of Presidential behavior, its tie-in with a PBS series to be aired in 2000, and its being picked as a BOMC main selection.AKarl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.