When Thomas Jefferson wrote Notes on the States of Virginia in 1785, he had no idea that he would be the Founding Father of a trend. US Presidents have written over 150 books since that time, creating an entire genre of presidential literature. The Presidents’ Pen offers easy-to-read synopses of the writings of sixteen chief executives and how their works impacted their lives and legacies. Presidential researcher Jeffrey Margolis investigates the back-stories of many of these books; He poses the question as to where the president attended college had an impact on their writing skills. Although being a good writer is not a requirement to be President of the United States, the five chief executives who were Harvard alums, possessed excellent writing skills that is evidenced in their works.
The writings of Theodore Roosevelt (Harvard, class of 1880) are most notable, not just because he was the most prolific of the presidential writers, but because his first major work, The Naval War of 1812, became the foundation for the creation of the modern United States Navy. Roosevelt wrote before, during, and after his presidency, penning forty books whose diverse topics included history, hunting, and politics.
Jimmy Carter is the second most prolific author. The only president to graduate from the United States Naval Academy, his writings have transitioned from politics, to memoirs, to books about the importance of faith. He was the first president to write a novel, The Hornets Nest, which was not a literary success. Carter also wrote poetry and co- authored several books with his wife, Rosalynn.
More recently, presidential authors like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama earned a great deal of money from their memoirs, while others used the power of the press to launch new initiatives, reflect on their lives, personal and family values, or to burnish their reputations for posterity. While a number of the books were ghostwritten, others were carefully researched and written in a manner to interest the reading public.
Collectors of first edition and antiquarian books written by US presidents will find The Presidents’ Pen a handy and useful guide to gain a quick understanding of the content as well as the publishing scenarios that brought presidential works to the American reader. High school and college students can use this book as an ancillary text, helpful in developing a greater understanding of the men who became President and the thinking that went behind their work. History buffs as well as those who appreciate American literature will enjoy the vignettes and the narratives of the lives and presidencies of our leaders.
Margolis has visited many of the Presidential Libraries and Museums as well as Presidential homes and historic sites. He is a member of the White House Historical Association, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation.