President Theodore Roosevelt had a passion for reading books, and he did not keep this passion to himself. He often wrote about his experiences as a reader and collector of books. He wrote scholarly essays about literature and literary history. He often wrote book reviews for such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, The Bookman, The Outlook, and The New York Times Review of Books. Roosevelt’s writings about books are worth reading for their own sake, for in these pieces he provided critical insights into influential books. His writings about books, however, are also important because they show how Roosevelt responded to the books that he read. Roosevelt’s reading influenced his thinking on the many topics that interested him, so these writings provide researchers with a better understanding of the role that books played in the formation of his ideas, attitudes, and political positions.
Theodore Roosevelt on Books and Reading brings together for the first time Roosevelt’s writings about his experiences as a reader, his scholarly essays about literature and literary history, and his exuberant reviews of some of the books that he especially liked. A sister volume to Mark I. West’s Theodore Roosevelt and His Library at Sagamore Hill, this new volume features Roosevelt’s own responses to many of the books in his personal library. All of the selections in this volume reflect Roosevelt’s passion for reading. These selections will resonate with anyone who shares Roosevelt’s love of books.
Mark I. West is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he teaches courses on children's and young adult literature. He also holds the title of Bonnie E. Cone Professor in Civic Engagement. He has written or edited nineteen books, including Theodore Roosevelt and His Library at Sagamore Hill (2022). His articles have appeared in various national publications, such as the New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Americana, and British Heritage, as well as many academic journals. He has published several articles on Theodore Roosevelt including “Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Children’s Literature,” which appeared in The Journal of American Culture, and “Preserving a Presidential Persona: A Bibliophile President Created a Well-Traveled Library” which appeared in New York Archives. He recently gave an invited lecture titled “Theodore Roosevelt and the Makings of an Activist Reader” as part of the Rites of Reading Lecture Series at the University of Michigan.
Mark West's Theodore Roosevelt on Books and Reading illuminates an aspect of Theodore Roosevelt's greatness that is too often overlooked. Dr. West's editorial finesse allows Roosevelt to demonstrate his literary fluency and his bookish enthusiasms in his own words. This book and its companion, Theodore Roosevelt and His Library at Sagamore Hill, are valuable contributions to scholarship. They reinforce the importance of the adage that we are what we read. Roosevelt writes of books as being central to the soul of a person and makes me wishful for such erudition and well-read leaders today. A century after his death, Roosevelt's energy and intellect leap out of the pages, and TR reminds us anew of the sheer joy of reading.
Professor West’s thoughtful collection of essays covers the big topics in a big way: it is an accessible entry to both Theodore Roosevelt’s explanation of his own evolution of thinking on the great historians and scientists and adventurers, as well as TR’s assertively individual and sometimes disarming approach to leisure reading.
This companion volume to Mark West’s Theodore Roosevelt and His Library at Sagamore Hill reveals details of our best-read president, who “consumed, and largely memorized, 300-500 books a year.” Here is the story of a dynamic voice realizing itself through reading. This collection of personal writing defends freedom, first discovered in a library, then acted on to befriend the poor, break broncos, charge up hills, and dig the world’s biggest ditch.
Mark West has made an important contribution to our understanding of the complexity of our 26th and youngest president. While Theodore Roosevelt's fame as a man of action is well-deserved, his literary side is regrettably little-known: West is doing a fine job of correcting this neglect in his well-written, carefully researched volume, which I strongly recommend to both scholars and the general public.