1. Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—the father of our country was a deeply spiritual man, a political genius, and a true leader who knew how to inspire people. This definitive biography captures all sides of the public and private George Washington.
2. John Adams, by David McCullough—the sensational non-fiction best-seller, and the basis for a terrific HBO miniseries. John Adams was blunt, outspoken, fiery, and had one of the greatest American love stories with his beloved wife, Abigail. The best compliment I can give to this book and its author is that, at the end, I cried when John Adams died, because I did not want him to.
3. Founding Mothers: the Women Who Raised Our Nation, by Cokie Roberts—this book is about the wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters of the Founding Fathers. Their stories are told in a very readable, almost gossipy, style, enhanced with excerpts from letters they wrote. I confess that I found the narrative of this book a little jumpy. Instead of writing each chapter about a particular woman, Ms. Roberts bounces around in time between various subjects. However, it’s still a fun read and gives insight into the Founding Fathers—and the women who helped shape them.
4. Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin—the new movie Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, premieres November 9 and goes into wide release November 16. It’s based on this book, which focuses on Lincoln’s relationships with his three opponents for the presidency—Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, and William H. Seward. Lincoln turned these rivals into allies, and included them in key cabinet positions. Goodwin does a remarkable job of exploring Lincoln’s decisions and how they were made for the common good.
5. Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents, by Kenneth C. Davis—Davis frees presidential biography from “just the facts” to enliven it with all kinds of trivia, fun facts, and great information, told in an easy-to-read style. These mini biographies of each president pack a wallop of information, and Davis uses them to chart the trajectory of the history of the American presidency, from its beginnings to the present day.