The American President: The Human Drama of Our Nation's Highest Office

The American President: The Human Drama of Our Nation's Highest Office

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by Philip B. Kunhardt, Peter W. Kunhardt
     
 

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A Companion to the Epic PBS Series

"The story of the presidency is, at least in part, a story of human personality under pressure . . . "

The American President is a brilliantly conceived and deeply informed landmark look at our nation's highest office.  Working closely with a distinguished group of scholars, and

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Overview

A Companion to the Epic PBS Series

"The story of the presidency is, at least in part, a story of human personality under pressure . . . "

The American President is a brilliantly conceived and deeply informed landmark look at our nation's highest office.  Working closely with a distinguished group of scholars, and making use of both archival sources and interviews with living U.S. presidents, the authors have organized their material thematically rather than chronologically, rendering fascinating juxtapositions that shed new light on familiar figures: Thomas Jefferson with Ronald Reagan; John Adams with Jimmy Carter; James Madison with Bill Clinton.

This remarkable audio provides a new understanding of the legacy and impact of the most important American institution, helping to bring focus to the ways in which presidents have affected the history of our nation.

 

 

Editorial Reviews

Doris Kearns Goodwin
From "I absolutely loved reading this original and fascinating approach to the American presidency. The organizational structure is brilliant, the narrative is clear and thought-provoking, and the pictures are dazzling."

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of No Ordinary Time

Library Journal - Library Journal
This work of end-of-the-century American history offers an interesting perspective on the Presidents that may not be best presented in a general coffee-table book format. The authors, Kunhardt Jr., a former managing editor of LIFE magazine, and his two filmmaker sons, Peter W. Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt III, base their narratives on the scholarly Presidential model of Stephen Skowronek (The Politics Presidents Make, LJ 8/93), who categorizes Presidents by the similar problems they encounter: one category groups Presidents by their heroic reputations, while other categories take into account the President's political circumstances, the expanding power of the office, and the officeholders' individual mindsets. The book is profusely illustrated, and each President receives a two- to three-page discussion and an "In His Words" section. The writing is informative but not as interesting, nor are the photographs as emotionally compelling, as that found in Harold Evans's The American Century (LJ 10/1/98). Yet this work is recommended for larger public libraries because of its fascinating view of Presidential behavior, its tie-in with a PBS series to be aired in 2000, and its being picked as a BOMC main selection.--Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Kunhardts (P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman, 1995) have assembled a generously illustrated volume (a companion to their forthcoming 10-part PBS series) that briefly characterizes each president. Unlike most other works on the presidents, this one groups the chief executives thematically rather than chronologically. Such a pattern yields both yawns and provocative surprises. In "The Heroic Posture," for example, are the expected Washington, W. H. Harrison, Grant, and Eisenhower—military heroes all. But in "An Independent Cast of Mind" appear John Adams with Taylor, Hayes, and Carter—not a predictable grouping. The authors have tried to sketch each president with a few brief strokes and have found some engaging and poignant anecdotes to animate their text: Washington played the flute, Pierce watched his 11-year-old son die in a train wreck, Taylor's physicians bled him (hastening his death), Taft ballooned to 355 pounds while in office. The authors have also endeavored to avoid the ordinary—how refreshing to see a section on JFK with no photos of Marilyn Monroe or the assassination, or to see the section on Clinton with no visual record of his hug of Monica Lewinsky. There is much here to delight and annoy both the political left and right. "Ronald Reagan saw his job as teaching Americans how to dream again," gush the authors. And Clinton-haters will be likewise disappointed to read that the sex scandal was principally a constitutional issue of "checks and balances." Most engaging of all in this smorgasbord of a book are the graphics. On nearly every page are rare and revealing photographs of presidents and of the Washington, D.C., they inhabited. Readerscan see LBJ looming over a listener, a full-length silhouette of Tyler, Cleveland both slender and corpulent (after his "prodigious eating and beer drinking"). A celebration of those who have served, a work of stunning visual effect, a graphic Mount Rushmore. (30 color, 500 b&w illustrations) (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573221498
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/01/1999
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
9.56(w) x 11.18(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Richard E. Neustadt
From Richard E. Neustadt, Harvard University, author of Presidential Power

This book is marvelous. It combines words and pictures with great effect to put before us, visually as well as analytically, the whole sweep of the American presidency since 1789. Short, incisive biographies accumulate into a striking commentary on the presidency as a whole. The book is both original and beautiful.

David Herbert Donald
From David Herbert Donald, Harvard University, author of Lincoln

The American President is a fascinating book. It is, first of all, a magnificently illustrated history of the presidency, filled with rare and unfamiliar pictures that will captivate any reader. ... a superb job of condensing the lives of our presidents into short scope but also as a fresh and original interpretation of the history of the presidency.

Peter Jennings
The Kunhardts have done a wonderful job giving us such a full sweep of the presidency and helping us to see in clear relief what various presidents had in common. The book is beautifully designed. We get a lively sense of connection between the men who have held the world's most fascinating political office. Having read this, one finds it easier to understand why presidents themselves become so completely absorbed by their predecessors and successors.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
From Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of No Ordinary Time

I absolutely loved reading this original and fascinating approach to the American presidency. The organizational structure is brilliant, the narrative is clear and thought-provoking, and the pictures are dazzling.

Henry F. Graff
From Henry F. Graff, Columbia University, author of The Presidents: A Reference History

The Kunhardts have produced a lustrous, imaginative, and compelling re-examination of the presidents that will add fresh zest to the everlasting dialogue that Americans carry on with their chief executives.

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