The Manliest Dude Who Ever Lived: Teddy Roosevelt (TR) Books
January 10, 2013
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American liberals tend not to like TR. They hold against him, too unfairly in my view, his late 19th century racist views, his blue blood, his dilettantish and capacious hobbies and interests, his imperialism, and his pseudo intellectualism. Never mind all the good he accomplished in many areas of policy including workers’ rights and safety, the environment, progressive views on the social democratic welfare state, and so much else. He confessed, in an honest moment as recorded by Edmund Morris, that he did not think himself particularly gifted at anything even while being passionate about many things. He confessed, too, that if had any special talent it was his ability to lead.
I recently finished Colonel Roosevelt, the third volume in the Morris trilogy that begins with The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex. Upon reflection, he remains one of the most fascinating statesmen I have ever studied. I think what I like best of all is his energy and his peerless will to live well. One of my favorite factoids about him was his horrible diet. TR ate like a pig and it never occurred to him that he should ever curtail intake. The solution was always more exercise . Churchill, by the way, had the same problem with money; it never occurred to him to curtail intake either. Both men wrote prodigiously to fund their exuberant lifestyles.
Anyway, in addition to Morris, other TR books worth a read include Mornings on Horseback, by McCullough on his early life; When Trumpets Call, by Patricia O’Toole on life after the presidency; and River of Doubt, by Candice Millard on TR’s epic and remarkable journey into the bowels of the Amazon River, an expedition that nearly killed him. If you read enough about TR you’ll find it harder and harder to argue that he does not belong on Rushmore.
Of all these terrific books, The Rise of TR is my favorite. If you have time for just one this is it.