Presidential historian Beschloss has brought us a saga about crucial times in America's history when a courageous president dramatically changed the future of the United States. Beschloss brings to life these flawed, complex men--and their wives, families, friends and foes, in an intimate, behind-the-scenes view of presidents coping with the supreme dilemmas of their lives. As he shows, none of these presidents was eager to incur ridicule, vilification or threats of political destruction and even assassination. But in the end, bolstered by friends and family, hidden private beliefs and, sometimes, religious faith, each ultimately proved himself to be, in Andrew Jackson's words, "born for the storm."--From publisher description.
Such strong characters are easy to tell apart, and thinking about what might have happened if Adams served during the time of Lincoln or if one swapped Theodore and Franklin Roosevelts would make interesting speculations by enthusiasts of political history such as the ones who would most enjoy this book. Such readers would naturally be inclined to make comparisons between this book and other works covering the lives of those individuals who shaped history, not least of which the one John F. Kennedy wrote, Profiles in Courage. You can tell that Beschloss is aware of that famous work because he mentions it explicitly in the Kennedy section.
Drawing from the original documents and the accounts of eyewitnesses, he further fleshes out the inner workings of the Presidency by describing the influences of Cabinet members, financiers, First Ladies, and even celebrities. I would like to leaf through the hardcopy version of this book because of the way I suspect much of that might have had to be cut for this abridgment, though the one cameo appearance by Richard Nixon as ex-president does not go missing, fortunately. And as for the concluding section on how Ronald Reagan brought about an end to the Cold War, it is clear to me how much of a debt that man owes to his collaborator/adversary Mikhail Gorbachev for cementing his place in history.
He sounded just like his book: anecdotal, marginally interesting, uninspired.
If you're a serious student of history, you don't need this book on your shelf. For public school students, it could be an appealing way to start learning about presidential history.