Interesting Reads About America’s Presidents

In preparation for Presidents’ Day, here’s a new stack of books for your TBR pile. From American history to memoir, biography to political thriller, this list has a little of everything.


If you’re an American history buff, then you probably already know a lot about the most romantic—or romanticized, at least—period of our history, World War II. In this non-fiction book, Kelly explores Roosevelt and Churchill as they work to ally themselves with Russia’s Stalin and end the war. FDR’s advisor, Harry Hopkins, scouted the political climate in Russia to see if America should supply aid to a country whose leader had starved 4 million Ukrainians to death, purged another million in the same decades, and yet another million in Gulags… it wasn’t an easy decision. This read, though informative, is pretty straightforward in its presentation.


Leonard Downie’s non-fiction book is not exactly a tell-all memoir. Downie worked at the Washington Post for nearly fifty years, and this book is his story as it relates to the newsroom. Over the decades, Downie reported on former presidents’ Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Bill Clinton’s impeachment scandal, and even through the Unabomber’s wild threat to publish his manifesto or else. This book is in a sense Downie’s manifesto of how journalism works at its best.


Speaking of President Clinton, did you know that he co-wrote a thriller with James Patterson? No? How about TWO? This second thriller (not a sequel, but a second pairing of the authors) introduces readers to fictional president Matthew Keating, a terrorist-fighting former Navy SEAL. Then, his daughter goes missing.


It might seem like a government archivist is the nerdiest job one could have in politics, but in this political thriller, Beecher White is responsible for keeping close-held secrets. He works at the National Archives, but really, he’s guarding a secret society that George Washington founded. Weirdly, it’s Beecher that the president calls on when security discovers a severed arm buried in the Rose Garden.


It will come as no surprise that women are suspiciously absent from this list of books about presidents. Jennifer Palmieri was Hillary Clinton’s Communications Directory during the time when she ran for office, and this is her open letter addressed directly to the first, yet-to-come woman president. It’s a great note to end on.

Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.