Review: Dead Presidents

Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's LeadersDead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders by Brady Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack too much, or that this year’s election cycle has continuously been called “unprecedented,” but “Dead Presidents” seems like the perfect book for 2016.

It is:
– a historical view on how each of our presidents was memorialized after his death
– an excellent source of perspective on politics in general
– hilarious
– thoughtful introspection on what it means to be American
– essential to all trivia fiends (you’ll have so much weird presidential knowledge!)

Die-hard history buffs might be a little frustrated by the format–rather than following presidents sequentially, they are grouped by themes related to their deaths–and I admit I definitely lost track of who was who a few times, but there’s a ordered list at the front you can always refer back to if you’ve gotten Calvin Coolidge confused with The Great Communicator.

Carlson’s book has great heart, and it’s clear he is really enamored of the subject. He provides excellent historical commentary (did you know the bathtub story about Pres. Taft is probably pure fiction?!) but layers it well with side notes and a generous understanding that most people would never think to undertake such a quest as visiting the tomb of every president. He knows it’s a little crazy, and he’s just tickled that you were interested enough to read his book.

As a Dallas native, this book brings an extra perspective. The chapter on Kennedy’s death surprises you by mostly glossing over the “controversy” regarding the number of shooters, and generally assumes you’re sick of conspiracy theories. Instead it focuses largely on how the city of Dallas has reacted to the legacy of being the city that killed Kennedy. It’s really interesting to see an outsider’s perspective.

This book is fantastic. I’ve already recommended it to no less than four people, and I think you should give it a shot, too.

View all my reviews

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