Sometimes Known as Presidential Research
Author’s Note: Book Titles in this blog post are in bold print because I can’t find the button to underline.
As the prolific author and Civil War Professor Gary Gallagher signed his book, The Confederate War, for me in his office at Penn State University in 1997, he was tired. He had just accepted a position at the University of Virginia and was emptying two living spaces- his office and his home. He mentioned the toll it was taking on him to somehow downsize his massive Civil War Home Library so he wouldn’t have to cart so many to Charlottesville. I don’t know the end of that story, but perhaps he, as any book lover, decided to give up the fight and buy a bigger moving van.
“A man must be constantly moved by a bookshelf and its contents, for he is constantly moving them himself.” – Eric Ebinger
I just came up with that line, which is sure to add a few hours to my time slamming these keys on my desk. But it defines the sheer madness of any bibliophile in this nation. Why do we have so many books and Lord have mercy why do we keep moving them around?
My Dad pulled up the driveway on a hot August afternoon in 2020, knee deep in the pandemic when we were the same depth in moving to a new home. I had his white Chevy Extended Cab Silverado neatly jammed with my presidential library and had just closed the tailgate when he popped out and offered a hand.
Prologue to his Visit: My wife had allowed me a particularly unusual ‘deal’ as we prepared to move our home (not to mention our marriage) of twelve years. She said I can move my library… first. I was delighted to do so, as my inner sanctum had been this expanding universe since the age of eleven and I dote over it much more than I should. I meticulously unloaded the shelves into the staging area on the front porch. I then cautiously transported the shelves to the new home. And then I began loading the books into the truck. Stack after stack. Softcover, hardcover, and all shapes and sizes: I sorted and sifted and stored them all so they miraculously fit in one trip.
I was so pleased with myself as I lifted the tailgate and heard it clasp. I even had the extended cab itself filled to the brim. And the tarp nearly tucked the entire bed full of books under the damning sunlight. All that was left now in the 95 degree day was to drive to the new house and unload them. It shouldn’t take but another three to four hours.
End of Prologue.
Dad doesn’t just offer help, he pleads. “Let me help you, Son.” I suppose the sweat falling down my face was a plea of its own.
“No, Dad, but thanks.”
I climbed up into the seat of the truck and backed carefully down the yard and into the driveway. The truck let out a ‘humph’ that surprised me. I counted over 1200 inches of shelving in my preparation for the move. That does not equal 1200 books, but it’s close. The not so old Chevy might have been riding low bumping down the backroads, but she made it. I pulled in, popped the tailgate, and began unloading almost 35 years of sheer happiness… all by myself.
Complaining? Absolutely not. My wife did ask, though, why I didn’t take Dad for his help, or my neighbor and long time closest friend either. My answer was simple and it will carry me through every lonely move for the rest of my life. “Because moving is an awful experience, and moving books is double awful. But their mine and I appreciate every single one of them. I can’t bear the thought of hearing one complaint about how many I have or how heavy they are. So I’ll do it myself.”
And, like the Little Hen, I did.
I don’t know if any man plans to spend his days with presidents and their wives. But I have, since that tender age where most of it was over my head to begin with. But there were authors in those early years of reading who kept me coming back for more. Ambrose, McCullough, Goodwin (husband and wife), Schlesinger, Manchester, and even some of the older ones like Sandburg and Leech, kept me enthralled by Presidents and their Wives (and Lives).
John Kennedy once said, “I feel better when there are books around.” Well, I feel better when those books are about Presidents.
In this blog, I will review and sometimes recommend books (and authors) who have tackled a president or First Lady. To get started, I will even post the first five books to review. These will be reviewed by the end of January, 2023. There will be other recommendations, etc, before and obviously after as well.
1. A Man of Iron, by Troy Senik on Grover Cleveland.
2. Thomas Jefferson’s Education, by Alan Taylor.
3. As He Saw It, Elliot Roosevelt. (The Story of the World Conferences of FDR).
4. Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade, Joseph Wheelan, on John Quincy Adams.
5. Three Days at Camp David, Jeffrey Garten, on Richard Nixon and an Economic Conference in 1971.