I know that President’s Day was Monday and everyone except the automotive industry has moved on but I have a suggestion. President’s Day offers us a unique opportunity to talk about biographies. What better time than a day set aside to honor our countries leaders. Not all biographies of presidents are boring lectures. There are plenty that are informative and are still a narative. My favorite biography of a president is by David McCullough. It’s called “Mornings On Horseback, The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt”.
It’s an extraordinary biography by the king of extraordinary biographies. If David McCullough‘s name sounds familiar it should. It was his biography of John Adams that HBO turned into a mini series that appeared to be nominated for every award under the sun and won most of them. Being awarded two Pulitzer’s doesn’t hurt either.
David McCullough is a rare historian. He makes you feel like you’re there as he takes you through a subjects life. Who else would think to tell us about a bedroom in the Roosevelt household that had its back wall removed to crate an open air playroom for the Roosevelt children? He shares more than the facts of a persons life. He includes the little things that show his subjects character.
Mornings On Horseback is full of such details. It covers the whole of his life and much of his siblings lives. How can you tell a story without a supporting cast? You can’t. As he builds the story of Theodore Roosevelt he also builds the stories of the lives Theodore Roosevelt touched. There are even passages at end of the book on the other three Roosevelt children at the end of their lives. He was close to his family and a biography without them would be lacking.
The biography also includes many photographs from the Roosevelt collection at Harvard. The collection of photographs is worth looking at all on its own. The scanned photos on the Harvard site are of better quality than those in the book. The book won a National Book Award in 1982 so that lets you know that technology has progressed. There is a great picture of the three Roosevelt children before Theodore went off to Harvard. It’s my favorite. It shows the Roosevelt children’s personalities.
It’s been years since I’ve read this book but writing his post has made me want to read it again. Not every historical figure is lucky enough to have someone like David McCullough immortalize them. That’s a pity. I would read more biographies if they all had his flair. I like his balance of humanity and history.
Other books by David McCullough: