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

3.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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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.


"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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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 (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
TR's history is as rich as America and to try to cram it into a short book does no justice to TR and none to the author either. Even worse, though all biographies are somewhat biased, the blatant (and downright wrong) bias in this book comes across from start to finish. Clearly this author leans in one direction politically and filters everything TR did through that lens. Worse, the author shows little understanding of this complex man. Here is one example: The author says TR contracted malaria in Brazil during his 1913 expedition. The fact that TR first contracted malaria in Cuba during the Span-Am war in 1898 seems to have been completely missed, and the frequent bouts during the 1910 Africa expedition apparently weren't part of her reading. This one fact, in a nutshell, is a huge part of the problem with this effort that even a graduate student would be ashamed of to turn in as a class paper.
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