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Theodore Roosevelt: The American Presidents Series: The 26th President, 1901-1909 Hardcover – January 4, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

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.

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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (January 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069068
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer 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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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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Format: Audio Cassette Verified Purchase
These comments are for the Audio Renaissance book of "Theodore Roosevelt" by Louis Auchincloss. This audio book consists of 3 cassettes with a playtime of 4 hours. Ira Claffey reads the book and does a very credible performance. I was pleased to read on the cassette storage box that this production was unabridged.

The three cassettes are not stored in individual hinged boxes but are secured in a sturdy plastic case with a paperboard cover that opens like a small hardbound book. In fact the case is designed to stand up on edge making it an ideal storage medium for a library shelf or your home bookcase.

I would like to highlight two items I took away from this book.

The issues we confront today with the progressive movement - taxes, business regulations, and social policy - originated with TR's "Bull Moose" third party campaign during the 1912 presidential election. We are still wrangling over the same issues and hundred years later.

One of the chapters in this book consists of candid quotes from TR's letters. His way with words, caustic expressions and startling opinions are refreshing and surprising. I certainly enjoyed hearing them.

This audio book is part of the series "The American President" with Arthur M. Schlesinger as general editor. Different authors write these short biographies of the Presidents so you a presented with an assortment of perspectives and styles. I have previously listened too the audio versions of Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Eisenhower and have read the Nixon volume. If you are inclined these volumes provide an excellent introduction to our history and the politics that rule and, at times, confound our destiny.

These volumes are certainly not the last word on the subject as I found out recently with I started listening to the Edmund Morris monumental three-volume biography of TR.
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I read all the Biographies of the Presidents by way of the Presidential series. If you are going to do it, read John Hancock first because he was the first Continental Congress President. You will find as you read these how the lives of each President intertwined with the next. The job is a lineage.
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I'm reading the entire Schlesinger series on the Presidency in chronological order, so this is my 26th one. This TR bio is one of the weaker volumes in the series. It's not awful, but merely decent and a bit superficial. It doesn't provide much understanding of the politics or economics of the time, and the raging battles in which TR participated. It does list or skim his political achievements, but there's not much historical context or depth. It also ignores many things. For example, it doesn't much explain the McKinley movement/presidency and TR's role in it. It barely speaks of the 1904 election (which nearly destroyed the Democratic party) or the fights within the two parties. It doesn't much compare/contrast TR's first and second administrations. The massive 1907 banking panic and subsequent recession gets scant coverage. Instead, the book mostly deals with TR's outrageous personality and personal life. For example, an entire chapter is devoted to excerpts from TR's personal letters. Hence it's a decent biography, but a fairly shallow one. Also, it often reads like a project that hit a deadline midway through and had to be published before completion. For example, many chapters seem to have no single main point or cohesive subject matter. And the chronology of TR's life is often mixed or out of order. Several chapters are only 3-4 pages long (even the longest are only 11-12 pages). Oddly, the author didn't even reach his page limit (this is the shortest of the series at 136 pages, most others are 10% longer). In other ways, it reads like a high-school level biography. For example, the author's writing style is more that of a fireside story teller or Barbara Tuchman, rather than of a professional historian trying to explain and enlighten. Personally, I wish they'd publish a second edition by a better author.
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