Terrence Dorsey Writer. Editor. Nerd.

The Presidents Project

A long-running project of mine has been to trace the history of the United States through the biographies of the presidents (and a few others, such as Alexander Hamilton, a founder who should not be overlooked). I have, admittedly, made poor progress. In part I blame that on starting with David McCullough’s excellent biography of Harry S. Truman and then getting tripped up by a series of terrible George Washington biographies.

Here then, so you won’t have to suffer the same disappointment, is an effort at gathering the better efforts in one place.

This is an ongoing project. I will revise or add to these recommendations based on my own reading, incoming recommendations and the appearance of new biographies. If you have any comments or suggestions, send them via Twitter.

I recommend supporting your local independent booksellers by purchasing your books there if at all possible. Mine is the fantastic Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. In particular I need to thank the Northshire’s resident history expert, Bill Lewis, for his advice and encouragement in this project.

George Washington

Alexander Hamilton

John Adams

Thomas Jefferson

James Madison

James Monroe

John Quincy Adams

Andrew Jackson

Martin Van Buren

William Henry Harrison

John Tyler

James K. Polk

Zachary Taylor

Millard Fillmore

Franklin Pierce

James Buchanan

Abraham Lincoln

Andrew Johnson

Ulysses S. Grant

Rutherford B. Hayes

James Garfield

Chester Arthur

Grover Cleveland

Benjamin Harrison

William Mckinley

Theodore Roosevelt

William Howard Taft

Woodrow Wilson

Warren Harding

Calvin Coolidge

Herbert Hoover

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Harry Truman

Dwight Eisenhower

John F. Kennedy

Lyndon Johnson

Richard Nixon

Gerald Ford

Jimmy Carter

Additional Notable Biographies


† Denotes the titles I’ve read.