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What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House

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From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said "I cannot live without books," and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said "I cannot live without books," and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. Lincoln was a theater-goer, while Obama kicked back at home to a few episodes of HBO's "The Wire." America is a country built by thinkers on a foundation of ideas. Alongside classic works of philosophy and ethics, however, our presidents have been influenced by the books, movies, TV shows, viral videos, and social media sensations of their day. In Pop Culture and the American Presidents: From Pamphlets to Podcasts, presidential scholar and former White House aide Tevi Troy combines research with witty observation to tell the story of how our presidents have been shaped by popular culture.


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From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said "I cannot live without books," and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said "I cannot live without books," and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. Lincoln was a theater-goer, while Obama kicked back at home to a few episodes of HBO's "The Wire." America is a country built by thinkers on a foundation of ideas. Alongside classic works of philosophy and ethics, however, our presidents have been influenced by the books, movies, TV shows, viral videos, and social media sensations of their day. In Pop Culture and the American Presidents: From Pamphlets to Podcasts, presidential scholar and former White House aide Tevi Troy combines research with witty observation to tell the story of how our presidents have been shaped by popular culture.

30 review for What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This is such an informative and fun read! In addition to the presidential trivia about the books read, plays attended, movies watched, and later, radio then television programs enjoyed, Troy makes the point that popular culture in all its forms has always had a profound influence on the Presidency in particular. I was taught that popular culture greatly started to influence politics and the Presidency in the mid-20th century, especially the Kennedy administration. Troy argues that the most success This is such an informative and fun read! In addition to the presidential trivia about the books read, plays attended, movies watched, and later, radio then television programs enjoyed, Troy makes the point that popular culture in all its forms has always had a profound influence on the Presidency in particular. I was taught that popular culture greatly started to influence politics and the Presidency in the mid-20th century, especially the Kennedy administration. Troy argues that the most successful presidents have understood and used the mediums of popular culture of their time to spread their ideas and policy objectives. He also points out actual habits, likes and dislikes versus perceived or cultivated images. The most important idea he presents is that the crucial component to ensure the success of the constitutional system of checks and balances is an educated and vigilant citizenry. Popular culture / mass culture has the power to change political trends and the nature of the Presidency; and the President, in his unique position, can influence popular culture.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    As someone who love obscure historical trivia, Tevi Troy’s “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House” seemed like just the light, fun look at presidential pastimes I would enjoy. Realizing that the book was published by Regnery, a particularly nasty right wing branch of Harper Collins that publishes such ugly screeds that a bookstore I worked 10 years for refused to carry any of their titles (being anti-censorship we never refused to o As someone who love obscure historical trivia, Tevi Troy’s “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House” seemed like just the light, fun look at presidential pastimes I would enjoy. Realizing that the book was published by Regnery, a particularly nasty right wing branch of Harper Collins that publishes such ugly screeds that a bookstore I worked 10 years for refused to carry any of their titles (being anti-censorship we never refused to order one for a customer upon request however), did give me some pause. Hoping that it would be a straightforward look at history however, I pressed on. The beginning was certainly promising. Perhaps its well known that the Founding Fathers were big readers but Troy does a fantastic job reminding us of just how big. There are some wonderful bookaholic quotes here but my favorite may be from the usually truculent John Adams who in a letter to his wife Abigail about a recent book splurge, shows a rare amount of self awareness: “I have been imprudent, I have spent an estate in books.” If I ever get a tattoo, this is what it will be. I imagine we have all felt this way at one time or another though, whether we have spent an actual estate on our reading habit or not. Once he started reading however, Adams returns to his critical, and yes, truculent self. Take “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine. Highly acclaimed in its day and generally regarded as one of the more important books leading to the revolutionary war, Adams was distinctly less impressed by it. He considered it a: “poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass.” Maybe this is the tattoo I really need. In any case, I love me some John Adams. Troy argues that this voluminous reading was essential to the Founding Fathers and the system of government they would later establish. Hard to argue with that. This section on Washington, Jefferson, and Adams is a lot of fun, particularly a neat side note about Founding Father in chief and apparent library scofflaw George Washington: “In 2010, an archivist discovered that the books had never been returned; the fine, adjusted for inflation, amounted to three hundred thousand dollars. Mount Vernon could not find the missing volumes in its collection, but it managed to acquire another copy of The Law of Nations, which it handed over to the library. In gratitude, the library canceled Washington’s outstanding fine.” I like to imagine Washington scouring Mount Vernon for the missing book but more likely he wasn’t too bothered. He was the president after all. The only image that gives me more joy than Washington searching for the missing library book is him going down to the library to pay fifty cents in overdue fees. In short, reading was a big deal in the early history of America and the presidency right up until badass, country bumpkin Andrew Jackson blustered his way into the White House (at the expense of John Adams son, John Quincy, who was never able to let the humiliation of losing to that guy go.) Jackson started what would be a long, and arguably still continuing, swing toward anti-intellectualism. Jackson disdained learned men like Adams and instead sought to portray himself as a man of the people. As Troy writes: “The president who followed the superbly educated Adams (Andrew Jackson) was ill-educated, poorly-read, and a bad speller. Henry Clay, admittedly not an impartial observer, described Jackson as ‘ignorant, passionate, hypocritical, corrupt and easily swayed by the basest men who surround him.’…..After Jackson, presidents would not have to be well-read or well-educated, but they would need to have the common touch. As educated as Adams was, he was ill-suited to the emerging nationalistic and democratic ethos. Jackson, however, proved perfectly suited to this coming age, and he took full advantage of it. In the wake of the Jacksonian ascendance, struggles between enlightened intellectual leadership and an understanding of the common man would firmly be decided in favor of the common man.” Troy argues that this anti-intellectualism, or at least a hybrid of it and populism, would dominate politics until the rise of John F. Kennedy. JFK was certainly no Jackson and could quote classical literature with relative ease, as well as sponsoring the arts at the White House more than most of his predecessors. Or was he just a big, fat fraud? Troy says yes. He writes that Kennedy just pretended to read all those books and it was instead just one big PR ploy to raise his profile. He cites the myth of Camelot, which wasn’t actually a thing until after his death when Jackie started playing it up, but how this proves JFK was a “poseur” as Troy writes, is difficult to understand as JFK was dead when Jackie began building the myth. Troy himself argues that JFK wouldn’t have approved or it. More troubling are his forays into JFK’s sexual dalliances. Yeah, JFK could be a sleazebag in regard to his marriage. Knowing what we know about him now, its difficult to argue, and yet what is its relevance here? There are rumors that George H.W. Bush was boffing his secretary but it doesn’t make him any more or less of an intellectual. Other than political scores to settle (Republicans have long memories) it was all just a bit mean spirited. LBJ, also a bastard who only read magazines and newspapers apparently. We don’t get another reader in the White House until…..Richard Nixon. Um…yeah. Troy’s scholarship here though is a bit sketchy. Apparently Nixon was a big reader but didn’t advertise it because he was far more humble than JFK and preferred to keep it to himself. There’s no real basis in fact for this. No quotes of Nixon discussing Sophocles, just the author saying it’s so. Basically the same with Ronald Reagan. Reagan was so down to earth that nobody knew at the time how voraciously he read. And not snooty nosed philosophy or Shakespeare, Reagan liked westerns because he was a true man of the people. Nothing wrong with reading westerns at all but denigrating people who read the classics as not being “real” is snobbery at its worst. Jimmy Carter only read the Bible and watched more movies than any other president in history. Dismissed. The next great reader wouldn’t come until Bill Clinton. Who of course only read to impress people. How do we know this? Troy several times cites a story that Clinton would leave impressive looking books lying around for people to find and assume he was reading it. One could assume that Clinton was not reading said book 24/7 and had to at some point you know, put it down. Troy instead decides Clinton was trying to look smart. As further proof his reading list contained “politically correct” books like Maya Angelou’s “I know why the caged bird sings”. Naturally, nobody reads this because it’s a really good book so, another point for Troy. Clinton, like JFK, poseur! By the time Troy reached George W. Bush I braced myself. Surely…he wouldn’t… Oh but he does! GWB was apparently a voracious reader. How do we know? Karl Rove says so. Troy (who worked for Bush for several years) says so. Assorted Republicans also say so. Trying to reconcile this with Bush’s public comments about books which were few and far between, was I imagine difficult for Troy. So instead of proof we get the Reagan. Bush was a man of the people so he didn’t want to show off his enormous brain. Republicans: 1,000,000 points, Democrats: 0. Finally reaching Obama, I grit my teeth and press toward the end. Troy however, saves his best (worst) for last. As you can guess perhaps, he doesn’t care for Obama. Obama, much like Clinton was just showing off. When he wasn’t showing off, he was reading such high minded intellectual fare that it was proof of his elitism. Furthermore, he never read Conservative authors! Gasp! (Troy seemingly forgets that when he extolled George W. Bush’s reading list he added that Bush read a wide array of Conservative authors without mentioning the liberal one’s presumably he would have Bush read.. Perhaps he just never noticed Bush copy of Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States?). Real Americans read popular books (presumably like Reagan and his westerns) not philosophy or academic works. To recap, Obama was a fake reader, unless he was really reading, and when he was he was reading stuff that “normal” Americans don’t read. Those are some serious mental gymnastics. Of course when he wasn’t reading (or not not reading?) Obama liked watching sports. While this is seen as a virtue if you are a “real American” (Troy extolls George W. Bush’s reading list, which included more than a few sports books) it is further proof that Obama isn’t very smart and furthermore, out of touch with Americans. Troy repeats a charge from a Conservative writer who speculates that considering Obama’s sports obsession, was he perhaps watching ESPN on the day of Benghazi instead of the events on the ground? This is the most vile and cowardly insinuation Troy makes in a book full of them. Not only in the attack itself which is ludicrous on its surface, but that he lacks the guts to make the charge himself. Instead he ascribes it to someone else in the most Trumpian kind of “I’m hearing people saying….”. I could go into Troy’s obsession with Obama watching a lot of TV as kid, whatever that means, but yeah….I’ve worn myself out. Wasn’t expecting to dedicate this much time and energy to a book that I can only in good conscience give 2 stars to. Both of those stars are for the chapters on the Founding Fathers. It’s an attack piece on anyone who was ever a Democrat basically and while unsurprising considering its source, a highly political publisher and a man who worked in the George W. Bush administration, it should’ve been so much more. I hope someone else takes this idea and writes the book this one could’ve been, minus the political nastiness and snark.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Quotable: The Founders viewed reading not merely as entertainment but as a path to wisdom, virtue, and toward a just society. The English visitor (Frances Trollope, mother of Anthony Trollope) found American displays of patriotism particularly painful, complaining that “when a patriotic fit seized them, and ‘Yankee Doodle’ was called for, every man seemed to think his reputation as a citizen depended on the noise he made.” His (Theodore Roosevelt) tutor Arthur Hamilton Cutler noted that “[t]he youn Quotable: The Founders viewed reading not merely as entertainment but as a path to wisdom, virtue, and toward a just society. The English visitor (Frances Trollope, mother of Anthony Trollope) found American displays of patriotism particularly painful, complaining that “when a patriotic fit seized them, and ‘Yankee Doodle’ was called for, every man seemed to think his reputation as a citizen depended on the noise he made.” His (Theodore Roosevelt) tutor Arthur Hamilton Cutler noted that “[t]he young man seemed to know what idleness was,” devoting his energy and industry to reading. As Cutler put it, “Every leisure moment would find the last novel, some English classic, or some abstruse book on Natural History in his hand.” The stories of his literary consumption are both legion and legendary. As a nineteen-year old, confined for five days with a case of measles, he managed to complete volumes of Horace and Homer as well as Plato’s Apology. Roosevelt could get lost in books in almost any environment. His lifelong friend Lawrence Abbott, editor of The Outlook, found that Roosevelt read whenever he had a spare moment and even in some moments that others might not consider spare. Dull conversationalists might find the president picking up a book if they did not grab his attention. He occupied the time waiting for trains or appointments by reading and would not hesitate to open a book at parties and conferences alike. So diverse was Roosevelt’s reading that it defied characterization, and this was at least in part by design. “I have no sympathy whatever with writing lists of the One Hundred Best Books, or the Five-Foot Library,” he sniffed. He was adamant that “there is no such thing as a hundred books that are best for all men, or for the majority of men, or for one man at all times; and there is no such thing as a five-foot library which will satisfy the needs of even one particular man on different occasions extending over a number of years.” In an increasingly democratic nation in which college attendance remained rare, book learning was not necessarily a political advantage. At the turn of the century, only 6.4 percent of seventeen-year-olds graduated from high school. Roosevelt was not only a college graduate but a Harvard man to boot. In 1920, Al Jolson wrote and performed a song touting the GOP candidate, Warren G. Harding. “Harding, You’re The Man for Us” contained some creaky rhymes – “We think the country’s ready, for another man like Teddy” and “We need another Lincoln, to do the country’s thinkin’.” Presidents do not necessarily want to be the first to embrace new trends. And the popular music that emerged after World War II was not only groundbreaking but also subversive. The name of the new musical style – rock and roll – came from African-American slang terms for sex. Truman shared a basic convection with the Founding generation. “Readers of good books, particularly books of biography and history, are preparing themselves for leadership,” he said. “Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gregg

    The cover indicated a longitudinal, conversational ramble through the intellectual habits of our presidents, but what it actually delivers is Lite beer trivia. Tevi Troy runs through some passable history concerning the cultural habits of our commanders in chief, and yes, there's quite a bit here I didn't know. For example, I enjoyed his account of Eisenhower's Western-reading habits, and I wish the Lincoln chapter had gone on for twenty more pages, exploring Abe's take on the plays of Shakespea The cover indicated a longitudinal, conversational ramble through the intellectual habits of our presidents, but what it actually delivers is Lite beer trivia. Tevi Troy runs through some passable history concerning the cultural habits of our commanders in chief, and yes, there's quite a bit here I didn't know. For example, I enjoyed his account of Eisenhower's Western-reading habits, and I wish the Lincoln chapter had gone on for twenty more pages, exploring Abe's take on the plays of Shakespeare. Yet even here, the book falls short: Troy is great at listing the texts presidents owned and read, but he's not so great at drawing a line between What They Read and What They Did. Macbeth, purportedly Lincoln's favorite play, must have had some impact on the way he dealt with the likes of, say, Salmon Chase. Seems Sarah Vowell still rules the roost in such matters. What's really galling, though, is that, even though Troy couches his narrative in the most civil, benign diction and tone possible, it's impossible not to catch a whiff of partisanship in this book. He never fails to make a snide comment about the left's scandals (Lewinsky, for example) while glossing over the right's (Watergate/the bombing of Cambodia) or ignoring them altogether (the WMD fiasco). I don't mind biased history. Just write it better, is all. Troy's most obvious target is Hollywood liberalism and Barack Obama. After all, Obama is the first president who grew up with multiple televisions in the house, and he throws pop culture references around like crazy, something Troy likens to unbecoming of the White House without actually saying it outright. But the shit Obama took about being an egghead law professor, particularly in the extreme right-wing blogosphere, might explain why he peppered his speeches with references to reality television and the occasional HBO series. It's a license Troy sees fit to grant George Bush and Ronald Reagan, but hypocritically, Troy sees Obama as "cultivating" a reputation as a reader while hiding his sports nut habits away from the American public. Likewise, John Kennedy only managed to cultivate a reputation for a deep reader and thinker because he was buddies with the right people on the cultural left. Ditto Bill Clinton--apparently he "left" books lying around so people would notice that he read them, and only read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings because it was a "politically correct" choice, part of a list of titles of "studied elitism, as if one were trying to impress fellow students in a college seminar." To be fair, this is hardly farfetched. They've been marketing presidents like toothpaste since Reagan, and if Obama can win a fricking advertising award for his campaign, I guess it makes sense that something like reading can be flaunted just like your religion or cutsey-pie children, depending on the audience. I just wish Troy were equally critical of the other side of the aisle. I mean, according to this book, George W. Bush was a big reader--we just didn't know about it. He only kept it quiet to try to play up the good-ole-boy persona, didn't you realize (totally different from Obama's egghead liberal label, I assume)? Troy quotes sources no less than Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld, infallible as they are, to establish Dubya's thirst for a good piece of historical nonfiction. And the idea that Bush would plant that notion in the press? Nonsense. Of course, Troy would have some 'splainin' to do about how Jeff Gannon doesn't qualify as a plant. And that puff piece Karl Rove wrote for the Wall Street Journal about his and Bush's reading contests? That's not planting propaganda like JFK did--that's totally different! Troy could explain such a distinction perfectly if he were to bring it up, which, of course, he doesn't. Now, a book I'd really like to see, as I mentioned earlier, would explore the connections between what was read, watched, blogged or whatever, and what the presidents actually did. Take the Founding Fathers, for example. Troy gushes over their enthusiasm for the printed word, and points to the thousands of volumes owned by Jefferson, Washington, et al as evidence for their bibliophilism. Somewhere in their collections, I remember, he mentions were copies of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Here's a homework assignment for a future sequel: Given the fact that Jefferson was heavily in debt over the books he owned (among other things), correlate his early writings with this passage from Wealth of Nations: "It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs." Too remote? Here's another assignment. Take Ronald Reagan. Troy argues that many of the blockbusters of the 1980s, "including Rambo, the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Back to the Future, reflected Reagan's vision." What vision would that be? The notion that a rugged man with a gun can fix any problem? The vision that, with the exception of Ah-nuld, bad guys have funny accents? We can make this one multiple choice, if you like. Or how about something more qualified: According to the aforementioned Rove piece, Bush read Albert Camus' The Stranger during his tenure, and certainly during the rampup to war in Iraq. Now what would Bush, a man who started a war in the Middle East under bogus conditions that led to the deaths of thousands of American servicemen and God knows how many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, make of a book where a man murders another man of Middle Eastern descent and feels no remorse about it whatsoever? Answers will be in the back of the book. And remember, there's no curve on an assignment like this.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley America

    Starts out fairly nonpartisan, paints republicans in a more favorable light halfway through, starts laying into Democrats from Kennedy on. The final chapter is pretty much a list of reasons why Troy thinks Obama is awful, written in the Fox News Echo Chamber.

  6. 4 out of 5

    LillyBooks

    Meh. I did like this book, and I do think it met its stated objectives (what popular culture presidents have enjoyed through the years, how they were affected by those, and how they were depicted by popular culture). I learned some new and interesting facts. There are a lot great quotes about the importance of books and reading here (Lincoln loved Saint Thomas Aquinas's "I fear the man of a single book."). But . . . but . . . while pleasant, this book seemed incomplete somehow, and I'm at a bit Meh. I did like this book, and I do think it met its stated objectives (what popular culture presidents have enjoyed through the years, how they were affected by those, and how they were depicted by popular culture). I learned some new and interesting facts. There are a lot great quotes about the importance of books and reading here (Lincoln loved Saint Thomas Aquinas's "I fear the man of a single book."). But . . . but . . . while pleasant, this book seemed incomplete somehow, and I'm at a bit of a loss to explain it. Was it because only the most famous presidents were the focus? That's certainly understandable, for brevity's sake, but maybe? I find myself so unimpassioned by this book, I'm having trouble putting forth the energy to properly review it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Gross

    Amusing but uneven book about culture and the Presidents. I mostly enjoyed learning what the various Presidents read. One jarring note was bad production design - about every other page had a cutout box repeating some of the text on that page. They probably could have reduced the book by a sixth by removing them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    When I first became of aware of Barackatology when then-President Barack Obama announced his brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament on ESPN, I thought it would hurt him when he ran for reelection. After all, serious politicians shouldn’t be devoting so much time to popular past times. Or so I assumed—wrongly as it turned it. You see, the more I studied Obama’s political success, the more I understood how much it related to his successful presentation of himself as more than just a political When I first became of aware of Barackatology when then-President Barack Obama announced his brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament on ESPN, I thought it would hurt him when he ran for reelection. After all, serious politicians shouldn’t be devoting so much time to popular past times. Or so I assumed—wrongly as it turned it. You see, the more I studied Obama’s political success, the more I understood how much it related to his successful presentation of himself as more than just a political animal. Going back at least to his days as an undergraduate, the nation’s 44th president was a huge basketball fan, even playing pickup games as a candidate and chief executive. When he did his NCAA brackets live on ESPN, he wasn’t playacting before the public, he was talking about a game he truly loved and a tournament he eagerly anticipated. And many Americans, a good number following the same tournament, recognized him as a fellow fan. Perhaps that is why in 2008, he so easily defeated the then-favorite of the Democratic establishment. Outside of politics, Hillary Clinton appeared to have no genuine passions. Everything she did appeared calculated to check the appropriate boxes and to appeal to selected demographics. Could the ability, I wondered, to show genuine passion for non-political endeavors help improve a politician’s standing with the public? Perhaps, the expectation that this book would consider that question led to my eventual disappointment. Now, to be sure, the book is well written and the author did do his homework, researching the background and passions of a great number of presidents. At times, however, he seemed more interested in how the media treated the various presidents than in how they consumed various media. And while those insights are often very sound—and frequently very sharp—that is not what the title promises. Indeed, when Troy discusses Obama’s passion for sports, he lets slip an observation about the Democrat’s media strategy: He also likes to grant interviews to “soft” new sources that cover entertainment or sports. These are venues in which Obama has little fear of being hit with controversial questions. He granted ESPN’s Bill Simmons a podcast interview in which he talked at great length and in impressive depth about professional basketball.And I guess that when I bought this book for my kindle, I was looking for more in-depth coverage of Obama’s passion for sports as well as for a consideration of how other presidents’ passions impacted their public image. Oftentimes, it seems that our expectations of a book (or movie for that matter) affect our ultimate evaluation of that book (or that film). And I was looking for something that would help me flesh out my thoughts on how the American people can better relate to a politician whose interests transcend the political. This book is not that. That said, it is a smart book. And if you’re looking to learn a little bit about some of the presidents’ passions and a study of how the media presented those passions—even how some presidents duped the media about theirs—then you will enjoy this book. But, I will have to look elsewhere to flesh out my thoughts.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    The tome certainly is chock full of information. From this reader's perspective, the quite interesting topic of pop culture and Presidents is presented in an overly academic tone, which made for a dreary read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Sutton

    Felt very elitist in that the modern culture doesn’t emphasize reading as much. Plus the inserted text boxes were sometimes repeats of the main text, and sometimes entirely different, which was very distracting.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark Fisk

    This was a fascinating read. Very informative look across the years. I remember some of the events mentioned. Highly recommended!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Fascinating in places, but found myself skipping in others I found myself fascinated by the early chapters on what the founding fathers read. When it came to the section on plays, the booked bogged down and skipped ahead to radio. In the chapters on radio, television, movies, and books that were read by the modern era presidents (FDR forward), there is a descent survey of how each president is perceived to have used or enjoyed the medium contrasting that with the reality of what they actually did Fascinating in places, but found myself skipping in others I found myself fascinated by the early chapters on what the founding fathers read. When it came to the section on plays, the booked bogged down and skipped ahead to radio. In the chapters on radio, television, movies, and books that were read by the modern era presidents (FDR forward), there is a descent survey of how each president is perceived to have used or enjoyed the medium contrasting that with the reality of what they actually did. Being that Harry Truman is a personal hero, I was shocked to see the author called the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of HST by David McCullough called a "revisionist biography." That set off my bias warning lights and I started reading for tone as well as detail. One thing the reader will note is a particular president missing from the review of each medium of pop culture discussed. I did not take note of it until I reached the final chapter, and discovered President Obama described as the ultimate pop culture president (a discussion that lasted for 25 or so pages). Taken as a whole, I enjoyed the book. The reader should be prepared to "getting bogged down" by certain sections that may not be as captivating as others.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 years of Popular Culture in the White House,” is a collision of everything I love: pop culture and presidents. It provides a great understanding of how pop culture can shape the relationship between the people and their presidents. Good or bad some presidents determined their persona (Kennedy and intellectuals) in pop culture while others let pop culture define them (Ford and Chevy Chase). This book is engaging and makes you want to read “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 years of Popular Culture in the White House,” is a collision of everything I love: pop culture and presidents. It provides a great understanding of how pop culture can shape the relationship between the people and their presidents. Good or bad some presidents determined their persona (Kennedy and intellectuals) in pop culture while others let pop culture define them (Ford and Chevy Chase). This book is engaging and makes you want to read more about the personalities that occupied the White House. Tevi Troy is obviously Jewish (I am not), some of my favorite bits were the roll of Jews in American pop culture and their welcome to the White House.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Sheives

    This, in the end, read a little bit like a textbook. The topic was interesting, but the book was far too systematized and chronological for my taste. Even the layout was textbook-like with text boxes. Having said that, the content and research was impressive. I especially loved learning about the reason. Habits of presidents, but I thought the author's treatment of Obama was a little too imbalanced and focused on his own perceptions of Obama's pop culture origins. I was left wanting more on how This, in the end, read a little bit like a textbook. The topic was interesting, but the book was far too systematized and chronological for my taste. Even the layout was textbook-like with text boxes. Having said that, the content and research was impressive. I especially loved learning about the reason. Habits of presidents, but I thought the author's treatment of Obama was a little too imbalanced and focused on his own perceptions of Obama's pop culture origins. I was left wanting more on how the country perceived these presidents and not just how they utilized traditional pop culture tools.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    Very interesting perspective on how the times effect the presidency. I remember watching The West Wing back when it was on TV and the characters telling President Bartlett that he came off as too smart, too educated for the people to identify with. This book seems to prove what Sorkin asserted in that episode. The Founding Fathers were very well-read. They took pride in being educated and in their knowledge of an array of topics. Now it seems more important to know tv, movie, and pop music refer Very interesting perspective on how the times effect the presidency. I remember watching The West Wing back when it was on TV and the characters telling President Bartlett that he came off as too smart, too educated for the people to identify with. This book seems to prove what Sorkin asserted in that episode. The Founding Fathers were very well-read. They took pride in being educated and in their knowledge of an array of topics. Now it seems more important to know tv, movie, and pop music references and not look too smart. The book reads a bit slowly in parts, but it is well worth reading.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This book looks at the way popular culture and the American presidency have interacted over the last two centuries. The parts detailing the reading habits of various presidents were especially interesting, as well as the stories from the White House movie theater. The only complaint I have with the book is that the author’s personal political views come out a bit too much in the final chapter on President Obama. Up to that final chapter, this is a very informative read on a particular facet of This book looks at the way popular culture and the American presidency have interacted over the last two centuries. The parts detailing the reading habits of various presidents were especially interesting, as well as the stories from the White House movie theater. The only complaint I have with the book is that the author’s personal political views come out a bit too much in the final chapter on President Obama. Up to that final chapter, this is a very informative read on a particular facet of presidential history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bunny

    This was really interesting, for the most part. I learned things I hadn't known about past presidents (JFK, despite having an intellectual reputation, did not like to read), and was surprised about things about past presidents (Dubya was a big reader). Also, I was bored to tears by things about past presidents. Kind of a hit-or-miss book. Some parts are more interesting than others. But enjoyable enough.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    A very interesting book. I discovered several facts that I did not previously know about some of our presidents and their interaction with popular and/or mass culture. I agree with almost all of what the author has to say about mass culture and our presidents in today's world. However, I was a little "put-off" by the author's judgements and assertions of certain events and facts that were obviously colored by his own political bias.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is a fun read and very informative for a guy who has spend most of his life ignoring non fiction. Troy's research reveals the effect of pop culture on the presidency. Lots of great quotes and insights that tell you which presidents were avid readers all the way to the present and how the internet and social media have changed the presidency and the electorate.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Roth

    I love presidential history, so this book by Tevi Troy caught my eye. Overall, it was a fun and quick read, but I knew most of the stories and habits of the presidents when it came to books, theatre, TV and now social media. This would be a great book for a high school or college student.

  21. 5 out of 5

    JP White

    Overall an interesting read but I was definitely able to put it down. Full of interesting anecdotes but was written like a drawn out magazine article. Even the layout of the pages included excerpts from the book itself, almost as if to fill space.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    It often read like a textbook. Full of great presidential trivia, but it was not a page-turner. This is a good book to read a little at a time. Contains advice that may be valuable if you are planning to run for president.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate Buechler

    While interesting, this is the most poorly formatted book I have ever read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jack Sussek

    Good read, interesting take on Presidents and their cultural tastes. Recommend for history and media buffs.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim Blessing

    I had trouble completing my read of this book, as it was not particularly interesting.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    An interesting discussion about the reading habits of the presidents and how they understand what happens in American and around the world through their consumption of books and other media.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Very cool. Very interesting--particularly the discussions on reading.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Selena

    The subject matter sounded fascinating (more with what the early presidents read than anything else) but the book was quite dull.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brianna

    A little bit like the People magazine version of a history book, but a light read which was good for my daily commute into DC.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rory

    Well-researched, but often dull.

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