Which president, noted for being spectacularly close-mouthed, turned out to be a fine and revealing writer? Which president, suspected of being illiterate, became the first Chief Executive to shepherd a bestseller through the thicket of the publishing world?
Did JFK really write two bestselling books, one of which earned him a Pulitzer Prize? I mean really?
Who was the better writer — Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan?
These questions and more can be answered in the pages of Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote. Bloomington’s own Craig Fehrman is the author and he appears on Big Talk today.
That’s right, WFHB news director Kade Young and I have figured out a way to bring new editions of my weekly gabfest (Glabfest?) to the airwaves and the internet. After more than a month of reruns because the WFHB studios are off-limits thanks to COVID Fever, we’ve at last got a new show up and ready to air.
A side note: I used Zoom to interview Craig this week. I was astounded at how easy and intuitive the videotelephony platform is. The sound quality is not quite up to the standard of that produced in a basic radio studio (and, believe me, WFHB’s studios are the very definition of basic — maybe that’s why I’m so comfortable in them) but, hell, tons of people are facing a helluva lot worse problems these days, so why should I moan?
In any case, Fehrman is a journalist, historian, and author who teaches Advanced Sportswriter at Indiana University. About twelve years ago he got hooked on Barack Obama’s books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Both were big sellers and Fehrman got to thinking, What about all the other books written by presidents, both before and after their stints in the Oval Office?
Next thing he knew, Fehrman was embarking on a decade-long project, hunting down the books and the private papers of the 45 presidents (actually, 44; Grover Cleveland, Nos. 22 and 24, gets counted twice) to put together his book. It’s not an encyclopedic listing of all the books ever written by American presidents; that kind of thing would bore Fehrman. Instead, he cherry-picked presidents and books to tell a 231-year tale covering the history of our country’s leaders and changing mores as well as that of the publishing industry and more.
Heck, Craig and I even get into books written by First Ladies and, on that note, I’ll bet you can’t guess which president’s wife wrote the bestselling autobiography/memoir in history.
So, tune in later this afternoon or come back here tomorrow for the link to the podcast. Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.