Reading Biographies: American Lion – Book Spotlight

One genre of book that I have a hard time resisting when I see them featured in a bookstore is biography, particularly biographies of our earlier presidents and Founding Fathers.

Here’s the problem: I rarely ever actually getting around to reading any of them.  I buy them with all good intentions, but with the exception of Walter Isaacson’s “Benjamin Franklin,” they’re all still just sitting on my bookshelves looking pretty, they have yet to percolate into my brain.  Often they’re just not quite captivating enough to pick up instead of something else.

“American Lion” would probably have been relegated to the same fate if I had not received it as part of a blog tour, simply because that’s just what happens to these books now.  Boy, am I ever glad I had an obligation to read this one so I couldn’t just stick it on the shelf!

american lion“American Lion” is Jon Meacham’s new biography of Andrew Jackson, one of our most interesting presidents, in my opinion.  The dude fought 13 duels and lived almost the last 40 years of his life with a bullet in his chest, come on!

I’m only about 1/3 of the way through the book, but it is a fascinating read so far.  Meacham tells the story of Jackson’s presidency through the lens of his pre-presidency experiences and interpersonal relationships, which keeps the story flowing.  It is much more interesting to read of Jackson’s exploits fighting the Spanish and British to maintain the boundaries of his country and his fears that they were paying Native Americans to wreak havoc against Americans than to simply read about his removal policy without exploring his motivation for wanting Native Americans out of U.S. lands (other than the normal explanation of simple 19th-century racism and paternalism, of course).

The hardcover of “American Lion” was released at the end of last year and won the Pulitzer Prize.  At 512 pages, including well over 100 pages of notes and index, that must have been a heavy hardcover!  Luckily, the paperback came out at the end of April.  It is still heavy, but worth it so far.  I’ll give you my final thoughts when I finish it, though.

How do you fare with biographies?  Is this a genre you love?  One you avoid?  Or are you like me, you plan to read them, but usually don’t?

If you don’t want to wait for my final thoughts, you can
Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.

Thank you to Random House and Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me “American Lion.”

15 comments to Reading Biographies: American Lion – Book Spotlight

  • I do the exact same thing. I probably have a whole shelf of biographies of famous people that I plan to read one of these days, but for the moment they sit on a shelf.
    .-= Kailana´s last blog ..Library Pile =-.

  • This is not the first time I’ve heard about this one, and it’s all been good! Like you, I don’t tend to grab for the biographies (especially of people that have long since left us), which doesn’t make any sense, because if I force myself to read them, I usually love them. I think it has something to do with the boring covers…
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment – James Patterson (audio) =-.

  • Oh yeah, I struggle with biographies. I have a couple on my reading list that have languished there forever – it is so hard to make myself read them when I have so many other things to read! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read at least one non-fiction book a month, hoping to help improve this. I’ve kept the resolution, but I haven’t managed to fit a single biography into the mix…
    .-= Brittany´s last blog ..Review – Zorro =-.

  • Pam

    I love biographies but I often find that I fall into the same pit. I was much better as getting through 900page biographies when I was in school (I was a political science major so it just fit and complimented my classes well) and that’s what I would read over the summer. After leaving the classroom, I find myself buying history and biographies but i just can’t get into them like I used to. I may take this one on my beach trip, though so i can really devote time to it. Thanks for the review. I hope the rest is great!
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..Gravatar Widget =-.

  • I just bought this book for my dad for Father’s Day. He loves books like this. I don’t read a lot of biographies — I guess I prefer to escape. My husband only reads non-fiction and thinks I’m crazy to read so much without learning!
    .-= Julie P.´s last blog ..Review: Blue Boy =-.

  • I also tend to grab biographies in book stores. They make them look so tempting! I have the same problem about getting around to reading them though. Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker by Stacy A. Cordery has been sitting on my bedside table for months.

    I tend to do better with biographies of writers. I guess I’m more emotionally invested in them.
    .-= Lindsaygail´s last blog ..Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures =-.

  • Tam

    I, like you, am a collector of biographies and histories. I have a lot sitting on my shelf that I haven’t read yet, but maybe I will make a blog challenge for myself to do so.
    Glad you are enjoying this book, can’t wait to hear your final thoughts.
    .-= Tam´s last blog ..3 for 3 in the Reading Challenges Department Today: Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge =-.

  • I love biographies too, but memoirs are easier for me to actually sit down and finish.
    .-= Janssen´s last blog ..Thursday =-.

    • Definitely. Memoirs are a lot easier for me to pick up off my own shelves, but biography draws me more at the bookstore, particularly because I don’t go in for political/celebrity memoir, other than “Dreams From My Father,” which still fits my normal criteria since Barack wrote it before he was a famous politician.

  • Oh, talk about guilt trip. I just returned this one to the library after having it for almost three weeks and getting through only about 20 pages. I really should just buy it because I love presidential history, and Jackson was such a character.

    I think part of my problem getting into this book was being spoiled by Doris Kearns Goodwin’s A Team of Rivals. That one was just so so so good…other biographies have been just a little disappointing.
    .-= Cass´s last blog ..Harry Potter Reading Challenge! =-.

  • I love biographies but some of them are so poorly written that they are able to make the most interesting person dull. I do hear great things about American Lion and it’s definitely on the tbr list.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Booking Through Thursday =-.

  • My absolutely favorite way to read biographies is to read and listen at the same time. Audio keeps me engaged and the print allows me to see the photos and maps and other visuals.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Challenge: Random Reading =-.

  • I had a biography phase in high school in which I read about pretty much every interesting classic movie star. It’s sometimes hard to find the “good” biography on a certain person, because there are usually so many. Lots of them are dry and just plain boring, but there’s usually one good one for every person.

    I need to read American Lion. I’ve taken many a field trip to the Hermitage (and many voluntary trips as well), so I pretty much grew up with Andrew Jackson.
    .-= Kari @ Five Borough Book Review´s last blog ..Review: A Colorful Past =-.

  • I guess I’m one of the weirdos who actually reads my biographies. =) Actually, I do tend to read far less non-fiction than fiction, but if I have a book about a fascinating person on my shelf it gets read sooner rather than later. It’s been much worse this year; except for memoirs, I’ve read practically no non-fiction of my own free will since starting my MA. As a side benefit, now that I’ve made my way through possibly hundreds of books of dry history, popular history and biographies are a walk in the park. I tend to question them more, especially ones without footnotes like this one, but overall I really enjoy learning and figure if I’m all that bothered about differing perspectives I can always go read another one by someone else!

    I’m reviewing this one tomorrow. I thought it was a great biography and did just what it set out to do, which was get more in touch with Jackson’s personality and those around him, rather than be a strictly historical account of his presidency. I liked it and found it an amazingly fast read for a biography.
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..Review: Naamah’s Kiss, Jacqueline Carey =-.