Presidential memoirs (and biographies) as audiobooks, recommended by Robin Whitten

When you listen to presidential memoirs as audiobooks, you can hear an American president telling you their own story—at least when it comes to recent presidents. Going further back in time, biographies may be more useful. Veteran audiobook reviewer Robin Whitten, editor of Audiofile magazine, recommends the best audiobooks about US presidents, and explains the crucial role of professional narrators in bringing big books to life.

The best books on JFK, recommended by Fredrik Logevall

Of the thousands of books written about JFK, America’s iconic 35th president, which ones should you read first? Fredrik Logevall, professor of history and international affairs at Harvard University, talks us through five key books, starting with the first volume of his biography, tracking JFK’s coming of age in the years that also saw America transforming from economic powerhouse to global superpower.

The best books on Richard Nixon, recommended by David Greenberg

American president Richard Nixon will be forever remembered for his role in the Watergate scandal and his resignation in 1974, a blow for a man obsessed with his image who hoped to be remembered as a peacemaker on the global stage. Here historian David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers, recommends books on a man who elicited very strong emotions, both for and against.

The best books on Thomas Jefferson, recommended by Andrew Burstein

Thomas Jefferson is famous for having written the Declaration of Independence, with its ringing claim that “all men are created equal”.  In modern times he has been castigated for hypocrisy, given his ownership of slaves and his failure to campaign for abolition. Here, historian Andrew Burstein discusses Jefferson’s wider political career and whether it is fair to judge his attitude to slavery by contemporary standards.

The best books on Benjamin Franklin, recommended by D.G. Hart

The Founding Fathers of the United States were a remarkable bunch of people, but Benjamin Franklin might have been the most remarkable of them all. Coming from humble stock, he became a businessman, scientist, diplomat and politician—a giant of the Enlightenment. Historian D.G. Hart sheds some light on his character and background and puts him in his broader social and political context.

The best books on Abraham Lincoln, recommended by Ted Widmer

He came from humble beginnings and never went to high school. Going into the presidency, he had limited political experience and lacked business, legislative and military achievements. The one thing he did not lack was a moral compass, says historian and author Ted Widmer. He picks the best books on the ups and downs and Shakespearean-style plot twists that were the life of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.

The best books on Franklin D. Roosevelt, recommended by Cynthia Koch

Historians consistently rank FDR, the 32nd and longest-serving president of the United States, as among America’s greatest. Here, Cynthia Koch, Director of History Programing for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation, talks us through his life and explains how, in many ways, his guile was key to his success.

The Best Donald Trump Books, recommended by Tony Schwartz

Around the world, people were taken aback when the populist candidate, a real estate developer and reality TV show star called Donald Trump, was elected as the 45th President of the United States. Here Tony Schwartz, Trump’s co-author on his bestselling book, The Art of the Deal, talks us through how that happened and why Trump is so mesmerising, even to those who oppose him.

The best books on Joe Biden, recommended by Ronald A. Klain

On January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States. Here Ronald A. Klain, the veteran lawyer who is once again serving as Biden’s chief of staff, recommends books that show the man behind the public persona including his love of Irish poetry, the string of terrible personal tragedies that have affected his life and career, and his leading role in blocking a Supreme Court appointment that would’ve decimated abortion rights.

The best books on The US Cabinet, recommended by Lindsay Chervinsky

In contrast to many other countries, the secretaries who serve in the United States cabinet aren’t chosen from among the country’s elected officials but entirely reflect the president’s personal choices. Here, presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, talks us through the role of the cabinet and recommends which books to read to understand more about it.