Edmund Morris's "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" is a magnificent biography, perhaps the best I've ever read. In it, Morris follows the life of Theodore Roosevelt from his birth in a New York City brownstone in 1858 to his assumption of the U.S. Presidency in 1901. The book is the first of three volumes Morris plans to write on Roosevelt, the second of which --"Theodore Rex" -- was released last year.
In more than 700 pages of text in this book, there is hardly a dull page. The main reason for this, of course, is TR's fascinating, energetic life. He was -- in no particular order -- an amateur naturalist of note, a decorated soldier, an historian, a rancher in the Badlands, a government officer pushing for reform in the civil service, Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a state assemblyman, New York's Governor, and finally Vice President. It would be difficult to write a dull book about such a man.
But Morris deserves some credit as well. I've read several other biographies of Roosevelt, and while many of them are quite good -- even great -- this is the best. I believe Morris's style as well as his control of the material is the best explanation for this. Much of the writing is beautiful. Even Morris doesn't approach it in his other books.
But here Morris shows a poet's gift for metaphor and simile. In explaining how reserved, emotionally stunted men like Henry Adams, Thomas Reed, and Henry Cabot Lodge put up socially with the rambunctious Roosevelt, Morris writes they "...grew dependent upon [Roosevelt's] warmth, as lizards crave the sun." There are numerous examples like this in the book.
While "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" should probably be described as a political or historical biography, one doesn't need to have the slightest interest in either to enjoy it. Roosevelt's own ambition and energy, the circumstances of his life, and Morris's writing will drive anyone's interest.