The 10 Best Presidential Biographies
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in February of 2017. Whether you're a history buff or a casual reader, this curated list of presidential biographies includes editions that will leave you both enthralled and informed. By engaging with the stories of some of America's most prominent and memorable leaders, you'll learn about the political process and how the United States as we know it came to be, during some of its best and worst moments alike. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 25, 2019:
Readers may notice that this list mostly features presidents who held the country's reins long, long ago. Barring Nixon, Truman, and Reagan (#3, #7, and #9 on our list, respectively), we avoided modern presidents for two reasons. The first is probably obvious: with time, a larger body of historical work grows, and therefore, there is simply a bigger bunch to choose from. A century and half after Lincoln's death, for example, there have enough books written about the man to fill a small stadium, and the highest-quality works rise to the top. The second reason we've focused on older presidents is that it takes a very long time for the partisan dust to clear. This temporal haze obscures our understanding of a president's life and legacy. Until multiple generations have passed, it's nearly impossible to obtain anything approaching objectivity. With time, we can more accurately track how their actions rippled outwards and affected history.
With all of this said, if you're fed up with realism, we also have a solid list featuring our favorite historical fiction books worth checking out.
Abram Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years Carl Sandburg was a man of letters who hailed from the Midwest, revered primarily for his poetry, but his massive, multivolume Lincoln biographies are a tour de force on their own. Published nearly a century ago, these tomes helped solidify Lincoln's mythic standing in the public imagination. Through a lifetime of on-again, off-again scholarly engagement with Lincoln's life, Sandburg became one of the foremost authorities, and as such, his biographies are treasures of both historic and literary importance. archive.org