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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin


The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Unabridged, 36 hr. 42 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Edward Herrmann (Narrator)
November 5, 2013

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography

Source: Received from publisher for review

“Doris Kearns Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Team of Rivals, captures the Progressive Era through the story of the broken friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, culminating in their running against one another for president in 1912.”

I selected this book because it included both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. I figured that would kill two birds with one stone on my Presidential reading list. Nowhere in the description above, which I found on Goodreads, did it prepare me for the in-depth story of the muckraking journalists working for S.S. McClure; I was caught off guard by the equal amount of time spent on the journalists as the Presidents themselves.

Being as this is a book that has three foci there was a little bit of the tennis game whiplash transitioning between subjects. Sometimes these individual sections were so lengthy that by the time I got back around to a subject I had entirely forgotten what was happening with them. As mentioned above, while I didn’t know that there was going to be a significant focus on the journalists at McClure’s, I found myself enjoying this portion of the book the best. There were so many distinct personalities within that group and their contributions to journalism had a huge impact on the political atmosphere.

Goodwin handled the relationship between Roosevelt and Taft in a way that is not typically portrayed in presidential biographies. Their lives were intertwined extensively during both of their presidencies and they frequently relied on each other, until a rift arose between the two of them. While I’m sure that both presidents received approximately equal time in the book, I felt that I got to know Roosevelt much better – this could be just because he was such a “big” personality while Taft was quieter.

Overall, a worthy read, although it did take quite some time. It was so dense with facts that it took me just shy of two months of listening – so that is not based on my pace of reading. I just didn’t want to pick it back up all the time.



The narration here was very well done, as I would expect. This narrator has narrated several other big name non-fiction works including: John Adams by David McCullough, Einstein by Walter Isaacson, and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. He wouldn’t have worked these without a great performance.

Author Doris Kearns Goodwin also has written Team of Rivals, No Ordinary Time, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. You can visit the author’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book? Or would you rather hear an excerpt of the audiobook?

Below is a video clip of Goodwin on Q&A on C-SPAN talking about The Bully Pulpit:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


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