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Publisher's Summary

Based on a decade of research and reporting, Author in Chief tells the story of America’s presidents as authors - and offers a delightful new window into the public and private lives of our highest leaders.

Most Americans are familiar with Abraham Lincoln’s famous words in the Gettysburg Address and the Eman­cipation Proclamation. Yet few can name the work that helped him win the presidency: His published collection of speeches entitled Political Debates Between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln labored in secret to get his book ready for the 1860 election, tracking down newspaper transcripts, editing them carefully for fairness, and hunting for a printer who would meet his specifications. Political Debates sold 50,000 copies - the rough equivalent of half a million books in today’s market - and it reveals something about Lincoln’s presidential ambitions. But it also reveals something about his heart and mind. When voters asked about his beliefs, Lincoln liked to point them to his book.

In Craig Fehrman’s groundbreaking work of history, Author in Chief, the story of America’s presidents and their books opens a rich new window into presidential biography. From volumes lost to history - Calvin Coolidge’s Autobiography, which was one of the most widely discussed titles of 1929 - to ones we know and love - Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father, which was very nearly never published - Fehrman unearths countless insights about the presidents through their literary works.

Presidential books have made an enormous impact on American history, catapulting their authors to the national stage and even turning key elections. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, the first presidential book to influence a campaign, and John Adams’s Autobiography, the first score-settling presiden­tial memoir, Author in Chief draws on newly uncovered information - including never-before-published letters from Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan - to cast fresh light on the private drives and self-doubts that fueled our nation’s leaders.

We see Teddy Roosevelt as a vulnerable first-time author, struggling to write the book that would become a classic of American history. We see Reagan painstakingly revising Where’s the Rest of Me?, a forgotten memoir in which he sharpened his sunny political image. We see Donald Trump negotiating the deal for The Art of the Deal, the volume that made him synonymous with business savvy. Alongside each of these authors, we also glimpse the everyday Americans who read them.

Combining the narrative felicity of a journalist with the rigorous scholarship of a historian, Fehrman delivers a feast for history lovers, book lovers, and everybody curious about a behind-the-scenes look at our presidents.

©2020 Craig Fehrman (P)2020 Simon & Schuster Audio

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Fascinating

I know that most presidents were prolific readers and some were skilled writers. One of the presidents on top of my list of reader/writers is Theodore Roosevelt. I always felt a kindred spirit with him after reading one of his comments about reading: “Reading is living”. I have also read it as “Reading is life”. Probably the most famous president that was a reader/writer was John Adams. He was a prolific letter writer as well as an author of books. Much of what we know about those early days comes from the pens of the Adams family. The book was well written and researched. Many of the presidents that wrote one or more books are well known, but a few Fehrman discussed such as Silent Calvin Coolidge were a surprise. It is amazing just how many presidents were also writers as well as readers. The author also showed the evolution of the biography and autobiographies as well as the campaign book. This book was a learning experience for me. I found this a fun book to read. I enjoy reading about what key people in the past have read. Fred Sanders does a good job narrating the book. Sanders is a well-known audiobook narrator and is known as “The Master of Pacing”.

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Excellent and Informative

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. While I would have liked to have seen more focus on some of the Presidential work, the detail provided was fascinating. Mr. Fehrman’s documentation in his indexes was as interesting as any of the chapters. And that says a lot. I did not agree with all of the analysis; however recognize the author certainly did his homework. I learned a great deal, which always makes me appreciate a book more.

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patient and kind listner

The content of this book was great historic value and interpretation. Narration was taxing..at best