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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Journalist Strauss (Daddy’s Little Goalie) turns his lifelong interest in U.S. presidents into a biography of the 15th, mining the premise that Buchanan (1791–1868) is the worst of them all. Along the way, Strauss takes the opportunity to exercise his wit and knowledge to rate the candidates for the title. Before getting to Buchanan’s presidency and the case for him as the worst, Strauss follows a career that included time as a congressman and senator from Pennsylvania, the U.S. minister to Russia in the Andrew Jackson administration (whom Strauss describes as the “Don Corleone of his day”), and as a perennially unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Strauss frequently detours into examining the evidence supporting the possibility that lifelong bachelor Buchanan was gay, and takes an inventory of other U.S. Presidents who might have been gay. The process of nominating and then rejecting other contenders for the eponymous title is an entertaining exercise in which Franklin Pierce, Herbert Hoover, Warren Harding, and several others are examined and discarded in favor of Buchanan. Strauss maintains a light tone, but doesn’t sacrifice substance in offering solid historic detail and insights into American politics as the country careened toward Civil War. (Oct.)