Looking for that special literary item for the man who has loves reading? This year has a lot of choices, particularly if you like biographies of great leaders.

gifts for the history lover1 – Topping the charts this year is No Easy Day, the enthralling tell-all by U.S. Navy Seal Mark Owens involved in the successful effort to kill Osama Bin Laden. While Bin Laden’s assassination is the hook to draw you in, many reviewers find Owens’ recounting of what it took to become a Seal to be the best part of the book. A great choice for anyone into either military history or a rousing, true adventure story.

2 – Close behind is a second assassination history from political pundit Bill O’Reilly, Killing Kennedy. O’Reilly has managed to adapt, with the help of historian and co-author Martin Dugard, his straightforward forward style to create an excellent introductory narrative to the tragedy in Dallas. This is just the foremost of a slew of Kennedy themed titles this year. O’Reilly’s book is the most popular, but if you’re a Kennedy fanatic don’t miss David Nasaw’s stupendous The Patriarch chronicling the tumultuous life of JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy, or Kitty Kelley’s Capturing Camelot featuring Stanley Tretick’s famous photographs of the Kennedys.

gifts for the history lover3) – After winning the Pulitzer Prize for his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion, Jon Meacham returns with a second portrait presidential strength with Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. Jefferson has always been a president who engenders controversy, and Meacham has clearly chosen to join the camp that paints the president in largely positive tones. However, Meacham’s excellent style and storytelling make this a must have for any presidential historian or lover of biographies.

4 – Year of the Presidential Biography – Besides Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson, 2012 has been a tremendous year for presidential biographies. Foremost of all of them is Robert Caro’s fourth volume in his series on Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power. Following the years 1959 to the summer of 1965, Caro expertly details Johnson’s clashes with the Kennedy brothers and his seeming defeat by them until the crack of rifle changes the course of history. Many reviewers have described the Caro’s narrative as Shakespearean, with just cause.

Also of note, H. W. Brands has published The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace demonstrating how the Civil War general and President saved the Union multiple times in his career of public service. Finally, 2 biographies of Eisenhower – Jean Edward Smith’s Eisenhower in War and Peace and Evan Thomas’ Ike’s Bluff – are fascinating looks at another famed warrior-president.

5 – More than 40 years ago William Manchester encountered Winston Churchill during a trip, and was so fascinated that he decided to write a biography of him. The result was gifts for the history loverThe Last Lion trilogy, a 3,000+ page, 50 year endeavor on Manchester’s part. Manchester in fact never lived to complete the series, and friend and biographer Paul Reid was enlisted by Manchester to finish the work. The final volume released in November; The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm. Manchester’s literary style is superb, and any fan of Winston Churchill must have this concluding volume. For those looking to score big with a major gift, the whole series has now been reissued in an attractive box set.

Please send any questions or comments to James R White.

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