7 Presidents in 23 Books: Stories of Life and Leadership
President’s Day isn’t only a day to sleep in and shop the sales. The holiday also serves as a reminder of America’s rich tapestry of history and the men who shaped the nation through political office. Celebrating our nation’s leaders began long before bargain busters took advantage of the day off. In 1832, Congress adjourned on February 22 to commemorate the centenary of George Washington’s birth.
Before and after that date, Americans celebrated Washington’s birthday, but it was not a legal holiday until declared so by an act of Congress on January 31, 1879. The holiday became regularized in 1968, when another act of Congress declared the holiday would fall on the third Monday of February. A commercial slant was also introduced — in the justification for the move, Congress said it wanted to ”bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.”
Both the original intent as a celebration of our leaders and the newer message of economic benefits can be combined by doing some presidential reading. So far, the men who have occupied the nation’s highest office have led intriguing lives, expertly chronicled by historians and sometimes even by themselves. Here are seven presidents and the books they inspired, which will keep you enthralled beyond just President’s Day.
1. John Adams, 1797-1801
American history buffs are probably well aware of the name David McCullough. The historian has woven countless historical tales into must-reads, and his treatment of our second president in John Adams is no different. His 752-page tome was the fodder for HBO’s series on Adams, and it won a Pulitzer Prize. Inside, you’ll find not only the story of his presidency but his life as well, including his touching relationship with his wife, Abigail Adams.
Adams was not just known as one of the nation’s first presidents: he also helped craft the country from its infancy in the Revolutionary cradle. He, like other founding fathers, wrote extensively. To hear Adams in his own words about the revolution, try John Adams: Revolutionary Writings, 1755-1775.