Review of “Grant” by Jean Edward Smith

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

Grant” is Jean Edward Smith’s 2001 biography of the eighteenth U.S. president. It was the 2002 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography. Smith taught at the University of Toronto for 35 years before joining the faculty of Marshall University where he is Professor of Political Science. The most recent of his dozen books are FDR and Eisenhower in War and Peace.

Smith’s biography is the most widely read of all the Ulysses S. Grant biographies and with good reason. Among the eighty-four presidential biographies I’ve read so far, Smith’s narrative has perhaps the best combinations of effortless fluidity, vivid detail, historical context and insight that I’ve encountered.

Weighing in at over 600 pages (not counting notes or bibliography) this biography feels surprisingly light while remaining appropriately erudite and serious. The half-dozen or so pages in Smith’s preface are among the most potent and thoughtful introductory pages…

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