Books by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Biographer; Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson Doris Kearns first came to the attention of President Lyndon Johnson when she co-wrote a very critical article on Johnson for the New Republic magazine. Several months later, when they met in person at th

LEADERSHIP by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Released: Sept. 18, 2018

"In intimate, knowing ways, Goodwin crafts history as aspiration—or at least inspiration—for readers; let's hope a hefty portion of those readers have titles that begin with Sen. or Rep."
With impeccable timing, the acclaimed historian focuses on the ways four presidents navigated the country through wrenching clashes and crises. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 5, 2013

"It's no small achievement to have something new to say on Teddy Roosevelt's presidency, but Goodwin succeeds admirably. A notable, psychologically charged study in leadership."
Swiftly moving account of a friendship that turned sour, broke a political party in two and involved an insistent, omnipresent press corps. Cantor and Boehner? No: Teddy and Taft. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

"Illuminating and well-written, as are all of Goodwin's presidential studies; a welcome addition to Lincolniana."
Well-practiced historian Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time (1994), examines Abraham Lincoln as a practical politician, focusing on his conversion of rivals to allies. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Pulitzer Prize—winning historian Goodwin (No Ordinary Time, 1994, etc.) turns her gaze inward, looking back on a childhood enlivened by books and baseball.

In many ways Goodwin had a typical '50s girlhood. She grew up on suburban Long Island at a time when many families were relocating to such communities. Her father worked, her mother was a homemaker. Perhaps the biggest difference between Goodwin and other girls growing up in this era was her deep and abiding enthusiasm for baseball. When she was six, she recalls, her father gave her a score book and taught her how to use it, a gift that "opened [her] heart to baseball." Retelling games for her father's benefit after he came home from work was her "first lesson . . . in narrative art." One can easily see how re-creating these games from the score book taught her to harness her imagination to quotidian details to re-create history. If baseball bonded her more deeply to her father, books served the same purpose in her relationship with her mother, a sickly woman with severe angina and numerous other problems. Goodwin also offers a child's-eye view of the Cold War, from the lunacy of bomb shelters and "duck and cover" drills to a particularly disturbing memory of reenacting the McCarthy hearings with other neighborhood children. Gradually we see her neighborhood unraveling under economic pressures, the Dodgers and Giants moving to the West Coast, and finally, her mother dying of an apparent heart attack at 51. Regrettably, Goodwin recounts all this in unimaginative prose, offering surprisingly few original insights into either baseball or the sociopolitical currents of the time.

Except for the final chapter about her mother's death and her father's subsequent depression and drinking problems, the book falls far short of her compelling historical narratives. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 23, 1994

A superb dual portrait of the 32nd President and his First Lady, whose extraordinary partnership steered the nation through the perilous WW II years. In the period covered by this biography, 1940 through Franklin's death in 1949, FDR was elected to unprecedented third and fourth terms and nudged the country away from isolationism into war. It is by now a given that Eleanor was not only an indispensable adviser to this ebullient, masterful statesman, but a political force in her own right. More than most recent historians, however, Goodwin (The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, 1987) is uncommonly sensitive to their complex relationship's shifting undercurrents, which ranged from deep mutual respect to lingering alienation caused by FDR's infidelity. One element creating tension was tactical politics: FDR, seeing increased arms production as crucial to the war effort, sought to close the divide between businessmen and his administration, while Eleanor prodded him not to forget about labor, civil rights, and Jewish refugees. As grateful as he was to her for acting as his political eyes and ears, Franklin also could react testily to her unremitting lobbying at times when he desperately needed relief from the strains of running the war effort. Equally fascinating here are the often semi-permanent White House guests who filled the couple's "untended needs": their daughter and four sons; FDR alter ego Harry Hopkins, shaking off grave illness to go on critical diplomatic missions; Franklin's secretary Missy LeHand, prevented by a stroke from serving the man she loved; exiled Princess Martha of Norway, who gave Franklin the unqualified affection of which Eleanor was incapable; two of Eleanor's confidantes, future biographer Joe Lash and the lesbian ex-journalist Lorena Hickok; and Winston Churchill. A moving drama of patchwork intimacy in the White House, played out against the sweeping tableau of the nation rallying behind a great crusade. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 15, 1986

What, at this late date, could possibly be added to the oft-told story of the Kennedy clan?

Quite a lot it develops. Indeed, Goodwin's lengthy but unfailingly engrossing version provides fresh insights on the family's three-generation rise from the mean streets of Boston's North End to the White House—and the struggle of 19th-century immigrants to make their way in a not altogether hospitable land of opportunity. Herself the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, the author (an LBJ biographer and sometime Harvard historian) had access to a wealth of previously unexamined source material, notably 150-odd cartons of personal papers belonging to Joe and Rose Kennedy. She also had the cooperation of the family and friends, including matriarch Rose, whose memories were refreshed by the long-lost records, which ranged from her own diaries through business documents and report cards for the nine Kennedy kids. Happily, Goodwin's familiarity breeds neither contempt nor blarney. She offers and interprets the facts of a peculiarly American saga in commendably evenhanded fashion. Her three-part narrative opens with the 1863 baptism of John Francis (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald, who gained local fame and fortune as a Bay State poi; it closes with the inauguration of his grandson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as the 35th President of the US. At stage center, though, are Rose, Honey Fitz's first and favorite daughter (a deeply religious but, by Goodwin's account, worldly-wise woman), and her husband, Joseph Patrick Kennedy. The founding father, who amassed a considerable fortune as an archetypal outsider, earned a reputation for ruthlessness and philandering. But to his children, the author shows, this tough-minded man was an unstintingly devoted and proud parent. The final section of the text focuses on the golden girl and two sons who were reaching adulthood as their father transcended the establishment that never wholly accepted him by becoming FDR's ill-starred ambassador to the Court of St. James. Joe Jr., bearer of the family's aspirations, was killed in action toward the end of WW II, and the beloved Kathleen, who against parental wishes married out of her Catholic faith, died in a plane crash a few years after the war. The torch was thus passed to JFK, who accepted it, albeit with some misgivings, and tacitly assented to a new bond with his demanding father.

An obvious must for Kennedy buffs. But also an evocatively detailed account of great achievement and dashed hopes, which supports Hardy's bleak conclusion that character is fate. There are scores of illustrations, many of which look to be candids from family photo albums. Read full book review >