Can you account for the apathy, the antipathy of this nation to their own history?  Is there not a repugnance to the thought of looking back?  While thousands of frivolous novels are read with eagerness and got by heart, the history of our own native country is not only neglected, but despised and abhorred. 

                          – John Adams, August 31, 1813


Americans are often accused of being having little knowledge of history.  As the quotation of our second President John Adams demonstrates, this perception of Americans is nothing new. 


Part of the problem is that not all our presidents have been very memorable.  Robert Dallek, retired professor of history, author of books on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Richard Nixon states:  “Most presidents, retrospectively, come across as ineffective.  Most of them are nameless, faceless characters who don’t register on anyone, including historians.” 


Those presidents who most of us – historians and non-historians alike – do remember were presidents who led the country during times of crisis and governed effectively or those who achieved great notoriety.  Our new President has often stated that he likes to read biographies of his predecessors in the White House.  Looking back over the lives of earlier presidents has become fashionable. 


Some of the most readable histories of memorable presidents available through the Alameda County Library System are:


B ADAMS, J   “John Adams”  by David McCullough


B JOHNSON, L.  vols. 1, 2  “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” by Robert A. Caro


B LINCOLN    “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald


B ROOSEVELT, T   “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris


B TRUMAN, H.  “Truman” by David McCullough


973.7092  GOODWIN  “Team of Rivals:  the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin


973.91 KENNEDY “Freedom from Fear:  the American People in Depression and War” by David M. Kennedy


973.922 SCHLESINGER  “A Thousand Days; John F. Kennedy in the White House” by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.


973.92409 DALLEK   “Nixon and Kissinger:  Partners in Power” by Robert Dallek