THE PRESIDENTIAL BOOK OF LISTS
by Ian Randal Strock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Ian Randal Strock has compiled an entertaining and pertinent collection of presidential trivia in The Presidential Book of Lists. In the book, Strock looks at all aspects of Presidents’ lives and boils them down to entertaining and informative lists. Unlike make books in this election year, Strock’s does not come with a political agenda, merely the idea that the forty-two men who have held the presidency can provide interesting trivia, similarities and differences.
The first list in the book (after the table of contents) is the most basic list. A chart showing all the Presidents, their birth and death dates, party affiliation, term in office, burial place, and Vice Presidents. From this basic list, Strock derives all of the details that form the basis of the rest of the book.
Rather than simply provide lists, in each list, Strock offers commentary. Unlike so many of the talking heads on television during this election season, however, Strock’s commentary all has a basis in fact rather than merely offering the individual’s opinion. Actually, reading through The Presidential Book of Lists, the reader would be hard pressed to make a case regarding Strock’s political opinions, aside from noting his fascination with the office of the Presidency.
In Strock’s hands, these lists do become entertainment. Although he makes many references to the current election, although without naming either candidate, and President Bush, Strock’s book does so in a way to tie them to the historical context he is more interested in exploring. In the final chapters, he describes the average President, at least in terms of the measurable averages of the forty-two men who have held the position, and notes how the next President could fit into those averages (born before X date to be oldest, born after X date to be youngest). At the end of a lengthy election, which always adds political tension, Strock’s book is refreshingly apartisan.
One rather strange list is near the end of the book, “The Most Uncommon Presidents (Those Appearing in the Fewest Lists in this Book).” In this list, Strock notes Jimmy Carter (for example) “appears on only one list.” However, this is demonstrably false. While Carter does appear on “The Five Presidents Who Lived Longest After Leaving Office,” as noted in the entry, he also appears on the list “Presidents Who Served in the Military” and “Presidents Who Won the Nobel Prize.” It is confusing, then, on what Strock is basing this list.The Presidential Book of Lists is a fun and educational book. Its format lends itself to quickly dipping in and looking over a couple of lists, but also allows the reader to spend more time comparing the lists Strock has created. Despite the brief examinations, many of the Presidents come out of the book with a personality rather than simply as stock figures. Strock has presented a fun and interesting book that can benefit many who are interested in the Presidency. So, when does he do a similar book on Vice-Presidents?
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