Looking for a grand historical drama in which great men undergo great trials in pursuit of great deeds? Well, this is not that book. The great men in Cormac O’Brien’s survey of America’s presidential pantheon are at their laziest, their craziest, and their strangest. Some of the revelations here are old news - Jefferson’s sexual dalliances with his slaves, for example, or Lincoln’s free hand with pardons for soldiers facing executions. Others are truly startling. (Next time some talk-radio pundit accuses a president of gambling away the country’s money, consider that Warren G. Harding actually bet with the presidential china in poker games!) Not Pulitzer material, but Robin Bloodworth’s sure narration makes this a great choice for a long drive.
Your high school history teachers never gave you a book like this one! Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents features outrageous and uncensored profiles of the men in the White House - complete with hundreds of little-known, politically incorrect, and downright wacko facts. You’ll discover that:
With chapters on everyone from George Washington to Barack Obama, Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents tackles all the tough questions that other history books are afraid to ask: How many of these guys were cheating on their wives? Are there really secret tunnels underneath the White House? And what was Nancy Reagan thinking when she appeared on Diff’rent Strokes? American history was never this much fun in school!
©2009 Cormac O'Brien (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Very little of the book was information I haven't read before. Google was definitely this author's friend. I'd have given it one more star for effort, but the tone was so over the top snarky for every Republican President. Not an objective study at all.
The author, O'Brien, did not make himself master of his material. Every piece of trivia recounted could be found in a quick web search, and many even more interesting things were left out.
O'Brien made the novice historian's error of presuming to speak for what his subjects wanted or thought without showing evidence that this was the motive behind the policy in question (and obviously ignoring direct evidence from the Presidents' own speeches writings and diaries that contradicts his psychoanalysis. This is compounded by an easy partisanship; partisanship is easier to forgive in a historian who recognizes her/his own biases, but O'Brien has no such sense of self, writing over and over things like "everybody agrees that . . ." or "we can all be thankful that . . ." about issues faced in the past over which reasonable people still differ today.
A good prose style can make up for sloppy history, as in Chesterton's thoroughly enjoyable if unreliable history of England. Sadly O'Brien's prose is lackluster; neither engaging, enraging, or melodious, but in the form of simple un-lyrical statements and lists.
I wanted to like the book, but I simply could not find a purchase from which I could hang any praise for it.
Yes definitely it was very interesting and shed light on an important subject of which I knew less than I had believed!
It's quite fascinating to hear about the early days of America, and to reflect on how much has changed. Hearing about Calvin Coolidge and how he slept for 2-4 hours every afternoon was probably the funniest topic.
The story about President Taft's horse also made me laugh out loud.
Betcha didn't know that!
Well worth a listen, and actually I might buy the book too as there's interesting factual information I'd be interested to retread.
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