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Theodore Roosevelt (The American Presidents) Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 4, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Theodore Roosevelt was a man of contradictions: a warrior who won the Nobel Peace prize, a wealthy man who battled corporate greed, a thinker who prized action more than words (but who wrote fine books himself).

He was also, writes Louis Auchincloss in this lucid biography, an extraordinary leader, "a political idealist who had the wisdom to know that only by astute and well-considered compromise in our legislative process could he hope to see enacted even a fraction of the social and military programs that he deemed ... essential to the welfare of his nation." Compromise he did, of course, though in the end the war hero and trustbuster could not bring the right wing of the Republican Party to see the wisdom of his reformist ways. The result, Auchincloss chronicles, was a terrible split, bringing about the defection of liberals from that once-liberal institution and the birth of a political war that still rages.

With a keen eye for political nuance and a clear appreciation for Teddy Roosevelt as a one-of-a-kind, self-made man, Auchincloss offers an engaging view of a great American president. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The statement "radical... action must be taken to do away with the effects of arrogant and selfish greed on the part of the capitalist" might sound like Karl Marx or Eugene V. Debs, but it comes from Theodore Roosevelt. Yet this president was "neither by birth, upbringing, or mature inclination in the least bit a radical," according to eminent novelist Auchincloss (The Atonement, etc.). TR (1858-1919), he says, embodied numerous contradictions for which he has been periodically pilloried by liberals and conservatives alike. Responsible for much progressive legislation he passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, created federal forest lands and obtained antitrust legislation he was also an aristocrat who was against monopolies because they were not gentlemanly, invaded Panama to build the canal and casually exhibited racism during the Spanish-American War. Born into a wealthy New York family, Roosevelt overcame bad health in childhood to embody an image of manliness (losing an eye in a boxing match against a "younger and stronger" man) and bluster that defined his era. He also avidly read Dickens, Thackeray and Greek drama. Though acknowledging Roosevelt's many contradictions, Auchincloss sidesteps most serious criticism of his subject. He paints a vivid portrait and almost treats the president as a quirky character in one of his own novels of upper-class America. More ruminative essay than close historical study, Auchincloss's narrative wanders in chronological disarray. Nonetheless, it is a compelling, novelistic approach to history. Readers curious about Roosevelt but intimidated by Edmund Morris's multi-volume bio can wet their toes in this slim text, the first title in the American Presidents series, edited by eminent historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and clearly modeled on the successful Penguin Lives series of short biographies by notable writers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (January 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069068
  • ASIN: B000S1KZTW
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,088,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "apsk13" on August 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the second volume in the new American Presidents series edited by Arthur M. Schlessinger, and like the first on James Madison, provides excellent, although brief insight into one of America's most fascinating characters. The prime focus of this book is on TR's presidential and post-presidential years. Limited space does not allow for anything more than a brief summary of Roosevelt's early life, which may actually be his most interesting period. Still there is enough to give the reader a basis for understanding Roosevelt's revolutionary power-expanding actions as President. Auchincloss does a wonderful job of filling this short volume with all of the important events of Roosevelt's life while keeping to a very enjoyable and readable style. It is a good introduction to Roosevelt and will leave you wanting to learn more.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Want to know more about American presidents? The American Presidents series is one approach. This volume in the series focuses on the old Rough Rider himself, Theodore Roosevelt. First, a confession. I have read 2 of the 3 volume set by Edmund Morris. Obviously, I have an interest in depth (the second volume alone features 555 pages of text). But most people would welcome a shorter--but still good--view of TR. And this volume will meet the needs of such people.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has a standard Introduction to each volume. With respect to TR, some of his observations are apposite. On page xv, he says: "Great presidents possess, or are possessed by, a vision of an ideal America." Surely, that describes Roosevelt. At another point, Schlesinger says that (Page xv): "To succeed, presidents must not only have a port to seek but they must convince Congress and the electorate that it is a port worth seeking." Both observations seem to fit TR, where they did not fit Warren Harding or Chester Arthur or Rutherford Hayes or Benjamin Harrison or. . . .

The book begins by describing TR's rather well off childhood. Some problems. His beloved father dies prematurely. He had physical ailments. To address the latter, he exercised and even spent time in the Wild West, building himself up physically.

His public life began in rather exotic positions, such as president of New York City's Board of Police Commissioners. He was named as Assistant Secretary of the Navy after William McKinley's victory in the presidential campaign of 1896. After the Maine's destruction and the road to war with Spain, he resigned and, as we all know, became head of a group of troops named "The Rough Riders." After estimable service in Cuba, he returned as a war hero.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The short biographies that form the American Presidents series do an admirable job in capturing the heart of the accomplishments and characters of our country's leaders. Some of the volumes succeed further in offering, in addition to an introduction, challenging reassessments of their subject's place in history. Bunting's book on Grant and Diggins's study of John Adams are in this latter category. With a leader as complex and energetic as Theodore Roosevelt, (1858 - 1919), the task of a brief portrayal is daunting indeed. Louis Auchincloss has generally succeeded in offering a portrait of TR and his presidency that will serve for basic information. For a more complex and detailed view, the book should encourage the reader to explore further.

The American composer Scott Joplin wrote a delightful ragtime called "The Strenuous Life" in honor of TR but with a hint of satire as well. The phrase aptly describes TR and his era. A sickly child born to great wealth, the twelve-year old TR took seriously his father's injunction to "make your body!" as well as his mind. TR became a dynamo, moving out west to become the owner of a cattle ranch in Dakota in the 1880s and leading the fabled charge of the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. In the midst of a busy life, TR found time to write about 40 books, including his autobiography and innumerable letters.

In his politics, TR developed a unique position as a Republican party regular and as a progressive. He served in the 1880s' as a New York State assemblyman and as Governor of New York, among other accomplishments, before being called to the vice-presidency. He became the 26th president upon the death of McKinley in 1901, and then was elected to a term of his own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Tucker VINE VOICE on May 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Masterful writing and insightful information does not make up for what is essentially introductory material into the amazing life of Theodore Roosevelt. Divided chronologically, the author uses a macro-historical look at the political mosaic of Roosevelt's life. Using letters, quotes, and documented research, we find a slightly biased yet fair treatment of Roosevelt's complexity and world-view.

Putting to rest the criticism of imperialism, the author demonstrates TR's philosophy of caring for the people, for nature, for the nation, for his family, and his relentless commitment to excellence in all pursuits. Several asides about hunting, ending corruption, and some contradictory information found in various letters, add a glow to this little biography, providing an excellent overview of TR's life. Especially satisfactory were the pieces on the Panama and the criticisms of both Taft and Wilson.

Yet in spite of the fine writing and the keen perceptions provided, the book felt rather confusing at times. Excess detail quickly gave way to broad generalizations. Good stories seemed to dissolve and replaced with a need to get to the end. Most likely the writer was slightly uncomfortable in the genre and desired a more creative outlet for his ability.

For those seeking a truncated biography laced with nice tidbits of political information on TR, this is the one. Anyone wanting more depth and personal information should find a complete biography.
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