It was once said of one of our most famous presidents that, “Whether the subject of the moment was political economy, the Greek drama, tropical fauna or flora, the Irish sagas, protective coloration in nature, metaphysics, the technique of football, or post-futurist painting, he was equally at home with the experts and drew out the best that was in them.” The man spoken of is not often remembered for his insatiable desire to learn or his amazing memory. Instead he is remembered for his love of hunting, his instrumental role in the creation of the Panama Canal, his days as a rough rider, and the phrase “carry a big stick,” not to mention the cuddly toy known as a Teddy Bear named in his honor.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States and our youngest president until John F. Kennedy was such an avid reader that he often read at least five books a week, reading more if time allowed. TR not only read books but turned his hand to writing books as well. Writing over 35 books, TR wrote more books than any other president to date. Like the books he read, TR’s written works fall in to multiple genres.
The Naval War of 1812, which is still considered the definitive book on the subject, was published when TR was only 23 years old. This book helped to establish Roosevelt as a historian. He wrote other historical books including books on Oliver Cromwell and Gouverneur Morris. His several volume historical narrative, Winning the West, is considered among the best of its kind. He also wrote several books on the topic of hunting, creating a whole new genre, and increasing interest in the Wild West. Interspersed with stories of his own, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman provides a practical guide to killing both big and small game. Other titles include Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail and The Wilderness Hunter. Roosevelt was not shy about addressing deeper, more current themes in his books either. In one such book, The Foes of Our Own Households, he argued that America should enter World War I. In this same book he also addressed issues like socialism versus social reform, birth control, and farm conditions. Mark Twain once noted that had Roosevelt not gone into politics, “he might have completely dominated America’s literary scene.” While Roosevelt may never have had the chance to dominate the literary scene he has left us with a wealth of books that will delight generations to come.
–Erin Sutter is a senior Ashbrook Scholar majoring in history and political science at Ashland University.