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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bully! The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt by Rick Marschall

Easily the best biography I read this year.

Published in 2011 by Regnery History.

Bully! The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt is exactly the kind of book that will ensure that printed books will always have a place, no matter how many e-readers are sold. This is an absolutely beautiful book. It has a satisfying heft, it is printed on high quality paper (think coffee table book quality) and is chock full of political cartoons from an era when many political cartoons would have been full color and the size of an entire newspaper page. This book inspires the reader to flip through the pages, browse a bit, admire the art and do a little reading.

A larger, better reproduction of this cartoon appears in the book. 
I included it as a sample of the beautiful artwork.
Fortunately, Rick Marschall's text is every bit as accessible and enjoyable as the cartoons he has chosen to illustrate the hyperactive, hyper-productive, hyper-successful life of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. Marschall covers it all rom his very early entry to the world of politics (much of this was addressed in political cartoons as well), to his ranching days, his work in the Navy Department, to the Battle of San Juan Hill, his political climb from Governor of New York to Vice President to the Presidency. Not only that, we are treated to his trip to Africa, a European tour, the rain forests of Brazil, the Bull Moose Party controversy and, most of all, his vitality. Roosevelt was a force of nature. All of it was delicious material for the nation's prolific newspapers and their cartoonists and the story is much enriched by their inclusion. It gives the reader a great feel for how Roosevelt was actually viewed by the American public.

This book has completely reformed me from my wayward and youthful outlook on Theodore Roosevelt, a point of view discussed by the author on pages 400 and 401 in the "Acknowledgements" section. He notes that Roosevelt has become symbolic of all that is considered evil today on many of America's college campuses: "Hence, he became a virtual devil in much of academia, especially contrasted to Woodrow Wilson, who was painted as a dreamy internationalist and idealist who, if he had not been thwarted by Neanderthals at home and abroad, would have delivered heaven on earth." That was how I was taught. I was sure that Wilson was not what he had at first seemed (the more I learn, the more I am repulsed) but now I see TR in a new light as well.

My next book on the to-be-read pile was also a biography. Out of fairness to that biography, I am going to have to put it back into the pile and read something else in a different genre- this biography is so strong that I am quite sure that the other one will suffer unfairly in comparison.

I rate this biography 5 stars out of 5.

This book is available on Amazon.com here: Bully! The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt.

Reviewed on December 27, 2011.

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