Top Fall 2013 Biographies: #6 Wilson by A. Scott Berg

a. scott bergAfter a hiatus of more than a decade, A. Scott Berg returns with a full scale biography of Woodrow Wilson. Simply titled Wilson, Berg attempts to explain the vast abilities and contradictions of our 28th President. Beginning with his childhood before the American Civil War, Berg follows the young Wilson, the progeny of a long line of Presbyterian ministers, to Princeton and then details his meteoric rise from junior professor to the country’s highest elective office in the space of hardly a decade. Wilson, much like Thomas Jefferson, was a man of amazing contradictions and reversals. He campaigned for his 2nd term on the slogan “he kept us out of war” and then promptly took us into World War 1. After the war Wilson was revered by many throughout the world as a bringer of equality and light to the masses, yet he was also a certified son of the South who had his strong racial prejudices. His personality was often viewed as taciturn and puritanical, but in private he loved jokes and movies and passionately wooed both women who became his wife. The second courtship occurred just out of the public spotlight as he was president and running for reelection.

Even the League of Nations, Wilson’s most grandiose idea, was a mass of contradictions. Able to force it through the Paris Peace conference, he could not ram it past a United States Senate eager to return to pre-war isolationism. His resultant campaign across the country on behalf of the League led to his exhaustion and the stroke that would leave him secretly incapacitated for the final months of his presidency. This is the 2nd major bio of Wilson in the last 5 years – the other being John M. Cooper’s Woodrow Wilson – and Berg’s superb writing will keep the reader enthralled even if, according to early reports, little new historical ground is broken. Berg’s previous title was Lindbergh, which earned the Pulitzer Prize for biography.

A. Scott Berg Books

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